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Daily News - Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Teaching a new generation
Education Minister Melanio Paredes says that the Ministry of Education is starting an overhaul of public school curricula with the aim of helping students to improve their comprehension, mathematical skills and English language skills. Subjects that focus on values will be added. He called the program a "total reorientation" of the Curriculum Department that will now be headed by Dinorah de Lima. "In a short time we will be presenting the country and the world with a new educational product in the DR," he announced. Paredes is known for his excellent work at the vocational technical organization, Infotep. He said that the greatest efforts would be directed at grade schools. "The students who are graduating today are victims of a pernicious circle," he said, commenting on the deficiencies that students entering universities are experiencing. He said that the next generation that is currently in pre-school through fourth grade in elementary would stand to benefit most from the new curricula.

National Forestation Plan
The Ministry of Environment will be working closely with 15 public and private organizations to implement a major nationwide reforestation plan. Participating in the plan are Quisqueya Verde, Fundacion Sur Futuro, Instituto Agrario Dominicano, Sociedad Ecologica del Cibao, Cooperativa de San Jose, Junta del Yaque, Asociacion de Caficultores de Naranjito, Fundacion Foresta and the Consejo Asesor Internacional de la Juventud Rural. Also Fundacion Loma Quita Espuela, Fundacion para el Desarrollo del Suroeste, Fundacion para el Desarrollo del Cercado and the municipalities of El Pino, Polo, El Llano and Mella. During the announcement of the program launch, Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez said that the Ministry would cover the costs of the reforestation logistics and would provide technical advice to the participating entities that in turn would manage and monitor the implementation in their communities.

Agreement with Haiti?
Dominican Ambassador in Haiti Jose Serulle says that there is no better time than the present for the DR to sign a trade agreement with Haiti. He added that both governments are feeling the urgency. Serulle favors a broad-based agreement that is fair and helps strengthen relations between both nations. According to Serulle, both the DR and Haiti represent an important market and an agreement would only facilitate inter-country trade. Officials from both countries have consistently spoken of the need for an agreement, yet neither side has made any concrete moves to start the process.

Legalizing 'bancas'
The National Lottery signed an agreement with the Federation of Betting Shops (Fenabanca) whereby 6,200 illegal gambling houses could regularize their status. He estimates there are 15,000 betting shops that operate illegally. The government was losing RD$1.2 billion per month in taxes because the businesses were run illegally, according to National Lottery administrator Jose Francisco Pena Guaba. The politician says the legalization process will produce RD$540 million in tax revenues. The National Lottery manages these funds that are targeted for social works.
The shops need to pay RD$116,250 to get their legal status. Administrator of the National Lottery Jose Francisco Pena Guaba said that Fenabanca has 29,000 betting shops employing 75,000 persons registered at the National Lottery. Despite its negative effect on society, betting is favored by the government because it is a big-revenue producer.

Paying up to improve service
State Electricity Company (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura says the government will release US$100 million of the US$364 million of government arrears with power companies no later than 25 October. As reported in Hoy, CDEEE figures reveal that the government maintains a debt of US$88 million with EdeNorte, US$124 million with EdeSur and US$151 million with EdeEste. Last week Segura Segura told El Caribe, "some plants are out of service for fuel, and naturally that lack of fuel is due to lack of payment. Blackouts are due to the lack of payment with some power generators." Segura has continuously blamed the rising price of petroleum for the government's inability to keep up with the power bills. Meanwhile, Segura says that the financial blackouts would continue.

Four more for Fernandez?
According to constitutional expert and leading opposition PRD party member Enmanuel Esquea Guerrero, the proposed constitutional reform would allow President Leonel Fernandez to opt for a fourth term in office, beginning in 2012. Esquea explains that while the Constitution still limits extended runs at the presidency, a clause in the proposed Magna Carta implies that incumbent at the time the new Constitution is ratified could opt for a second consecutive term in office. Esquea added that this clause does not take his previous terms in office into consideration. Last week Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez said he trusted Fernandez would not run for President again.

Nurses to strike, too
Public hospitals nurses in Santo Domingo will go on strike tomorrow, Wednesday 15 October. Nurses are still waiting for Congress to respond to their demands for higher wages and more jobs for union members. Nurses and doctors want an overall wage increase, while the Ministry of Public Health is maintaining that pay raises need to be pegged to productivity.
Government officials have yet to respond to any of the nurses', or doctors' repeated threats and protests. Nurses' union (UNASED) director Minerva Magdaleno says that nurses want 1,200 new positions. On average, nurses earn RD$8,000 per month.

