St. Croix man convicted of murder at age 16 resentenced from life without parole to life with possibility of parole

ST. CROIX - A man whose life sentence without parole was ruled unconstitutional because he was 16 when he murdered another man appeared in court Wednesday for resentencing after the V.I. Supreme Court remanded his case back to V.I. Superior Court.

Jalani Williams was dressed in a bright orange Bureau of Corrections inmate uniform when he appeared before V.I. Superior Court Judge Robert Molloy to be resentenced in connection with the 2009 shooting outside a Castle Coakley restaurant that left one man dead and two men injured.

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ST. THOMAS - The Senate Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning Committee approved seven major Coastal Zone Management permits Wednesday, including the permit project to widen Veterans Drive and move it out around the Legislature building.

The project has been on the table in one form or another for decades, but the latest version is closer to becoming a reality than any of its predecessors.

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Hearing challenging Hansen recount will continue Monday after Fawkes has returned from Florida

ST. CROIX - With the exception of hearing testimony from Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes next week, the parties in Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly's complaint filed in V.I. Superior Court trying to stop the recount of votes for Sen. Alicia Hansen have presented all of the witnesses.

Because of Fawkes' unavailability this week, once Hansen took the stand Wednesday and gave testimony as the final witness, Judge Harold Willocks recessed court to reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday.

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Judge to VIPD: Let's wrap up consent decree compliance

ST. THOMAS - A federal judge on Wednesday told V.I. Police Department officials that he did not want to see their consent decree take on the long life spans that other consent decrees in the territory have.

"My concern is: What is it that we can do to take this out of that group of consent decrees that go on and on and on," U.S. District Judge Curtis Gomez said.

Consent decrees - court settlements that resolve legal disputes through a person or entity agreeing to take specific actions without admitting fault for the situation that led to the lawsuit - are not uncommon among the agencies in the territory's executive branch.

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Bill extending V.I.'s rum cover-over headed to President Obama's desk

The bill to extend the territory's rum cover-over passed the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and is headed to the president's desk.

The bill - called the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency Act of 2014 - includes a number of tax extenders, including extending the territory's cover-over at the $13.50 per proof-gallon rate.

"Unfortunately it's just for the one year, not the two years that the Senate wanted, so the whole thing has to start all over again next year," V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen said Wednesday.

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St. Thomas author wins Flaherty-Dunnan prize for her debut novel, 'Land of Love and Drowning'

Following widespread critical acclaim for her first novel, "Land of Love and Drowning," St. Thomas native Tiphanie Yanique was named the winner of the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from among seven up-and-coming authors.

The Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize is awarded to the best debut novel published between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 of the award year, and the author of the winning book receives $10,000.

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Christensen's last bill used as vehicle to pass federal budget

ST. THOMAS - In her last act as the territory's delegate to Congress, Donna Christensen was instrumental in funding the federal budget and keeping the government from shutting down.

"I think it's amazing," she said. "Never in my wildest dreams."

In a surprise turn of events, it happened to be her bill - HR 83 - that was used as the vehicle to pass the federal government's annual budget.

The bill was passed through Congress and signed by the president, ensuring the federal government's continued operation through the coming year.

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Finance Committee OKs four leases, including one for Water Island hotel

ST. THOMAS - The Senate Finance Committee approved four lease agreements during its meeting Tuesday morning, including a 99-year lease with a developer for a resort on Water Island.

All the lease agreements now will go to the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee, which will take place before Friday's final legislative session of the 30th Legislature, for further consideration.

Approved Tuesday were:

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Senate committee sends HOVENSA deal to the full body for an up or down vote

ST. THOMAS - In the wee hours on Wednesday morning, the Senate Finance Committee voted to send the government's proposed operating agreement with Atlantic Basin Refining - the prospective buyers of the HOVENSA refinery - to the full body for further consideration.

The agreement will be considered at a Senate session on Friday.

