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Daily News - Friday, 05 September 2008

Weather watch
The forecast for Hurricane Ike so far is favorable to the Dominican Republic, but the Weather Department says Dominicans should continue to monitor the storm closely as it makes its way west through the West Indies. The hurricane is expected to pass north of the DR on early Sunday morning. Meanwhile, on Friday, the sun was shining in Santo Domingo and many cities nationwide.
In preventive measures, the National Emergency Commission has ordered the draining of the Valdesia, Hatillo and Sabana Yegua dams. The same has already been done for the Sabaneta dam. Emergency officials have also continued evacuation efforts for families located in surrounding areas. These are cautionary measures in case the storm brings abundant rainfall, as is expected. The ground in the DR is already saturated from many weeks of rains, with the passing of Fay, Hanna and now Ike.
Meteorological officials say that Josephine, which has been forming off the coast of Africa, continues to weaken and isn't expected to do any damage to the DR.
To follow storms that could affect the DR as they develop, see http://www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/...

JD's first day on the job
Former Vice President, and now Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal assumed his post yesterday, 18 days after he was named to the position. Fernandez Mirabal refused to comment on the situation, which fueled rumors there was a rift between him and President Leonel Fernandez. President Fernandez was pleased with Fernandez Mirabal's decision. Yesterday, Fernandez Mirabal also seemed delighted by his new responsibility, one of the most difficult in government because of the many conflicts of interest. "I don't like it if someone takes something without telling me, but I also don't like people giving me things without telling me. But all of that is in the past and we are here to serve," he told the press.
"I have decided to take this responsiblity, I hope for the next eight years because in environment and natural resources areas, the results are not apparent immediately," he told the press.
Fernandez Mirabal explained to the current employees at the Ministry that they need not fear for their jobs, as substitutions will only be made where necessary.
The press had also speculated that Fernandez Mirabal could have negotiated with the President to be sure the ministry would be sufficiently funded so that he could successfully carry out the job.
Fernandez Mirabal was sworn to his post, together with ministers Bernabe Manon (forestry resources), Ernesto Reyna (environmental management), Eleuterio Martinez (protected areas and biodiversity), Manuel Serrano (land and waters), Dannerys Santana (coastal and marine resources), Ricardo Contreras (administrative), Martha Perez (environmental education), Rosa Urania Abreu, Air Force colonel Francisco Santos Tolentino (director of Environmental Police), and colonel Julio Cesar Rodriguez Burgos. Enrique Puigbert was sworn in as advisor to the President on marine matters, Jose Enrique Baez, will be director of Quisqueya Verde (bringing back Fernandez Mirabal's successful forestation program), Idalia Acevedo, is the new director of the National Aquarium and Virginia Heinsen, will be the director of the National Zoo. Former director David Arias was named forestry advisor to the President.

Preventive medicine
Public Health has issued a state of emergency alert in prevention for a rise of infectious diseases that are common after tropical storms. Officials have yet to see a spike in cases, but doctors are asking parents to take their children to the nearest hospital if they notice any fevers, diarrhea, colds or contagious malady in their child. Doctors are also asking citizens to be more mindful of hygiene as hurricane season continues. Health officials say that during hurricane season resident's stock up on drinking water, but if containers are left open, this increases the possibility of dengue fever. Officials urge residents to keep containers closed or treat the water with small doses of chlorine.

Blackouts a problem
Blackouts have continued across the DR with 205 of the 549 circuits managed by the 3 energy distributors still offline. The northern part of the DR was one of the most affected by blackouts, having lost 74 of its 182 circuits. This translates into a 41% power deficit. The east lost 105 of 162 circuits, for a 64.8% deficit while the southern part of the country lost 17 circuits, for a 10% deficit in relation to demand. Specifically, EDESur has the most circuits offline with 110, EDEEste has 70 offline and EDENorte had 25 offline. The distributors say they have sent hundreds of brigades out into the streets, though no word on when service would be back up.