Christopher: "total complicity"
Relatives of respected former Civil Aviation Board official Angel Christopher Martinez who was shot dead over two years ago are calling on General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez Pena to take action in the yet unsolved murder case. Christopher was murdered in his vehicle on 12 July 2006. Family members held a protest outside the General Prosecutor's and Supreme Court of Justice offices yesterday. They said that the General Prosecutor's Office has plenty of information on the case but refuses to act, as reported in Hoy. "We have sent over 20 letters to the General Prosecutor with information on who were the intellectual and material culprits, but have received no response," said Eric Christopher, son of the deceased.
Christopher said that Jimenez Pena has been acting in "an irresponsible and cowardly way regarding this crime," as reported in Hoy. He said that he has provided information about a Police officer and a military official who he says are implicated in the murder but there has been no response from the General Prosecutors Office. "It is not possible that government officials who are involved from the aviation and military and police sectors continue to be covered up," he claimed. He said there has been "total complicity" on the part of the General Prosecutor's Office and the National Police, which is why the culprits are still free 27 months after the crime. Eric Christopher claimed that "it is not possible that there continues to be protected sectors and mafias organized within the institutions, and in this case of aviation, that uses airplanes to market drugs and for drug trafficking and other events and we receive no response from the authorities," he said.
Eric Christopher was seeking to meet with the General Prosecutor without success yesterday.

Banking case dismissal?
Assistant prosecutor German Miranda Villalona has expressed his opposition to the order sent by the General Prosecutor's Office to the Supreme Court whereby charges that led to an eight-year sentence against bankers Arturo Pellerano and Felipe Mendoza in the Bancredito fraud case would be dismissed. He said, nevertheless, that in keeping with hierarchy and discipline, he would have to comply with the decision by his superiors. As reported in Hoy, Miranda Villalona said adjunct prosecutor Moises Ferrer, "should have consulted with us prior to sending the document to the Supreme Court." He said that both himself and prosecutor Francisco Garcia worked for five years on the case and suddenly they received the information that the General Prosecutor Office had decided to discharge the accusations. He said they have their opinion prepared and they will communicate this to the director of the Office for the Persecution of Administrative Corruption in the next few hours.
Assistant state prosecutor Moises Ferrer signed the document in the name of General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez Pena who was abroad at the time. Miranda said that Ferrer was less than a second replacement officer for the general prosecutor and thus should have consulted them. Jimenez has not been available to comment on the decision by his office.
On 11 September 2008, the bankers were sentenced to eight years in jail and ordered to pay RD$2.5 million in compensation for the Bancredito bank fraud case presented by the Central Bank and Superintendence of Banks lawyers.
General Prosecutor Radhames Jimenez Pena's opinion establishes that his office does not have any interest in rejecting Pellerano and Mendoza's lawyers' petition made to the Supreme Court on 26 September for the case's dismissal.

Rains bring potholes
Aside from flooding, this year's rains have led to increased deterioration on the nation's streets. Hoy reports that holes have been popping up on Santo Domingo's streets at an alarming rate, due to the frequent rains. But what's worse is that those very same rains have made it almost impossible for the Ministry of Public Works to implement its road recovery program.

Zo comes calling
Basketball great Alonzo "Zo" Mourning made a special visit to students at the Politecnico MIR Esperanza, in La Romana. Zo took a moment to speak to children at the school and explained that "basketball is what I now how to do best, but it requires a lot of practice and discipline. It's a profession like any other and you have to protect your image and your body, and that's why you should stay away from bad habits."

Baseball update
The Boston Red Sox are treading on thin ice against one-time perennial bottom dwellers Tampa Bay Rays. The vaunted Sox started off the series with a win in Tampa Bay on Friday. The Sox looked to talk their momentum into game two, on Saturday, but Tampa had plans of its own and took game two. The series returned to the Hub last night with the Rays taking the Sox to town with four homeruns, for a 9-1 win.
In other baseball news, it looks the LA Dodgers' luck has all but run out. The Dodgers are struggling against the Philadelphia Phillies. Over the weekend the Dodgers were able to get one win, but consistent hitting by the Phillies and strong pitching has given Philadelphia a 3-1 series lead. It would take an unlikely miracle for the Dodgers to make a series out of this one.
In other news, Manny Ramirez Hiroki Kuroda, Larry Boa, Mariano Duncan J.C. Romero, Shane Victorino and Davey Lopes have all been fined by the league for a small altercation that took place during game 3 of the Phillies/Dodgers NLCS series. No word on the amount of fines dished out by MLB.

Dominican fashion week
Dominican fashion week is here with the nation's best designers putting their talents on display. This is the third year of Dominican Moda with designers Robert Flores, Gutierrez Marcano and Sully Bonnelly opening up festivities. The event will run through next Saturday with 35 scheduled events throughout the week.
For a complete schedule, see www.dominicanamoda.com

Weather forecast better
Seems like the Dominican Republic will be spared the brunt of Tropical Storm Omar that is making its way from the southern Caribbean to cross Puerto Rico. The weather forecasts are for rains, but not with the intensity that would have happened if the storm had come closer to the DR. The forecast for the DR improves daily as the storm is keeping a southeastern route that is likely to keep Dominican coasts clear. Reports were of partly cloudy but sunny skies from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo.
See www.dr1.com/forums/weather-beyond/ for weather updates.
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