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Tuesday, July 29 2014 @ 04:52 PM EDT

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Fraud Costs Military Program $100M (Tricare Busts in PI)

Corruption By AP/RYAN J. FOLEY (MADISON, Wis.) — The U.S. military's health insurance program has been swindled out of more than $100 million over the past decade in the Philippines, where doctors, hospitals and clinics have conspired with American veterans to submit bogus claims, according to prosecutors and court records. Seventeen people have been convicted so far, including at least a dozen U.S. military retirees, in a little-noticed investigation that has been handled by federal prosecutors out of Wisconsin because a Madison company holds the contract to process many of the claims. It has not been accused of any wrongdoing. At the center of the case is Tricare, a Pentagon-run program that insures 9.2 million current and former service members and dependents worldwide. (more)
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MICI Denies Rumors of Diesel Fuel Shortage

Cars & Transportation By Hilda Estrada Baso for El Siglo - Denying a rumor about a supposed shortage of fuel supplies in Panama, the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MICI) clarified inventories of petroleum derivatives, for consumption in the national market, are above security levels demanded by the government. Through an official press release the MICI indicated supplies of diesel, 95 and 91 octane gas, aviation fuel, bunker C, as well as liquefied petroleum gas, among others, are guaranteed by the National Strategic reserve for seven days, required of the five importation and distribution companies operating in the national market, according to Cabinet Decree Number 36 of 17 September 2003. With the purpose of verifying the faithful fulfillment of these requirements, the reserve is monitored daily by the National Direction of Hydrocarbons and Alternative Energies. Further denying the rumor, in their official notice the Hydrocarbon Direction confirmed that on 25 April 2008 two tankers unloaded a total of 100,000 barrels of light light diesel engine fuel.
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The Spanish Take Over Cerro Patacón in Secret Contract

Infrastructure Upgrades By Alexis Charris Palacios and Yureth Paredes for La Estrella de Panama - In Panama nobody knew anything. The news story that bounced back here from Europe puts into question the transparency of public contracts awarded by the Municipality of Panama. The garbage of the capital district and San Miguelito already have an owner. At issue is a contract awarded to the Spanish company ACS, the fourth largest construction partnership in the world according to www.finanzas.com. The contract was signed with Urbaser - Plotosa, a branch of ACS, according to a cable disclosed yesterday by the Europe Press agency and that they held in reserve for 30 days. This contract has as an objective the treatment of the rubbish and garbage put into the landfill in Cerro Patacón. The reason for this secrecy is not known. (more)
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ASAJA Sues to Stop New Casino in Panama

Law & Lawyers By Jessica Tasón for La Critica - The Association of Administrators of Games of Chance (ASAJA) interposed legal resources (filed a lawsuit) before the Supreme Court of Justice, over the issuance of a license to operate a casino given to the Four Points Hotel because it goes against what is stipulated in the law governing the industry. The President of ASAJA, Antonio Alfaro, said the granting of this license goes against the articles of Decree Law Number 2 of 10 February 1998 which regulates the gaming industry, an act which could create a negative precedent that in no way would benefit the country. "In addition this hotel has only 126 rooms and not the 300 as required, nor is it a 5-star hotel as demanded in the law," he added. (more)
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Drug Bust Under the Bridge of the Americas

Crime & Punishment By Meredith Serracin for the Panama America - Eight bundles of suspected drugs were seized at dawn this morning by the National Police. The operation was focused on an area near one of the lighthouses located under the Bridge of the Americas, where a man and a woman were arrested, and they were accompanied by a minor. Later the operation moved to the Centennial Bridge where authorities found a vehicle that was supposed to be used to move the drugs.
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New Anti-Corruption Law Increases Criminal Sentences

Corruption By Rafael Luna Noguera and Rafael Pérez G. for La Prensa - The new criminal code which takes effect in May 2008 includes a series of new elements in the matter of "crimes against the public administration" (corruption), that in the opinion of Panama's Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo will contribute to the fight against corruption. Cornejo detailed yesterday that among those innovations she pointed out the inclusion of several elements that will now be considered to be aggravating circumstances. For example, if a person is accused of theft of government funds or embezzlement, or of illegally misdirection funds for a different use, aggravating circumstances will be applied to the case if the funds or resources were destined "to welfare programs or to programs of social development." (more)
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Attorney General Warns of LSD Laced Stickers