After spending the hearing raising a multitude of questions and criticizing various aspects of the proposal, committee members voted to forward the agreement. Voting in favor of forwarding it were Senators Judi Buckley, Donald Cole, Myron Jackson, Clarence Payne III and Finance Committee Chairman Clifford Graham.

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PSC elects former Harvard professor Johann Clendenin as new chairman

ST. THOMAS - As its first order of business during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, the V.I. Public Services Commission elected a new chairman.

Thomas Jackson opened the meeting in his role as chairman, but after he made the nominations and the rest of the board voted to accept them, he passed the gavel to newcomer Johann Clendenin.

Clendenin joined the Public Services Commission in April after his nomination was confirmed by the V.I. Legislature.

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Public Services Commission lowers both LEACs

ST. THOMAS - In what Public Services Commission Chairman Johann Clendenin said was, "a great Christmas present for the people of the territory," the board voted Tuesday to lower the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause for both water and power by a significant amount.

The average residential power bill, based on 400 kilowatt-hours of electricity usage, will drop by about $39 a month.

The water LEAC was cut down by about $4.87 per month for the average residential customer using 2,400 gallons a month.

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Construction accident disrupts traffic lights, power on Main Street

ST. THOMAS - A construction crew working near Market Square in downtown Charlotte Amalie accidentally cut through a V.I. Water and Power Authority underground power cable Tuesday morning, disrupting electrical service to businesses in the area and taking out two traffic lights.

One person was injured when the crew cut through the cable at 7:50 a.m., according to a statement issued by WAPA. The injured man did not need to go to the hospital, according to the release.

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PSC hears new waste-to-energy proposal

ST. THOMAS - Public Service Commission members heard a new waste-to-energy proposal during their meeting Tuesday, but the application was withdrawn while the company continues to develop a relationship with the V.I. Waste Management Authority.

The company's executives said they expect to resubmit a more complete application in the next few months.

Caribbean W2E Conversion USVI, Inc. had applied to be a qualified facility, a designation that would allow the company to be a small power producer and negotiate the sale of power to the V.I. Water and Power Authority.

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Coast Guard warns swimmers, boaters about riptides in region

The Coast Guard is urging swimmers and boaters to use caution during the holidays at beaches in the territory because of dangerous riptides in the region.

The Coast Guard said since Friday it has responded to multiple search and rescue cases in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico involving swimmers, beachgoers, surfers and boaters who were swept out to sea or overcome by the dangerous surf and rip currents in the area.

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Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins

JERUSALEM - Jews are celebrating the eight-day festival of Hanukkah with traditions that commemorate ancient miracles and symbolize triumph over oppression.

The holiday began after sundown Tuesday with families gathering to light the first nightly candle of ceremonial lamps and to exchange gifts.

In Israel, some display the lamps in special windproof glass boxes outside.

Hanukkah, also known as the festival of lights, commemorates the Jewish uprising in the second century B.C. against the Greek-Syrian kingdom - which tried to force its culture on Jews and desecrated the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

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Fawkes observing Florida elections despite contempt charge

ST. CROIX - Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said she expected to be excused for not showing up at a court hearing Monday because she told her attorney that she would be attending election visits and tours with elections officials in Florida.

V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks issued an arrest warrant for Fawkes on Monday after she failed to appear at the hearing, for which she had been subpoenaed to offer testimony and provide documents to the court.

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Stanley and the 10 Sleepless Knights tramp during Crucian Christmas Foreday Serenade

ST. CROIX - Sometimes life hands you a defining moment.

Early Monday morning, long before dawn, the first night of Stanley and the 10 Sleepless Knights Crucian Christmas Foreday Serenade got under way underneath a canopy of stars.

There was singing and dancing as the band and the trailing motorcade meandered through neighborhoods.

There was tramping to the band's spirited quelbe renditions of Christmas songs, and stopping to fete at different houses, where volunteers served up quintessential Crucian cuisine.

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The Senate Finance Committee plans to conduct a hearing today about the proposed agreement between Atlantic Basin Refining and the V.I. government regarding the sale of the HOVENSA refinery.

