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UVI Hosts USVI-BVI Mangrove Restoration Learning Exchange

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Center for Marine and Environmental Studies (CMES) hosted a mangrove restoration learning exchange with individuals from the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLCC) in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

The exchange is the first of two that will bring researchers and students together in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the BVI to learn from each other about mangrove restoration techniques. The exchange is funded by the Virgin Islands Community Foundation’s Judith A. Towle Fund.

Faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students attended the exchange which included a tour of UVI’s new, land-based mangrove and coral nurseries, a visit to a newly restored mangrove site at Range Cay, a tour of the University’s Environmental Analysis Lab, and a site visit to the St. Thomas East End Reserves, a marine protected area and potential future mangrove restoration site.  

UVI Hosts USVI-BVI Mangrove Restoration Learning Exchange

The exchange was led by UVI Assistant Professor, Kristin Wilson Grimes; UVI Watershed and Marine Specialist, Allie Durdall; and Head of Marine and Maritime Studies at the Centre for Applied Marine Studies (CAMS) at the HLCC, Susan Zaluski. Grimes leads a group dedicated to growing restoration, research, outreach, and education of the territory’s mangroves (GRROE U.S. Virgin Island Mangroves). The nursery has grown over 5,000 mangroves for restoration since its establishment in the spring of 2021 in St. Thomas, USVI.  

In the BVI, Susan Zaluski and students grow mangroves at three nurseries on Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, and Anegada. “Growing this collaboration and engaging communities across the Caribbean, makes restoration more efficient, effective, and fun, by sharing our successes and learning through failures,” Grimes said.  

“The BVI learning exchange was such a refreshing way to learn about all of the great things they’ve been doing in their nursery and it was a nice opportunity to network and exchange information,” student Kayla Halliday said. “I am excited to visit their nursery in person, soon.” 

For the next phase of the learning exchange, Grimes and her team will visit the HLCC nursery.  

UVI Hosts USVI-BVI Mangrove Restoration Learning Exchange

To learn more about mangrove research in the USVI, visit https://viepscor.org/r2r-mangroves or follow the GRROE team on instagram at: grroe.usvi.mangroves  

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Human Services Pauses In-Person Senior ID Services Until June 6

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS) announced the Division of Senior Citizens Affairs, Information and Referral (I&R) Senior Identification Document (ID) Program is pausing in-person services as of Tuesday, May 24, 2022. DHS will resume in-person Senior ID services on Monday, June 06, 2022, territory-wide.

The Division of Senior Citizens Affairs, to protect health and safety of our staff and senior clients during this time of increased COVID positivity rates, will accept telephone calls to schedule appointments. Seniors are especially vulnerable to the COVID virus, and we prefer to pause services for the next two weeks as a precautionary measure.

Seniors 60 years of age and older qualify to receive a Senior ID Card from the Department of Human Services. Once seniors are given scheduled appointment dates, they will need to bring with them supporting documents to verify age such as a birth certificate, passport or other government issued l valid ID and proof of residency such as a utility bill, property tax statement, or rental lease/deed. DHS
reminds senior citizens that Senior IDs are now free. In line with Governor Bryan’s Senior Citizens Health and Wellness initiative “Live Your Best Life by Aging Your Way,” the fee for the Senior I.D. has been waived, and the I.D. will be valid for a period of five (5) years.

As a reminder these services are by appointment only and for the health and safety of all, COVID prevention and safety protocols must be adhered to. Masks are required when entering the Division of Senior Citizens Affairs and will only be allowed to be removed when taking pictures for the Senior IDs.

Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez encourages all who are eligible for a Senior ID card to make an appointment as the DHS Senior ID cards can be used to obtain valuable discounts in grocery stores, pharmacies, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Lt. Governor’s Property Tax Office, and several other locations throughout the territory.

