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Daily News - Thursday, 09 August 2007

Fernandez goes to Venezuela
President Leonel Fernandez leaves for Venezuela tomorrow to meet with President Hugo Chavez while attending the Third PetroCaribe Summit. The heads of state of Antigua, Bahamas, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Suriname will also take part in the event. Fernandez will be accompanied by Treasury Minister Vicente Bengoa, Economic, Planning and Development Minister Temistocles Montas, Presidential Administrative Minister Luis Manuel Bonetti and Minister without portfolio Miguel Mejia.
The President's Office also announced that Fernandez would travel on to Mexico on Saturday, 11 August accepting an invitation from Mexican President Felipe Calderon. While in Mexico the President will visit the Technological Institute of Monterrey and high-tech parks.
President Fernandez is scheduled to return on Monday, 13 August.

Renewable energies will bring investment
Aristides Fernandez Zucco, executive director of the National Energy Comission, has highlighted the importance of the enactment of the Renewable Energy Law 57-07. Speaking yesterday, he stressed that the law provides the framework and incentives for new investment in the sector. Zucco commended the efforts of Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez and the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Julio Cesar Valentin for pushing ahead the bill that had been under discussion in Congress for seven years.
Zucco focused on the many opportunities on offer for developing solar, wind and hydraulic energy sources.

Plate renewals begin next Wednesday
Vehicle license plate renewals begin on 15 August nationwide. The Tax Department (DGII) reports that 83% of vehicles in circulation are 10 years or older and will only pay RD$300 more than last year - RD$1,500 up from RD$1,200. 10% of vehicles in circulation are between one and nine years old. These, which used to pay RD$2,200, will now pay RD$3,000. He estimated that an additional 7% are new vehicles. New vehicles will now be charged 1% of the CIF value of the vehicle. The Tax Department is starting an educational campaign on Monday aimed at increasing drivers' awareness of the process.

RD$28 billion later and still
Today's Diario Libre comments on the dismal reality of the Dominican public transport system. After 35 years of continuously throwing taxpayer money at the problem, no real progress has been made and there still seems to be no definitive policy in place to solve the mass transit chaos. Diario Libre's report points out that negligence and often complicity have been the Achilles' heel of the public transport system. The newspaper highlights that the excessive power wielded by the transport union leaders, regarded as the default leaders of the sector, has also been a detriment to any real progress.
Over the years, the government has created multiple offices to deal with the transport sector - ONATRATE (1979 - President Guzman), OTTT (1987 - President Balaguer), AMET and AMETRASAN, OMSA (1997 - President Fernandez) and OPRET (2005 - President Fernandez), among others. These offices and their overlapping functions have resulted in a lack of planning and coordination that has exacerbated the problem.
The Fernandez administration OPRET office is responsible for the construction of the Fernandez administration new contribution to the solution of the transport difficulties - the Santo Domingo underground and feeder operations.
Diario Libre refers to a study carried out by OPRET that documents how over the last 35 years the government has subsidized the transport sector with customs tax exemptions on vehicles and discounts on fuel. The report indicates that in recent years 11,360 buses and minibuses have been imported in a series of attempts to solve the problem.
In 1979 then President Antonio Guzman invested RD$200 million and began an ambitious project to develop a transit system. Then in 1983, about 500 buses were put into service. In 1987, under Joaquin Balaguer, OTTT was created to plan and regulate public transport and 250 buses were imported from the US. In 1997, during Leonel Fernandez's first presidential term the Metropolitan Transit Authority (AMET) was created. That very same year the OMSA was created, ONATRATE was disbanded and a further 300 buses were imported at a cost of US$25 million. Finally, between 2002 and 2004, 4,000 more buses and cargo transport vehicles were bought. This is in addition to the 1,000 "pollitos" imported with commercial bank loans under the first Fernandez administration, and another 2,500 "garzas" imported during the Hipolito Mejia administration.

NGOs need to get it right
According to Tax Department director Juan Hernandez, only 430 (4.3%) of the approximately 10,000 NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in the DR are fulfilling their fiscal responsibilities and reporting to the Tax Department (DGII), as established in Law 122-05. During a round table discussion on Transparency and Governance organized by the Institutionalism and Justice Foundation (Finjus) at Unibe University, Hernandez said that 98% of people who work for NGOs make less than RD$24,000 and therefore are already exempt from paying income tax. Hernandez urged the NGOs to familiarize themselves with the rules that govern NGOs and their fiscal responsibilities.

