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Daily News - Wednesday, 05 December 2007

Judge asks Leonel to stop cutting ribbons
Aura Celeste Fernandez, a judge on the Central Electoral Board's Contentious Chamber, has suggested to the full board that they should order the suspension of all inauguration ceremonies for government projects at least three months before the elections. Fernandez, the former head of the Justice Department School of Magistrates, told Hoy reporter Loyda Pena that the idea of equal conditions for all candidates is "seriously compromised" by all the hoopla surrounding ribbon-cutting ceremonies for government public works. The suggestions are set out in a document that was sent to the chief magistrate and all the JCE judges, even before the controversial campaign rules were publicized by the board. Judge Fernandez makes the point that if the JCE does not take enough measures to guarantee equal conditions for all candidates taking part in the 2008 elections, it (the JCE) will be violating the Constitution. In one of her arguments, the judge says that since the President is the Head of State, Head of Public Administration and Armed Forces Chief, he enjoys a privileged position in the media, and therefore, there is an increased risk that normal governmental duties - such as inaugurating a bridge -"could favor the Head of State's political aspirations."

ARS give in on primary care
Representatives from 28 health care managers (HMOs) met with President Fernandez yesterday, and agreed to provide preventive care and education to people covered by the Social Security System. This was one of the thorniest points on yesterday's agenda. Faced with the government's demands, the ARS (HMOs) promised to hire staff capable of providing primary care, education and preventive care for each member of the Family Health Insurance Plan (SFS). Yesterday, in its headline story, Listin Diario reported that the ARS had not contracted sufficient personnel to fulfill their obligations. President Fernandez was quick to point out that there appeared to be discriminatory practices, according to information he had received, in the sense that people with supplementary insurance plans were not required to be physically present in order to authorize service. Fernandez said that in the future no one should be excluded from coverage.

Doctors approve decision on fees
The Dominican Medical Association (CMD) has approved the decision taken by most local health insurance providers (ARS) to re-instate the former honorariums received by doctors for services rendered. These are the pay schedules that were in effect before the government's SFS was introduced in August. Nonetheless, CMD president Waldo Ariel Suero has said that some payment levels will have to be negotiated because they are at odds with the services provided by specialists. According to Suero, the issue of fees for medical services has had negative repercussions on the effectiveness of the state-sponsored family health insurance programs.

Government tender on Shell's 50%
The government has announced that it will open bidding for companies interested in appraising the value of the Shell's 50% stake in the Dominican Refinery (Refidomsa). The announcement was made by Vicente Bengoa, the Minister of the Hacienda, after a long meeting with Shell Company officials. Bengoa stressed that the Dominican government wanted negotiations to proceed with transparency, adding that discussions would be ongoing in order to work out all the procedures for the sale of Shell's shares. According to the minister, the government has made an offer of US$184 million for the remaining 50% of the shares in the refinery. Shell spokesperson Rafael Maradiaga told reporters that negotiations with the government are not that simple since there is a contract that must be strictly observed. Maradiaga was accompanied by chief Shell Company adviser Charles Mayer, and several assistants.

Public Health warns about fireworks
The Minister of Public Health is asking the general public to hold back on the use of fireworks over the Christmas season. This is a time when most Dominicans celebrate with nearly indiscriminate use of all types of fireworks. The minister, while recognizing the fact that children enjoy watching fireworks, also points out the number of victims, often fatal, that result when accidents happen. Bautista Rojas Gomez also criticized the existence of many illegal fireworks factories that do not follow the safety rules for handling such dangerous materials. The Public Health minister did emphasize that, while the burn units at the Luis Eduardo Aybar and Robert Reid Cabral hospitals in Santo Domingo and the Arturo Grullon Children's Hospital in Santiago were equipped to handle any emergencies, it was the ministry's duty to warn parents about the risks associated with this "dangerous attraction".

A.M. - Discovery
This morning's A.M. column on page two of Diario Libre allows editor Adriano Miguel Tejada to look at just how the Dominican Republic seems to be late in many important areas. After noting that Columbus first went to Juana (Cuba) and THEN arrived on Hispaniola, Tejada says that just as happened with the Admiral, the country has had to wait for many of its important dates with history. While the country can lay claim to many firsts, most of them lost their glow after a few years, since the island was small and there was not as much gold as Columbus would have liked. Likewise, Dominican independence came thirty years after most of South America, despite the fact that Haiti showed the way forty ears earlier (1804). For a long time the country lived on a nearly primitive agricultural system, until the sugar industry started in 1870, and although Rome had an aqueduct from the time of the Caesars, Santo Domingo, the first capital in the New World, only got one in 1930. A complete account of all these defects, according to the editor, would fill several ledgers, but what he wants to point out is the fact that all the DR's governments have thought about development without education, public health and a respect for the law. Without these, he concludes, we will also be late for the modernity party.

