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Daily News - Wednesday, 04 February 2009

JCE collects data abroad
Central Electoral Board (JCE) Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario has announced that beginning in March the JCE will begin collecting biometric data from Dominicans who are based overseas. He explained that mobile JCE units would operate at consulates in 17 cities whose location has yet to be confirmed. The JCE has also begun talks with the Ministry of Interior and Police and the Migration Department to coordinate the collection of data when Dominicans enter or exit the country through the airports.

Public Health seizes drugs
The Ministry of Public Health launched an operation yesterday to remove fake Human Gamma Globulin from pharmacy shelves after TV investigative journalist Nuria Piera revealed that two patients died after being administered with the substance at a public hospital. The drugs were being improperly used as tetanus vaccines. According to Hoy, Gamma Globulin has also been used as an appetite stimulant, sexual stimulant, a face cream and a calcium supplement. This fake medication has no official health registration for any of these uses and should not be on the market. The National Police has announced that four people have been arrested for the sale and distribution of the fake drug. The Ministry of Public Health has issued a health warning to national hospitals, pharmacies and to the population. Raids have continued in Cristo Rey, Villa Consuelo and Ensanche La Fe in order to get it off the market as soon as possible. Hoy reports that though the trafficking of illegal pharmaceuticals has been a problem in the DR for many years, but that this time it has made headlines because of the deaths.

One more extension
The Ministry of Interior & Police is giving gun owners a third opportunity to update their gun permits or face losing them forever. Interior and Police Minister Franklin Almeyda Rancier has given gun owners until 6 February to get their paperwork in order.

Government wants more imports
Industry and Commerce Minister Jose Ramon Fadul said the government would stimulate imports so that increased competition force price reductions on the local market. Fadul said that the profit margin is much too high for some commercial sectors, considering that the price of fuel has dropped considerably. Rice, beans, meat and cheese are among some of the products the government is concerned about, according to the Minister. Fadul's comments were supported by reports that President Leonel Fernandez met with members of the commercial sector and agricultural producers to discuss how to reduce prices of basic foods. Though the commercial sector agreed to continue producing foods at market prices Fernandez promised to continue following up on developments in the nation's productive sectors.

Watch what you wear
The Ministry of Education now has a dress code for its office workers. The memo, which prohibits employees from wearing jeans, transparent blouses, shirts, sleeveless shirts, tight jeans or sneakers, has caused a stir. The memo also stipulates the length of women's skirts, and says that women can't have "elaborate hairdos" or intricately painted nails. Women will also not be allowed to wear high-heeled shoes, not only because are they noisy, but because they are also uncomfortable for women in a work environment. Men will also be forced to have short hair, must wear plain shirts with no designs and must limit the number of accessories they wear.

Moreno comments
Former presidential candidate Guillermo Moreno says that President Leonel Fernandez's leadership is based on clientelism and corruption, adding that history has shown that this form of governance is not sustainable. Moreno, who was the presidential candidate for the minority MIUCA party and has been a vocal critic of Fernandez, says that this style of governance only works when the person in question is in power. He has now left Miuca and is an independent. "The political system and the PLD have fallen into the mindset which is moved by clientelism." He added that one of the biggest problems in the DR is that there is no real opposition, just a system with one big party taking turns to hold power.

Banks lower rates
Four of the nation's largest banks have announced interest rate cuts. Scotiabank, Banco Leon, the BHD and Banco de Reservas have all cut their rates in recent days. Bank Superintendent Rafael Camilo said that it was time for rates to be cut given that the Central Bank's monetary policy had been relaxed. Camilo said that rates would go back down to their 2008 levels before beginning to spike. He was quoted in Hoy saying the middle class needed the respite. Camilo added that following the measures taken by the Central Bank in December and the rate reductions it was only right to reduce bank interest rates in order to take some of the pressure off the middle classes, which have to worry about car and other payments. He continued by saying that it was an important move aimed at helping "energize" the economy.

Corning will close
Corning Cable Systems plant located at the Itabo free trade zone (PISA) and in operation there for more than 20 years, has announced it would shut down its Dominican plant at the end of the year. Hoy writes that the company's 1,500 employees were notified of the decision on 31 December 2008. Many long time employees will receive considerable severance payments.
According to a company press release, the company decided to make job cuts in its operations worldwide as a cost-cutting measure in reaction to the international financial crisis. "Corning Inc., Corning Cable System's parent company, is cutting its worldwide work force by 3,500 employees, or 13 percent, as part of a restructuring plan," states the company. But Peter Leon, manager of Corning's local operations, says that the DR's energy, transportation and fuel prices are the highest in the region, making it less competitive. According to Hoy, the company's decision is final. Leon said that Corning was the first to announce a closure in the Parque Industrial Itabo free zone, one of the oldest in the DR and where 15 companies are located. Company layoffs will be made gradually this year. The company says the decision seeks to keep the company "competitive in these challenging times." Corning Cable Systems is a subsidiary of New York-based Corning Inc. which makes optical fiber, cable and other telecommunications products. Corning Cable Systems currently employs about 10,000 workers worldwide.