Four lease requests are on the agenda for the morning portion of the session. Committee Chairman Clifford Graham said he will convene the HOVENSA sale hearing after lunch, about 1 p.m.

Graham said he intends to

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Senate Finance Committee will consider leases for Tibbar Energy grass fields, Water Island hotel

ST. THOMAS - The Senate Finance Committee will hear four lease applications during today's committee meeting, including one for Tibbar Energy to grow the Giant King Grass on St. Croix needed to fuel a proposed power plant.

If any of the leases are approved by the committee today, they will go directly to the full Senate and likely be placed on Friday's session agenda.

Tibbar Energy USVI is seeking a lease from the V.I. Agriculture Department for about 232 acres of government farm land - on two parcels of land, one in Estate Lower Love and the other in Estate Adventure and Golden Grove - on which to grow the grass.

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St. Croix man charged with raping 13-year-old

ST. CROIX - Police have arrested a 29-year-old man on charges that he had sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Jason Parson appeared before Magistrate Miguel Camacho on Monday morning and was advised of his rights after being arrested over the weekend and charged with second-degree aggravated rape and second-degree unlawful sexual contact.

V.I. Police Detective Vanessa Richardson-Fieulleteau said she was called to conduct an investigation into reports that Parson had been sexually involved with a 13-year-old.

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St. Thomas man charged with having sex with teen

ST. THOMAS - A St. Thomas man has been accused of having sex with a 16-year-old girl he met on Facebook.

Calief Charles, 28, was arrested at 4 p.m. Friday and charged with second-degree rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

V.I. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Henry Carr found probable cause for Charles' arrest and advised him of his rights Monday.

According to the probable cause fact sheet, the girl's father discovered the relationship between Charles and his daughter when he read through her text messages.

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Corrections officials don't believe inmate's story about lost sheep

ST. CROIX - Bureau of Corrections officials say they are closer to making a determination about what really happened Sunday when an inmate was unaccounted for more than an hour.

According to the online police blotter - a listing of incidents and the times they were called in to emergency dispatchers - an escape from Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility was reported at 1:10 p.m. Sunday.

V.I. Corrections Bureau Director Julius Wilson said Sunday night that the situation was "not really one of a true escape" and that the inmate was located a short time after prison staff noticed he was missing.

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Government moves forward with plans for indoor sports complex on St. Croix

Representatives from a sports facility consulting and management company visited the territory for the Paradise Jam college basketball tournament last month on St. Thomas.

Now, Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisory is tasked with figuring out what type of facility could bring dollars from the sports tourism industry to St. Croix.

More than four years after purchasing a 44-acre parcel of land in Estate Mars Hill, Frederiksted, the V.I. government is moving forward with development of an indoor sports facility there, which will include an arena with a minimum capacity of 5,000 seats, and would be able to host theatrical and musical performances.

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Judge issues arrest warrant for supervisor of Elections

ST. CROIX - V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks has issued a warrant for the arrest of Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes, after she failed to appear Monday at a court hearing for which she had been subpoenaed to offer testimony and provide documents to the court.

The hearing stems from the V.I. Superior Court case in which Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly has challenged the St. Croix Elections Board's recount of votes cast for Sen. Alicia Hansen, calling the entire process illegal.

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Community Foundation now accepting tax-free donations for Humane Society

ST. THOMAS - Residents who want to donate money to the Humane Society of St. Thomas and still receive tax credit while the organization straightens out its 501(c)3 issues with the IRS can turn to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.

A mix-up between the Internal Revenue Service and the Humane Society of St. Thomas has led to the revocation of the animal shelter's nonprofit status.

While the IRS is working to reinstate the Humane Society's status, the Community Foundation can act as the Humane Society's fiduciary - a service it provides for a select few other nonprofit organizations in the territory.

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These are the principals of Atlantic Basin Refining

Robert Moore Jr.

Moore is executive managing director and chief executive officer.

