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Daily News - Thursday, 17 May 2007

First Lady wins prize
Dominican First Lady Margarita Cedeno has been awarded the International Telecommunication Union's World Information Society Award, along with two other recipients. The ceremony was held on World Telecommunication and Information Society Day at the ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The First Lady will be receiving 10,000 Swiss francs as part of her prize. Cedeno was honored alongside Professor Mark Krovocheev and Mozilla Corporation's president Mitchell Baker. Cedeno received the award for her work in promoting the development of digital literacy in the Dominican Republic.
Accepting the award for her outstanding personal contribution towards building an inclusive and equitable global information society, Cedeno stated, "Our commitment has been to promote development that is human and inclusive for Dominican families, which we implement using social and educational strategies that allow for the empowerment of each family member so that they may take on the responsibility for their own future well-being. These strategies are strengthened through the effective use of ICT as an efficient and expeditious tool that permits us to develop by transforming the lives of our citizens." Explaining that the goal is to build a Community Technology Center in each and every municipality and village, Cedeno explained, "We have focused on establishing Community Technology Centers in the pockets of poverty in the Dominican Republic, where we have put ICT at the disposal of the most disadvantaged. We are currently working in the country's poorest municipalities and communities."
See http://www.itu.int/wisd/2007/award/laureates/cedeno.html

Solar panels to be installed
The Department of Non-Conventional Energy at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce is due to finish installing solar panels in rural communities in seven border provinces by the end of the month. The project is expected to benefit 10,000 families. The RD$300 million project will benefit the poorest inhabitants of the provinces of Monte Cristi, Dajabon, Elias Pina, Pedernales, Independencia, Baoruco and Santiago Rodriguez. A further RD$13 million will be given to supply electricity to 50 other communities.

Business sector agrees with Ortega Tous
The Dominican Republic Association of Industries (AIRD), the Association Federation of Industrialists (FAI) and the National Association of Young Entrepreneurs (ANJE) have all come out in support of Dominican Ambassador to Colombia Julio Ortega Tous's proposal to simplify the local tax structure, which suggests a flat 10% tax on all imports, a 10% tax on incomes and a 10% VAT tax on everything, with no exclusions. The FAI's president called for the implementation of the National Competitiveness Plan because, according to him, without this any tax reductions would only provide temporary benefits. AIRD head Manuel Diez Cabral also agreed with the positive aspects of Ortega Tous's proposal. Frederic Emam Zade of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development made a similar proposal in August 2003.
See http://www.dr1.com/forums/government/62711-10-10-10-taxes.html

Morales wants business council
Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso is calling for the creation of a business council to back increased trade and investment with Puerto Rico. Troncoso said that the council would be made up of Dominican and Puerto Rican business people and would aid private investments in both countries.

Salcedo defends palm trees
Santo Domingo Mayor Roberto Salcedo is defending the beautification plan for the city of Santo Domingo and the replacement of what he describes as foreign tree species with native palm trees around the city. Salcedo said that the palms cost between RD$3,000 and RD$11,000 each. Salcedo said that he is working with a RD$40 million budget and that RD$300,000 will fund the palm trees. Salcedo also defended the public works projects amidst accusations that the trees cost RD$50,000 each. Salcedo discredited the accusations and said that he has a list of the companies that sell palm trees in the DR. Salcedo also dismissed reports that say that 12 trees were removed from Parque Duarte in the Colonial Zone. Salcedo said that two neem trees were removed because they were cracking the concrete.

