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Daily News - Monday, 31 March 2008

Fernandez to tour US
President Leonel Fernandez has announced a short tour of the United States as part of his election campaign. He will hit the campaign trail in Miami and then go on to New York City. The Chief Executive will be accompanied by his campaign manager, Francisco Javier Garcia, and campaign operations chief Felix Bautista, as well as PLD National Campaign Committee members Jose Ramon Fadul, Luis Manuel Bonetti and Rafael Nunez. The President leaves on Wednesday and returns next Monday. Miami and NYC are two important centers for expatriate vote.

HOMS formally inaugurated
President Leonel Fernandez occupied center stage as the brand-new Metropolitan Hospital of Santiago (HOMS) was officially opened to the public on the weekend. The new private medical facility has 380 beds and 200 professional offices. The government invested US$10.5 million to the center. The hospital is considered the most advanced in the DR. Speaking for the board of investors, Manuel Estrella said that "this monument to strength, dedication and persistence means that Santiago has become the Mecca of Dominican medicine." He highlighted there are many other private clinics already offering high levels of service thus with the HOMS Santiago has its health cluster.
Dr. Rafael Sanchez Espanol, president of the board of directors, highlighted that the hospital is already attracting patients from the Caribbean, the United States and beyond, positioning the country as an alternative for health travel, regarding senior citizens, organ transplants, cosmetic, heart and bariatric surgery. He said the challenge is to turn Santiago into a brand synonymous with high quality medical services, the way Barcelona is for ophthalmology, Cleveland for heart treatments and Medellin for organ transplants.

Government: Santiago barrios rebuilt
During to his visit to Santiago yesterday, President Fernandez said that the rebuilding of the barrios affected by the draining of the Tavera Dam during Tropical Storm Olga is complete. According to El Nuevo Diario, the President told reporters that the government had finished repairing the damage to streets and housing "that were damaged and not in vulnerable areas". The President also announced the reconstruction of the Santiago Water System (CORAASAN) and the near completion of a few other reconstruction projects. The President was effusive in his gratitude for the generosity of Dominicans living overseas who contributed to the reconstruction process.

New overpass for Santiago airport
The airport at Santiago is now safer to access. The government has inaugurated a new overpass that will allow people to arrive and depart the airport without having to cross the Duarte Turnpike. The overpass also provides safer, alternative access to Licey al Medio. Before the overpass was built, more than 60 accidents occurred at the intersection, resulting in over two dozen deaths. Felix Garcia, the president of the board of directors of Santiago International Airport pointed out that the much-needed infrastructure would ensure a safe trip for passengers.

Fernandez watches 30 de Marzo parade
President Leonel Fernandez headed up the celebration of the 164th anniversary of the Battle of the 30th of March in Santiago. The battle, which took place in 1844, is said to have given enormous strength to the Dominican fight for independence from Haiti. Archbishop Ramon Benito de la Rosa y Carpio called the battle "the consolidation of National Independence" and praised the efforts of so many who gave their lives during the battle.

New jewels in the hills
The director of mining, Octavio Lopez has announced the discovery of jade deposits in the Cordillera Septentrional. The jadeite variety of jade is highly prized by jewelry manufacturers and is fairly rare. According to Lopez, this is the third precious stone located in the Dominican Republic, together with amber and larimar. Jadeite is only found in Brazil, Burma and China, and can produce beautiful gems. The mining director said that the discoveries were made in the area around San Francisco de Macoris and Rio San Juan, near Loma Magante. Lopez revealed the news during the 18th Caribbean Geological Conference in Santo Domingo. He said that he expected a US$4 billion investment in mining over the next four years. Gold, copper and silver will be mined in Maimon, and the Pueblo Viejo mine plans to begin construction of a new plant that will process billions of dollars worth of gold. The construction of the new facility is due to take more than 40 months.

Not eligible for money from CAFTA
The Dominican Republic and Guatemala are the only two countries in DR-CAFTA that have not been able to access money from the Millennium Account because of internal issues. This is based on some 20 indicators, according to Jose E. Signoret, the director of the Office for Strengthening Commercial Capacity, part of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Chief among these indicators are issues concerning corruption, governance, and improving the general population's quality of life. According to Signoret, "a country does not have to score high on all 20 indicators, but there are some that are critical for the Dominican Republic". Because the DR has a higher per capita income than Honduras and Nicaragua, there are stricter rules to follow, according to an article in Listin Diario. In light of the latest report that covered October and November 2007, the official was asked how the 2007 numbers compared to the 2005 numbers. Signoret said that "the indicators have not moved much and the problem is that they have stayed more or less the same". Duty Greene, USAID/Dominican Republic's Economic Policy Advisor, told reporters that the three main criteria are governance, the economy and the social sectors (education and health). The economist said that the reduction in the time needed to start a business was encouraging, but the major problem was in the indicators on corruption.

