Weekend News Report Feb. 24, 2012

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Senator Diaz arraigned in court            
On Feb, visit this site 14, 2011, the Attorney General filed a four count criminal complaint charging Diaz with failing to provide unaltered copies of his radio shows as required by section 15 PNC 131.  This law should be familiar to Diaz since in 2007, the Supreme Court, after a trial, found Diaz guilty on two counts of violating the same law.  A third violation of this law is punishable by suspension of Diaz’s radio station between six months and one year. According to the Affidavit of Probable Cause, despite repeated requests from the Division of Communications to provide the complete, unedited recordings of certain of his radio broadcasts, Senator Diaz failed to comply and instead provided only portions of the broadcasts.   If found guilty, Diaz faces up to $40,000.00 in total fines and not more than 6 months in jail for each of the four counts.  On February 24, 2011, Senator Diaz appeared in Court for his arraignment where he pled not guilty to all four charges.  He was released without bond, but his conditions of release require him not to violate any laws of the Republic or orders of the Court.  If he does violate any laws or orders of the Court, the Court’s release order warns that he may be remanded into custody for the duration of this case.
8 year old Palauan girl shot in Washington           
An 8 year old Palauan girl living in Bremerton, Washington suffered a gunshot wound from a 9 year classmate who brought a gun to school in his backpack.  Police say that Amina Kocer Bowman was shot once when the boy who brought the gun fired through his backpack. The bullet passed through her arm and into the side of her body missing all vital organs.  At the time of this reporting the girl is in stable condition following exploratory surgery.  Doctors say Amina will have to undergo more surgery before she can be released.  The student in possession of the fireman has been placed in juvenile detention.  Police are investigating how the student got ahold of the gun.  MSNBC Seattle quoted the victim’s grandmother Cindy Kocer “She will pull through “If I can make a plea to all my CFC [Couples for Christ] families, please pray for her. That’s all I need. That’s all we need.”
Protesters take a stand against gas prices & minimum wage law            
In the past two months gas prices in Palau have increased three times already.  This week commuters are paying an average of $5.35 per gallon for regular unleaded gas and $5.62 per gallon for diesel. In response, Moses Uludong, Santy Asanuma, Gale Ngirmidol and Kirino Mekoll began protesting in downtown Koror against the gas hikes and calling on the OEK and President Toribiong to move forward on the bill to increase the minimum wage to three dollars an hour and to give employees fifty dollars a month for cost of living allowance.  Many small businesses are suffering such as taxi companies and local fishermen.  One taxi company that has been servicing Palau for the past 20 years had to shut its business down due to the major increase in fuel prices.  Another taxi company sold three vehicles and now only operates using one taxi cab.
HOTL urges President Toribiong to make sewer crisis a priority           
In a letter dated February 20th 2012 the House of Traditional Leaders urged President Toribiong to come up with a permanent solution to the sewer crisis before his administration’s term ends this year.  They referred to a letter sent to him a year ago from the Rubekul Oreor regarding the sewage overflows especially within Koror state and commended him and the Olbiil ra Kelulau for establishing the Palau Water and Sewer Corporation and obtaining the ADB loan to address the issue.  However, the HOTL also brought up concerns over the shifting of the ADB funds to purchase a fiber optic cable to serve Palaus communication needs.  While they support the improvement of telecommunications and economical growth in Palau, the HOTL strongly believes that the peoples health and the environment should be our countrys first priority so that future generations can continue to live in a beautiful and safe nation.  The President responded the next day by a letter to the HOTL explaining that the ADB is fully aware of his intention to use part of the ADB sewer funds as a bridge loan to PNCC for the fiber optic cable and that PNCC shall reimburse the Republic so that funding for sewer improvements will not be compromised.  Also, the President intends to seek the approval of the OEK for the use of the ADB sewer funds as a bridge loan to PNCC.
Secret Meetings for Senate Majority
As the budget debate drags on with no end to the continuing resolution, the Senate majority has chosen to meet in secret outside of the senate chambers without notifying members of the minority.  On Thursday, Senate Majority members met at Penthouse Hotel to discuss the budget and other issues paying the nearly $200 dollar lunch bill in cash.  OTV contacted the Senate to ask why meetings are being held outside the Senate chambers, beyond the view of the minority members and the public but no answer was given.
Palau National Emergency Operation Centre officially opens           
Construction has just been completed of the new Emergency Operation Centre in Palau at a cost of about 480 thousand dollars. Funding for the building was made available by the European Union through the Disaster Risk Reduction Project implemented by SOPAC of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.  President Johnson Toribiong and SOPAC Director, Dr. Russell Howorth, unveiled the plaque officially opening the building.  In his opening statement Dr. Russell Howorth stated that the new Emergency Operation Centre will strengthen the capacity of the National Emergency Management Office prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The project will also equip the new building with early warning communication equipment and improve the linkage with remote communities. President Toribiong said the new National Emergency Management Office is very important because it will be used to provide critical information to the public during emergencies and that Palau is very grateful to the European Union, SPC and SOPAC for the funding for this critical infrastructure that will benefit our people. SOPAC has also assisted Palau in developing the National Disaster Risk Management Framework that lays out updated DRM governance arrangements and continues to support Government efforts in implementing priorities under the new Framework. In the near future support will be extended to develop and implement a Joint DRM and Climate Change Adaptation National Action Plan. This new plan or JNAP will be a very useful mechanism for Palau to use to guide future investments in DRM and CCA. The European Union made available a total of 600 thousand Euros to Palau for disaster management through the Disaster Risk Reduction Project.
