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Daily News - Thursday, 28 August 2008

Just in case
The Center for Emergency Operations (COE) is maintaining red alerts for 19 provinces (Barahona, Pedernales, Independencia, Elias Pina, Baoruco, Peravia, Azua, San Cristobal, Santo Domingo, the National District, San Jose de Ocoa, San Juan, San Pedro de Macoris, Duarte, Monte Plata, Sanchez Ramirez, La Vega and Monsenor Nouel), yellow warnings for nine provinces (Montecristi, La Romana, Hato Mayor, El Seibo, La Altagracia, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, Espaillat, Salcedo y Santiago) and green warnings for Samana, Valverde, Santiago Rodriguez and Puerto Plata. Despite the rains having passed, the warnings are due to the concern that ground may be saturated and there could be landslides such as that which killed eight persons in Santo Domingo, the day after Hurricane Gustav had passed. The storm forced the evacuation of 5,275 people. COE director Juan Manuel Mendez said rains and thunderstorms will continue.

Ozama slums evacuated
Last night at 11 pm, OMSA buses were sent to the slums along the Ozama riverside to evacuate residents. The Center for Emergency Operations says water levels had begun to rise and the relocation of residents was to avoid another tragedy such as that of a landslide that killed eight in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. The families were sent to refugee centers until further notice. The Santo Domingo vulnerable neighborhoods are La Zurza, La Cienaga, Las Canitas and La Barquita de Sabana Perdida. COE director in Santo Domingo Luis Reyes says volunteers were visiting the neighborhoods to ease fears among residents. Health officials also issued warnings to families in flooded areas explaining the threat of waterborne diseases. Jose Altagracia form the Canitas Neighborhood Association says children have suffered skin irritations and other illnesses from flooding waters.

Vaccinating, fumigating
The Ministry of Public Health has sent out brigades to fumigate and vaccinate in areas hit by Hurricane Gustav rainstorms in prevention. Public Health hopes to minimize the aftereffects that Gustav could bring. Dr. Zacarias Garib, in charge of the Immunization Program (PAI) at the Ministry of Health, said that close to 900,000 people would be vaccinated. Residents in Monsenor Nouel, Pedernales, Barahona, San Cristobal, Duarte y Sanchez Ramirez and the National District have been vaccinated. In the coming months, an additional 400,000 people will be covered.
Preventive measures have paid off. Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez told the Listin Diario that so far this year dengue is down 17% compared to last year. There have been 1,534 cases reported.

Committed to work together
Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia, in his "debut" in the industry on occasion of the opening of the 22nd Asonahores Trade Show at the Dominican Fiesta Hotel, promised to be a "true player" in the industry. "Tourism is not something that is born, it is made," he told those attending the ceremony. He highlighted that the country can have the best natural and human resources, but that it is the collegiate effort of private and public sector that makes the industry click. He promised to work even closer with the private sector than his predecessor. "There can not be actions taken in tourism without the consensus of the private sector," he said.
The outgoing president of the National Hotel & Restaurant Association, engineer Luis Lopez had made the point in his keynote speech at the event. "The challenge of the moment is to continue the coordination between private and public sector, identifying and giving priority to efforts to bring order to and improve the surroundings of the tourist destinations to improve our competitiveness," he said. He also stressed that electricity is the most crucial topic on the competitiveness agenda.

Deputies approve "bonus"
Yesterday, Deputies approved a 14th salary or "school bonus" that will be given to public employees every 30 July. Public employees at centralized and decentralized offices, as well as city hall employees and those on government pension plans qualify for the extra salary if they have a child regularly attending school. Those earning minimum wage will receive 100%, those earning up to two minimum wages 80%, those earning between four and eight minimum wages 60%, those earning between 8 and 11 minimum wages 40%, and those earning up to 12 minimum wages will receive 30%.

JCE to open Haiti office
The Central Electoral Board announced it will open an office in Port-au-Prince. JCE Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario said that the estimated 20,000 Dominicans living in Haiti will be able to apply or renew their identification and voting cards (cedulas) there, as well as obtain documentation such as birth certificates. The JCE has other offices in Europe and the United States to serve expatriates.

