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Daily News - Friday, 10 October 2008

Fine Arts Palace remodeled
President Leonel Fernandez inaugurated the remodeled Palace of Fine Arts at Maximo Gomez Avenue yesterday. The government says it invested RD$700 million in the remodeling of the 52-year old complex dedicated to the fine arts. The Supervisory Office of Public Works of the Presidency was responsible for the improvements.

Fast-tracking constitutional reform
Congressional spokesmen say that non-governmental organizations, universities and citizens in general will have 15 days to present observations to the bi-chamber congressional commission that has been entrusted with drafting the revised Constitution that would be submitted to the vote of senators and deputies. President Leonel Fernandez last month submitted his proposal for constitutional reform whereby numerous articles would be modified and the number of articles increased from 120 to 254. The congressional commission would meet on Wednesdays at 4pm and Thursdays at 10am to review the proposed changes.
According to Hoy, Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez says the procedure is for the bill to be approved by the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies separately, and then it passes to the President for signing. Fifteen days later, the National Assembly would be convened to vote as one body and review the reforms.
President Leonel Fernandez this week met with the Senate and Chamber of Deputies separately to motivate the fast approval of the bill.

Growing balance of payment deficit
During the first six months of this year the current account deficit of the balance of payments increased 534% when compared to the same period in 2007, as reported in El Caribe. The current account deficit went from US$496 million from January to June 2007 to US$2.65 billion during the same period in 2008. Rising imports tipped the trade balance further. The trade deficit increased from US$2.80 billion to US$5.08 billion, for a difference of US$2.82 billion, or a 81% increase.
Imports were up 35%, or US$2.20 billion, going from US$6.37 billion in Jan-June 2007 to US$8.57 billion in the same period this year. Imports went from US$5.12 billion to US$7.33 billion, for US$2.1 billion increase, or 43%.
Meanwhile, exports were down US$7.1 million or 2.2%, dropping from US$3.57 billion to US$3.49 billion in the same period. Exports outside duty free manufacturing zones were down from US$1.41 billion to US$1.34 billion, while tax free zone exports also dropped from U$2.16 billion to US$2.15 billion. Free zone exports dropped from US$1.254.6 billion to US$1.248.2 billion, for a decline of US$6.4 million, or 0.5%.

More expensive to break traffic law
It now costs much more to break Traffic Law No. 241. Metropolitan Transport Authority officers are now levying penalties that cost around the double what they did previously, as reported in El Caribe. As of 7 October, fines are regularly RD$1,000 (up from RD$530) and RD$1,667 (up from RD$884).
For instance now it costs RD$1,000 to be caught driving without or with an expired license, without insurance, not buckling up or crossing a red light, the most common traffic violations. The General Prosecutor's Office released the information on the increase in the cost of fines.

Students lag in problem-solving
Results of a nationwide evaluation shows the need for major changes in how Dominicans are taught. Forty-thousand first-year students at 16 universities were evaluated for the POMA/Ministry of Higher Learning (SEESCYT) study. The students showed below average problem-solving skills, but acceptable scores in language and reasoning skills. Students at the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC), Iberoamerican University and Loyola Polytechnical Institute, UNAPEC and Instituto de Ciencias Exacts (INCE) students scored in the top five spots.
The Technological University of the South (Utesur), the Technological Institute of Eastern Cibao (ITEC) and state university (UASD) campuses outside of Santo Domingo ranked the lowest.
The same study confirmed high school graduates are entering the university unprepared, and have not been taught to reason or solve problems in school.
Spanish educational consultant Jose Diaz Esteve, who was in charge of the study, says: "Be it a developed country or a developing country, the main objective of education needs to be to develop intellect and capacity to solve problems." He insisted there need to be major changes in how Dominicans are taught and methods developed so students can have the skills to solve personal, family and social problems.
Dominicans were most lacking in mathematics, not so in language skills.

Expediting tourism investments
The Tourism Promotion Council (Confotur) of the Ministry of Tourism has met twice this month, with another session pending for the end of the month. The meetings are to decide on tourism development projects that had been submitted months ago. Manuel Quiterio Cedeno writes in El Caribe that many cases date back to 2006, while the ruling establishes that the Ministry of Tourism has a 60 day deadline to approve or reject a project.
"While there are cases of delays because the promoters did not present the complete documentation, or because the projects were lacking requirements from the Ministry of Environment, or affected by delay tactics of that Ministry, but the main reason for the delays is that the past authorities of the Ministry of Tourism used the mechanism to punish dissidents or favor friends," writes Cedeno. He said that a press release distributed by the Ministry of Tourism says that the projects approved would mean more than US$3 billion in new investment. He said that in the first meeting 24 projects were approved, and another13 proposals in the second meeting. More projects are expected to receive approval at the end of the month.
New Toursm Minister Francisco Javier Garcia recently announced that his ministry would resolve in 60 days all pending cases, and from then on, the 60-day time limit would be honored, in order to expedite new investment.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism is studying a new procedure to expedite the approval. A booklet outlining how investors and developers should submit a case is being prepared. Furthermore, the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Environment would appoint a joint commission to review the cases in order to expedite the projects' approval or rejection.