HealthcareBy Fermín Estribí for the Panama America - Stickers impregnated with LSD are being sold in schools in Panama warned Panama's Attorney General in a press release. The note specified that the stickers are being called "Blue Star," "Red Pyramid," and "Crystal Window," are packed in paper cellophane and are about the size of a pencil eraser, and are designed as blue stars or colored figures. In addition there are stickers with shiny colors that have figures of cartoon characters such as Bart Simpson, Superman, Mickey Mouse (among others) as well as drawings of butterflies and clowns. Once the transfer is stuck to the skin, the drug is absorbed and can cause effects such as "hallucinations, character changes, severe vomiting, and uncontrollable laughter" as well as temporary and indefinite loss of memory, adds the official notice.
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Panamanian Court Protects Trump Building from Possible Lawsuit

Real Estate By Mario A. Muñoz for La Prensa - The Seventh Court of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama issued a protection order in favor of the construction of the Trump Ocean Club International before the possibility of a lawsuit from a group from Dubai over author's rights. Legal representatives of the Dubai company Jumeirah Group have threatened to sue because the Trump building is supposedly based on the design of the Hotel Burj Al-Arab, in Dubai, Arab Emirates. Trump's company, Newland International, said they received the plans from the company Upper Deck Properties.
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Update to the Mermaid in Bocas del Toro Story

Expat Tales

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Forrest Walker sent me the photo featured in this snopes debunk as a depiction of something similar to what was supposedly found in Bocas del Toro on the beach. He is currently trying to track down the photos taken by the people who found the thing. It's little more than a big silly rumor that's flying around Bocas right now, but don't worry, Forrest is on the trail. He's been hounding the STRI guys for an interview, and mysteriously the Coast Guard won't talk to him either. Further proof of a growing mystery, I bet... I wonder if the government of Panama knows that the US scientific community spirited away the body of a mermaid in the middle of the night aboard a Coast Guard cutter. Kinda makes you wonder.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Trekkers Find Mermaid on Drago Beach in Bocas del Toro

Expat Tales

By FORREST WALKER for Panama-Guide.com - OK folks. First, no I am not on drugs, and I do not drink (both a rarity for anyone who lives here, believe me). With that having been said, here is the story. The creature in this photo (or one like it) was found on the beach at Drago in Bocas del Toro in the Republic of Panama. For those of you who do not live here, Drago is at the end of our Archipelago, the westernmost passage way into the Caribbean Sea, and a route not that much traveled. It was found by some trekkers. Photos were taken with their ubiquitous cell phone cameras They did the right thing and called the local Smithsonian outpost. The story continues this way... (more)

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More On the Bogus Fiberglass Scare (My Dad is a friggin' genius...)

Corruption

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - No really, I mean it. I don't know how many people on the face of Planet Earth can look skyward and declare with the utmost confidence that "My father is a genius" and really, truly mean it. He is. He quite simply is. My Dad (who I am obviously very proud of) worked as the Plant Engineer in a factory that produced both flavors and fragrances at an industrial level. Think 55 gallon drums of the essential oils that get shipped to France to make Chanel Number 5. Or barrels of lemon extract that eventually goes into your lemon flavored birthday cake mix. Those guys work with chemicals and hazardous materials all the time, and my dad's job was to make sure the workers were safe and that the company was in compliance with OSHA. (more)

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Mariano Rivera - The "Sandman" Now With 6 Saves

Sports Section

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - For some goofy reason I've decided to watch Mariano Rivera's "save count" rather closely this season. Right now (today, 27 April 2008) Mariano Rivera has 449 career saves and is in third place on the all-time list. I expect this season he will move past Lee Smith who is in second place with 478. Mariano needs just 29 more to tie Smith, and in 2004 he threw a career best 53. The #1 all time save leader is Trevor Hoffman with 528 who remains active with the Padres.) Rivera has now appeared in just eight games of the 25 the New York Yankees have played thus far in the 2008 season. In those he has 6 saves, pitched 9 innings, has given up only four hits and maintains an ERA of 0.00. The other two games in which he appeared the team was not in a save situation so they don't count. The "Sandman" continues his unquestionable march toward the Hall of Fame, putting opposing batters to sleep with his signature cut fastball. Check out the YouTube tribute videos below. G'night...