For more information about the Senior ID Program or to schedule an appointment, please contact the Department of Human Services at the following phone numbers:
• St. Croix – (340) 772-7148 – Division of Senior Citizens Affairs, 1401 Mars Hill Frederiksted, St. Croix
• St. Thomas (340) 774-0930 ex.t 4018 – Division of Senior Citizens Affairs, 1303 Hospital Ground, STE 1 St. Thomas
• St. John (340) 776-6334 – St. John DHS Multipurpose Center, Cruz Bay, St. John
For general information, please visit the Department of Human Services website, www.dhs.gov.vi or on Facebook
(https://www.facebook.com/usvidhs).
The Department of Human Services (VIDHS) exists to provide social services to members in our community with diverse needs.
In times of national uncertainty and hardship we act as a safety-net and exist to inspire hope and empower change through nonjudgmental, quality delivery of needed services and resources. Please visit the Department of Human Services website,
www.dhs.gov.vi for more information

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Bryan Meets with Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team About Path Forward

DIAMOND RUBY —  Governor Albert Bryan met with the Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team (THRT) for a status on the completion of the temporary hospital (JFL North) on St. Croix.

The temporary facility is in its final phase of construction with the mechanical building, which will house essential life and safety support functions crucial to the operation of the interim facility.

Juan F. Luis Hospital officials and the Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team hosted the first tabletop exercise in preparation for the move and debriefed the Governor on its plans to execute the safe and efficient transfer of services.

Discussions began with a brief overview of the 600-page transition manual developed by hospital staff which outlines every aspect of the switch to include guidelines on how to move patients, equipment and other vital operations to JFL North. The plans also outline how other essential services will be maintained while the current facility is demolished and rebuilt.

Bryan Meets with Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team About Path Forward

“Getting this facility opened is critical to maintaining the high level of care provided at JFL and is a top priority of our Administration,” Governor Bryan said. “I want to thank the JFL and THRT Team for their continued focus and commitment to getting this facility into operation. I am particularly pleased with the level of detail that has gone into the plans to transition an entire hospital in less than 48 hours while maintaining the safety of patients and staff.”

The THRT was established to facilitate the development of a fully integrated hospital system, ensure consistent standards and oversee all design and construction processes for restoring storm-damaged hospitals. It is comprised of more than 20 healthcare, engineering, procurement and construction professionals.  The THRT was engaged to support the JFL North completion and transition as well as JFL, Roy L. Schneider Hospital, Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute and the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center.

“This interim state-of-the-art medical building will serve as an accredited healthcare facility that will also enable the commencement of the demolition of the existing hospital structure, paving the way for the new Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital,” said Darryl A. Smalls, Executive Director of the Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team. “With the recent acquisition of five acres of land to the rear of the building, we now have the flexibility to address parking, storage and any other operational requisites.”

In addition to the completion of the mechanical building, the team discussed the plans for certification from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). JFL Chief Operating Officer Hazel Philbert explained that CMS would be kept abreast of all the pertinent timelines related to this project, including the completion of the mechanical build and the transition of patients to JFL North.  CMS will be notified of the transition and ultimately determine an undisclosed time to conduct a site visit survey.

Lemartec is expected to complete the mechanical building by August 2022 after the longest lead item, the fire suppression system is received, with commissioning to follow immediately thereafter.

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Jif Peanut Butter Under Recall For Potential Salmonella Contamination

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating an outbreak of salmonella infections that is possibly linked to Jif peanut butter products.

The J.M. Smucker Company issued a voluntary recall for its creamy, crunchy, natural and reduced fat peanut butter products that were distributed nationwide, with lot code numbers 1274425 to 2140425, the FDA announced this weekend.

Currently, 14 people have reported illnesses and two of those cases have resulted in hospitalizations, according to data provided by the CDC.

“Five out of five people reported consuming peanut butter and four of the five people specifically reported consuming different varieties of Jif brand peanut butter prior to becoming ill,” the FDA said.

What is salmonella?

Salmonella itself is a bacteria, but the illness it causes is known as salmonellosis.

For many infected people, symptoms appear 12 to 72 hours after contact and often include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, according to the FDA. Most people who are infected recover within four to seven days and do not need any treatment.

More serious and severe cases can occur, though, so the FDA recommends contacting your health care provider if you believe you have been infected.

