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Daily News - Tuesday, 06 October 2009

Natural gas plant coming
The United Arab Emirates and Dominican governments have just closed a deal that paves the way for immediate construction of a US$800 million electricity generation plant in the north western port of Manzanillo, in Monte Cristi province. Rumors that the UAE would build the plant have been circulating for close to a year, but this is the first concrete information on the subject. Listin Diario reports that the plant will run on natural gas, generating 600 MW of electricity. The final details of the contract were worked out yesterday between President Leonel Fernandez and UAE Foreign Relations Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayid Al Nahyan. The meeting took place at the Presidential Palace and construction is due to begin as soon as next week.

DR in OECD Development Center
Hoy reports that the DR was admitted to the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) yesterday. The country's admission into the Development Center was announced by Minister of Economy, Planning and Development Temistocles Montas. The DR is now the 7th regional member of the Center, which has a total of 39 members from the OECD nations. The basic objective of the Development Center is to serve as a link between the world's most developed countries and countries with emerging economies.
Hoy reports that the process of becoming a member of the OECD Development Center began in 2004. It included an overhaul of the DR's planning and administrative financing system.
For more information, see: www.oecd.org/department/0,3355,en_2649_33731_1_1_1_1_1,00.html

Pared denies claims
Senate president Reinaldo Pared Perez is denying that recent articles passed by the Constitutional Revisory Assembly limit access to beaches for Dominicans. Pared also stated that the new Constitution doesn't limit citizens' rights, as is being claimed by civic groups like Participacion Ciudadana. Pared accused these groups of trying to discredit the Revisory Assembly's work, saying that beach access has not been limited by this new constitution. In recent weeks the Assembly has passed several articles, which many civic groups have seen as an attack on Dominican citizen rights. The controversial Article 30 was passed, which in one fell swoop made all forms of abortion illegal, under all circumstances, defining life as starting at the moment of conception. Also, on 30 September the Commission announced that protected areas would include private property rights. This legalizes the de-facto privatization of beaches, rivers, lakes and coastline that has taken place over the years. The new Constitution will read: "The high basins of the rivers and areas of endemic, native and migratory biodiversity are subject to special protection by the government to ensure their management and conservation. The rivers, lakes, beaches and coastline are in the public domain and subject to free access, but the right to private property will be respected. The law will regulate the conditions, rules and pathways for the public to enjoy these areas." Also, on 20 September legislators agreed to limit citizens' rights, announcing that individuals would not be able to sue the government for violation of the Constitution. The PLD and PRD political parties agreed to remove this prerogative from the Constitution.

Counter-reform coming?
Why do something if you are eventually going to do it again? Well this would be the question many are asking after comments by deputy Pelegrin Castillo, who says that he has no doubt that legislators will reconvene after the 2010 congressional and municipal elections to amend some of the articles of the constitution that is being debated now. He added that articles about election terms would be amended. He added that the "counter-reform" is beginning its work. "I believe we are in the midst of a counter-reform, because what was approved in the first reading didn't generate these reactions, and now in the second reading we are seeing a limitation of certain rights and prerogatives".

Jaime David enters the fray
Environment Minister Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal has now jumped into the fray, expressing his discontent with the recently passed article in the new constitution that limits public beach access. He is asking legislators to look for a mechanism to revoke the passing of the article, adding that if this is not done, "the hope of making a democratic, open, plural and representative constitution will just become a piece of paper, that doesn't mean anything." He recognized that mistakes could be made, adding that, "if they have the will, the errors can be fixed. "Everyone who had the right to vote to change a fundamental principal of free access to the beaches, also has the right to go back and fix it."

New center inaugurated
The Public Health Ministry has inaugurated the first vaccine center for chronic or non-traditional diseases. Minister of Public Health Bautista Rojas Gomez was on hand to inaugurate the children's vaccine center at the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital this morning. Children with diseases including HIV/AIDS will be able to receive care and medicines at the center once it is determined what treatment they need.

Rabies victim dies
A seven-year old boy has died at the Robert Reid Cabral Children's Hospital. Franklin Morillo was hospitalized 16 days ago in a critical condition. His case gained continual media coverage and had been one of the longest times a child has had rabies, before dying. Morillo was treated with a technique called the Milwaukee method, which had succeeded in two cases around the world. However, those were cases of rabies caused by bat bites while Morillo's was the result of a dog bite. Three cases of rabies have been reported in the DR this year.