Moore has more than 30 years of business experience in corporate management and international energy trading. Has negotiated, executed and overseen energy transactions around the globe. Worked for and managed several large energy trading groups that participate in the international crude oil, petroleum products, electric power and natural gas markets, including Sun Oil Trading Company, Marubeni Inc., Castle Oil Corporation, Reliant Energy, Inc., and Bank of Montreal.

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Atlantic Basin deal is off if HOVENSA goes bankrupt

ST. CROIX - Some senators and others in the community have expressed concerns about whether Atlantic Basin Refining, a startup company, will be able to do what it says it can do and about its ability to raise capital for restarting the refinery.

Others have questioned why the process appears to be happening so quickly.

ABR Chief Executive Officer Bob Moore told The Daily News that Atlantic Basin intends to bring in partners and resources who are solid professionals in their respective areas, creating a "brain trust" of people around the table.

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The agreement by the numbers

The operating agreement between Atlantic Basin Refining and the V.I. government contains a number of financial elements that are triggered by various events during the agreement.

The ABR agreement contains a commitment to produce 300,000 barrels of oil per day; explicit requirements to deconstruct and restore the entire site; and employment of a minimum of 500 full-time workers - 75 percent of whom will be V.I. residents - and 100 contractors.

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The deal to sell HOVENSA

ST. CROIX - The principals of Atlantic Basin Refining say they want to restart oil refining at the HOVENSA facility on the island's South Shore as soon as possible.

And they say that they believe they can do so profitably - that they would not be here if that were not the case.

The company has a tentative deal in place with HOVENSA to buy the refinery, subject to Atlantic Basin Refining, or ABR, reaching an operating agreement with the V.I. government.

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Senate committee to take up HOVENSA sale

ST. CROIX - The controversy and questions swirling around the potential sale of the HOVENSA refinery - and the government's proposed operating agreement with the prospective buyers - likely will come to a head this week as the Senate Finance Committee takes up the matter Tuesday.

The hearing comes in the waning days of the 30th Legislature and the deJongh administration - and as HOVENSA, citing its deteriorating financial condition, has threatened to shut down its gasoline supply to St. Croix in January.

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Free Will Baptist senior drowns

The Free Will Baptist High School family is once again mourning the loss of one of its students.

While police have not released the name of the drowning victim, friends and family have identified him as Freddy Gomez Flores, described as a well-liked and active member of the Class of 2015.

St. Croix Police Chief James Parris said the high school senior and a group of friends went hiking and swimming in the area of Annaly Bay on the island's north shore Saturday.

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J'ouvert makes raucous return to Christiansted town

ST. CROIX - Even before the sun made its debut Saturday, hundreds of people began lining the streets of Christiansted awaiting the first Carnival J'ouvert in the historic district for more than a decade.

Festivities for the most part have taken place in Frederiksted when Festival officials determined that the wider streets make it easier for emergency vehicles to maneuver in the event of an emergency.

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Community Foundation accepting Humane Society donations

ST. THOMAS - Residents who want to donate money to the Humane Society of St. Thomas and still receive tax credit while the organization straightens out its 501(c)3 issues with the IRS can turn to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.

A mix-up between the Internal Revenue Service and the Humane Society of St. Thomas has led to the revocation of the animal shelter's nonprofit status.

While the IRS is working to reinstate the Humane Society's status, the Community Foundation can act as the Humane Society's fiduciary - a service it can provide for most of the nonprofit organizations in the territory.

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Public Finance Authority gives DPNR more money for new boat

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Public Finance Authority on Friday agreed to give additional funds to the V.I. Department of Planning and Natural Resources so it can buy a new enforcement vessel.

Acting DPNR Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol, who participated in Friday's board meeting by telephone, explained to the Public Finance Authority board that the funding is critical.

A $500,000 appropriation for new marine vessels was recommended in the governor's Fiscal Year 2015 budget that he sent to the Legislature, Oriol said.

