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Daily News - Friday, 01 May 2009

Celebrating workers
President Leonel Fernandez congratulated Dominican workers on the occasion of International Workers' Day (Labor Day) and reiterated his commitment to developing policies aimed at stimulating job growth. As part of the Labor Day celebrations the DR1 daily news digest will not be updated on Monday 4 May 2009.
For updated information please go to our forums www.dr1.com/forums

Fernandez admits corruption
President Leonel Fernandez has admitted the obvious: there is corruption in his government. But the President warned that all corruption would be punished and that he would not allow "godfathers" or patrons to protect corrupted officials once they are caught. Speaking at the "DR Strategic Plan for Ethical Transparency and Corruption Prevention 2009-2012," Fernandez said the government was adopting a zero tolerance policy towards corruption. He added that in these times the world has been put at risk because of corruption scandals and that the DR is no different. "How can the DR, which doesn't have the tradition and culture or the institutional strength of those powers, how can we blind ourselves and say the DR doesn't have corruption?" The President said that all anti-corruption plans would have the Presidency's support in preventing, detecting and prosecuting acts of corruption.
The Fernandez administration spends millions on anti-corruption departments that are criticized for their lack of results. One anti-corruption official justified their lack of efficiency by saying that corruption in office is difficult to prove. But recently, two government department heads were removed from their posts after investigative journalist Nuria Piera interviewed them for her show and got them to admit to corruption on camera.

Education for all
The Constitution Revisory Assembly has approved Article 52 of the Constitution establishing the universal right to a complete education and prohibiting the transfer of national budget funds allocated to the Ministry of Education to other state departments. The article received from President Leonel Fernandez had originally established that only legal residents would have the right to a complete education here. The modification was presented by a PLD block led by Cristina Lizardo and PRD assembly members Fidelia Perez, Rafael Calderon, and Eugenio Cedeno. With this approval, debates over the right to an education without discrimination or status come to an end.
An attempt to establish in the Constitution that at least 4% of the National Budget be allotted to education was defeated. Another proposal, by legislators Pelegrin Castillo and Jose Ricardo Taveras for raising the amount to 8% of the GDP to provide for foreigners receiving an education here, was also rejected.
Legislators also approved a first reading of Article 53 that establishes: "All persons shall have the right to participate and act freely and without censure in the cultural life of the nation; and shall have full access to enjoy the cultural goods and services of scientific advances, of artistic and literary production. The state will protect the moral and material interests regarding the work of artists and inventors".

Parties pressed on abortion
A group of women's organizations assembled in front of the PRD and PLD party headquarters yesterday, to protest against the parties' approval of Article 30 of the constitutional reform bill submitted to the Congress by the President that refers to the right to life "from conception until a natural death." According to Diario Libre, the first protest took place outside the PRD headquarters, where Magaly Pineda, director of the Women's Action Research Center (CIPAF), said that she was waiting for the party's assembly members to take a different position when the article is heard for the second time. The group was met by PRD leader Ivelisse Prats de Perez, who pointed out that the party does not have the same position as the legislators, and that the abortion issue should not be part of the Constitution.
The protestors then visited the PLD headquarters and set out their position against the article to a commission of party leaders headed by Rafael Antonio Luna (Cheche). Luna said: "We respect the opinions that have been expressed against the PLD and we respect the decision of the legislators."
The Colectiva Mujer y Salud campaign groups are planning a major protest march for next week.