MOH holds conference           
The Ministry of Health held a Health Systems Strengthening Conference this week at the Ngarachamayong Cultural Center.  Heres Rondy with more.
Clear Ground Demining detonates bomb in Meyuns            The Clear Ground Demining group detonated a bomb in meyuns this week.  Rondy was on location for the explosion and spoke with Steve the bomb expert.  Here’s what he had to say.
Vessel stranded off of Pulo Anna
The Indonesian fishing ship Klarisa that ran aground in Early February Off Pulo Anna in Palau may remain for months.  Efforts by a United States Navy recovery vessel were unsuccessful as the ship is stuck on a coral head.  Attachment points for towing the vessel off the reef broke away before the ship moved.  EQPB is closely monitoring the vessel, which contains 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel.  Community members in Pulo Ana are slowing removing the fuel at low tide using hand pumps.    The ships crew was sent home after a $10,000 fine for illegal entry and although suspected of illegal fishing it could not be proven.  Additional attempts will be made to remove the 120 foot vessel when the winds shift creating calm conditions at the grounding site.
Jenkins Mariur off to DC and Miami: Trafficking in Persons training           
Mr. Jenkins Mariur, Director of the Bureau of Immigration, is the United States Embassy—Koror’s nominee for the “Combating Trafficking in Persons II” training to be held in Washington DC and to conclude in Miami, Florida. The training is a 2- Week multi-regional project designed for government officials—immigration officials like Mr. Mariur, human rights activists and law enforcement teams among other officials. They will examine the global problem of trafficking in persons and methods and best practices to prevent trafficking in persons. Participants will also learn about initiatives to protect, assist and provide social reintegration of victims of trafficking.
New book on Palau  released & available at PCC           
On Tuesday February 21st a new book was released at Palau Community College.  Floyd Takeuchi, a well known photographer and journalist with over 34 years experience within the Pacific islands, authored this short contemporary history of PCC including photos taken by him and photos from the college’s archives.  The book is called Many Voices, One Dream from Mokko to Palau Community College and is comprised of 160 pages and is now available at the PCC bookstore. Dr. Tellei spoke at the book release.  Here’s a look.
Japan hands over buses & airconditioner to Senior Citizens           
The Japan Embassy held a handover ceremony at the Senior Citizen’s Center this past week giving two microbuses and one air conditioner to Palau’s Senior Citizens.  President Toribiong and Minister Rehuher-Marugg and many others were in attendance. The donations were funded by a Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project worth nearly eighty thousand dollars.  The senior citizens were excited to use these buses to join the Japanese film festival held this week.
FSM President wants changes in Senators’ official expense allowance accounting
FSM President Manny Mory has requested that the FSM Congress consider legislation he submitted through Floor Leader Florencio Singkoro Harper that would impose changes in the way that official expense allowances are handled by members of Congress.  In addition to requiring that official expense allowance expenditures be backed up by a written contract or receipt the bill inexplicably would make all of those expenditures subject to a Senator’s personal national income tax.  As the bill is currently worded it would exclude the current legally acceptable practice of advance payments of official expense allowances while allowing advance payments of representation expenses.The bill would be an amendment to section 224A of title 55 of the code of the Federated States of Micronesia.
College of Micronesia FSM president calls on College to ‘choose to be great’
Dr. Joseph Daisy became the fifth president of the College of Micronesia FSM in a ceremony witnessed on Tuesday by many FSM dignitaries. At his installation ceremony in Pohnpei, Daisy told an audience of 600 people that the college will recommit itself to its and the nations core values and emphasized that in choosing, to not choose just to be good, rather in all things choose to be great. Daisy is a native of Boston, Massachusetts who most recently was the executive vice president at Cambridge College in the United States. His dissertation for his doctorate in education degree was on the positive impact of accreditation on student learning. The new college president used his investiture address as a rallying call to develop a broad, system wide understanding of the value of accreditation at the college.  In his first formal address to the College of Micronesia community, Daisy acknowledged that there are many challenges facing the institution. But he also offered a path forward that, if followed, would lead the College of Micronesia to a successful future.
PREL accepting applications for the Teacher Scholarships            
Pacific Resources for Education and Learning otherwise known as PREL is accepting online applications for the Pacific Teacher Scholarship Program for the 2012, 2013 Academic Year. The application deadline is April 1, 2012. PREL awards about five scholarships each year to residents of the U.S. affiliated Pacific to honor their commitment to teaching excellence. The amounts vary from $500 to $1,000 and to be eligible, you must be a resident of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Republic of Palau, or the Republic of the Marshall Islands, be a 2nd-, 3rd-, or 4th-year student at an accredited college or university, and enrolled in an accredited teacher preparation program with a  GPA of at least 2.5 and intentions to teach in a school in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific. The application deadline is April 1, 2012 and for more information about applying or donating to the Pacific Teacher Scholarship, please visit www.prel.org/scholarship.aspx.