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Panamanian Boxers Active in May (International Titles)

Sports Section

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Boxing is important to Panamanians. They have had more than their fair share of world champions, and Roberto Duran might be more famous than Manuel Noriega. In any case next month two Panamanian fighters will be in title fights. On 24 May 2008 at Isla Margarita in Venezuela Panama's Celestino "Pelenchin" Caballero will fight Venezuela's Lorenzo Parra for Caballero's WBA Super Bantamweight title. One week later on 31 May 2008 at Nordhein-Westfalen in Germany, Wladimir Sidorenko of Germany will fight Panama's Anselmo "Chemito" Moreno for Sidorenko's WBA bantamweight title. Moreno has a great shot - he's only 22 years old, has been in 23 fights, has won 21 (eight by KO), lost one by decision (never been knocked out), and has had one draw. So next month we might see one champion defend his title and another new champion crowned.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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MIVI Continues "Legalization" Process in Puerto Caimito

Real Estate
Doris Zapata - Housing Minister
Doris Zapata - Housing Minister "In Charge"
By Carlos Estrada Aguilar for La Critica - The "in charge" Housing Minister, Doris Zapata, made a trip through the community of El Progreso 4 in the community of Puerto Caimito, district of La Chorrera, where she advanced a project of the assignation of lots. In the community 320 lots have been measured and identified, of which 270 have been assigned to families who fulfill the requirements established in the agreement. Altogether there will be 671 lots for residents of the communities of Villa Vivian and Brisas del Mar.
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Fiberglass in Schools - Scandal and Debate Continues

Corruption By Isidro Rodríguez y Yaritza Mojica for the Panama America - The Comptroller of the Republic and the Office of the Attorney General should investigate how the Ministry of Education spent the $9 million dollars used to remove fiberglass insulation in schools throughout the country, according to ex-Comptroller Rubén Darío Carles. He says MEDUCA owes an explaination to the country in response to the complaints that have arisen with regards to the handling of this money and the work completed by the companies contracted to remove the fiberglass. He said that by means of this investigation the causes and those responsible for the supposed poor handling of the funds can be identified and later punished. (more)
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Strong Growth in Economy, Labor, and Wages

Money Matters By Marianela Palacios Ramsbott for La Prensa - Panama, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, will lead economic growth in the region for the second consecutive year in 2008. That strong performance has caused a considerable reductions in unemployment and increases in wages. These changes have not only favored the elites of the labor market, but also those with lower income levels. Domestic employees and construction workers in some cases are making as much as three times more than in the recent past. (Photo Credit: La Prensa/David Mesa)
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Escape Confines Of Canal

Travel & Tourism By LENNIE BENNETT for the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES PANAMA CITY | Most people who visit Panama go through it, not to it. They stay on ships cruising the Panama Canal, a grand sluice carved from the narrow isthmus more than 100 years ago that remains one of the greatest engineering marvels in the world. It's a day-long trip with vistas of rain forests, lakes and three sets of gigantic locks. Then the ships exit on the Pacific or Caribbean sides and move along. The Panama Canal transit is a stirring and unforgettable experience. But I'm an advocate for a different Panama experience, an urban one. A trip to Panama City, the nation's capital, yields a rich package of history, horticulture and high life all within its metropolitan limits. The variety of that package makes a trip to the city a great four-day getaway, an opportunity to see a lot including the Panama Canal in very little time because of the convenience and accessibility of its major attractions. (more)
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Buyers, Brokers, Investors Lunch Club (Tuesday)

Groups & Organizations

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Again, from an email this morning: "Hello to all our Friends. Once again on Tuesday 29th of April 2008 at Beirut Restaurant from 12:00pm to 3:00pm we will be holding our Buyers, Brokers, Investors Lunch Club. Come and enjoy Beirut's Delicious Lunch menu and meet buyers, Realtors, joined venture opportunities, special and exclusive sneak previews of real estate opportunities, also services which are a day to day need in your company like Lawyers, Insurance Brokers, Digital Printing and Publicity, Computers and a lot more. All this for $15.00 per person, and the leads are free. (more)

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Embassy Club - An Exclusive Lifestyle Community

Real Estate A new development conceived especially for those who enjoy nature and don’t want to sacrifice the comforts of urban life. Welcome to Embassy Club, the most sophisticated residential development of Panama, which offers an exceptional land plan, remarkable social/athletic facilities and unique residential alternatives to fulfill all desires. Surrounded by the Metropolitan Park in Clayton, the former Canal Zone, and nearby the future UN Regional Offices and the Embassy of the United States, Embassy Club is the perfect investment for those who enjoy nature and do not want to sacrifice city comforts. Be part of an extraordinary place to live, where its landscape will captivate you. Of the 24 hectares that encompasses the residential community, approximately 9 hectares have been assigned for the common areas, gardens and forests. Most of the original topography has been untouched to achieve an interesting urban development concept that offers impressive views of the Metropolitan Park and privacy. Enjoy the privileges of "The Lifestyle Center" which will offer an extensive agenda of physical, cultural, and social activities. The common areas include tennis courts, putting green, half court Basketball, croquet, pool and among others. The "Lifestyle Center" has been designed for expert consultants and will be equipped with an endless number of pleasantries such as a Residential Spa and Fitness Center, Cafe, Ballroom, Owner's Lounge, Game Room and Concierge Desk, which are some of the reasons that you and your family will live in an eternal vacation. Aware of your needs, full property management services will be offered on site.
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2009 Our Children’s Art Agenda, 14th Consecutive Edition