Private schools won't charge
The National Federation of Private Schools (Fenacep) has decided not to apply resolution 1-2009-2010 which was passed on 20 September. The resolution called for parents to pay their children's private school fees in advance. Instead, parents are expected to pay their children's tuition fees on the 1st and 15th day of the school year. The decision was made yesterday during a meeting with the Minister of Education, Melanio Paredes who agreed to look at ways of easing tax pressures on these schools, which have seen costs increase substantially. During the meeting members of Fenacep presented documents that demonstrated the high costs of running a school and provided a legitimate reason to ask parents to pay their money up front. Fenacep represents 270 of the nation's 3,200 private schools.

Banker in jail
Pedro Castillo, former president of the Banco del Progreso, turned himself in to officials yesterday and was promptly taken away to the Najayo jail where he will begin to serve his 10-year sentence for a RD$14 billion banking fraud. He will remain in jail, unless paroled, until 2019. No word from officials on whether or not Castillo will have special rooming assignments in jail, or whether he will be jailed with the general prison population. Castillo was ordered to pay RD$2.5 million in fines and RD$12 billion in compensation. He was also fined US$80 million by a court in Miami.

Label it
As of 26 February 2010 all labels on dairy products sold in the DR must have their nutritional and ingredient information in Spanish. This follows the passage of resolution 001-09, which mandates that all labels must be in Spanish, with clear and easily readable lettering. All milk-derived products, regardless of origin, must comply with the resolution. The resolution was signed by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Public Health Ministry and dairy producers' association Conaleche.

Dominicans will shine in post-season
The marathon baseball regular season is done and now it's time for the real stars to shine. These stars, many of whom are Dominican, will have yet another chance to etch their names into baseball immortality this post-season. Manny Ramirez is leading this year's class of Dominicans in the post-season. While this hasn't been Ramirez's best statistical year, hampered by a 50-game suspension, he is still the most feared batter of the bunch, aside from countryman Albert Pujols. Pujols is entering this year's post-season as an odds-on favorite to win another MVP trophy. But the guy they know as "El Hombre" would rather have a World Series trophy on that mantle. Other Dominicans to look out for are David Ortiz who was able to rescue his season. He has 12 career post-season home runs and is known as a Yankee killer for his work in the 2004 World Series against the New York Yankees. Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Robinson Cano, Pedro Martine, Rafael Furcal and Ervin Santana are among this highly talented group of Dominicans looking to bring a WS trophy home.

Sano is safe
A week after signing a US$3.15 million contract with the Minnesota Twins, star prospect Miguel Sano received his US visa, paving the way for the young star to head to the US to live out his baseball dreams. This announcement comes as a relief as initial investigations yielded less than favorable results for Sano and his true age. This forced the New York Yankees and other teams to pull out of the running for Sano. The Twins were confident in Sano and followed through with their offer.

Hanley and Albert
Most Florida Marlins fans spent the year in a constant state of "Ooh and Aahs" whenever Hanley Ramirez came up to bat. But this off-season Ramirez will be the one oohing as he reflects on his first regular season batting title. The guy is good. Very good. Ramirez, beat out fellow NL slugger Albert Pujols for the award and became the first shortstop to win the title since Dick Groat did it in 1960. Think about it, when was the last time a guy in the middle hit with such consistency? Ramirez had a tremendous year, hitting .341 with 24 home runs, 106 RBI and 27 stolen bases. But don't feel bad for "El Hombre" Albert Pujols. Pujols had a monster year, even by his own standards and is the odds-on favorite for his 3rd MLB MVP. Word just in Albert Pujols is an illegal alien from Jupiter. Pujols hit 47 home runs, taking home the home-run crown, batted .327, with 135 RBI, 64 stolen bases and only 64 strike outs and will also be named to this year's All-Inter Galactic team. All hyperbole aside, the guy is that good.

Dominican on Idol
Dominican Martha Heredia is just the latest in a line of young stars who are looking to use their singing talents to gain fame through the television series "Latin American Idol." The show, a spin-off of the hugely successful UK and American versions, features young singers who perform for audiences each week and compete for votes in order to get through to the next round. Heredia has received mostly positive reviews and voting from judges and fans and has a good chance to continue progressing through the show.
To vote for Heredia fans are asked to visit www.myspace.com/latinamericanidol and select Dominican Republic.
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