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Daily News - Wednesday, 15 April 2009

God and politics
Heated arguments at yesterday's meeting of the Revisory Assembly, the body appointed to discuss the proposed Constitutional Reform, resulted in its adjournment by Assembly president Reinaldo Pared Perez. Pared is also President of the Senate. Conversations became heated as legislators discussed the invocation of "God" in the preamble to the Dominican constitution. Senators Frank Martinez and Pelegrin Castillo both commented that the motion presented by Senator Minou Tavarez Mirabal and Senator Francisco Brito only invoked the nation's motto, "God, Homeland and Liberty" and not God himself, thus limiting the role of God in the Magna Carta. Senator Carlos Pena proposed that the preamble needed to be more specific in citing the origins of the God being invoked by including in the preamble that the God being referenced was the one of the patriarchs Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. A proposal by Santiago's Technological University (UTESA), defended by Jose Gonzalez, didn't include any mention of God in its proposed version of the preamble. Legislators presented 15 separate motions to amend the invocation of "God" in the constitution, but as voting began, legislators protested and argued, clamoring for an opportunity to speak. The situation escalated when Senator Francisco Brito argued that they were spending too much time reviewing Senator Minou Tavarez Mirabal's proposal and not his.

Senator Williams arrives
It was all smiles for Senator Alejandro Williams as he finally arrived at Congress yesterday. Williams appeared to be unaware or even undaunted by the suspicions and allegations surrounding him. The Senator from San Pedro de Macoris refused to talk to the media about allegations that he had tried to intimidate reporters who were reporting on the Senator's alleged Medicaid investigation in the US or to discuss the fact that he is rarely in the DR to fulfill his Senatorial commitments. Hoy reports that Williams was even absent from the morning meeting of Congress's Ethics Committee that was scheduled for 10am. Hoy reports that Williams was at his office, but didn't bother attending the meeting. Ethics Committee president Wilton Guerrero was not impressed, saying that Williams acted as if he were the king of kings and the other Senators were his subordinates. Guerrero said that once statements were heard from the journalists who had made the accusations of intimidation, Margarita Cordero, Maria Isabel Soldevila, Norma Sheppard and Adalberto Dominguez, the Ethics Committee would issue its verdict on Williams.

DAs get makeovers
District Attorneys in Santo Domingo's National District will now wear identification badges and uniforms with the DA office logo. National District DA Alejandro Moscoso Segarra said that all DAs must wear the official clothing when on official business and that this will enable citizens to identify who is a DA, and prevent people from being taken in by imposters. He added that this new measure would also ensure that other members of the Public Ministry do not pass themselves off as DAs.

Road deaths "twice regional average"
According to statistics presented by the Ground Transport Department (DGTT) and the National Statistics Office (ONE), 7,042 people were killed in traffic accidents between 2004 and 2008 in the DR. The road accident mortality rate is a serious concern for the DR especially when one considers that this figure is twice the regional average, according to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). PAHO registers the average regional road accident death rate at 16.9 per 100,000 while the DR has one of 30.4 per 100,000. The numbers have been on the rise since 2004 when 1,370 people were killed. In 2005 1,367 people were killed while 1,602 were killed in 2006 and 1,747 in 2007. The year 2008 saw 956 people killed on the roads, but statistics only run up to June. Santo Domingo and the National District are the worst when it comes to reckless driving, with 91,275 registered accidents and 1,860 deaths, while the provinces of San Cristobal, La Altagracia and Santiago followed suit with 548, 397 and 366 deaths, respectively. The Autopista Duarte was the scene of the greatest number of accidents, with the Las Americas Highway coming in second and Autopista 6 de Noviembre in third place. According to reports, 90% of accidents are caused by reckless driving and 30% of accidents are caused by drivers between the ages of 14 and 30.

Health insurance still a concern
The Health Superintendence (Sisalril) says that over the last few days, 19 patients have been refused emergency care at different hospitals around the nation. They claim that the refusal of services has continued despite a resolution issued last week obliging all clinics and hospitals to treat all affiliates whether or not the clinic or hospital is in the health insurance network. Health Superintendent Fernando Caamano said that hospitals and clinics are obliged by law to provide services and can not refuse to treat any patients, warning that hospitals or clinics could be fined as much as RD$500,000 for each violation. He added that many clinics still are unclear about the latest resolution and said that clinics should treat any emergency patient and then invoice the appropriate insurance institution, whether Senasa, ARL-Salud Segura or any of the ARS companies. The resolution that was passed was Res. 165-09, signed with the National Association of Private Clinics and Hospitals (ANDECLIP) on 6 April.