Several varieties of peanut butter are being recalled nationwide

The J. M. Smucker Co. said the peanut butter it is recalling was distributed in retail stores and other outlets throughout the country. It includes creamy, crunchy and natural varieties, along with many others.

The recalled products have lot code numbers between 1274425 – 2140425 and include the numbers 425 for the 5th-7th digits. “425” in that position indicates that it was processed in the Lexington facility.

This information is usually printed on the back label of the jar. A list of recalled products and their numbers can be seen on the FDA’s website.

If you happen to have a jar included in the recall, you should throw it away immediately.

The FDA noted that the peanut butter has a two-year shelf life so consumers should check any Jif peanut butter already in their home.

After throwing the peanut butter out, the CDC recommends washing and sanitizing any surfaces or containers that might have come into contact with the peanut butter.

No word as yet from the local Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) as to whether the affected products were shipped to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Rivera Brothers Arrested For Tide Village Shooting That Left Man Paralyzed: VIPD

CHRISTIANSTED Two brothers wanted for a Tide Village gas station shooting that left the victim paralyzed on Thursday afternoon have been arrested.

Samuel Rivera, 25, and Marcelino Rivera, 21, of Estate Calquohoun, were wanted for attempted murder in connection to a shooting at the Tide Village Service Station that occurred about 1:59 p.m. Thursday, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

As the new day began just after midnight, Samuel and Marcelino surrendered to police at the Ancilmo Marshall Command in Bassin Triangle without incident in the presence of their defense attorney, Jeffrey B.C. Moorehead, according to the VIPD.

The Rivera brothers were processed and charged with first-degree attempted murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, unauthorized possession of a firearm, first-degree assault, mayhem, and first-degree reckless endangerment, VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said.

Bail for the Rivera brothers was set at $100,000.00 each with no ten percent provision by Superior Court Judge Alphonso Andrews. 

They were each unable to post bail and were remanded to the John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility pending their advice-of-rights hearing set for Monday (May 23, 2022.) 

Upon the officer’s arrival Thursday afternoon, police spoke with a black male who said he was shot by a Samuel Rivera and was also grabbed and struck by his brother Marcelino Rivera, according to Dratte. He further stated that they were friends and claims not to know why they attacked him.  

The victim sustained one gunshot to his chest and the projectile struck and lodged in his spinal column causing paralysis, police said.  

Forensics was present and processed the scene. Camera footage was collected that substantiated the victim’s accounts of the event.  

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3 Corrections Officers Indicted After Assault On Detainee and Cover-Up

CHRISTIANSTED — Three Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections officers have been indicted by a grand jury for falsifying documents in an attempt to cover up an assault on a detainee by two officers, authorities said.

Two former and one current Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections officers at the John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility on St. Croix appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller for their initial court hearing.

A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Maxwell Bryan, 51, Elvin Bloice, 70, and Jahmesha Bethelmie, 25, with excessive force, obstruction of justice, and false statements, U.S. Attorney Delia L. Smith said.

The officers were charged Thursday in connection with an incident that occurred on September 17, according to the indictment.

All three defendants were released on conditions imposed by Judge Miller to include a $25,000 bond, remaining on the island of St. Croix pending trial, surrendering their passports or other
international travel documents to the court and surrendering any firearms in their possession.

According to the indictment, on September 17, 2021, Bryan used excessive force against a pre-trial detainee identified by the initials “T.H.,” resulting in bodily injury.

All three officers are charged with attempting to cover up the illegal conduct.

The indictment charges Bryan and Bloice with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law and aiding and abetting each other in depriving T.H. of his right to be free from unreasonable
force by corrections officers.

Further, Bloice is charged with making materially false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and all three officers are charged with one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation.

The maximum penalty for deprivation of rights is 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty for falsification of records is 20 years in prison, and the maximum penalty for making materially false statements is five years in prison.

This case is being investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Evan Rikhye who is assisted by the Criminal Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil
Rights Division.

