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Daily News - Thursday, 07 May 2009

Plaza Lama megastore
Yesterday Plaza Lama became the second chain to open a new megastore in Santo Domingo this year. On 30 April, Jumbo inaugurated what it describes as the city's largest department store at its Luperon Avenue location. Now Plaza Lama follows with its new store at Avenida Maximo Gomez and Nicolas de Ovando. The new store can be easily accessed using the Santo Domingo Metro. President Leonel Fernandez, First Lady Margarita Cedeno and Santo Domingo Mayor Roberto Salcedo were present at the inauguration.
Company president Mario Lama said the new megastore has 10,000 square meters of commercial area and 400 parking spaces. He said the store affirms the confidence the chain has in the future of the country, despite the current economic crisis. The next megastore expected to open is a new Multicentro La Sirena also on Avenida Luperon on 15 May.

Government meets business leaders
President Leonel Fernandez and some of his key economic cabinet officials invited business leaders to the Presidential Palace yesterday. The invitation followed comments by Lisandro Macarrulla, president of the National Business Council (Conep) who called for increased government support to the manufacturing sectors. Macarrulla was not invited, according to press reports. Superintendent of Banking Rafael Camilo commented that the government did not invite associations, but individual businesspeople to hear all the different viewpoints.
The government promised to channel resources to micro, small and medium-sized businesses, and to activate construction of state infrastructure and other construction projects in coordination with municipal authorities.
Attending business leaders agreed that there had been a slowdown in the economy. The meeting also looked into the fact that during the months of January, February and March, borrowing was down despite lower interest rates because the economy was decelerating. Camilo, who spoke to the press after the two-and-a-half hour meeting said: "We have a joint plan with the municipal governments, where one part will be paid for by the municipal governments and projects like highways and infrastructure will be paid by the government. With these two parts under way and loans for micro-businesses and infrastructure, the economy should start moving."

Central Bank "overreacted"
The president of the National Business Council (CONEP) Lisandro Macarrulla says that the Central Bank "went overboard" in responding to their call for new measures to counteract the economic decline. He said that Conep's opinions on the state of the economy are based on official data, including figures from the government's tax collection offices.
Macurrulla said that the Central Bank should be playing a totally different role. In a press release issued on Tuesday, the Central Bank responded to Conep's criticisms and claims and defended its monetary measures, calling on the private sector to be more proactive. On that point, Macarrulla said that what the Central Bank should do instead of creating tensions between the business sector and the monetary authorities is to find ways for mutual cooperation.
He said that statistics show that the real sectors of the economy have either decreased or have grown very little in recent times. He added that unusually large increases have been registered in the trade, banking and services sectors, which have little to do with industry, tourism and free zones, which he defined as "the real sectors of the economy".

Constitution revision update
The Constitution Revisory Assembly has approved articles 61, 62, and 63 that deal with fundamental rights and guarantees and opened discussions on Article 16 that covers nationality, an issue that in the first debate provoked an elevated level of oratory, respect and good behavior and with good arguments for those who defended jus sanguinis on the one hand and jus soli on the other, as well as people who held some sort of intermediate position. Forty-nine Congress members representing all parties signed up for the debates, and it became evident that none of the parties is unified behind one proposal. The PRD and the PRSC presented their suggestions and the PLD will present its proposal in today's session. Despite proposals from the different blocs, dissident positions were evident among the members of the PRSC, PRD and the ruling PLD.
The Assembly approved Article 61 that establishes "that all usurped authority is ineffective and all acts are null and void."
Also approved, in addition, was the inclusion in Chapter III, relating to the principles of application and interpretation of fundamental rights and guarantees.
A modification to numeral III of Article 62 on the regulation of fundamental rights and guarantees was approved. This article will now say "the listing of the rights and guarantees in this Constitution does not limit and consequently does not exclude other rights and guarantees of a similar nature."
Likewise, it goes on to say, "Only by law, in cases permitted by the Constitution, can the exercise of rights and guarantees be regulated, respecting their essential content and the principle of rationality."
Also included was the phrase, "the treaties, pacts and conventions relating to human rights, underwritten and ratified by the Dominican state have Constitutional status and are of immediate and direct application by the tribunals and courts of the state."
Article 63, as approved says that, "the fundamental rights recognized by this Constitution presuppose the existence of a correlative order of judicial and moral responsibility that rules the conduct of men and women in society."
The Assembly declared as fundamental duties, to accept and obey the laws and the Constitution, respect and obey the established authorities by these laws, and the duty to vote. The Assembly approved, moreover, that " inhabitants and citizens should refrain from all acts prejudicial to the stability, independence and sovereignty (of the Dominican Republic)." Congress has been convened to session at 3pm today with an agenda of 10 articles.

