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Daily News - Wednesday, 08 August 2007

School starts the 21st, or else!
The Minister of Education, Alejandrina German, has announced that the 2007-2008 school year will officially start on 21 August, or else! This is the date set by the National Education Council, and the minister reminded reporters from Listin Diario that private schools that start later would face official sanctions. In fact, the minister instructed the Director General for Private Educational Institutions to take all necessary steps to see that CNE resolution 1279-2007 is observed in the strictest manner. According to the newspaper, several private schools, specifically New Horizons, St. George's, APEC, Mineta Roque have announced they will be starting classes on the Monday, 27 or Tuesday 28 August. Many, nevertheless, will comply with the Tuesday start date, or start later during the same fourth week of August.

Prepaid electric meters
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce, in cooperation with the Department of Non-Conventional Energy, is planning to install up to 12,000 prepaid electricity meters in the poorer barrios of Santo Domingo and Santiago. The project is funded by a EUR5 million donation from the European Union. The idea is for the families to be able to receive 24/7 electricity and better overall electricity distribution. Salvador Rivas, the head of the Non-Conventional Energy department told Listin Diario reporter Candida Acosta that clients will be able to purchase RD$300 pesos worth of power (or more), and that when it is used, the meter will automatically cut off supply, after first warning the client. The Superintendent of Electricity will set the price of this program in conjunction with the National Energy Commission, although it is not expected to differ from the basic cost of electricity for regular customers under the Blackout Reduction Program (PRA). There will be no billing or invoices under the new system. Dominicans are accustomed to the pre-paid system, as this is the reason why so many poor Dominicans today have cell phones.

Bengoa and tourism
Embroiled in the accusations made by presidential candidate Miguel Vargas Maldonado who has accused the government of using the proceeds of the Petrocaribe Program for political propaganda, Treasury Minister Vicente Bengoa reminded reporters of the clause in the oil agreement that allows the Dominican Republic to pay Venezuela in goods and services if the cash is not available. Bengoa said that he would be traveling to Venezuela on Friday, accompanying President Fernandez to the III Petrocaribe Summit. Bengoa said that the DR could pay Venezuela in hotel services by sending tourists to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican government would pay the hotels for their stay in the DR. According to the Petrocaribe agreement, which postpones payment for petroleum imports, the Dominican Republic should begin paying Venezuela US$23 million in 2008. Bengoa wants the Venezuelan government to set up a tourism company that would send tourists to the DR in exchange for part of this money.

Gonzalez Nicolas, honorary consul for India
The Indian government has officially announced the appointment of Fernando Gonzalez Nicolas as its honorary consul in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic established diplomatic relations with India in May 1999. Born on 14 February 1950, Gonzalez studied business at UNPHU in Santo Domingo and the INCA-Harvard in Costa Rica. In 1990 he founded the Consorcio Comercial del Caribe, a firm that promotes trade and international investment. He is a board member of the Dominican Association of Exporters (Adoexpo), the Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce, and the Commonwealth Roundtable in the DR. He also co-founded the Dominican Agribusiness Council (JAD) in 1984, the British Chamber of Commerce in the DR in 1987, and the Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of Commerce in 1998.
In 1991 he was appointed honorary vice consul for Great Britain and North Ireland, and was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996.
www.indembassyhavana.cu/Page/DR_02.htm

CONEP downplays meeting
Yesterday morning papers carried several leading figures expressing optimistic views about the start of the Family Health Plan (SFS) after their meeting with President Fernandez. Diario Libre today explains that the leading businessmen were invited to meet with the President, but not told previously that they would be asked to support the start of the plan.
Yesterday afternoon, spokespersons from a number of business and industrial associations spoke out to counter the impression made by the morning's headlines. The press conference, headed by Manuel Diez Cabral, head of the Association of Industries of the Dominican Republic and Maribel Gasso, chairperson of the Management Confederation for the Dominican Republic (COPARDOM), emphasized that the opinions expressed by such leaders as Juan Vicini, Jose Leon and Manuel Arsenio Urena, were "personal" and did not represent the stance of the different associations and other representative bodies. With members of the Free Zone Association (ADOZONA), and the head of the Young Entrepreneurs Association (ANJE) at the table, the spokespersons reiterated their call for a clear resolution of the issues that have stalled the start up of the SFS for so long. The management groups said that, "the main problem is the fact that no one has explained how the services will be provided to the workers and their families." Maribel Gasso said "we still do not know the details of the start up or the insurance plan."