Late registrations lack funds
The budget for the Central Electoral Board (JCE) late registration program has been reduced by 59% this year because of a delay by the World Bank in disbursing promised funds. JCE Administrative Chamber president Roberto Rosario said the World Bank had committed to providing US$3 million in funds, as well as five mobile registration vehicles. The Ministry of Public Health said it would donate an additional five to the program, but has yet to do so. Rosario said that all work on late birth registration has been done on the JCE's small budget and with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Clinics and wards prepared
The Ministry of Public Health says that due to concerns about the flu virus, as well as the prevention campaign, special wards have prepared for a possible influx of patients suspected of having the illness. He said that the wards will be available at public hospitals with hundreds of beds with clean sheets, masks, disposable wipes, soap, washbasins, paper rolls, as well as robes and special glasses for the health workers. The Ministry announced that 70 epidemiologists have been deployed throughout the country to follow up on suspicious cases as well as people who arrived in the country from Mexico since early April. Rojas Gomez said that 50 of these travelers have been contacted and are being monitored.
The official also reminded private health centers to inform the National Epidemiology Department about any suspicious cases so that they can be investigated following international medical protocols. He warned that if this is not done the clinics could run the risk of losing their accreditation.
Rojas Gomez said he met with provincial hospital directors of provinces with airports yesterday. He said that the thermographs used to measure the body temperature of arriving passengers are now installed.
Regarding the laboratory materials for the clinical tests, Rojas Gomez assured reporters that 7,000 sets were available at the Center for Medical Education and Dominican-Japanese Friendship (Cemadoja), but that a further 100,000 will be available in a few days. He said that 8-10 tests are done each day and so far all have been negative. On Saturday a half million units of Otealmivir (Teramiflu), the medicine the WHO recommends for treating the AN1H1 virus will arrive. This will be enough for 50,000 patients. The director of the Essential Medicine Program (Promese), Elena Fernandez, said that the medicine would be distributed by the Public Health Ministry to be ready in case the swine flu hits. She said that the Promese has sufficient masks and soaps available.

More preparations for swine flu
The National Social Security Council (CNSS) has created a RD$20 million fund with resources from the Family Health Insurance Program's Promotion and Prevention Health Plan to support a prevention campaign for AH1N1, the name now being used by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the swine flu virus. The WHO reported that it decided to change the name of the disease after accepting that the virus is changing into a human illness as it evolves. The fund will last for two months beginning today, and was conceived in response to a request by Public Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gomez, who assured reporters that the campaign would contribute to warning the public and reducing the possible impact that the human version might have on the country. The CNSS decision is contained in Resolution 208-02 released to the news media today by the president of the council and Minister of Labor Max Puig. In the resolution, the inter-institutional committee is identified as having representatives from management, HMOs, Superintendent of Health and Work Risks (Sisalril) and the Public Health Ministry.

Virtual world?s largest prize to DR
Studio Wikitecture and Virtual Ability are the winners of the First Linden Prize that recognizes an innovative inworld project that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world. Dominican Frederic Emam-Zade (alias Zage Farman in Second Life), executive director of Funglode, President Leonel Fernandez's think tank, is one of the active members of Studio Wikitecture.
Both projects will receive US$10,000, the largest award in the virtual world industry for their achievements. The groups competed with 230 applications in two rounds of deliberations. The judges decided that these two projects were "like comparing Tuesdays and Oranges", and so they decided to give two equal awards.
Studio Wikitecture explores how a geographically-dispersed design team can simultaneously work on the same architecture or urban planning project. This includes sharing ideas, editing the contributions of others and voting on the success or failure of proposed design iterations. To help guide and manage collaboration effectively, Studio Wikitecture built a version tracking Wiki that it calls the "Wiki-Tree." Unlike conventional wikis that track text documents in a linear history, Wiki-Tree tracks versions of 3D models and saves them within a continually evolving digital tree structure.
For more info on the prize: https://blogs.secondlife.com/community/features/blog/2009/04/30/...

Exports to the US fall 20.8%
Congressional economic advisor Henri Hebrard reported yesterday that Dominican exports to the US fell by about 21% in the first two months of the year and the arrival of tourists from the US fell by 8.6%. Hebrard told Diario Libre that exports to the US went from US$585.6 million last year to US$464 million this year. A total of 278,620 tourists from the US visited the DR up to March this year, while last year the total for the first quarter was 304,747. He said that these falls in exports and tourism are caused by the economic contraction affecting the US and referred to the fact that the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates that US GDP for the first quarter will show a 6.1% decline. The president of the Dominican Exporters Association (ADOEXPO) said recently that until the US economy starts to show signs of recovery, demand for Dominican exports would continue to fall. In Hebrard's judgment, this fall in the US GDP as measured by the BEA (6.1%) exceeds expectations of the analysts who were predicting a 4.1% contraction between January and March this year. He referred to this figure as very similar to the strong fall that was registered in the last quarter of 2008, 6.3%. Hebrard said that this is the first time since 1974-1975 that the US has registered three consecutive quarters of negative growth resulting from the drastic reduction of inventories and the close to 30% fall in exports.