Thousands march against Art 30
People from all over the country came together in front of Congress to protest Article 30 that criminalizes any kind of abortion in the DR. Thousands marched to the Congress to voice their opposition to the "right to life" clause that was approved in a first reading by the Constitutional Revisory Assembly.
The march started at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and followed down Modesto Diaz Street, Abraham Lincoln and Enrique Jimenez Moya avenues to the Congress building.
The National Coordinator of Resistance to the Constitutional Step Backward handed over a document calling for the removal of the article during the second reading. The document points out that Article 30 violates the human rights of women and is a threat against their right to life and health.
The document was received by a congressional delegation that included Minou Tavarez Mirabal, Victor Terrero, Domingo Colon, Josefa Castillo, Magda Rodriguez, Jose Santana and Julian Serulle, and Senator Ramon de la Rosa. The legislators promised to hand the document to Assembly president Reinaldo Pared Perez, and to discuss it with other legislators.
Gynecologist Victor Terrero, president of the Chamber of Deputies Public Health Commission said that, "the approval of Article 30 as it now stands will condemn poor women to die in the hospitals."

Public Health clears woman with fever
A 38-year old woman who arrived at Las Americas International Airport from Pennsylvania yesterday with flu symptoms and a fever over 39 degrees Celsius was kept under observation by the health authorities in her home in Santo Domingo's Capotillo neighborhood. But on Thursday early afternoon, the Ministry of Public Health said she was clear of the A(H1N1) flu. International health protocols now require samples to be taken to check for A(H1N1) flu when the airport thermograph detects a fever.
Following the world-wide alert about the A(H1N1) pandemic, this woman is the second person in the Dominican Republic that was tested for the flu. The first was a 23-year old Mexican woman who was hospitalized but her tests came out negative.
Private laboratories, telephone companies and the Federation of Municipalities have all joined an educational campaign launched by the Ministry of Public Health and are distributing 15 million educational pamphlets about the illness. The campaign was temporarily interrupted, though, since it spoke of swine flu, which is detrimental to the pork industry. Likewise, the Dominican Association of Health Risk Administrators (ARS) reports that they have set aside as much as RD$20 million to support the campaign organized by the ministry.

Minister: deficit is "an imbalance"
The Minister of Education says that he attributes the deficit affecting the state schoolteachers' health insurance fund (Semma) to an "operational imbalance", and denied that the deficit exceeds RD$100 million as claimed by a preliminary study presented on Tuesday by two consultants hired by the Special Commission assessing the situation. According to Melanio Paredes, the deficit registered at Semma during the month of March reached RD$72 million and he explained that this was primarily due to the fact they only received income from the Health Services Plan (PDSS) for 148,365 affiliates out of a total of 241,000 covered by the program. He went on to explain that 61,710 pensioners are affiliated to the plan and these people only pay a minimum quota of RD$100 pesos. This will be taken over by the state, according to a decree issued last 28 April, a measure that will bring RD$57.6 million into the Semma coffers each month. He assured reporters that this money would improve the situation.
Paredes also said that in the face of possible operational weaknesses, Semma's Board of Directors would designate a multi-disciplinary team to implement procedures aimed at changing procedures at the teachers' HMO. Regarding the audit, Paredes reported that the details of its contents would be heard during a meeting next Monday.
The audit will review Semma's operations from 2005 until 2009. Even though he claimed that "no fraud exists" in its operations, the minister said that in case the audit finds any irregularity, those responsible would be prosecuted.

You can call your kids anything
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) has rejected a bid for a resolution aimed at prohibiting parents from naming their children derogatory, hard to pronounce or sexually ambiguous names. The proposal, made by magistrate Jose Angel Aquino, did not get enough votes, according to JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman. The bill also proposed that Civil Registry Officials should not allow people to give their children more than three names, or last names as first names as well as the same names as their brothers or sisters.
Aquino made his proposal out of concern about the number of names that many Dominicans have that, in his judgment, should not be used. Among these he cited "Fantasma Ruiz"(Ghost), "Mazda Altagracia", "Toshiba Fidelina", "Tonton Ruiz" (Stupid), "Querido Familia Perez" (Dear Family), "Winston Churchill de la Cruz", "Rambo Mota", "Rambo Olla" and "Furunculo Guzman" (Boil).
According to Diario Libre, Magistrate Aura Celeste Fernandez suggested it was better to draft a letter of instruction to Civil Registry Officials so that they could provide guidance on the issue for parents, but this was rejected.
The full board also revalidated 6,000 cancelled cedulas (Personal ID and Voter Registration cards) and appointed a commission to fill the vacancies on the local election boards.

Luciano Pichardo let go by JCE
The Central Electoral Board (JCE) judges have voted unanimously to release Rafael Alberto Luciano Pichardo Corominas from his job as civil registry officer in Boca Chica. Pichardo's case made the news because his father is the vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice. The JCE had suspended him pending a review of the money smuggling case against him. In May 2008, he flew in from Puerto Rico on his private plane that landed at Las Americas International Airport with US$580,000 in small bills. At the time, the media pointed out that his wage was RD$35,000 a month.
Pichardo was arrested by National Drug Control Department agents and sent to the Customs Department for investigation. He said he did not know the money was on board, and that he had traveled from Puerto Rico to accompany pilot Luis Manuel Ovalles Tejada and passenger Juan Jose Martin Gomez Guichardo, and to accumulate flying time, as reported in El Caribe.

