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WTJX NEWSFEED: December 5, 2023

Buccaneer Beach

On today's WTJX NewsFeed, the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism issued a temporary work stoppage to its greeter staff in the height of tourist season. Protesters gather outside of the Legislature on St. Thomas, calling for the resignation of Governor Albert Bryan Jr., and several sitting senators. Senior Medicare Patrol Project Director, Jennifer Logie, shares the common Medicare fraud schemes affecting Virgin Islanders. The St. Croix Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort and St. John's Honeymoon beach are both nominated in the USA TODAY 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards. Vote Here. https://10best.usatoday.com/awards/travel/. Listen to these stories and more.

TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the WTJX News. In today's top stories, the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism lays off its greeters staff at the start of the holiday season. Protesters gather outside of the legislature on Saint Thomas, calling for the resignation of Governor Albert Bryan Jr and several sitting senators. Senior Medicare Patrol project director shares the common Medicare fraud schemes affecting Virgin Islanders.

These stories and more on today's tax news feed from the Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting System studios on Saint Thomas. This is the WTJX News Feed with Marcellina Ventura-Douglas, welcome to the WTJX News Feed, bringing you the latest news and updates throughout our community. The Virgin Islands Department of Tourism recently sent a letter to Greeters staff informing them of a temporary work stoppage effective December 4th.

Also at risk are entertainers such as dancers and deejays who regularly perform for guests at ports and during off island events? The letter stated that the department had to implement difficult policies as they transfer into fiscal year 2024. We contacted the Department of Tourism who would not comment on the matter, and we spoke with Office of Management and Budget Director Jennifer O'Neill, who confirmed there was a delay with the Department of Tourism's budget coming online.

It was a gimme. And again, it's it's a delay between all three agencies. Department of Tourism has to, like every other department, submit their request. And when that request comes through, the codes have to be created. And those codes are created at the Department of Finance level. And then the budgets are placed online at the OMB level. So it takes all three departments working collectively together to make it happen.

And when there are things not being received on time, then there will be delays in addition to the system having to close for a certain period of time at the end of every fiscal year. Director O'Neill referenced information she had seen stating that budgets are available the 1st of October and stated that's simply not true. No budget is ever available the 1st of October because the system is being closed out for the prior fiscal year.

The year ends September 30th, so it would be impossible to close 2023 in this case, out, and have the system reopened with a new budget for fiscal year 2024 by October 1st. That's that's not going to happen. It doesn't happen anywhere. So the system reopened on November 18th and it was closed for about two or three weeks before that.

In October, persons were able to enter payments and those payments were honored. But the new budget actually was placed online beginning that week of November 18th, and that's across the board for every department. Director O'Neill shared the Department of Tourism budget is currently available. As of right now, the department is in receipt of their fiscal year 2024 budget and you have three months of the budget that is now available to them online and in the ERP.

So they are able to proceed with spending and three months, which would be October, November and December, have been made available to the department. She explained that in attempts to maintain the government's finances, no department receives their full budget at once. No department receives a full budget. We are releasing allotments on a monthly basis and this has been a directive.

Of course, we have discussions ongoing with the governor and we are releasing allotments on a monthly basis based on the appropriations of the budgets for each department. It is one way that we are managing our cash and managing or expenditures. We have recognized that our expenses have increased significantly over the years. And in order to ensure that everything that we have gets paid, we are doing releases on a monthly basis.

Now, now that the departments have their budgets and there are no departments, to my knowledge, that still are awaiting budgets in the ERP in order to have those budgets online. They are able to spend, but they are capped. We are in December, so they are kept for it a maximum of three months. Every month thereafter they will receive a better releasing one month's worth of their budget until we get to the end of September next year.

So that's that's the process and that's the process. Every single department in government. Last Tuesday, protesters gathered outside of the legislature on Saint Thomas, calling for the resignation of Governor Albert Bryan Jr and several sitting senators. Organizers explained that unfulfilled campaign promises and, as they say, backroom dealings and general corruptions have them at odds with the government. The recent lawsuit alleging the Virgin Islands officials aided in Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking scheme prompted the group to come together.