Opposition to lifting alcohol schedule
The director of the Alcohol and Drug Program at the Ministry of Public Health's Mental Health Department has opposed moves to relax the time limits on the sale of alcoholic beverages, as reported in the Listin Diario. Elias Tejada, who heads the department, said that the decree shouldn't be modified because it is a known fact that 85% of the family conflicts reported to the National District Prosecutor's Child & Teenager Unit are alcohol-related. Tejada says that alcohol is also associated with serious health and work risks. Tejada, quoted in Listin Diario, cited a recent Gallup poll that indicated that 90% of families wish to keep the decree as is. He spoke at a presentation at the Universidad Catolica de Santo Domingo on alcoholism in teenagers. Paul Sealed and Maristela Monteiro, consultants to the Panamerican Health Organization, presented findings that Dominicans are initiated in alcohol at 14 or 15 years in their homes with their parents.
Tejada urged that the DR enforce measures such as banning drinking while driving, sale of alcohol to minors, ban on alcohol being sold near schools.
Chief of the Police, Bernardo Santana Paez also opposes the removal of the alcohol sales restriction. He said the limit has helped reduce crime. He said that in the National District they had to deal with 60-67 deaths a onth. And that these are down to 12-13 deaths, of which 60% are family violence or fights.
In the DR, alcohol sales outside of tourist resorts are limited to 12 midnight from Sunday to Thursday, and to 2am on holidays, Fridays and Saturdays. The weekday time limit was recently extended to 1am in the resort of Cabarete, in Puerto Plata province.

77 mothers breastfeed
During an event at the Public Health Ministry, a group of 77 mothers breastfed their babies in the hope of encouraging Dominican mothers to breastfeed. The event was held as part of the celebrations of International Synchronized Breastfeeding Day. The record for simultaneously breast-fed babies in any country is held by Manila, Philippines that set the record in 2006, with 3,738 mothers. The previous record was held by 1,135 mothers in Berkeley, California in 2002.

Food downs British tourists
Ministry of Public Health officials have identified food infected with staphylococci bacteria as the cause of the illness that affected a group of British tourists who were staying at the Bahia Principe Rio San Juan resort in the province of Espaillat. Health Minister Bautista Rojas said that he was informed of the situation on Sunday and immediately ordered an investigation. Preliminary reports are that the outbreak could have been caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a leading cause of gastroenteritis resulting from the consumption of contaminated food.
The London Times reports that around 200 tourists have been affected by the spread of the illness, which caused vomiting and diarrhea. Lawyer Sukki Chocar says that some of the visitors have started legal proceedings. Tour operator Thomas Cook has responded by canceling new bookings at the hotel.

Mother blames Bush for son's death
Maria Disla, mother of fallen Dominican-American soldier Juan Alcantara is blaming President George W. Bush for her son's death. The 22-year old soldier, who lived in New York City, was killed in Kuwait earlier this week. Disla explained that her son had finished his one-year tour of duty on 28 June, but Bush ordered an extension of service for several military units, including her son's. Alcantara would have turned 23 on 27 July. He leaves a wife and a one-year old daughter, Jayleni Marie, whom he never met.

Payano honored in New Jersey
Newark Mayor Corey Booker has honored Dominican Sports Minister Felipe Jay Payano for his work with the Dominican community in the Newark area. The ceremony was held at the Newark city hall. Booker said that the Second Annual Patriotic games have helped to unify the Dominican community. Booker added that it was a pleasure to host Payano and said that he appreciated the Dominican government's belief in youth development, in sports, and in the community abroad. Payano thanked the Newark mayor for his support and invited everyone to watch the Patriotic games, which are being held in New York City. During the games 2,000 athletes will compete in 17 events.

China will help Dominican Olympic athletes
The director of the Chinese Office of Commercial Development in the DR, Wang Weihua, says that China will do all it can to ensure that Dominican athletes are prepared for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Weihua made his comments during an event celebrating the one-year countdown to the 2008 Olympics. The Games will open in China on 8 August 2008.

The New York Post lists 'Dominican Dynamos'
The New York Post has published a list of the 20 Dominicans who are making a name for themselves in the Big Apple. This collection of Dominicans has enjoyed success in areas ranging from sports to fashion, politics and film. Among those on this year's list are actress Zoe Saldana, music executive Vidal Cedeno, baseball player Jose Reyes, Dr. Ramona Hernandez and Mets GM Omar Minaya.
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