Electrical promises
Electrical expert Luis Arthur summarizes several of the problems in the sector today in his column in El Caribe. For days, he has been pinpointing the problems for the newspaper's readers. Today he comments that given the fact that the government electricity sector has no plans, and no plants being installed to meet the present and future demand, the new proposal for a cable to feed power from Colombia is just "coating with sugar for the pill" we have to take. He comments that with half the money, several power plants could be installed, and predicted that President Fernandez would have white hair before the cable came to be.
He also criticizes that the proposed 700Mw of aeolic power is another chimera. He mentions that to approve the installations, sectors in government have been asking for large under the table payments, "a copy of what is happening in the tourism sector." And he says that the incentives law that Congress finally passed does not provide encouragement to investors because of the distortion of making the governmental CDEEE the only entity able to purchase this power, leaving the companies to operate as another power provider, dependent on the CDEEE.
Arthur writes that time, political will and money are needed for the government to stop improvising. "Electricity has its well-defined policies that are known, and there is no room for politics," he writes. He laments: "It is difficult for a deaf man to hear, or more for a blind man to see, but in some way we have to get the message across to this man, who removes the good technicians and confirms the rats, so that he may understand that it is time to listen, that there have to be priorities and without energy we will continue to lose competitiveness and he will lose his political future."
For comments, write to [email protected]

UASD suspends classes
The UASD University is suspending classes until Monday. This decision will affect regional UASD institutions also. The UASD has been closed since Thursday, as a result of tropical storm Hanna. Rector Franklin Garcia Fermin said that students and professors would support efforts of the Center for Emergency Operations.
In related news, the Education Ministry is urging schools to re-open today as long as the situation permits it. Schools located in badly affected areas will stay closed until further notice.

He said, he said
National District Mayor Roberto Salcedo says the city hall (ADN) can't pay its employees or fulfill its duties because the BanReservas has seized its bank accounts. The BanReservas public relations office has released a statement denying Salcedo's claims. Salcedo says the bank has seized its accounts because of delinquency on a loan taken out by the Fenatrano bus union. When Johnny Ventura (PRD) was mayor of Santo Domingo, he signed the ADN as guarantor on the loan to the public transport union. Ventura campaigned for President Fernandez in the 2008 campaign. As press reports at the time had warned, Fenatrano members are delinquent in their payments, leaving the ADN responsible for the RD$400 million debt. Salcedo says the ADN's hands are tied and they are looking for loans to ease the situation while a solution is found. Current Fenatrano union leader Juan Hubieres recognizes his organization's debt, but has not presented a solution that would free the ADN from debt responsibility.

License stickers make money
The Tax Department (DGII) collected RD$40.1 million after 29,215 citizens purchased the "marbete" or license sticker. The DGII collected RD$4,288,200 million online, while the remaining RD$35,794,800 was paid at DGII offices and bank offices offering the renewal service. The sticker renewal process began on 26 August and will continue through 26 November.

Contraband found
Customs (DGA) officials have fined the captain of the Panamanian ship "Mapuche" RD$47 million after he attempted to introduce 262,000 gallons of fuel into the DR. The fuel is worth RD$39 million. Hoy reports captain Ivan Amin Rivas Flores, and his crew, will not leave the country until the fine is paid. Reports indicate the ship originated in Venezuela and did not have permission to enter the DR. This isn't the first time the Mapuche is caught. Last year it was caught trying to introduce another illegal cargo into Santo Domingo.

Fluff vs. substance
After five minutes of continuous rain the main roads and avenues of Santo Domingo, and other Dominican cities, are flooded making driving almost impossible. This is the scene time and time again in the DR, but the probability this will change is very small. Part of the problem, as reported in Listin Diario, is that drainage systems are extremely costly, no matter how necessary. But an added issue with drainage systems is that they "can't be seen," meaning that it can't be used as a political tool to leverage votes during a given electoral campaign. Politicians in the DR prefer to build large infrastructural projects that they can point to and use as an example of the process of an administration, instead of building "invisible" projects, no matter how important.

MLB wields power
Major League Baseball has released its list of players not allowed to play in the Dominican Winter Baseball League. The list is a result of the "extreme fatigue" clause signed between MLB and the Dominican Baseball League (LIDOM). The MLB decision will keep 15 players from playing with the Licey Tigers, 11 from the Giants, and 7 from the Estrellas and Azucareros, while the Aguilas will have to do without six players.
The clause stipulates that MLB players that have appeared in at least 170 innings (165 for AAA, AA, and A ball) could be included in the list.
Those in the extreme fatigue clause will have played 500 or more innings of baseball in the course of the year.
The clause seeks to protect players from injury and protects MLB's investment in these players. Among those on the list are Ervin Santana, Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Placido Polanco, Carlos Santana, Moises Alou and Miguel Tejada.

A-rod keeps swinging
Though he has had a sub par season, by his standards, Alex Rodriguez continues on his way to a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame and record books. Last night A-rod hit his 550th career home run. There is little doubt Rodriguez will make the exclusive 600 homerun club, the question is when. There is always the chance, Rodriguez will warm up and hit 10 home runs in the last 23 remaining games. He's done it before.
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