U.S. Attorney Smith reminds the public that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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Social Security Collaboration: Social Security Honors Military Heroes

On Memorial Day, our nation honors military service members who have given their lives to preserve our freedoms. Families, friends, and communities come together to remember the great sacrifices of military members and ensure their legacies live on.

The benefits we provide can help the families of deceased military service members. For example, widows, widowers, surviving divorced spouses, dependent children, and dependent parents may be eligible for Social Security survivor’s benefits. You can learn more about those benefits at www.ssa.gov/survivors.

We also offer support to wounded warriors. Social Security benefits protect veterans when injuries prevent them from returning to active duty or performing other work. Both the

Department of Veteran Affairs and Social Security have disability programs. You may qualify for disability benefits through one or both programs. Read our new fact sheet, “Social Security Disability and Veterans Affairs Disability — How Do They Compare?” at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-64-125.pdf. Depending on your situation, some members of your family, including your dependent children or spouse, may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits. Under certain rules, we may also pay benefits to divorced spouses.

Wounded military service members can receive quicker processing of their Social Security disability claims. If you are a veteran with a 100% Permanent & Total compensation rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, we’ll expedite your disability claim. Want more information about how we can help? Visit www.ssa.gov/woundedwarriors for answers to frequently asked questions or to find information about the application process.

Thinking about retirement or know a veteran who is? Military service members can receive Social Security benefits in addition to their military retirement benefits. For details, visit our webpage for veterans, available at www.ssa.gov/people/veterans.

Please share this information with the military families you know. We honor and thank the veterans who bravely served and died for our country and the military service members who serve today.

For more information on our benefits and services, please call 1-800-772-1213, access www.socialsecurity.gov or visit your local Social Security office.

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2 Rivera Brothers Wanted In Tide Village Gas Station Shooting That Left 1 Man Paralyzed

CHRISTIANSTED — The 911 emergency call center received a report of a shooting that occurred at the Tide Village Service station at 1:59 p.m. Thursday. 

Upon the officer’s arrival they spoke with a black male who said he was shot by a Samuel Rivera and was also grabbed and struck by his brother Marcelino Rivera, the Virgin Islands Police Department said. The victim further stated that they were friends and claims not to know why they attacked him. 

The victim sustained one gunshot to his chest and the Projectile struck and lodged in his spinal column causing paralysis, according to the VIPD.

Forensics was present and processed the scene. Camera footage was collected that substantiated the victim’s accounts of the event. 

Marcelino Rivera, 21, is described as a Hispanic male, long black hair, 5’4 about 135 pounds, with a brown complexion. 

Samuel Rivera, 25, is described as a Hispanic male with sun bleached hair about 5’6, light skinned,124 pounds in weight. 

“The police department continues to ask the community for its assistance as we search for the two men, Marcelino, and Samuel Rivera,” VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said.

If you know something, say something, Call the CIB at 340 712 6082, CIB Tip-line at 340 778 4950, Crime Stoppers VI 1800 222 TIPS or 911. 

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Bryan Wants SSI Parity, Stresses Need For Fairness With Territories In House Speech

WASHINGTON — Governor Albert Bryan, testifying virtually on Wednesday before the U.S. House’s Committee on Natural Resources, urged lawmakers to give territories parity with states for Supplemental Security Income or SSI, which provides monthly payments to meet basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing.

According to a statement released by Government House, Bryan’s remarks came during a hearing on the Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs 2023 budget, where he also outlined the Virgin Islands “ongoing and new needs” from the federal agency including EPA concerns about reopening the Limetree Bay Refinery.

During his written testimony prior to questions from the lawmakers, Governor Bryan decried last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that denies equal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to the territories, an issue that also was brought up during questioning by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan).

“A disabled American who lives in a State is entitled to receive Supplemental Security Income without regard to geographic location or what taxes are paid. If she moves to the Virgin Islands, she loses that right,” the governor said during his prepared testimony.