Warning on roadside slum growth
Construction of businesses or houses along the nation's highways is banned, but the government has been looking the other way for years. Listin Diario reports on the growth of slum areas along the northbound Duarte highway and the eastbound Las Americas highway. The newspaper says that, "little by little the Autopista Duarte has turned into a chaotic route for vehicles". The newspaper says that State Sugar Council (CEA) properties have been occupied by a network that then resells the lands to poor families. "There are entire neighborhoods with clusters of more than 50 homes on the highway near Villa Altagracia, despite a government ruling that bans this construction". Listin Diario says that only during the first years of the construction of the highway, was the disposition to not build in its vicinity respected. It points out that in the past seven years chaos has become the norm, and described driving along the highway at these points as "a true ordeal." It warns that construction continues on state land at an accelerated pace, even in areas where the ground is vulnerable to erosion. It says that in the area of La Cumbre hundreds of 70 and 80-year-old pine trees have been cut down by squatters.

Charges dropped re Quirino wife
Judges at the National District First Tribunal Collegiate Court have dropped charges against Belkis Ubri Medrano, wife of former military captain Quirino Paulino Castillo, who is standing trial in a New York City court for drug trafficking. The petition to have the charges dropped was filed by National District prosecutor Alejandro Moscoso Segarra based on a plea deal by Paulino with the New York District Attorney's Office. It is expected that Urbi Medrano will now be allowed to leave the DR to join family members who left the country several months earlier.

Bisbal drops charges
Spanish singer David Bisbal has decided not to press charges against two Dominican women who tried to extort him out of EUR80,000 after stealing his email address. Bisbal withdrew his suit against Maria Perez Sarraf and teacher Patricia Miguelina Molina Pena and will not be seeking RD$60 million in compensation. However, the National District's Attorney General's office said it would pursue charges against the two women, including extortion, defamation, blackmail and fraud.

Weightlifter tests positive
Dominican weightlifter Yudelquis Contreras is among six Beijing Olympics athletes who have failed a post-Games drug test. The International Olympic Committee has been vigilant in eradicating performance-enhancing drugs from the Games and has said that it would keep blood and urine samples from Olympic athletes for eight years after each Olympic games in order to complete retroactive sample testing. Dominican Olympic Committee president Luis Mejia said that this has come as a surprise and that Dominican officials would ask for Contreras's "B" sample to be tested. If her "B" sample also tests positive for CERA, or any other drug, it would provide almost indisputable proof of wrongdoing and could lead to a lifetime international suspension for the Dominican athlete.
In response, Contreras said: "I am clean, and I have done nothing to prove the contrary. I haven't used anything different than in 2007." (The year she won gold at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro).
William Ozuna of the Dominican Weightlifting Federation said the organization would continue to defend Contreras. Ozuna said that Contreras has been tested five times before the Games, and even once during the games, and those results had come back negative.
But there has been some controversy surrounding Contreras's participation. The weightlifter trained in Bulgarian, under coach Constantin Darov, but the Bulgarian national team didn't compete in weightlifting events because of a doping scandal.
Though Contreras's results are provoking concern, some are questioning why a power lifting athlete would consume a drug that is known only increase the levels of oxygen right red blood cells in the body. No word on how these results will affect her previous international competitive results.

Horford will play
Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford is expected to play a crucial game six against the Miami Heat, on Friday. Dominican-born Horford had been questionable after he injured his ankle in a Game 5 victory. Coach Mike Woodson said Horford would come off the bench as Salomon Jones and Zaza Pachiulia would take up some of Horford's minutes. Horford has been a key piece in the Hawks revival this year and has been touted as key foundation for the Hawks' future successes. The Hawks are leading their series with the Heat 3-2 and a victory tonight would send them to the second round of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Pittsburgh inaugurates academy
The Pittsburgh Pirates inaugurated their baseball academy in the DR yesterday. Most Major League teams maintain or are affiliated with local baseball academies where tomorrow's baseball greats get their first start. Frank Connelly, president of the Pittsburg Pirates and team owner Bob Nutting were in the DR for the event. "This is a tangible demonstration of our wish to provide our staff with the tools and resources to maximize each opportunity to find and development talent and quality in ball players", said Bob Nutting. The academy's main stadium was named in honor of legendary Puerto Rican player Roberto Clemente.
A long list of well-known Dominicans have played for the Pirates, including Mateo Alou and his nephew Moises Alou, Pascual Perez, Jose de Leon, Franklin Taveras, Miguel Dilone, Cecilio Guante, Alberto Lois, Tony Pena and Aramis Ramirez.
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