Currency fluctuations "normal"
Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa says its normal that the dollar has appreciated to the peso recently. Bengoa says that importers are replacing inventory in time for the Christmas shopping season. Bengoa added that the National Budget was prepared using a peso at RD$36 to the US$1. He says that he doesn't expect the peso to depreciate as much. He said in December, the peso rate will stabilize, with the increase in tourism and influx of money from expatriate Dominicans that return home for the holidays. The rate was at RD$34.86 on Thursday, 28 August, compared to RD$34.27 average for the month of July.

Another M.D. strike
Dominican media practically ignored yesterday's march by public hospital doctors. Today the doctor's again say they will only care for extreme cases and the emergency halls. This is the 10th strike so far this year as the physicians continue to pressure the government to accept an over-the-board increase in their wages. The Ministry of Public Health wants to peg wage increases to productivity. Doctors in Barahona will not join the strike in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. Today's strike is called for 24 hours.

Losing a generation
According to Minister of Women Alejandrina German one in five women who die while giving birth are less than 20 years old, while one in five adolescents are either pregnant or have been pregnant at least once. German says that women are extremely vulnerable in these situations.

No water in the DR?
There will be an 85% less water due to climate change in the DR by the end of the century, according to a new study by students at Columbia University, as reported in Hoy. The study says the present frequent droughts are the first effects that are being felt. According to the study, which used projections by the United Nations Development Fund and the Inter Governmental Climatic Change Panel, the 20% decline in annual rainfall, an increase in evapotranspiration and a 50% increase in population will cause water levels to drop from 2,200 cubic meters to less than 400 cubic meters in 2100. Carlos Rymer, a Dominican student doing graduate work at Columbia U, said the DR needs to take long-term approach to ensure its supply of drinkable water. Rymer completed the study with Nosisa Ndaba and Emmanuelle Humbelt.

Back to school
Education Minister Melanio Paredes is called all schools to resume classes today after two-days off due to the passing of Hurricane Gustav. Several private schools remained open on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Free autopsies?
Health Deputy Minister and National Forensics Pathology director Sergio Sarita Valdez is asking the Attorney General's office to prohibit coroners to charge for autopsies, considering the families of the deceased rarely have the money to pay for the service. Sarita's comments are in response to a curious happening in La Vega over the weekend. Reports are that the family of a deceased man ran into the coroner's office, took the body and drove away on a motochoncho. The victim was 31-year old Francisco Manuel Brito Cornielle, who was shot and killed by police in a reported gunfight. The family said it did not have the money to pay for the autopsy. The authorities have yet to identify the motoconcho driver or the woman who held the body during the escape. A video of the scene has become an Internet and Latin American TV sensation. The Minister added that some families are so poor they can't afford the caskets to bury their loved ones. Sarita added that there is always a mafia of police, nurses and even doctors trying a to make a buck.

Rocked by tragedy
Residents of the Guachupita neighborhood Jarro Sucio are in shock after two families were killed, squashed below a landslide that fell from above a cliff. Carlita Mendez and her neighbors Catalina Feliz and her five children were killed when the rain-saturated soil collapsed on top of the victims. Odalis Rosario and Adelina Rosaro, who lived right next to Feliz, both survived the tragedy. Reports indicate that at 1am on Wednesday, Feliz was heard screaming that she was stuck under the earth. Authorities say she was trying to save her children because her body was found wrapped around one of her sons. Neighbors say the door to her house had a locked gate that impeded her to make a fast escape. Only one of Feliz's children, Jose, survived. He was sleeping at an aunt's house. His father was at work during the accident.

Dalai Lama tired
The Dalai Lama has canceled his trip to the Dominican Republic and other Latin American nations due to exhaustion. A spokesperson for the Dalai Lama said the Tibetan spiritual leader could undergo medical evaluation. The Dalai Lama will head to India to seek treatment and rest. No other details were given, or whether he would reschedule his trip to the DR. He would have received an honoris causa doctorate degree at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) in Santo Domingo.

Centrobasket update
The DR lost its first game during the Centrobasket regional tournament yesterday to the US Virgin Islands, 83-74. The DR needs to win the next two games to enter the next round and qualify for the 2009 Pre -World Championships. Two NBA players, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia are on the team. Coach Scott Roth said the team didn't play well. Roth is optimistic the team will do better.
To follow the series, see http://www.fibaamericas.com/...
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