They say demonstrations will continue until they receive the named officials resignations. Protesting again today, Lorelei Monsanto say officials need to take responsibility. All the legislators, scientists who were involved in the Epstein debacle and accepted his monies. I think they need to gracefully step down. I think that they need to talk on their responsibility for being part of the problem and try to clean up the Virgin Islands for our better Virgin Islands.

We have to leave something for the youth to establish themselves and we need to make sure that everyone has clean hands. I think the governor needs to understand that we are very serious with this endeavor. This is not a game. Don't tell us because you have the last four years so you can do whatever you want. No, you can't, sir.

We will not allow you to do that. Your behavior is unacceptable. Ms.. Monsanto says that resignations would help to clean up the government. We clean up a government that is not right, that we form and forge new alliances with people who are here to make our lives better, to create a better, cleaner, beautiful Virgin Islands for all of us can live and stop having this youth deprivation of our youth leaving the islands for a better place in the United States.

But staying in the United States, Virgin Islands instead. The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort on Saint Roy announced its nomination in the USA Today ten Best Readers Choice Awards for the Best Caribbean Resort. We spoke with Elizabeth Armstrong, owner of the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, who said this recognition underscores the Buccaneers commitment to delivering an unparalleled experience for its guests.

So we're very honored with the nomination. This USA Today Reader's Choice Award is a reflection of all the hard work of the Buccaneer team, and it's also a reflection of our wonderful clientele people who know and love the Buccaneers and come and stay with us and come and enjoy the, you know, the facilities. Our guests are very important to us.

We have visitors from around the world and from around the island, thankfully, too. And we do everything that we can to bring our Buccaneer Nation to life. Our mission is for every guest to become a returning guest and part of our Buccaneers family. A pledge to provide world class service and to share our heritage, warmth and friendliness. Ensuring that every visitor becomes an ambassador for sanctuary.

Also, the Department of Tourism shared that Honeymoon Beach on Saint John has also been nominated as one of the best Caribbean beaches by USA Today. The voting is open until January 1st, 2024. You are listening to the WTJX News Feed. Senior Medicare Patrol Project director Jennifer Logi recently shared the common Medicare fraud schemes affecting Virgin Islanders.

The common scams we have in the Virgin Islands, we have a medicare card scam. So they're calling seniors and saying, Well, Medicare has a new card. There's a chip in it. It's not like the PayPal card. You know, you type it and so forth. So a lot of seniors are getting excited about this new card. And we tell them all the time is no new card.

Years ago, the Medicare card came with recipients, Social Security number. And from that, there was a high number of fraud cases associated with those cards. In doing away with it. Medicare beneficiaries are now designated a unique number. She stated that another common scheme facing beneficiaries is spoofing. Most of us seniors have smartphones, so they are now altering the scammers are altering the numbers.

So let's say you go to universal health care and you look at your smartphone and you're seeing universal healthcare, say like, oh, the doctor is calling. Well, the doctor is not calling you. So, you know, we try to tell seniors when they start engaging in conversation. And once your personal information stop, because if they're calling for Medicare or they're calling from the doctor's office, they already have your medical records.

Ms.. Logi stated that the third scam that's big on the mainland is medical identity theft. They are calling offering our seniors free services. As you mentioned before, free energy drinks, nutritional drinks and so forth. And what they are doing is they're collecting your Medicare number. So I often tell seniors, if somebody steals your credit card, they have about three days before you or the bank realized that is fraud.

 

But if somebody steals your Medicare number, they can sell it over and over and over again. And what they're doing, they're selling a number to a company that is signing you up on hospice. So now you have to either pay for the services yourself or you can fight to prove it's not you. Any time there is fraud, error and abuse, there are always consequences for beneficiaries.

So you have to stay vigilant. Filmmaker and actor Tim Reed is launching Legacy TV Network that will be exclusive to the Caribbean and focus on culturally important stories, according to a statement from the University of the Virgin Islands. The launch of the network follows nearly a year of partnership between Reid and UVI, his research and technology parks Entrepreneur in residence Program Art Parks CEO Peter Chapman says the partnership with Mr. Reid serves as a dynamic step toward greater alignment between the Virgin Islands and the broader film industry.