Subsidies are eating up budget
The government subsidy programs for propane gas and for electricity to poor barrios are using up funds at an alarming rate. According to El Caribe, in the case of the propane subsidy, the budget allocation will be consumed in six months at the current rate. The government has announced that it will review the subsidy programs after the 16 May elections. The subsidy programs are aimed at helping industrial free zones, bakeries, freight haulers, passenger transport and housewives. During the first quarter of 2008, the subsidies used a bit over RD$5.0 billion of the RD$21 billion allocated to the electricity program. The program that subsidizes propane has consumed 37.99% of its budget so far this year, at a rate of RD$950 million per month. Only RD$3.1 billion remains in the budget for the rest of 2008.

JCE suspends party funding
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) will withhold funding for the political parties until it has ruled on the appeal filed by the PNVC after the JCE rejected its alliance with the Social Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRSD) and the Fourth Way. The total funding is said to be worth RD$1.06 billion, with the three major parties receiving RD$286 million each for their campaigns. Even the smallest parties get at least RD$6.0 million. The JCE also said that it would not print up the election ballots until the dispute was settled. JCE spokespersons said that there was no real problem associated with a short delay in getting the ballots to the printers.

Water shortages in SD
Much of Santo Domingo West is suffering severe water shortages due to a decrease in the flow of the Haina River. Some reports say that the river has decreased its flow by as much as 66% due to the prolonged drought in the watershed. The Santo Domingo Water Authority (CAASD) is calling on all users to reduce their consumption. Some barrios in the northern part of the National District are also feeling the pinch. Previously the Haina River provided 90 million gallons of water per day, but this is now down to just 30 or 35 million per day.

Red Cross blood donor program
The Dominican Red Cross has launched a recruitment program for young Dominican donors between the ages of 17 and 25, aimed at creating a donor culture that will fulfill the nationwide need for blood. The campaign, called "Club 25" will focus on young adults and satisfy demand for 70,000 pints of blood each year. According to National Red Cross director Ligia Leroux, the country has enough blood available to take care of minor emergencies but lacks the capacity to deal with a major catastrophic event, hence the need to develop a 'donor culture.'

Police nab four assailants
The National Police have announced the arrest of four men who assaulted two Dutch citizens and a Dominican woman last week. The break-in took place in the Alma Rosa sector of Santo Domingo East, in the La Moneda apartment complex. After tying up and beating the three victims, the four stole jewelry, cash and an SUV. The police arrested Martin Manuel Nova Alcantara, 36, Elvin Caneo de la Cruz, 42, Wilton Antonio Urbaez Lopez, 32, and Walton Santos Batista, 36, who were identified by the victims. As well as the stolen SUV, the police also recovered four other stolen vehicles, which had been taken from different parts of the country.

Simon Romero passes away
Simon Romero, best known as the man behind the DR's gastronomic festivals, now in their 33rd year, has passed away. He died Saturday at midnight of complications from diabetes. He was well known for his efforts to keep the festival going as a tribute to the hard work and creativity of Dominican judges. The festival is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, with the support of the National Hotel & Restaurants Association, the Association of Hotels of Santo Domingo and the Association of Chefs of the DR. Romero was also a pioneer restaurant reviewer in the Dominican Republic.

Two more for Beijing
Table tennis champions Wu Xue and Luis Lin Ju have clinched their right to represent the Dominican Republic at the Beijing Olympics. Emil Santos and Juan Vila Jr. still have a chance of making the team at a forthcoming qualifying event. Santos staged an excellent performance at the Santo Domingo Latin American Olympic Qualifier by defeating veteran Chilean Bruno Levis in a match that went to seven games.
See: www.ittf.com

10.7% of MLB players are Dominican
Dominicans make up 10.7% of the 750 baseball players on the Major League Baseball rosters, as Listin Diario points out today. A total of 79 Dominicans are on the rosters, but there are several on the injured list. This means that 90 Dominicans could be playing ball this season. Of the group, 39 are pitchers and two are catchers.
Kansas City Royals is the team with the largest number of Dominicans on their roster, with six. Boston is second with five, and there are four Dominicans players in the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, making these the most popular teams for local fans.
See http://www.dr1.com/news/2008/033108_Dominicans_in_MLB.shtml for the complete list of Dominicans in Major League Baseball.

A good start
The new Major League Baseball season got off to a fine start at the brand-new stadium in Washington, D.C. last night. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made it a perfect evening for local fans as he hit a game-winning homerun in the bottom half of the ninth inning to give the Washington Nationals a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. Dominican Odalis Perez threw five very good innings to open the game for the Nationals, coming away with a job well done, but no victory. Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta, also a Dominican, was pleased to win his season-opening game, and the first win in the new ballpark.
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