“Territories cannot look to the Constitution of the United States for equal protection under the law in making claims for Supplemental Security Income like their countrymen residing on the mainland,” he said. “Instead, the Court has directed us to appeal to the Congress. We ask you now: Grant our citizens parity with their fellow Americans and guarantee Virgin Islanders the same access to the Supplemental Security Income benefits. We are not second-class citizens.”  

During the questioning period, Congresswoman Tlaib said it is unacceptable that 3.5 million people living in U.S. territories are subject to a separate and unequal status quo and denied access to, and the full benefit of, lifesaving federal programs like SSI and Medicaid, and she asked how the lack of parity impacts residents of the territories.

“For us it means families splitting up. A lot of time we have families that are here and the wife or the husband would move to the states with the child in order to get better care and benefit from those benefits,” Governor Bryan responded. “It would make such a huge difference in our community for parents raising children with disabilities, especially when they age-out of regular schools and they need other support systems that those parents can’t afford.”

During his testimony, Governor Bryan also touched on a number of other issues he would like to see addressed by federal lawmakers:

•         Requiring federal agencies to waive matching fund obligations for disaster relief funding. “Significant amounts of appropriated disaster funds remain inaccessible to the Territory because of unrealistic local match requirements imposed by federal agencies,” Governor Bryan said.

•         Reversing tax code stipulations subjecting territories to the so-called “GILTI” tax, which is designed to discourage American companies from stashing profits in foreign tax havens. “The U.S. Virgin Islands is neither foreign nor a tax haven: it is a U.S. Territory whose tax laws are promulgated by Congress. Treating us like a foreign country makes no sense and is contrary to decades of Congressional policies intended to encourage U.S. investment in the Territories,” Governor Bryan said.

•         Assistance with the Environmental Protection Agency concerns about reopening the Limetree Bay Refinery. “We all share the EPA’s concern with safety. But it is not clear that the EPA understands the unique importance of the refinery to the economic, financial, and social well-being of the Virgin Islands community,” Governor Bryan said.

•         Restoring adequate funding for the Territory’s highways. “That funding was cut to the bone in 2012 and has never been fully restored, with predictably deleterious effects on our roads – yet another example of Americans receiving poorer treatment simply because of where in the United States they live. Singling out the four small territories for funding cuts was unfair and ignored our uniquely pressing transportation funding needs,” Governor Bryan said.

The entire hearing can be viewed at the House Committee on Natural Resources You Tube Page at www.youtube.com/user/NaturalResourcesDems.

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VIDOJ Agents Arrest St. Croix Man For Failure To Register As A Sex Offender

KINGSHILL — A registered sex offender was arrested on St. Croix for failing to tell local authorities where he was living currently.

Carl Nicholas Decicco, 37, of Bethlehem Village, was arrested Tuesday for failure to comply with registration requirements for sex offenders in the territory, Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George said.

Decicco was taken into official custody by the VIDOJ Special Investigations Division (SID) with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals and V.I. Police Department (VIPD) officers on St. Croix, according to George.

VIDOJ Agents Arrest St. Croix Man For Failure To Register As A Sex Offender
VIDOJ mugshot of Carl Nicholas Dicicco

Decicco is a Tier 3 registered sex offender who failed to update his registration as required by
law. He was arrested in violation of Title 14 V.I.C. 1724 (b)(1). During his Advice of Rights
hearing held this morning at the V.I. Superior Court, Magistrate Judge Ernest E. Morris, Jr. set
bail at $5,500.00.

Decicco was released on the following conditions: required to sign an unsecured
bond, 24-hour house arrest without the use of a monitor, released to a third-party custodian,
report to the Office of Probation weekly, only allowed to leave the residence for work, cannot
leave the Virgin Islands, and surrender of passport. He is also required to update his sex offender
registration within 24 hours of release.

During a routine compliance check on May 17, 2022, it was revealed that Decicco did not reside
at the address he provided and had not updated his new address with the VIDOJ as required.
The team visited the last known address and was told by a family member that he moved out
over two (2) weeks ago. At approximately 12:50 p.m. on the same day, Decicco was taken into
custody in the vicinity of the Christiansted Boardwalk.