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Daily News - Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Changes continue in government
As expected, President Leonel Fernandez announced more changes in government. Brigade General Rafael Bencosme Candelier will now head the AMET office while former AMET director General Latif Miguel Mahfoud Rodriguez was named director of the Preventive Police Program.
Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet will stay on as Chief of the Navy and Major General Rafael Guzman Fermin will stay as on as Chief of the National Police. Brigade General Joaquin Perez Feliz was named Chief of the Army and was also promoted to the rank of Major General. Major General Carlos R. Martin Altuna Tezanos was named Chief of the Air Force. Major General Hector B. Medina will stay on as Chief of the Presidential Military Assistance Corps.
Major General Juan Antonio Campusano Lopez was named Deputy Minister of the Army while Vice Admiral Homero Lajara Sola was named Deputy Minister of the Navy. Major General Hugo Gonzalez Borrel was named Deputy Minister of the Air Force.

Max Puig at Ministry of Labor
Former Environment Minister Max Puig was sworn in yesterday by Economy, Development and Planning Minister Temistolces Montas. Puig replaces Jose Ramon Fadul who is the new minister of Industry and Commerce. Puig says that he strive to secure better work conditions for Dominicans and favors continued talks for wage increases to compensate workers for rising inflation.

Rodriguez del Orbe: Legal advisor
President Leonel Fernandez appointed lawyer Abel Rodriguez del Orbe to be the legal advisor to the Executive Branch, replacing Cesar Pina Toribio who is now Secretary of the Presidency. Rodriguez held the posts of legal advisor and attorney general in the first government of Fernandez starting 1996.
President Fernandez on Tuesday, 19 August announced the appointment of Alejandro Moscoso Segarra to replace district attorney, Jose Manuel Hernandez Peguero.

VP recovers from dengue
Vice President Rafael Alburquerque is recovering after being admitted to Corazones Unidos Hospital on Sunday. The Vice President was admitted for dengue fever and reduced white blood cell counts. His doctors say he received antipyretic treatment and IV solution and has been monitored frequently. President Leonel Fernandez and his wife Margarita Cedeno both visited the VP in the hospital.

Low productivity of doctors
A June investigation into the work hours of doctors employed at the Public Hospital Francisco Moscoso Puello substantiates the Ministry of Public Health's claim that doctors do not put in the hours for which they are paid. Overall the study reveals that the physicians on the hospital's payroll only work half of the hours for which they are paid. The study showed that doctors working in the pediatrics area were the most diligent. Of 1,200 programmed hours 1,100 were met, for a 92% fulfillment rate. This meant the cost hour for the state was RD$299, more than the RD$274.74 that was programmed. But in cardiology, of 684 hours that were programmed, only 352 were met, for 51%. This meant the cost/hour for the state was RD$768.98.
In orthopedics, of 544 hours, the physicians only worked 72 hours, or 13%. While the government had programmed a cost/hour of RD$269.18, it ended up paying RD$2,033.77 for the hour. In dermatology, 298 hours were programmed, but the physicians only worked 52, or 25%. In the intense care unit, 672 hours were programmed, and only 252 were fulfilled, or 38%. In pathology, of 240 programmed work hours, only 144 were met, or 60%. In neurosurgery, of 64 hours programmed, only 36 were met, or 56%. In oncology, of 192 hours, only 20 were met for 10%.
Physicians are requesting a raise to RD$59,000, but the Ministry of Health argues wage increases need to be pegged to productivity.

UASD reopening 25 August
UASD University rector Franklin Garcia Fermin announced the fall semester at the state university central campus in Santo Domingo and branches nationwide has been postponed to start Monday, 25 August to give additional time for students to register for classes. He said that in the meantime students can participate in student fairs that are being held at the university campuses.
Most private elementary and secondary schools are starting the school year on Monday, 25 August, while the government ordered public schools to open on Monday, 18 August.