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New Senate president gearing up for 31st Legislature

Incoming Senate President Neville James said Friday that he and the newly formed Democratic majority are working hard to get ready for the start of the 31st Legislature.

Among those plans is creating two new Senate leadership positions, one of which would be a senator designated to help get more Democrats elected to the Legislature.

The 11-member majority has been caucusing regularly and planning their swearing-in ceremony and receptions, organizing into committees and planning for the next term.

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Coast Guard, St. Thomas Rescue save woman swept off rocks, out to sea at Peterborg Point

ST. THOMAS - A woman swept off the rocks Thursday at Picara Point, which is at the tip of Peterborg on St. Thomas, was rescued about a half mile offshore by the Coast Guard and local authorities.

Coast Guard forces on St. Thomas got a call from a 911 operator at 2:45 p.m. Thursday reporting the situation.

According to Coast Guard officials, five adults - three men and two women - were on the rocks at Picara Point when a large wave came in and knocked them all into the water.

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No one injured in fire at Estate Bolongo house

ST. THOMAS - A fire ravaged a home in Bolongo on Thursday night, but firefighters were able to bring it under control quickly.

V.I. Fire Service Assistant Director Daryl George said the call reporting a structural fire came in to Lima Company at about 8:42 p.m. Thursday.

Two units responded and found the western side of a free-standing home engulfed in flames. George said the private residence was not close to any other buildings in the area.

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Anderson Family Fund grants $22K to 14 teachers in territory

The Anderson Family Fund at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands has awarded $22,000 in grants to teachers in the public schools throughout the territory.

This is the 13th year the fund has given money - ranging from $500 to $5,000 - to educators for a variety of projects. Since 2002, the Anderson family, which owns Topa Properties, Ltd., Topa Insurance, Dorchester Insurance, Bellows International and West Indies Corporation, has awarded more than $225,000 to public school teachers.

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V.I. Agriculture Department offers grants to fruit farmers

ST. CROIX - When Aberra Bulbulla walks around his 4-acre fruit orchard in Estate Waldberggaard, he says he feels a sense of pride that he has been able to grow an orchard that is worthy of acknowledgment.

That acknowledgment has come in the form of Bulbulla being named the Crop Farmer of the Year three times.

Part of the money to sustain Bulbulla's prize-winning plantings comes from federal grant money distributed through the V.I. Agriculture Department's Fruit Orchard and Plot Establishment Project.

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St. Croix Elections Board will continue recount this weekend

ST. CROIX - The St. Croix District Board of Elections resumed its recount of votes for three candidates in the November General Election on Friday and plans to put in additional hours this weekend to move the process along.

The district board approved requests to recount votes for Senators Alicia Hansen and Diane Capehart and Board of Elections candidate Epiphane Joseph, who each made unsuccessful bids for public office in last month's election.

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Friday - Soca Monarch Preliminaries, 9 p.m., Christiansted Boardwalk.

Saturday - Christiansted J'ouvert, 5 a.m., Bassin Triangle.

Sunday - Carnival Princess Show, 3 p.m., Island Center.

Sunday - Calypso Monarch Eliminations, 8 p.m., Gertrude's Restaurant.

Dec. 21 - Carnival Queen Pageant, Island Center.

Dec. 26 - Main Village opens.

Dec. 27 - Soca Monarch Finals, 8 p.m., Carnival Village.

Dec. 29 - Cultural Night, 8 p.m., Carnival Village.

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St. Thomas deputy elections supervisor's paid leave runs out after 4 months

ST. THOMAS - The St. Thomas-St. John District Board of Elections met Thursday, but spent the majority of the meeting discussing personnel and legal matters behind closed doors.

Board chairman Arturo Watlington Jr. said the board made a number of decisions in executive session.

The board voted to recommend to Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes that she inform Deputy Supervisor Nefrediezha Barbel that Barbel has exhausted all of her sick leave, annual leave and comp time and is on leave without pay as of Nov. 25.