Spanish unemployment effects
The increase in unemployment rates in Spain could have a negative impact on the Dominican economy. According to Hoy the number of Dominicans traveling to Spain on employment contracts has decreased from 383 in 2006 to 160 in 2007 and only 82 in 2008. According to Spanish Deputy Labor Minister Virgilio Valdera and Gabriela Varela, director of Labor Issues at the Spanish Embassy, the reason for the decline is that Spanish companies would rather hire local workers. Added concerns are that Spain's unemployment rate closed at 13.91% in 2008, with 1,280,000 people newly unemployed and with an added 200,000 registered as unemployed in January 2009. As many Dominicans work in Spain and send remittances back to the DR this could mean a steep decrease in the money received by their relatives back home. Another problem for the labor market in Spain is that the construction sector, once known for easy employment opportunities, has crumbled with a 164% increase in unemployed construction workers.

Police rescue two kidnap victims
The Police have announced the rescue of two kidnapped twins, 27-year olds Indira and Indira Gandy Rondon. The Police said that last Sunday's kidnapping of the twins in Boca de Yuma, Higuey municipality was the result of a drug deal gone wrong. The kidnappers were caught by the Police when they went to pick up their RD$300,000 ransom at a gas station. The Police arrested Angel Gabriel Lopez Romero, Francisco Guillermo, Rafael Rincon, and others in the case. An intelligence effort led the Police to trace the kidnappers to the barrio in La Caleta, Boca Chica. Police spokesperson Nelson Rosario said that an investigation led to La Caleta sector of Boca Chica where they found jewelry belonging to the sisters at the house of Rafael Rincon.
On Monday, the police arrested Edward Antonio Ciprian and Celeste Meran Garcia, residents of El Tanquecito of La Caleta when they visited a gas station where the kidnappers had agreed the ransom would be paid. The women were rescued in a shoot-out with the police, in which an innocent bystander, Hector Miranda Evangelista was injured.
The Dominican police have an excellent track record in rescuing kidnap victims.

Mannygate
The saga of Dominican slugger Manny Ramirez is dragging on for longer than most fans and journalists would care for. The slugger, once famous only for his hitting, has now gained the distinction of being a "prima donna" in light of his forced exit from Boston last season and now for his free agency antics. Ramirez was considered a key player to pick, but once the Yankees chose Mark Teixera before Ramirez could get a deal, Manny's stock dropped. The latest is that Ramirez has reportedly declined a one-year US$25 million offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many fans have developed a certain level of disdain for Ramirez considering the amount of money he is being offered in the current financial crisis. Other issues concerning Ramirez's future include the fact that there are only a handful of teams that can afford the slugger and currently Boston, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and now the LA Dodgers seem to be out of the running.

Alex & Albert train for WBC
Though national attention is currently focused on the DR's participation in the Serie del Caribe, which is taking place in Mexicali, Mexico, news about the DR's team for the World Baseball Classic 2009 is sure to be a hot topic in the next few days. During a press conference at the Rawlings Stadium in Boca Chica some of the players who will play in the WBC spoke to the press and took to the field for some light practice and drills. Among the players present was Albert Pujols, coming from one of the most productive seasons in MLB history, and Alex Rodriguez, considered by many the best and at times most controversial player in the game today. "I've already played for the US, during the first WBC, but I am sure my mother, Lourdes Navarro, will cry when I go out on that field wearing the DR uniform." Pujols, who if healthy will be the anchor of this team, said that he is honored to play under the guidance of coach Felipe Alou.
On a related topic, CDN announced it would televise the WBC Games from 5-23 March, enabling local audiences to follow the action.

Caribbean Series
Did the Dominican team leave its offense at Immigration? It seemed so during the better part of the DR's Game 1 loss against Venezuela and once again during last night's game against Puerto Rico. The Dominican team struggled mightily against a weaker Puerto Rican team, until Fernando Martinez made himself into the hero of the night. Tied 1-1 going in the seventh inning, Martinez took a swing and launched the pitch from Puerto Rican pitcher Jose Vaquedano deep into Casas Geo Stadium, giving the DR the lead and the winning run.
Standings:
Team W-L Avg. Games Behind
Venezuela 2 - 0 .1000 --
Mexico 1 - 0 .500 1
DR 1 - 0 .500 1
Puerto Rico 0 - 2 .000 2
 
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