Falcondo closing
The Swiss-British company Xstrata has announced the temporary closing of its nickel plant Falcondo. The company says that its costs have risen due to escalating petroleum prices at a time when the market prices for nickel has declined. Falcondo, located 80 kilometers from Santo Domingo, in Bonao, will continue maintenance and reparation projects during the temporary closing. The company will also switch from petroleum to coal-based energy use, said Ian Pearce, Xstrata company spokesman. He said that only 10% of the jobs will be cut. Falcondo presently employs 1,800 workers.

Builders beware
In one week the price of cement increased by 17%, or RD$45. Last week the price for a bag was RD$230 and it is now selling for RD$275. The price surge is somewhat baffling considering that international petroleum prices have declined by US$30 in the last month. For weeks producers have blamed increases on the rise on the higher cost of fuel. Listin Diario reports that former Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes had scheduled a meeting with local cement producers to seek a way not to increase prices, but the meeting never took place and producers decided to unilaterally raise prices anyway. Melanio Paredes on 16 August was appointed minister of Education, and thus talks with the new minister are yet to start.

Dominican Week: 22-26 September
Dominican Week, the annual encounter between things Dominican and American organized by the Russin, Vecchi, Heredia Bonetti law firm and the Foundation Dominican American Assistance Fund (DAAF) is set for Monday 22 September through Friday, 26 September. Again, there will be academic, artistic, cultural and business communities organized in Washington, D.C. (22, 23, 24 September) and New York City (25, 26 September).
Dominican Week is in its 16th year. It was born when lawyer Luis Heredia Bonetti, of RVHB law firm, and a group of men and women became concerned because headlines in US newspapers focused on negative aspects of the more than a million Dominicans living in the US. The events are meant to promote business, economic, historical and cultural awareness of Dominican society. Well-known speakers and distinguished panels consisting of Dominicans and Americans explore the topics of doing business in the DR, economic integration and free trade.
RVHB is circulating the memoirs on the 15th Dominican Week. The publication captures year-by-year memorable happenings during Dominican Week that has been celebrated since 1992.
For more information on the event, write to [email protected]

The Navy's drug ties
The Navy has suspended four senior officers and three lower ranking officers for ties to drug trafficking over the past few months, according to Navy chief, Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet. Hoy writes that the National Drug Control Department (DNCD) recommended the cancellations. Chief of the Navy Julio Cesar Ventura Bayonet says that all persons linked to drug trafficking will be removed from the force. He added that military surveillance will be increased in the south and east of the DR, where most drug smuggling operations are taking place. He is optimistic the traffic will be curtailed once two surveillance jets arrive.

Protests turn violent
Ten hurt and another eight arrested after protesters took to the streets of Dajabon on the border with Haiti, angry over the lack of energy service. Listin Diario writes that protesters were blocking roads with rocks, trees, burnt tires and other objects. The protesters argue that though they pay their electricity bills they only receive two and three hours of service per day. Similar protests have occurred in Santiago and Tamboril where 18-hour blackouts have been the norm for the past weeks. Business owners joined the protest, arguing they have lost millions because of the blackouts. In response State Run Electric Companies (CDEEE) VP Radhames Segura has announced a new contingency plan to improve the service. Segura says an extra 50MW of energy will be integrated into the system shortly. This will make up for the energy lost due to issues with the San Felipe energy plant that announced it was shutting down for three weeks for maintenance. Segura added that eventually 150MW will enter the system with an extra 30MW contracted from the Laesa generator and another 50 MW which will enter in November from the Pinalito hydroelectric plant.

Olympics update
Chinese Dominican Jennifer Qian Lian was looking for redemption when she began the individual portion of the Olympics Table Tennis Tournament. Quian Lian defeated Cameroon native Victorino Aqum 11-3, 11-1 and 11-6 in her first round match. She then faced Nathana Komwong and lost. Luis Lin Ju made his debut today and is looking to bring back a prized medal back to the DR. He faced Tiago Apolonio from Portugal in his first round matched and overpowered Apolonio. Lin Ju will now face Adrian Crisan from Romania tomorrow.
The DR is holding its medal hopes in the table tennis athletes, in the Dominican boxing team and in Judo star Gabriel "Gaby" Mercedes. Mercedes makes his debut tomorrow, but faces stiff competition in the martial arts tournament. But Mercedes is no slouch considering that he is the reigning Pan American champion.
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