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Daily News - Friday, 14 November 2008

Ultimatum for Los Haitises
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez has issued an ultimatum to people living and working in Los Haitises National Park: either get out or be moved out by force. Speaking about the initiative Fernandez said, "future generations are in jeopardy, and by not acting we would be responsible for destroying it." During recent weeks the Minister has warned that illegal farming and settlement in the Park would no longer be allowed, saying that protecting the area was "an issue of national security". He has issued a series of warnings to people farming in the area. Fernandez explained that the "invasion" of the park began 16 years ago, meaning that every government since shares responsibility for the deterioration of an area of key ecological importance in the Caribbean.

Government 'Shells' out cash
The Dominican government has announced that it will give the Shell Company US$110 million next week to finalize the purchase of Shell's stake in the Dominican Petroleum Refinery (REFIDOMSA). Hacienda Minister Vicente Bengoa also announced that the government would pay energy generators US$23 million. The government owes the generators an estimated US$430 million. State- run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) vice president Radhames Segura said that as well as the US$174 million the government promised to pay the energy generators, the government would provide US$100 million in liquid assets and an added US$30 million to purchase fuel for the generators. Segura says the fuel will be purchased on credit, at a lower rate than had been previously purchased. He failed to expand on this detail.

Morales at the UN
During a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso called on the international community to discuss their religious differences and cultures as a way of halting extremist actions and intolerance, which he said have bred international terrorism. The Minister added that world peace will only be possible when it becomes a topic of importance on national agendas between religious groups. Morales added that despite the existence of extremism, religion is opposed to discrimination, violence, hate, hostility and conflict. Morales added that the DR's strengthening of relations with the Arab world is proof of the DR's openness to dialogue and cooperation.

DR to explore the Orinoco?
Vietnam government has offered to help the DR explore and exploit petroleum reserves in the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Listin Diario reports that Venezuela has offered PetroCaribe member nations the option to explore and exploit the basin. PetroVietnam Corporation president Tran Duc Chinh said that company would be willing to help the DR in the exploration process, adding that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and DR President Leonel Fernandez had made a cooperation agreement between REFIDOMSA and Petroleo de Venezuela for the eventual exploration of the Orinoco. Chinh will be in Caracas on 19 November to meet with Venezuelan energy officials and said he would use the opportunity to express his support for working with Dominicans. As reported in the Listin Diario, India Ambassador and Concurrent in Vietnam Hans Dannenberg said that the Vietnamese authorities are interested in signing a free trade agreement that would encourage Vietnamese investors to invest in the DR.

New security system at Caucedo
US Ambassador to the DR Robert Fannin took part in the ribbon-cutting for a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) new security system installed at the Port of Caucedo. The installation is part of the megaport initiative implemented by the NNSA in collaboration with the Department of Customs (DGA) to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials across international borders and through the global maritime shipping system.
According to the NNSA, the US is particularly interested in reducing the probability that these materials be fashioned into a weapon of mass destruction or a "dirty bomb" to be used against the US.
Samuel Conde, president of the port, called the initiative a transcendental step for the country, as reported in El Caribe.
During the event, the NNSA recognized the DGA efforts to control the smuggling of radioactive and nuclear materials. Eduardo Rodriguez, deputy director of DGA, received the recognition.

Paredes admits to deficiencies
As if the findings of multiple studies on educational quality weren't enough, Education Minister Melanio Paredes confirmed yesterday that over the years the DR has had few tangible results in improving its educational system. Paredes said there has been progress in training teachers, adding that salaries have gotten better. Paredes said he would submit a proposal to the National Education Council for an RD$49 billion budget for 2009. He says the biggest challenge for education is building infrastructure, to free up classrooms, which in some cases consist of as many as 90 students.

Nurses extend strike
Members of the UNASED and UNASE nurses unions have announced they will extend their strike for an extra 24 hours. Nurses are asking for higher wages and other concessions. Listin Diario reports that nurses at the Robert Reid Cabral, Maternidad Nuestra Senora de La Altagracia and Francisco Moscoso Puello hospitals followed through with the strike, although they did respond to emergency situations. Nurses say that Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas has not listened to their demands, adding that they are willing to take their fight to Congress. Nurses were not included in last month's pay agreement between doctors and the government, even though nurses continually supported the doctor's struggle for higher wages.

