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Daily News - Friday, 05 June 2009

Strengthening ties with PR
President Leonel Fernandez and Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno have signed a cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening bi-lateral economic, trade and pro development programs. Fernandez is in PR participating in the Dominican Business and Investment Exhibition being held concurrently with the 81st Annual Convention of the Puerto Rico Association of Industries.
The agreement also includes stipulations on cooperation in areas such as energy and cultural development. The agreement, the Joint Declaration for the Strategic Alliance between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, seeks to double trade volumes between the DR and its neighbor. The agreement was signed in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and seeks to make the most of clauses in the DR-CAFTA trade agreement.
Speaking during the ceremony, Fernandez stated that, "the only way to overcome the current crisis is by being creative, imaginative and establishing alliances that permit us to design a development strategy". He said strengthening ties would help to further development strategies. Fernandez also commented that in order for the DR to progress there needed to be an increased use of renewable energy resources.

Fernandez, the frequent flier
To say that President Leonel Fernandez is a well-traveled man may just be an understatement. Since taking office in August 2008, less than one year ago, Fernandez has taken nine trips abroad. His first trip after taking office was to NY to attend the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations. He then visited Miami, Florida only a few days after. Fernandez also visited El Salvador for the XVIII Iberian American Summit of Heads of State on 11 November 2008. His fourth trip abroad was on 15 December 2008 when he traveled to Brazil and then traveled to Puerto Rico on 2 December 2008 to attend new governor Luis Fortuno's inauguration ceremony. On 6 March 2009 Fernandez traveled to Cuba during a well-publicized trip where he met with Cuban leader Raul Castro and was photographed with retired leader Fidel Castro. Fernandez then traveled to Trinidad and Tobago on 17 April 2009 to attend the V Summit of the Americas. His next trip was to Spain on 17 May 2009. The President's latest trip was yesterday when he returned to Puerto Rico for the second time in five months.

Valdez on the economy
The Consumer Price Index for the month of May was at 0.11%, according to Central Bank Governor Hector Valdez Albizu. He announced that during the last five months prices have increased by a "mere" 1%, which brings the annual inflation rate to 0.47%. He added that the DR's inflation rate is lower than in many other Latin American countries. Valdez made his comments during an Exporters Association (Adoexpo) luncheon. Valdez said that although there is no longer a sense of panic in the markets, the international situation is still very fragile. He also added that the number of visitors to the DR had increased by 2.41% in May 2009, compared to a 5% drop in the first quarter.

8 million phones in DR
Eighty percent of Dominicans have a phone, whether mobile or a LAN line. According to the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL) in the year 2000 there were 1.6 million phone lines. Fast-forward to 2009 and this number has increased to more than 8 million. According to the INDOTEL the DR's telecommunications sector grew by 21.4% during the first three months of 2009.

Electricity hike 22% for middle class
Instead of the quoted 6.4% electricity rate increase announced by the government, middle class consumers in the DR are suffering a 22.4% rate increase, reports El Dia. The Superintendence of Electricity says that 6.4% is an average when taking into account the different tiers of increases.
Resolution 44 issued by the Superintendence establishes that the increases range from 2.21% to 22.4%. The 22.4% increase affects clients that consume between 301 and 700 kilowatts, which includes most middle class households.
The Superintendence authorized a 5% increase for commercial users (from RD$5.44 to RD$5.82) this June.
The scaled rate increases by consumption for households is:
0-200 kws: From RD$3.12 to RD$3.50 or 12.17%;
201-300 kws: From RD$4.71 to RD$5.50 or 16.77%;
301-700kw: From RD$7 to RD$8.57 or 22.4%;
700kw+: From RD$8.57 to RD$8.76 or 2.21%
Take note that households consuming more than 700kws are billed entirely at the RD$8.76 rate.