Yaque River gets some help
The Rio Yaque del Norte got some help as the Ministry for the Environment, the Dominican Corporation of State-run Electricity Enterprises (CDEEE) and the Santiago Water Works (CORAASAN) inked an agreement to pay US$400,000 to small communities in the river watershed areas as an incentive for protecting the environment. The idea is to sustain the river, which supplies millions of people in the western Cibao Valley, providing drinking water, electricity, irrigation and recreational opportunities. The communities will receive payments in return for preserving natural environmental resources. The Yaque River watershed covers about 770 square kilometers and receives up to two meters of rainfall (78 inches) per year. The first communities to be paid under the Environmental Service Program (PSA) will be Manabao, La Cienega de Manabao, Los Dajaos, Los Calabazos and El Arrayan. In order to come up with this plan of action, a total of 34 community organizations were consulted.

Popular is most popular
The Popular Bank of the Dominican Republic has been awarded the title of "the best bank in the Dominican Republic for 2007" by a series of banking industry magazines: The Banker, Euromoney and Latin Finance. According to the announcement made by BPD president Manuel Alejandro Grullon, the award can be attributed to the loyalty of its clients as well as the bank's own efficiency.
The announcement came during the launch of the book "Carnaval popular dominicano" (Dominican popular carnival) by folklorist Dagoberto Tejada with photographs by Mariano Hernandez. The publication was sponsored by Banco Popular.

DNCD nabs half a ton of cocaine
The National Drug Control Department (DNCD) has nailed a stash of 585 kilograms (1,289 pounds) of cocaine found in a container from Venezuela that was awaiting transshipment at the Multi-Modal Port of Punta Caucedo. The container was supposed to be sent to the southern Spanish port of Cadiz. DNCD spokesman Roberto Lebron said that the DNCD had acted on information provided by drug authorities in Venezuela and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The Dominican authorities are currently investigating the identity of the ship that brought the container to the DR. This is the second major drug bust in recent months. Just last September, the authorities found 2,250 kilograms of cocaine in a cargo ship from Maracaibo, Venezuela en route to Belgium. Because of the increasing frequency of these hauls, the United States has placed the Dominican Republic on the list of 20 countries with the highest level of drug trafficking.

Tsunami precautions and warning system
The director of the Seismology Institute at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Juan Payero de Jesus, reports that the institute is working together with similar bodies in Cuba and Puerto Rico in order to work out strategies for dealing with tsunamis (also called "tidal waves") and their effects on the Dominican Republic. Historically speaking, several tsunamis have affected the island of Hispaniola, and the most recent, in 1946, killed dozens in the Nagua area. Payero de Jesus said that efforts to establish a warning system are being coordinated with the United States, Haiti and other countries, including Cuba. The seismologist reported that in 1751 a tsunami affected Santo Domingo, in 1757 another affected the area around Samana, and in May 1842 the Monte Cristi area was battered by a tsunami that killed an estimated five or six thousand people. Again, in 1918, the area of Punta Cana and Cortecito were affected by "tidal waves" caused by an earthquake in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The last registered tsunami was in August 1946, which engulfed the village of Matancitas, near Nagua, in Maria Trinidad Sanchez province. One of the institute's chief concerns is that the Dominican Republic does not have the necessary equipment to track earthquakes from distant neighbors or a tsunami alert system in place for coastal areas.

Baseball update
In La Romana, the Toros del Este shut out the Leones del Escogido, 3-0, in the Francisco Micheli Stadium before a very happy home crowd. The Toros have won two of their last three games, and are now just a game and a half away from the fourth and final playoff position. Excellent pitching from Omar Beltre and continued good hitting from Aaron Rifkin led the Toros to their victory.
The Aguilas Cibaenas used steady relief pitching and clutch hitting from Alberto Castillo and Sebastien Boucher to defeat the Estrellas Orientales, 4-3, in the Estadio Cibao in Santiago de los Caballeros. This was the sixth time the two teams have met and the sixth victory for the Aguilas. The defeat puts the Estrellas back in the cellar, half a game behind the Toros del Este. The game was not a walkover. The Aguilas took a short-lived three-run lead in the third inning, but the Estrellas tied the game in their half of the fourth inning. The Aguilas scored the winning run in the sixth inning when Alberto Castillo brought in Mendy Lopez from second base with a clutch hit to right field.
The Tigres del Licey beat up on the Gigantes del Cibao, 8-1, in the Estadio Quisqueya in Santo Domingo. Ramon Ortiz threw just 52 pitches over five innings of work to get the victory. Licey took the lead in the very first inning and never looked back.
Current Standings
Team Win Lost Percent Games Behind
Licey 23 13 .638 --
Gigantes 21 14 .600 1.5
Aguilas 19 17 .527 4.0
Escogido 16 20 .444 7.0
Azucareros 15 22 .405 8.5
Estrellas 14 22 .389 9.0
 
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