So Tim Reid's business is registered in the Territory now, so it's a Virgin Islands company, you know, through, you know, the efforts of the arts Park. He inked a JV, that's what we call joint Venture with Liberty, so that now his content is available on their platform throughout the Caribbean, not in the Virgin Islands yet, but in many other parts of the Caribbean.

So so we've already been able to see the benefits of having Tim Reid operate in the Territory and bringing a powerful media company to the to the Crown Parks and Legacy TV specializes in content, creative content, film content drawn from the African diaspora. The Christian said cultural group will be hosting its annual Christmas tree lighting in Olympic Park on Synchrony.

The group chair, Vivian Everson. Fludd says the event is an exciting yearly tradition. This Friday, December 8th is going to be our fifth annual Olympic Park tree lighting in Olympic Park in downtown, Christian said. Safe for us virgins. This concept started five years ago when we decided the same group that the Lantern Parade and the Christian Cultural group decided, you know, as the shrine in the park.

And we started out then lighting the park this year we have we have 13 trees in the park. However, this year we had such a community outpouring of wanting to participate and being supportive that we have 23 persons decorating the park this year. So these are all individuals are coming in in groups and they've taken even down to the shrubs, the hedges, the tall trees, the small trees.

So it'll be a grand opening, she shared. They're starting a new tradition this year. Historically, we've cut down a very tree, which was the traditional Christmas tree. And this year we decided instead of cutting a tree, gentleman who joins has partnered with us Every year they shrink and they look at the trees. This year we've actually planted a very tree in the park every way of preserving and showcasing our culture.

The program starts at 730 and goes until 9 p.m. and then there'll be an hour of dancing in the street until 1030 and which is all in front of the park. I'm usually about 830 is when we flip on the lights. We do the community count and step on all the lights in the park. So we too are excited because we don't know what the park looks like until we turn on all of the lights and we see everything together.

So we're really excited. We want to invite the community to come out, participate, bring your family, come downtown Christian stand, and just experience this whole community event at park. And once it's lit from Friday night, the park was in it on the 8th of December until the 8th of January 2024, and it will be open from 6 p.m. in the evening until midnight.

So the park will be accessible to the public for them to come in, take a view, take a look. You're listening to the TJX News Feed. Medicare Beneficiaries and persons newly eligible for Medicare. The open enrollment period for Medicare Part D ends on December 7th. Medicare beneficiaries are also able to join or drop their prescription drug plans by the scheduled December deadline.

The Virgin Islands state Health Insurance Assistance Program is available to assist beneficiaries Contact the Saint Thomas Saint John District Office at 3407742991 ext 4507 or in the Saint Maud district at 3407736449 ext 3151 To schedule a telephone appointment. Beneficiaries can also visit medicare.gov for more information. The annual Sing Corrie Christmas Boat Parade will be held this weekend. President of the Sacred Bull Parade Group, Patricia Rhodes says this year will be better than before.

It's going to be spectacular this year. I mean, I'm going to knock this out of the park, you guys. We are going to throw the best folk parade you have ever, ever, ever seen. There's more than 20 boats signed up right now. And we last year we shot four barges of fireworks. This year, we're shooting off eight barges.

Fireworks. She shared that Santa Claus will lead the parade before boats move through. Christian said Harbor to be judged. Santa Claus will come into town at around 5:00, and he is joined by about four elves. And they'll have all kinds of candy for the kids and they'll just be walking through the boardwalk. And then after that, when it starts getting closer to Twilight, then we'll have these stand up paddle boards go through and they're lit up.

And then when the boat parade is going on, then they'll just go to the beach at a hotel on the key because they'll get in the way otherwise. And then and then after the stand up paddle boards, it's kayaks that are lit up. And at 630, the parade starts right on time at 630. The first entry that goes through is going to be so cute.

And then after that, 20 boats and it'll be so much fun. And after the boats go around hotel on cue twice, the second time they go through. That's when everybody does a36 in front of the judges and all of that. This is all going to be choreographed by a pyrotechnic go for those who are interested in participating. Miss Rhodes said there's still time to sign up.