Lora and metro studies debate
Journalist Huchi Lora says that Santo Domingo metro office director, Diandino Pena's appearance on his El Dia TV talk show does not satisfy the requirement for Pena and his office to comply with his request for information about the metro plans and studies. Lora, acting under the rights conferred by the Public Access Information Law, requested these documents, and a court ruled that Pena should comply. Pena has not yet complied, on the grounds of national security, and going on to say that the studies do not exist. Pena appeared on Lora's show on Tuesday, but as reported in El Dia newspaper, Lora says that he contradicted himself. Lora said that following Pena's appearance on the show, more contradictions have emerged in the motivations for failing to deliver the studies that back the metro construction. On the show, Diandino said that OPRET did not carry out the requested studies because "those were not necessary, but others, of a more scientific nature, were."
Lora said that Pena had also contradicted himself when he assured that the Ministry of Public Works did not have the legal authority to approve the metro plans, which he said is contrary to the ministry's own ruling, which was approved when Pena himself was Public Works minister.
Lora said he would wait for the Supreme Court of Justice to rule on the revocation requested by the Office for the Reorganization of Transport (OPRET), or whether they would uphold the ruling issued by the court that favors Lora's request for plans and studies, as per Law 200-04 on Public Information access.
Lora said that Pena should have admitted from the start that the studies had not been carried out if they considered them unnecessary.
Lora said that his main motivation is not the metro, but for the government to respect the rights of all citizens, and especially journalists, to access information on any aspect of handling of public affairs, that establishes government officials' obligation to provide the information that citizens request," he explained.
The first line of the metro is expected to be the most expensive public works project ever built in the DR. The OPRET director estimated that it would not cost more than US$700 million, and added that Congress has already approved loans for equipment totaling EUR$233.5 million.
Geologist Osiris de Leon has maintained that the accelerated pace of construction and the lack of appropriate studies has led to major improvisations during the construction process, increasing the cost, and posing a threat to the security of edifices along the way, and possibly to metro users themselves.

Reverse for mega wages
Yesterday members of the Chamber of Accounts reversed their decision to increase magistrates' salaries. The controversial RD$260,088 monthly salary increase was dated 18 January 2007. Diario Libre quotes Chamber president Andres Terrero as saying that he is happy with the Chamber's decision, while observing that Terrero's signature was not on the document announcing the decision and that Terrero was not present at the press conference. The document that Terrero didn't sign was openly critical of him, saying that Terrero had caused unnecessary damage to the institution. Judge Henry Mejia said that despite the revocation of the wage increase, this was legal. He said the widespread public rejection of the raise was what motivated the judges to reverse the increase. There was public outrage at the news that the officers, whose function in government is questionable, would each be getting paid around RD$600,000 a month in salaries and benefits.

Dominican judges meet
Six judges of Dominican origin who practice law in New York met with judges in the Dominican Republic as part of an ongoing dialogue process aimed at strengthening the Dominican judicial system. Judges Rolando Acosta, Rita Mella, Manuel Mendez Olivero, Diccia Pineda-Kirwan, Faviola Soto and Julia Rodriguez are visiting the Dominican Republic as part of an initiative by Modesto Marte, a judge at the National District first court of appeals. Alejandro Santos of the Consulting Council of Dominicans Abroad (CCPDE), representing the executive branch, was also present during the meetings, as well as National District prosecutor Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero and judges Ramona Rodriguez Lopez and Rosalba Garib Holguin. Mendez Olivero, speaking on behalf of the group of judges, said that the meetings had been a success and said that their goal was to strengthen the Dominican judicial system. Mendez Olivero also said that providing incentives for Dominican law students, both at home and in the US, is a goal for the continuing dialogue.

Dominicans and Haitians protest film
The Dominican community in France is responding to the film "Slaves in Paradise" and what is being deemed an anti-Dominican campaign. During yesterday's premiere of the film many Dominicans and Haitians were present to challenge the accusations that Dominicans practice slavery and are xenophobic, as portrayed in the film. At one point, Diario Libre writes, Father Pierre Ruquoy tried to make a quiet exit from a viewing session while two Haitians were giving testimonials denying that slavery was practiced in the DR, and was met with a chorus of boos. The moderator encouraged Father Ruquoy to stay and take part in the debate. Ivon Thiat, president of the National Federation of Overseas Migrants (FADOM) explained that the situation in the DR's sugar cane fields had changed over the years. He said he had visited the bateyes and could certify that there is no slavery in the Dominican Republic. Antonio Abreu, the Dominican consul in France, said that both Dominicans and Haitians disagreed with the way the DR is portrayed in the video and said that the DR would make an official protest about this. Abreu says that about 200 people attended the screening and that most viewers agreed that there is no slavery in the DR and that the hardships experienced by Haitians in the DR were no different from the problems that immigrants face in other countries. Abreu said that most viewers in the room left with the impression that the messages portrayed in the film by Father Ruquoy and Father Christopher Hartley included a great deal of manipulation.