Diabetes awareness
It is estimated that 700,000 Dominicans suffer from diabetes, making the disease a growing concern. With this in mind the Diabetes Clinic at Plaza de la Salud is holding a "Diabeferia 2008." The fair also coincides with World Diabetes Day. As part of the fair, which continues today, patients will receive free medical examinations, diagnosis and information about diabetes.

OP closing stretch on Duarte
The Department of Public Works (OP) will be closing Km42 of the Duarte Highway this weekend, near Villa Altagracia, in order to work on a bridge construction. The highway will be closed between 6am and 10pm on Saturday. Travelers going from Santo Domingo to Santiago will take the old Duarte Highway entering through Villa Altagracia and exiting at the Catarey intersection, at Km45.

Almeyda defends Haitians
Interior and Police Minister Franklyn Almeyda says that contrary to popular belief, Haitians are more often the victims of violent crimes than the perpetrators. Almeyda explained that the notion that Haitians are responsible for theft and murder is part of a historical prejudice in the DR that places the blame on Haitians. He added that the Haitian issue is one of borders and coexistence, regardless of language and religious differences. The Minister added that a better border policy is needed, which doesn't consist of building a wall, but a border policy that is inclusive of technology. Almeyda also acknowledged the commercial importance of the Dominican/Haitian border.

Government electricity monopoly?
The Dominican government has a virtual monopoly on the power sector in the DR. As reported in Listin Diario, the government owns the generators, distribution companies, the transmission network and is in charge of regulating the sector through the Superintendence of Electricity. But it is also in charge of ensuring the buy and sell operations with the independent generators. "This means that it is partly responsible, together with the companies, for the difficulties and the deficiencies in the system," according to the report. Reporter Denisse Cepeda makes the point that the government is the absolute owner of EdeNorte and EdeSur power distributors, which have 70% of the market, and 50% of EdeEste. Likewise, it owns all the hydroelectric power plants that generate about 480MW, and the transmission lines. Moreover, the government also has 50% in the shares of the Haina company, together with EgeHaina that contributes 663 megawatts and the same 50% in Itabo generation plant that contributes 50%, with the remainder belonging to the AES Corporation.
A National Business Council (CONEP) report by economists Ramon Flores, Isidoro Santana and Eduardo Garcia Michel, presented in June, says that one of the basic problems of the power sector is the institutional weakness, given the conflict of interest created by the dual role that the government plays in the system.

Details in Paya case
Authorities say that a man named as 'Joan', said to be a cousin of former Navy Lieutenant Edward Mayobanex Rodriguez had managed to escape to the US after the drug-related murder of seven men in Bani in August. Diario Libre reports that police believe that 'Joan' is also responsible for the deaths. Rodriguez, who spent two months on the run, was apprehended by police in Puerto Plata while trying to board a Caribair plane to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Police believe he was the key figure in the Bani massacre and that he could provide more details about the bigger picture. Police have indicated that the massacre was related to a US$1 million debt between Dario Jose Atencio Vargas (El Don) and Luis Lara Martinez (El Churro). Officials say that Lara allowed Vargas to pay off the debt with a shipment of drugs. However, the 1,200kg shipment that was on its way from Colombia was not destined for Lara because Vargas had already made plans for the shipment. As a result, Lara became impatient and didn't want to wait for another shipment. He decided to intercept the drugs. An argument ensued between both men and Lara devised his plan for the drug 'lift', enlisting the help of Jose Luis Montas, owner of El Duro Motors, who had military contacts and could help get hold of the drugs. Once the 'lift' was completed participants divided up the drugs and sold them off. Officials are still gathering information.