Herrera incidents need caution
The Catholic Church, Congress and the Dominican Embassy in Haiti came together yesterday to respond to accusations from the Haitian authorities that their citizens were being assaulted in the DR. Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, who has become famous as a mediator in national conflicts, Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez, and DR ambassador in Haiti Ruben Silie said that the violent events that resulted in the decapitation of a Dominican and a Haitian in Santo Domingo's Herrera neighborhood were isolated incidents and should not affect the friendship between the two nations.
The group called on the Haitian and Dominican authorities to treat the incident as carefully as possible, and if it is possible to identify those responsible, they should be taken to court. According to Listin Diario, Monsignor Nunez said, "Haitians are everywhere here, and they live in harmony with Dominicans. They are in our barrios, in the rural areas, in the streets, in such a way that I think that the Haitian authorities should deal with this case with caution and not cause a spark to ignite an unnecessary fire." Speaking from the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, Ambassador Silie said that the deaths were most unfortunate, and reassured local journalists that there was no systematic persecution against citizens from Haiti.
Haitian Carlos Nerilus allegedly decapitated Dominican builder Francisco de Leon Lara and was later beheaded in revenge. One of de Leon Lara's relatives is a suspect. His sister Olga Lidia de Leon Lara complained that all attention was on the Haitian, instead of on her brother who was decapitated first. Witness Anderson de Leon also suffered from injuries inflicted by the late Nerilus, as reported in Hoy.

PUJ Foundation teaches "Green"
Students in Punta Cana are learning how to be "green." As part of the environmental work at school, students are being taught to classify garbage (solid waste, glass, plastics, food, paper and cardboard). Then they are taught about recycling. The reclassified garbage is recycled at the Punta Cana Group's recycling facility.
The students also participate in clean-up campaigns on the beaches and along the streets. With the help of a Peace Corps volunteer, several video spots were created to educate them about the proper handling of garbage and solid waste.
Students from the Ann & Ted Kheel Polytechnic School have formed a "Green Brigade", and now give talks at the primary schools in the region as well as painting murals on ecological themes and going on excursions to learn about the country's protected areas.
Jake Kheel, the director of the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation that is behind the initiative, said that this program aims to give the children the knowledge and the proper tools to help achieve a "greener" environment in the Punta Cana area. Students attend talks by experts from the foundation and from foreign experts who come to share their knowledge.

Around the world from the DR
At 10am tomorrow two Europeans will depart from La Isabela International Airport in northern Santo Domingo on the first leg of a round-the-world trip to promote private aviation and the DR. The small aircraft will carry the Dominican flag on its tail. The voyage emulates the voyage of discovery and the idea that the Americas began on the island of Hispaniola. The husband and wife team, Detlief Heun from Germany and Juliana Tagliamonte from Spain, traveled here two weeks ago to prepare for their trip. They flew in on a custom built single engine RV-7 (See: www.rv7factory.com/why.html) with a special motor that will use regular automotive grade gasoline and which can cruise at 150 miles an hour.
The couple flew in from the Bahamas, where they got married, to El Catey International Airport in Samana where they were welcomed by Ministry of Tourism and Aerodom airport management officials. Later they flew to El Portillo and then to Santo Domingo.
During their stay in the DR, the couple has traveled to several of the small airports that have recently been rebuilt or refurbished by the government to promote private aviation. They were accompanied by airplanes from West Palm Aeroclub on some of the trips.
Their plan is to fly to the US Virgin Islands and then to Guadeloupe on their way to the South Pole before returning north to Europe by way of Greenland. While the aircraft is registered in the United States and has an "N" designation, it will also carry an "HI" designation signaling its origins in the Dominican Republic.
The flight's progress can be followed on www.flight-around-the-world.org

Yellow alert for 5 provinces
The Emergency Operations Center (COE) has increased the warning level from green to yellow for the provinces of La Vega, Monsignor Nouel (Bonao), Sanchez Ramirez (Cotui), Duarte (San Francisco de Macoris) and Hermanas Mirabal (Salcedo) due to the continuing rains, thunderstorms and strong wind gusts that are expected due to an area of low pressure circulating in the central portion of the country. A yellow alert is called when there is a growing tendency for the development of events and situations that could put people at risk and cause emergencies.
At the same time, the COE issued a green alert for the provinces of Espaillat (Moca), Santiago and Maria Trinidad Sanchez (Nagua).
In the latest bulletin, the COE advises that, "people living in the provinces mentioned who live along river banks, creeks and streams, should be alert and check these waterways in order to avoid being caught by surprise."
"Residents who are situated on steep inclines should also be on alert for possible landslides and should take preventive measures," added the bulletin.
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