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St. Croix Elections Board will resume recount today; court hearing concerning Hansen pushed to next week

ST. CROIX - While the St. Croix District Board of Elections and Sen. Alicia Hansen will have to wait until the middle of next week for a court decision about whether the recount of Hansen's votes is being done lawfully, the board issued a notice Thursday that they will resume counting today at 9 a.m.

The district board approved requests to recount votes for Hansen, Sen. Diane Capehart and Board of Elections candidate Epiphane Joseph, who each made unsuccessful bids for public office in last month's election.

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Next Generation Network giving 240 laptops away to digital literacy students

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Next Generation Network is giving away 240 brand new laptop computers, just in time for the holidays.

At a regular board meeting Thursday, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kevin Hughes told board members that before they closed out the Sustainable Broadband Adoption grant, they were going to give away 240 computers to people who completed the digital literacy course.

Also at Thursday's meeting, V.I. Next Generation Network President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Kupfer said the network has signed 11 local Internet Service Providers - or ISPs - including the three major providers: Innovative, Choice and Broadband V.I.

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'Six-pack' legislation headed to Obama's desk

A measure designed to reinvigorate the territory's marine industry is headed to the president's desk for approval - the final step in what has been a very long process.

The measure would allow charters carrying up to 12 passengers to be exempt from having to pass stringent U.S. Coast Guard inspections. Instead, the vessels would have to meet inspection standards currently in place in the British Virgin Islands.

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V.I. Fire Service battles blaze in Estate Bolongo

ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Fire Service responded to a structure fire Thursday night in the area of the Watergate Condos in Estate Bolongo.

The police web blotter - a listing of the times and nature of calls to emergency dispatchers - showed two separate calls of a structure fire, one made at 8:42 p.m. and the second made at 9:03 p.m.

As of press time this morning, Fire Service Assistant Director Daryl George said firefighters still were fighting the blaze.

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St. Croix woman charged with stabbing man multiple times

ST. CROIX - Police arrested a Frederiksted woman Wednesday after they said she stabbed a man multiple times.

Desiree Smith, 51, of Estate Whim appeared before Magistrate Jessica Gallivan on Thursday morning to be advised of her rights on charges of third-degree assault and possession of a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence.

Prosecutors initially had charged Smith with first-degree assault, but defense attorney Yolan Brow-Ross challenged the police report, saying that probable cause did not exist for the more serious crime.

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St. Thomas man gets 3 years for carjacking

ST. THOMAS - A St. Thomas man was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison Thursday for carjacking.

In April, Orville Williams pleaded guilty to carjacking a couple's vehicle in December 2013 near the Home Depot off Weymouth Rhymer Highway on St. Thomas.

At the time, he pleaded guilty to only one of the charges against him - carjacking. All other charges were dismissed, including first-degree robbery; first-degree assault; grand larceny; using a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence; unauthorized use of a vehicle; and possession of a stolen vehicle.

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Crucian Christmas Carnival ramps up this weekend

ST. CROIX - The Crucian Christmas Carnival shifts into high gear this weekend with a number of the Carnival's highly anticipated events taking place.

This year's festival theme is "A Majestic Scene for Crucian Carnival 2014-2015," and as the days draw closer for the highlighted events, Carnival President Davidson Charlemagne said he is expecting a great crowd.

As the celebration moves into its 62nd year, it continues to grow and will keep the island on the global market radar, he said.

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Christmas Carnival schedule

Friday - Soca Monarch Preliminaries, 9 p.m., Christiansted Boardwalk.

Saturday - Christiansted J'ouvert, 5 a.m., Bassin Triangle.

Sunday - Carnival Princess Show, 3 p.m., Island Center.

Sunday - Calypso Monarch Eliminations, 8 p.m., Gertrude's Restaurant.

Dec. 21 - Carnival Queen Pageant, Island Center.

Dec. 26 - Main Village opens.

Dec. 27 - Soca Monarch Finals, 8 p.m., Carnival Village.

Dec. 29 - Cultural Night, 8 p.m., Carnival Village.

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