National heritage study
While the University of Puerto Rico and Universidad Central del Este are focusing on the genetic composition of Dominican residents in the East, the Museum of Dominican Man is also studying the identity heritage in a separate study. Juan Rodriguez Acosta, director of the Museum of Dominican Man (MHD) said that the study, "Genetic Structure of Pre-Columbian Populations in the DR and Incidence in the Present Dominican Population with the Application of Genomic Techniques" is carried out by archaeologist-anthropologist Marcio Veloz Maggiolo and a team of experts from the Museum of Dominican Man and the Institute of Innovation in Biotecnology and Industry (IIBI). The research looks into identity and cultural roots of Dominicans, how genetics of indigenous inhabitants may have survived, and the hereditary impact of centuries old populations on the population today. Rodriguez says they are studying archaeological finds of remains in a Moca. The human remains were sent to Indiana University. The tests could determine the genetic composition of migrants that settled in the area in the 17th and 18th century. The MHD study will span three years with tests carried out nationwide.

60% Maternity patients are Haitians
The director of the Maternidad San Lorenzo de los Minas, the largest maternity center in the eastern part of Santo Domingo, says that 60% of the budget of the hospital is spent on Haitians that come to the hospital to give birth. The public hospital provides free assistance to patients, regardless of their legal status or nationality. He explained the hospital is surrounded by barrios that have a large population of Haitians -- Gualey, La Barquita, and areas near the Charles de Gaulle Avenue. Moreover, he said that a considerable number of the women that give birth come directly from Haiti to give birth. "It appears that in the country they have connections so they later may leave, but they receive the same treatment as Dominicans," he said. He said nevertheless, that Haitian pregnant women are those with the most complications, with preeclampsia being common.
He said the hospital has had to keep on staff translators to assist the Haitians in creole.

No objection stirs controversy
The General Prosecutor's Office has issued a document whereby it does not object that the Supreme Court of Justice annul a sentence that condemns the president and vice executive of the Banco Nacional de Credito (Bancredito) to eight years in jail for fraud against bank customers. The communication is signed in the name of the General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez Pena, who could not be reached by journalists for confirming he had authorized the document. Reportedly he is abroad. The second in charge at the Prosecutor's office was neither available to reporters, and was said to be on medical leave. News commentators say that the signature is not legible. The document would make possible that the eight-year jail and RD$2.5 million indemnity sentence issued to bankers Arturo Pellerano Pena and Felipe Mendoza on 11 August by judges of the Second Penal Court of Appeals of the National District be discarded on grounds that customer claims against the bankers have been dropped.

21 more arrested in Paya case
The Police arrested 21 more people suspect of involvement in the seven-person drug massacre that occurred in Paya, Bani last month. Four of those arrested are foreigners from Ecuador and French Guyana. Hoy reports the Police had been trailing the group and decided to arrest them before they left the county, via the DR-Haiti border. The Police says that among the arrested is Yanueri Manuel Calvo Tejeda, who is mentioned as one of the masterminds of the crime. Also arrested were Rafael de la Cruz Bonifacio, Frank Gabriel Paula Bautista, Francisco Moya Camacho, Wilson Rafael Luna Taveras, Rosanni del Carmen Hernandez Diaz, Yunior Hernandez Lara Feliz, Mohamed Kudra, Luis Guzman, Jose Ramon Alvarez, Juan Carlos Genao, Antonio Tejada, Yorqui Antonio Sanchez, Luis Damian Sime, Rafael Diomedes de la Cruz, Jose Miguel Baez, Luis Ney German, Jorge Luis Guerrero, Fernando Manuel Almonte and Radhames Mota. According to the Police, the group was detained on the Monte Cristi-Dajabon highway and was headed for Cap Haitien, Haiti. The Police says the plans were to continue to French Guyana and from there to the United States. The group was traveling in two SUVs, a pick up truck, and a car. The Police confiscated a Smith & Wesson nine millimeter gun, 26 cell phones, 14 passports, US$18,901 and RD$60,700 in cash.

Ambiorix Burgos in jail
Mets Pitcher Ambiorix Burgos maintains he is innocent after a judge ordered him to jail for three months at the Nagua jail in a traffic accident that killed two women on the Cabrera-Nagua highway in the northeast. Prosecutor Raul Quiroz says this is only the beginning of the case and that a full investigation is pending. Judge Nicolasa Sabala says no trial date has been set. At the moment Burgos is only being charged with fleeing the scene of an accident after his Hummer SUV ran over two women. Burgos could face homicide charges. The family of Angely Fana, one of the victims, has already filed suit against Burgos.
Burgos' dad, Pablo says his son is innocent, adding that people want to do him harm. Hoy reports that Burgos seemed indifferent to the proceedings, entering the court in street clothes and continuously smiling and playing with his cell phone. He maintains his innocence saying he was in the back seat of the vehicle and says he will clear his name.

Brugal Rum Award
A coffee-growers association in Bonao has won the RD$6.5 million prestigious "Brugal Premia Su Gente" community award. The Asociacion de Caficultores La Independencia won in the category of environmental protection. Others winning the awards that were announced last night at an event at the Casa San Pablo were the Grupo Fe y Alegria at the Escuela del Carmen in La Vega, Hogar de Ancianos Nuestra Senora del Carmen, a home for aging persons for social assistance. Also the Federacion de Productores Campesinos (Feproca), a farmer's association that won the award for community development. In the category of art and culture, Brugal recognized the efforts to develop art and culture of the Patronato Pro-Desarrollo de Yamasa.
Brugal foundation president, George Arzeno Brugal highlighted that the award seeks to contribute to create new dimensions to the condition of being human, communicating the successful efforts of the organizations beyond the scope of those who directly benefit from their work.
During the evening, the Brugal Foundation also recognized the humanitarian work of the late Father Luis Quinn in San Jose de Ocoa, and that of David Marti, calling him an anonymous heroe for his work to rescue vagabond children in the Colonial City and the neighborhoods of Cristo Rey and Los Minas.
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