NY doctors help in DR
New York City doctors Ramon Tallaj, president of the Corinthian Medical IPA and Miosotis Munoz will take part in a medical program at the Jaime Mota Regional Hospital in Barahona tomorrow, in cooperation with Dominican officials. The program seeks to help poor residents of Barahona who have spent a long time waiting for treatment. Juan Tapia from Pediatria 2000 will also take part in the program, as will Domingo Nunez, head of surgery at Saint Luke's Hospital in New York. Doctors will also meet with Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez to discuss how doctors can work with the Blacksmith Institute to help in the decontamination process in Haina, which has been described as one of the most polluted spots on earth. Steve Null from the Lead Free Children's program will attend the meeting with Fernandez. Councilman Robert Jackson, Assemblyman Nelson Castro, Dominican Sunday Inc. president Altagracia Hiraldo and Ed Campanella from MBINY will also lend their support.

Dominicans in the NCAA
As the NCAA College Basketball season begins today Dominicans can look at the collegiate league with pride. Fifteen Dominicans will play important roles in Division I teams throughout the US. Four are freshman standouts expected to help their teams significantly. Among them is a pair of 6'10 power forwards Eloy Vargas (Florida) and Alex Rivas Sanchez (South Florida). Also, there is Dagoberto Pena (Marshall) and Steve Mejia (Rhode Island). This core will be joining Edgar Sosa (Louisville) who has already become one of the best young guards in the nation, Manny Quezada (San Francisco), John Garcia (Seton Hall), Alejo Rodriguez (Iona) and Antonio Pena (Villanova). Also, there is Luis Guzman, Dalky Melendez (Louisiana Monroe), Adris de Leon and Andy Genao (Eastern Washington), James Feldeine and Jonathan Cruz (Quinnipiac). Gerardo Suero will play for Wabash College (D. II) this year and David Manaya and Leo Liriano could be midseason additions to Texas Tech. Chris de la Rosa and Danny Taveras are in the same position at Siena and San Diego State, where both talented players are currently not on the pre-season rosters. While baseball has long been held up as the DR's national sport, basketball has squeezed its way into prominence over the last 15 years. This has been made possible by members of the Dominican community in the US, who are more likely to play basketball in the urban areas where they live.

Horford continues season
Second year NBA baller Al Horford is continuing his exciting play and is now among the top five in the NBA in blocked shots. Horford is averaging 2.29 blocks per game behind Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Marcus Camby and teammate Josh Smith. Horford's success of late is due in part to his work ethic, but an injury to team star Smith has opened the gate for Horford to take a bigger part in the Hawk's success and he hasn't let fans down. Horford also finds himself among the ten leading assist men among big men and is close to averaging a double-double per game. He is averaging 13 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks per game with 2 assists per 31 minutes of play. For those who aren't basketball fans, be aware that this is a monstrous stat line. With his continued play Horford could be invited to his first All-Star Game this season.

Latin music stars in SD
Santo Domingo continues to be the hotspot for Latin music performances. On the heels of the successful performances of Joan Manuel Serrat (Spain) and Luis Miguel (Mexico), there is a full schedule of Latin music scheduled for the entertainment halls - Willie Colon, Fernandito Villalona, Juanes and Sergio Vargas will be on stage this month.
This weekend, Hector Acosta "El Torito" is booked for Friday, 14 November at Eagle Sports Bar, in a Carlos Batista production that is guaranteed to be a night of 100% dancing. Acosta will be entertaining Latin music lovers with a variety of merengue, bachata and other tropical contemporary music.
Juanes, the Colombian rock artist, follows with a Palacio de los Deprotes performance of his "La Vida World Tour" on Saturday, 15 November at the Palacio de los Deportes at 8pm.
Most outstanding, salsa legend Willie Colon is booked for Monday, 17 November at the Jet Set Club of Av. Independencia, Tel 809 533-4098. Fernandito Villalona will also perform that evening.
Another great merengue band leader, Sergio Vargas and Felix D'Oleo are booked for a Bohemian Night on 9pm Wednesday, 19 November at Coyote Club at Av. Paseo de los Locutores 58 (Gold's Gym building), Evaristo Morales).
Johnny Ventura is booked for 21 November with a nostalgic "Noche de Recuerdos," at the Teatro La Fiesta of the Hotel Jaragua.
Pochy Familia, Kinito Mendez and Bobby Rafael are back to Teatro La Fiesta of the Hotel Jaragua on 26 December.
For more events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
 
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