Pacific Islands Museum Assoc. offers help to RMI           
The museum in the Marshall Islands is struggling after parliament cut its budget by up to 25 percent last year. As a result, the museum is struggled to pay salaries, the power company, phone company and the retirement agency, and shut its doors temporarily last week.  Now, the Pacific Islands Museum Association is offering its help to the cash strapped museum. The associations chairperson says museums and cultural centers do struggle for funding, as they are often low on the list of government priorities. But says their association knows of numerous funding sources and has extensive support networks the museum in Majuro could tap into.
RMI ministries pay overdue power bills           
The two largest ministries in the Marshall Islands have paid a debt of 400 thousand US dollars to the Marshalls Energy Company. The national utility company is being forced to pay high interest costs on unpaid fuel bills to an off island fuel company because it has not been able to retire the debt, largely because several government entities have been late to pay their power bills.
The Energy Company’s General Manager, David Paul, says it has been pushing the Ministries of Health and Education, and the government-owned Marshall Islands Resort hotel to resolve debts. Mr Paul last week said the Ministry of Health paid 200,000 of the 400,000 it owed, and the Ministry of Education followed suit with a 200,000 payment.  He says Marshall Islands government ministries and agencies still owe 500,000, but says from the new power bills, not old debt.  Meanwhile, David Paul says the Marshall Islands Resort owes about 1.5 million US dollars.
Marshalls steps up shark ban enforcement
Thousands of pounds of shark fins, skins, carcasses and fishing gear have been confiscated in the Marshall Islands since last month and one vessel was fined $125,000 as fisheries and police officers enforce a new ban on shark fishing.   The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority levied a $125,000 fine against the Japanese tuna transshipment vessel Satsuma, the first fine issued under a new fisheries law banning all shark fishing and products that went into force at the end of 2011, said the Authority’s enforcement officer Marcella Tarkwon this week. Tarkwon said enforcement teams have boarded dozens of longline fishing boats and transshipment vessels in Majuro over the past two months and theyve searched 41 long liners over the past several weeks, confiscating hundreds of pounds of shark and shark fishing gear. Many fishing companies use Majuro as a transshipment point for tuna, with fishing vessels off-loading tuna to larger carrier ships or at the dock for air shipment.
Marshalls nominates former member of parliament for FAA top job           
The Marshall Islands government has nominated former member of parliament Gerald Zackios to head the regional Forum Fisheries Agency. Zackios is in the running for the Director General at the Honiara, Solomon Islands based agency. Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority. A decision on the new Director General will be made at the FFAs annual meeting in Tonga in July. Joseph said Zackios is a good candidate because he holds a masters degree in international law of the sea and has national level involvement in the fisheries departments institutional strengthening.  Joseph pointed out that the Marshall Islands has not yet had one of its citizens named to head a regional organization. Of the three Compact nations in the north Pacific, Palau was the first to have a citizen direct a regional organization when Victorio Uherbelau was a two term FFA director in the 1980s. Asterio Takesy from the Federated States of Micronesia recently completed two terms as head of the  SPREP in Samoa.
Kosrae Village Now Accepting Divers and Volunteers for 2012 Coral Monitoring Project
The Kosrae Coral Monitoring Project is preparing for their 17th year of surveying the marine life and reefs of the island. Divers from around the world are invited to help with the two-week survey in October. Kosrae Village recently announced dates for the 2012 project, October 6-18, and is inviting volunteers to begin registering. During the two week program, scuba divers from around the world work with local Kosraens to survey the health of some of the world’s last remaining pristine fringing reefs. Volunteers are trained in surveying techniques, taking measurements, and gathering images without damaging the reefs. Last year divers were asked to take digital photos as a new element of the project. To register for the Coral Monitoring Project or for more information about Kosrae Village contact Katrina Adams as Katrina@kosraevillage.com or visit www.kosraevillage.com.
New Palauan fashion artist in town            
Local Palauan fashion creator, Mazel Higa, has set her sights on creating amazing works of art. Particularly jewelry. After graduating from the Pasadena City College with the intent to pursue a career in fashion designing she realized that although she is great with fabric she did not enjoy making clothes. Heres with the 411 on Mazels designs.
OTV launches new website           
This week OTV launched a newly designed chic website that now includes daily news updates and links to facebook, twitter and youtube.  Visit our website at www.oceaniatv.net and send us your comments or news stories for future broadcast.
Congratulations! It’s a boy!! =)           
And lastly we would like to congratulate Rolynda Jonathan on her baby boy.  After being in labor for three and a half hours, Vince Isechal Elewel was born on February 22nd at 645 am.  He was 52 centimeters long and weighed eight pounds, eight ounces.  Rolynda returns to the OTV airwaves in April.