AIRD voices concern
The Dominican Republic Association of Industries (AIRD) feels that the anti-Dominican campaign brought on by the film "Slaves in Paradise," is an attempt to portray the Dominican Republic as a slave nation with the intent of affecting the DR's sugar industry. Manuel Diez Cabral, president of AIRD, said that these campaigns are launched in order to benefit the country's competitors. Diez said that the people behind the film are seeking a boycott of Dominican sugar and are trying to ruin the country's image as a tourist destination. "We must make clear that the migration issue in the Dominican Republic has its areas of conflict, as in any other nation, but it is not a problem that has led to social confrontations," stated Diez Cabral.
The pace of illegal immigration from Haiti has increased in recent years, due to the deteriorating situation in Haiti. The DR is currently home to an estimated one million Haitians who flee the lack of jobs and ways to make a living in Haiti.

Las Terrenas police relocated
In response to increased criminal activity in Las Terrenas on the Samana peninsula, Police Chief Bernardo Santana Paez has announced changes in the police command structure that is aimed at reducing crime in the area. Santana announced that the entire police force in Las Terrenas would be transferred, including the force's commander Lt. Colonel Pedro Cuevas Valenzuela. Cuevas is being replaced by Colonel Frank Felix Almonte. Special Operations Captain Fortunato Abad has also been sent to Las Terrenas to deal with the current situation. No charges have been brought against the police officers who were removed.

War in Iraq hits home
Dominicans at home and abroad are now paying closer attention to developments in Iraq as a Dominican is among the three US soldiers who disappeared and were taken hostage last week. Alex Jimenez was born in Navarrete, in the Dominican Republic. He migrated to New York and then on to the heavily Dominican populated town of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Twenty five-year old Jimenez and two fellow soldiers were captured by insurgents 30 kilometers south of Baghdad, as reported by the Pentagon. Jimenez and his crew were patrolling an area known as "the triangle of death" when they were ambushed. Four of Jimenez's comrades were killed during the ambush and an Al-Qaeda faction is claiming responsibility for the attacks. As of yesterday 4,000 soldiers continued the search for the missing soldiers despite warnings from Al-Qaeda sources. Jimenez's father couldn't be reached for comments and William Lantigua, Mayor of Lawrence, expressed his condolences to the fallen soldiers' families.
See http://www.cnhi.com/cnhinsstories/editorspicks_story_137011821.html

Tragedy in Spain
The bodies of Elena Pina Mateo, Andy William Medina, their 18-month old daughter Keila Medina Pina, and Sugey Altagracia Valdez Mateo will all be returned to the Dominican Republic on Saturday for burial. The three family members were killed on Tuesday morning when the car they were driving in crashed into the back of a bus as the family was returning from a party at San Isidro, in Spain. The Dominican consul in Spain, Marcos Cross Sanchez, said that the consulate would provide assistance to the family and will help in transporting the bodies. It is not clear whether speed, alcohol or negligence was to blame for this tragedy.

Sammy does it again
Sammy Sosa went long for the 597th time in his career, putting him just three homeruns away from the hallowed 600-homerun mark. Sosa, who is playing for the Texas Rangers, is in the middle of a career resurgence, although his ninth homerun of the season couldn't help his team get the victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Sosa also extended his record by hitting a homerun in his 45th different ballpark.
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