Agripino echoes Cardinal on drinking hours
Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, rector of the PUCMM university, has told reporters that he is in favor of maintaining the current hours for the sale of alcoholic beverages, at least on weekdays. He made his comments as he attended the opening of an extension of the Congress building, and his opinion echoes Dominican Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez's statements last week. The Ministry of the Interior and Police is testing a new schedule for the sale of drinks in Cabarete. There, weekday hours for selling alcoholic beverages have been extended to 1 am. Without making any specific suggestions, Monsignor Nunez did say he would be in agreement with extending alcohol sales hours on weekends.

Beware of the beans!
While some readers might think that this is a joke, the local health authorities are warning local consumers to be on the lookout for canned green beans packaged by Lakeside Foods of Wisconsin. The company voluntarily recalled 15,000 cases of the product after a batch of the produce was found undercooked. The US Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that the cans might contain a strain of botulism that poses a serious health risk. The green beans was sold under the labels: Albertson's, Happy Harvest, Best Choice, Food Club, Bogopa, Valu Time, Hill Country Fare, Heb, Laura Lynn, Kroger, No Name, North Pride, Shop N Save, Schnucks, Shoppers Value, Cub Foods, Dierbergs, Flavorite, IGA, Best Choice, and Thirfty Maid. Dominican Public Health Ministry officials have been visiting local supermarkets and removing the products from the shelves.
http://www.lakesidefoods.com/fs_bean_recall.htm

Bancredito case finally on docket
Businessmen Manuel Arturo Pellerano and Juan Felipe Mendoza have been accused of committing fraud and other crimes relating to the Bancredito collapse in 2003. The Attorney General finally submitted the necessary documents needed to bring the case to trial. Both executives are accused of a long list of irregular activities at the National Credit Bank (Bancredito). The total losses are calculated at RD$22 billion. The prosecutors handed in 65 documents as evidence in their case. Other documents prepared by the KPMG accounting firm were also given to the judges.

DNCD ropes two mules and a fugitive
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has caught two drug 'mules' who were attempting to carry stomach loads of drugs to Madrid. An Ecuadorian and a Dutch national were stopped at Santo Domingo's Las Americas International Airport as they tried to board an Air Europe flight to the Spanish capital. At the Armed Forces Hospital nearly 200 small drug capsules were recovered from the two 'mules'. In another case, the DNCD announced the capture of Victor Julio Cabrera Herrera, 38, who is wanted on drug related charges in the United States. The DNCD served Cabrera Herrera with an international warrant in the Los Franceses sector of Miches, on the east coast. There are eight counts in the drug indictment pending against Cabrera.

Glaucoma research halted
The program that was conducting research on glaucoma patients who have lost their sight has been suspended due to reports of infections in similar patients involved in the same program in Mexico. The announcement came from the Centro Laser in Santo Domingo. Apparently the equipment that was being used in the research caused infections in the Mexican patients, and until the source of the infection is cleared up, the research in the Dominican Republic has been halted. Dr. Juan Francisco Batlle is the director of the hospital in Los Alcarrizos known as "Los Americanos" where the tests were being carried out. He told Listin Diario reporters that patients from the Centro Laser were being tested to assess the effectiveness of a valve designed by the Beckton-Dickinson Company that is supposed to reduce the pressure inside the eye that is caused by glaucoma. It is this pressure that causes the blindness associated with glaucoma. Batlle said that a pilot study had begun in accordance with the protocols established by local health officials, and the valve was inserted in four Dominican patients and other patients in Mexico. The four Dominicans are doing "perfectly well" but in Mexico, two of the patients developed infections, and this led to the research being suspended

Low pressure to bring rains
The National Meteorological Office (ONAMET) is reporting a low-pressure system just to the north of Puerto Rico and heading our way. The rains in Santo Domingo and most of the Cibao Valley are the result of this low-pressure system. More rain is forecast for the northeast, the southeast, the central highlands and the frontier region. Residents of low-lying areas are warned to be on the lookout for flash floods.
 
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