Books & Reading

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - From an email I received this morning: "Hi Mr. Don. I'm across your address through panama-guide.com. I am the coordinator for the 2009 Our Children’s Art Agenda, 14th consecutive edition. Produced by the Children Helping Children Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Montreal, Canada. The agenda is a collaboration of artwork from young artists from ages 2 to 18 from around the globe. Profits from distributing the book are donated to the Research for Children’s Diseases Foundation. (more)

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USCGC Eagle Transiting Panama Canal

Boats and Sailing

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The United States Coast Guard Cutter "Eagle" is making a southbound transit of the Panama Canal this afternoon. Anyone wishing to see the ship can visit the Miraflores locks visitors center, the parking lot of the Pedro Miguel locks, or along the causeway. The USCGC Eagle (WIX-327) (ex-Horst Wessel) is a 295' barque used as a training cutter for future officers of the United States Coast Guard. She is the only active commissioned sailing vessel in American government service. She is the seventh U.S. Navy or Coast Guard ship to bear the name in a line dating back to 1792. Each summer, Eagle conducts cruises with cadets from the United States Coast Guard Academy and candidates from the Officer Candidate School for periods ranging from a week to two months. These cruises fulfill multiple roles; the primary mission is training the cadets and officer candidates, but the ship also performs a public relations role. Often, Eagle makes calls at foreign ports as a goodwill ambassador.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Hotel Room Shortage in Panama Continues and Getting Worse

Hotels By Aet Elisa Tejera C. for La Critica - The shortage of hotel rooms compared to a significant increase in demand has become the Achilles Heel of Panamanian tourism. Starting in 2006 there is now no "low season" for hotels and the shortage of hotel rooms is now both a crisis and an open secret, according to Ana Royo, the President of the Panamanian Association of Tourism Operators (APOTUR.) In 2006, 1,358,000 tourists visited Panama and there has been a reported increase of 17% in these past two years with only two new hotels opening their doors, not enough to cover the demand, said Royo during her presentation in the Annual Conference of Business Executives (CADE 2008). This small crisis will be more evident when factors are added like: the beginning of operations in November of the Panama Home Port, the tourist promotion with a new advertising campaign of $39.5 million dollars, the new niches of markets with a focused 30% in Europe, the increase of airlines and flight frequencies, said Royo. Although during 2008 it is anticipated an additional 10 hotel projects will be completed in Panama City adding approximately 3.386 new hotel rooms to the market, for 2009 there are only four new hotels coming on line with an additional 1,088 rooms. In addition Royo thinks all ten of the new hotels will not actually be opening this year.
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Pay Your Water Bill - IDAAN Cutting Services Next Week

Panama News By Meredith Serracin for the Panama America - Heads up! The National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN) announced they next week from Monday 28 April through Wednesday 30 April 2008 they will begin to cut off water to those households who are behind on their water bill payments in the areas of Condado del Rey, Linda Vista, El Bosque, Altos de Panamá, Villa Lucre, San Antonio, Cerro Viento Brisas de Golf and Don Bosco. Through an official press release the IDAAN says the objective of these operations is to reduce the number of clients who are behind on paying their bills, in order to generate the economic resources necessary for the repair of potable water pipes, sewage systems, and the installation of new aqueducts. IDAAN reminds all of their clients that it is possible to make payments at the windows of qualified supermarkets.
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Rubén Blades To Be Tried in Puerto Rico

Law & Lawyers
Rubén Blades
Rubén Blades
The legal battle between singers Willie Colón and Rubén Blades shows no sign of a truce, after a judge in Puerto Rico this week dismissed a motion submitted by the Panamanian artist to have the case thrown out. The civil trial will be in October and Blades said he will file a counter-suit as soon as the first case finishes. Colón alleges Blades owes him $115,000 for the "Siembra" concert held in 2003.
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Corruption Complaint Filed Against the Offices of the Municipal Engineer in Panama City