Food not cheaper
The Dominican Traders Federation (FDC) says that during the first four months of the year basic food prices have increased by between 5% and 8%. Ivan de Jesus Garcia, speaking on behalf of the FDC, says that for example, the price of tomato sauce has increased by 10%. He added that garlic prices have skyrocketed. The prices of plantains, yuca (cassava), rice and tomatoes have also experienced increases since the beginning of the Easter holidays. However, fresh chicken, onions, potatoes, bananas and soybean oils have seen slight drops in prices.

Remembering the fallen
The Dominican community has lost another soldier in Iraq. The conflict, which has now lasted longer than World War II, has particular meaning for Dominicans in the US and at home, as nine Dominicans are among the thousands of casualties. Harold Puello Coronado was the first US soldier of Dominican descent to fall in Iraq. This was followed by Ryan Tejada's death in 2003. Tejada was subsequently awarded posthumous US citizenship. Army Cpl. Sergio Antonio Mercedes Saez, 23, was manning the gun atop a Humvee on patrol south of Baghdad in 2006 when the vehicle overturned and he was killed. Army Cpl. Junior Cedeno Sanchez was killed in Iraq in 2007 followed by Army Sergeant Joan Duran, who had been on his second tour of duty in Iraq. Soldier Alex Jimenez's convoy was caught by Iraqi insurgents, along with two members of his battalion. His body has not been recovered. Dominican-American soldier Luis Felix Nieves, 27, who was killed in Iraq on 28 August 2008, was buried at Cristo Redentor Cemetery in Santo Domingo. Military officials said that he had been killed in a traffic accident. Juan Alcantara Mariel Disla died in Iraq in February 2009 and the New York City Council named 185th and 186th Street, between Wadsworth Venues, Corporal Juan M. Alcantara Avenue in honor of the young Dominican-American soldier. Soldier Nelson Manuel Lantigua is the latest tragedy. Born in the DR, Lantigua left for Miami with his mother at the age of seven and family members say that being a Marine was his dream. Lantigua was shot in the head on 30 March while on patrol in Iraq. Lantigua was honored in Santiago yesterday. Marines from the Second Infantry Brigade were on hand as ceremonies were held for the fallen soldier. The soldier's father, Jose Nelson Martinez says his son's death has strengthened the family.

Promoter sues singer
Popular Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona is being sued by Dominican promoter Saymon Diaz, for allegedly reneging on a deal to perform in the DR. Listin Diario is reporting that Diaz and Arjona's representatives had agreed that the singer would perform in the country, with Diaz depositing an initial amount of money to Arjona, securing the deal. Arjona is now refusing to perform but is reportedly willing to pay back the initial sum. Diaz, who organized two previous concerts by Arjona in the country, says that Arjona has agreed to perform, but will be using another promoter.

Baseball news
The Major League Baseball season has started with its shares of ups and downs. Future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez is slowly facing the reality that he might never pitch in the Big Leagues again. After pitching for the DR during the World Baseball Classic, Martinez was hoping to find a roster spot on an MLB team, but the former Cy Young winner has had no luck. Reports that he would wind up with the Dodgers turned out to be unfounded and recent rumors that Martinez would pitch for the Angels are now being debunked. Angel's GM Tony Reagins has confirmed contact with Martinez's agent, but says no discussions have been had.
A 0-7 start is has not been enough to worry Dominican manager Manny Acta. Acta, coaching the Washington Nationals says he is not worried about job security, but rather that his team should get better.
Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez began his rehab from off-season hip surgery this week and says he feels good. Rodriguez had surgery on his on 9 March. Rodriguez is currently practicing at the Yankees' spring training facilities in Tampa, Florida where he did some light jogging, fielded ground balls and hit from the batting cages.

Burgos sentenced
Former Mets pitcher Ambiorix Burgos has been sentenced to nine months in New York City jail after being found guilty of physical abuse towards his girlfriend at a hotel near the city's Shea Stadium on 8 September 2008. Officials say that Burgos punched the woman, slapped her and threw her against a wall. Recently, Burgos was found not guilty of running over and killing two women with a Hummer in the Dominican Republic. He has also been indefinitely suspended from the Dominican baseball league.
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