Call Joel. You ready to sign up your boat? The boat signup is free. The phone number is 340-643-4665. To be a vendor, you call Nancy Torres and her phone number is 3405139219. In anticipation for the upcoming Christmas boat parade, residents should be aware of parking restrictions and roadblocks in the downtown Christian said area. There will be no parking on Queen Cross Street from Rhythms to Caravel Casino from 6 a.m. to midnight to allow for vendor setup.

There is also no parking on King Street from 11 a.m. to midnight from the Florence Williams Library to Government House to include straddling the road by purple papaya to King Street. Roads will be blocked off from the corner of King Street and King Cross Street by the library from 11 a.m. to midnight. Only vendors and officials working the Bull parade committee will be allowed to enter.

As we continue in the news feed, we turn now to our regional report. The US Department of Justice shared that federal prosecutors have charged Victor Manuel Rocha, a former U.S. ambassador, with committing multiple federal crimes by secretly acting for decades as a spy for Cuba. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Rocha's actions expose is one of the highest reaching and longest lasting infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent.

According to the complaint, Rocha, who once served on the National Security Council, began no later than approximately 1981 and continued on to prison, secretly supporting the Republic of Cuba and its clandestine intelligence gathering mission against the United States. Rocha is a naturalized U.S. citizen, originally from Colombia. From 26 to around 2012, Rocha served as an advisor to the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, a joint command of the United States military whose area of responsibility includes Cuba.

The complaint further alleges that in a series of meetings from 2022 to 2023, Rocha met with an undercover agent from the FBI posing as a covert Cuban intelligence representative. Rocha made repeated statements, admitting and celebrating his decades of work for Cuba, spanning 40 years. In our final update on the News Feed. Meteorologist Erik Glass has the territory's weather forecast.

Here's the latest look at the short term forecast for the Virgin Islands by meteorologist Eric Weglarz. Bright sunshine continues. Area wide temperatures will holds in the middle eighties at St Croix, Windsor, Maine, from the east at 15 to 20, gusts as high as 25 at Saint Thomas and saint john. Highs will also reach the middle eighties. Winds similar as well in the mid-teens to near 20, with gusts as high as 25 clear tonight.

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Area wide lows fall back into the upper seventies at Saint Croix. Winds remain from the east at 15 to 20 miles per hour at Saint Thomas and Saint john. We'll find a bit of warmer than evening lows back into the upper seventies. Winds from the east at 15 to 20. Wednesday features more sunshine area wide. We'll find clouds increasing through the afternoon at Saint Croix.

Chance for a shower or to highs will reach the middle eighties Windsor Maine from the east at 15 to 20 miles per hour at Saint Thomas in Saint John more sun, a few less clouds through the afternoon. Can't rule out a scattered shower as well. Highs also a bit warmer in the upper eighties to near 90 winds from the east at 15 to 20, with gusts between 20 and 25 miles per hour.

That's the latest look at your short term forecast. I'm meteorologist Eric Weglarz. We are at the end of today's jets news feed. I'm Marcellina Ventura-Douglas join me every weekday at 5 p.m.. If you haven't already, be sure to download the WTJX app. And if you missed a part of our news, you can listen to it on demand wherever you get your podcasts.

 

Marcellina Ventura-Douglas is the Radio News Reporter for WTJX-FM, 93.1. Born and raised on St. Croix, Ventura-Douglas graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands, where she received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. While at UVI, she worked in the office of Senator Shawn-Michael Malone before beginning her career in radio. Ventura-Douglas fell in love with radio growing up, when she and her father would spend every morning and afternoon listening to local radio news legend, Alvin G. After leaving Senator Malone's office, she became the program director of Vivid Streaming. She then joined WTJX-TV, Channel 12 as a producer. Soon after, she was tapped to switch to WTJX-FM to present an evening news. She is passionate about bringing radio news to the Virgin Islands community through the WTJX NewsFeed, airing every weekday at 5:00pm on 93.1 FM and available online, on demand.
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