Corruption
Arq. Jaime Salas
Arq. Jaime Salas

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Leave it to a ticked-off Gringo to stir up the pot. Yesterday afternoon lawyers for an American expat living in the Vista Marina building on Ave. Balboa filed a criminal complaint with the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) for "Crimes Against the Administration of Justice." Inmobiliaria Vista Marina S.A., a company supposedly owned and/or operated by Herman Bern, is building the second tower of the Vista Marina project on Balboa Ave., and according to the complaint they have encroached upon the land of the first tower (the existing Vista Marian Tower One building) by some 2.5 meters. The affected owner has been trying repeatedly since September 2007 to get municipal engineer Jaime Salas to issue an order to suspend the construction of the new building but for some reason he has refused to do so, even though documents issued by his own office confirm the basis of the complaint by the residents. Frustrated, they filed a criminal complaint, trying to force the hand of the municipal government. (more)

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"Pure Speculation" and "Irresponsible Reporting" My Butt

Canal Daily Operation

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I've been reporting on the "malicious compliance" undeclared work slowdown strike being conducted by the pilots of the Panama Canal basically since it started. I have several excellent sources among the work force of the Panama Canal pilots - they read Panama Guide all the time. And when they started down this road they notified me of the their plans and intentions. The strike started on 15 February 2008 and so far no major international news outlet has picked up on the story. Last week Lloyd's List sent a reporter down who took a nibble and made reference to my reporting, but then continued with the ACP "party line" that there is no strike, at all. Then yesterday Teresa Arosemena, the Director of Communications from the ACP, wrote back to Lloyd's List saying that their reporter was irresponsible in having mentioned the possibility of a strike. That's a recap. Now, check this out... (more)

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Panameñista Party Joins Right-Wing International Organization

Politics
Arnulfo Arias
Arnulfo Arias
By Osiris Jurado Ávila for La Estrella - The world is again being polarized ideologically. To the left or the right. It is part of the political debate in Latin America. The growing wave has arrived in Panama. This past weekend the governing PRD hosted the XXVII meeting of the Conference of Political Parties of Latin America (Copppal), an organization comprised of most of the leftist leaning political parties of Latin America. Just days later the political rivals of the ruling PRD, the Panameñista Party, has expanded its bonds his bonds and has extended a bridge toward the other side. The International Democratic Union, an organization comprised of the primary right-leaning political parties of the world, recently approved the integration of the "Arnulfistas" to their group. (more)
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No Water in Eastern Panama Province Today

Infrastructure UpgradesLa Critica - The water will be turned off starting from 7:00 am this morning until 7:00 pm tonight, Friday, 25 April 2008, in some sectors of the eastern parts of the Province of Panama. According to a press release from the National Institute of Sewers and Aqueducts (IDAAN), the areas of Tocumen, Pacora, La 24 de diciembre, Paso Blanco 1 and 2, Felipillo, and nearby areas will be without water today due to required maintenance and cleaning that needs to be performed at the water uptake for the treatment plant in Pacora. IDAAN regrets the inconvenience, and requests that inhabitants of those communities take corresponding measures.
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"Diablo Rojo" Rolls Over and Crushes Jeep on Tumba Muerto

Cars & TransportationBy Meredith Serracin for the Panama America - At this moment a woman is trapped inside the wreckage of a Jeep Cherokee after the car was crushed by a "Diablo Rojo" (bus) on the route from Los Andes to Tumba Muerto. The bus rolled over onto the Jeep near the Villa de las Fuentes neighborhood, crushing it completely. Several witnesses who saw the accident said the driver of the bus lost control of the vehicle when he had to swerve to avoid hitting several pedestrians who were crossing the street. Firemen are now working to free the woman who is still trapped inside of the Jeep. Meanwhile, the driver of the Jeep has already been freed from the wreckage and has been transported to the hospital for treatment.
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Taiwan Will Spend $360 Million in Latin America on Foreign Aid in 2008

Panama News
Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall
Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall
Panama America - Taiwan's foreign aid budget reached $594 million dollars in 2008, of which $360 million will be spent in Latin America, according to the Vice Minister of Foreign Relations Yang Tze-pao. "The foreign aid is used mainly to reinforce and expand diplomatic relations and to reinforce international cooperation," said Yang, speaking before Parliament. The aid projects are focused on development and infrastructure, agriculture improvements and techniques, and in the form of financial aid and loans, said the diplomat. Taiwan also funds other humanitarian aid projects, economic cooperation, and another secret fund used to consolidate ties with allies. The island maintains diplomatic relations with 23 countries, of which 12 are located in Latin America and the Caribbean. China demands its allies do not maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and considers the island is not a sovereign and independent country.
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