GLP plant violated safety standards
Liquid propane gas station Leon Gas, the scene of a massive explosion in Santo Domingo East at 12:30am on Thursday morning was not adequately equipped to provide services and didn't meet the proper legal requirements, investigators for the National Fire Department reported in the aftermath of the blast. The explosion caused injuries to at least 18 people and destroyed houses and businesses in surrounding areas.
Fire Brigade General Daniel de Jesus Garcia said that residential housing was located both opposite and behind the plant, which is not permitted by law.
According to de Jesus, the explosion propelled a large gas tank 150 meters in the air to land in the nearby Plaza Eva Maria. The blast also shattered windows in nearby apartments. Investigations into the causes of the explosion are under way. National Quality Control Department (DIGENOR) director Julio Santana said that two tanks, an 18,000-gallon and a 13,500-gallon tank, didn't have a sprinkler system installed. The system would have decreased room temperature, stopping a small fire and limiting the possibility of an explosion.

Update on flu virus
Ten new cases of AH1N1 have been confirmed at the new lab at the Dominican-Japanese Friendship Medical Center (Cemadoja), bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the DR to 33.
The Public Health Ministry says the new cases were reported in the National District, in Samana and in the province of La Altagracia.
Hoy reports that the cases are mild, with only one patient requiring hospitalization. The Ministry of Public Health is advising citizens to take extra care in their hygiene practices as a way of reducing the risk of contracting the flu.

Fake flu meds detected
The Ministry of Public Health is warning the public that a medication used to treat the AH1N1 flu has already been falsified and has been brought into the country illegally. Minister of Public Health Bautista Rojas Gomez announced that only the Ministry has the authorized Tamiflu meds.
Rojas Gomez said that no one outside of the Ministry was authorized to dispense the drug. He also urged doctors to prescribe Tamiflu sparingly, as it is not for everyone.

Commercial bank loans for aqueduct
Yesterday the Senate approved two loan contracts with commercial banks for the construction of the Higuey-Bavaro aqueduct. The loans for US$45 million with the Deutsche Bank and US$30 million with the Sociedad Anonima Espanola are guaranteed by an Italian export credit insurance agency. As reported in El Caribe, the Senate also passed an addendum for US$6 million on the US$115 million contract signed on 8 October 2005 between the National Aqueduct Institute (INAPA) and the Bay of Samana Consortium. The six million dollars will be used in a feasibility study for the construction of the Hermanas Mirabal aqueduct.

Mother denies selling baby
The parents of a baby who was recovered by the authorities deny that the mother had sold the child for RD$5,000. The National Children's Council (CONANI) has now custody over the baby and says that they will not return the child to the parents until all matters are investigated.
Officials say that the suspected kidnappers left the child at a Sabana Perdida church with a note saying that they had bought the baby for RD$5,000.
The mother reported the baby missing from the hospital on 29 May. The baby was recovered shortly after by the Police at the church.
Alexandra Valdez, 31, the child's mother, and Gil Guillen, 21, the father, residents of El Abanico de Herrera, deny that they had sold the child and insist that the two kidnappers just appeared at the hospital one day and gained the trust of the mother that left the baby in their care when going to the bathroom.
Cid Troncoso, director of La Altagracia Maternity Hospital says that in this case there was negligence on the part of hospital security in letting a woman walk out of the hospital with the baby, but maintains that it is a rare case.

Government makes plea
The Dominican government is going through the proper channels to get Dominican national Fabio Gomez taken off death row. Gomez, a former baseball player, has been convicted of the murder of 36-year old Joan Morane.
According to Listin Diario, the DR's Prosecutor General's office is working with the Ministry of Foreign Relations on the matter. Gomez is due to be executed in the state of Texas. The Dominican Prosecutor General's office states that the DR is against the death penalty and is asking for the sentence to be reduced to life in prison.
AG Radhames Jimenez Pena says that a team of lawyers is being formed in the hope of preparing a defense aimed at getting Gomez off death row.
Gomez has been in jail for 10 years for Morane's murder.

Haitises and corporate responsibility
Alexander Medina Herasme writes today in Hoy newspaper that the decision by the Estrella Group to go ahead with the construction of a cement plant on the outskirts of the Los Haitises National Park could backfire against the well-earned reputation of other companies that make up the group.
The Santiago-based business group insists it will be a green operation. But environmental campaigners are warning that a cement plant would definitely pollute the area, a leading water source for the DR.
Herasme comments that consumers could think twice when purchasing cement from the company, or the company's tomato paste, cooking oil, imported milk, or even media services. "All the wealth of those investors is at risk for investing in a plant that is located in the wrong place," he writes.
He says that the area around Los Haitises conceded to the company for the cement plant used to be forest and was excluded from the park because of previous depredation by man.
"In the 21st century, deciding about making an investment cannot just be based on economic and legal factors," he writes. He states that companies need to take new principles of corporate social responsibility into consideration to ensure that their ventures do not harm society.
"The negative impact of this investment in the environment of Los Haitises goes against the sustainable development of all Dominican society, mainly that of the Cibao, the main beneficiary of the rains that Los Haitises karst formations attract.
He explains that the area attracts 2000mm of rain a year, and the high humidity of the natural forest causes the clouds that the winds blow east to other areas in the Cibao, including the source of the Yaque del Norte River. He says that the porosity of the karst rocks combined with the heavy rainfall creates the conditions for the accumulation of large quantities of water underground that make the region one great water reserve.
He says that the first Ministry of Environment team that evaluated the project rejected it, and a second team made a complacent recommendation.
He concludes that the best decision the company could make would be to relocate it. He concludes that to fail to do so "will have disastrous consequences for the marketing of the new cement brand and the recovery of the invested capital."
To follow the story, see: www.dr1.com/forums/environment/...

Sosa calls it quits, officially
It was the announcement everyone was waiting for, just that no one knew when it would come. Potential Hall of Famer Sammy Sosa will officially retire from baseball within the next few days.
The announcement comes as no surprise to baseball followers, considering that Sosa had been out of baseball for more than a year and his age wasn't a selling point to any team looking for a hitter in decline. Though Sosa held out hope that he would or could sign with a Major League team, it was not meant to be.
Sosa retires as one of Major League Baseball's greatest power hitters and a key figure in baseball's reemergence after the 1994 baseball strike that threatened to derail the national pastime from the national consciousness.
Sosa partnered with slugger Mark McGwire in the 1998 season to embark on what would known as "the chase," or the epic summertime battle to break Roger Maris's record of 61 homeruns in a season.
Sosa hit 66 that season to McGwire's 70, but the chase etched the Dominican player into the hearts and minds of many Americans and was given the credit for making it OK to love baseball again.
But Sosa's success at the plate went on to run into controversy when he was linked to the use of performance enhancing substances. Though no proof has ever been found, Sosa's career in the "steroid era" has cast a shadow on his career.
Pundits are unaware if Sosa will be enshrined in Cooperstown, but in an interview with ESPNdeportes.com Sosa commented, "I will calmly wait for my induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Don't I have the numbers to be inducted? Everything I achieved, I did it thanks to my perseverance, which is why I never had any long, difficult moments [as a baseball player]. If you have a bad day in baseball, and start thinking about it, you will have 10 more."
Sosa is the sixth player in MLB history to achieve 609 homeruns, 24th in RBIs with 1,667, 42nd in slugging percentage with .534 and second all time with 2,306 strikeouts.

Hairspray at the Teatro
The comedy musical Hairspray will be staged at the National Theater this coming 18-21 June. This is a Nuryn Sanlley production based on the 1988 John Waters comedy. The musical won eight Tony Awards on Broadway, a Grammy and was on stage for seven years at the Neil Simon Theater in Broadway. Laura Leclerc, Irving Alberti, Kenny Grullon, Frank Ceara, Cuquin Victoria, Claudia Sierra and Robmariel Olea will appear in the key roles. Tickets are for sale at the National Theater box office 10 to 6pm.
For more ongoing and upcoming events, see www.dr1.com/calendar
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