I will be unable to do the daily news tomorrow, Thursday morning August 25. I will return on Friday morning.
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Specials and Events
Last night's TV news on Channel 7, Channel 5, LOVETV, PGTV, West Vision (Cayo) and CTV 3. Also with the most recent Open Your Eyes, Rise and Shine Morning Show, and the Dickie Bradley Specials
The San Pedro Sun
Tropic Air donates to Rotary Club of Placencia
Tropic Air, The Airline of Belize, has announced the July results of its 2016 nationwide #TropicGivesBack fundraising campaign. For every ticket bought at the month’s selected station, $1 is donated to an organization chosen by our staff stationed in that community. July was the chosen month for Placencia, with Belize City Municipal coming in August.
As part of the airline’s largest charitable fundraiser of the year, Tropic Air business partners, staff and Customers joined efforts and raised $450 for “Seniors Sitting Together”, a program of the Rotary Club of Placencia. A check was presented to Jim Weller, Acting President of the Club on Tuesday, August 16th.
NEMO Issues Flood Advisory for Southern Belize
While central and northern Belize is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Earl, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) yesterday issued a flood advisory for Southern Belize.
NEMO informs that Southern Belize, in particular the Toledo District, is experiencing flooding. Jacintoville is currently under flood conditions. Aguactae village is inaccessible and water is 15ft above the bridge. Other villages along the Moho River must closely monitor the flood situation and take the necessary precautions. Other villages in the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts must be on alert for flooding.
Misc Belizean Sources
National Evangelical Association of Belize convene a protest
Scenes from the assembled crowd outside the Assembly Building in Belmopan as Evangelical leaders protest the recent decision on Section 53.
Firefighters cross-training with the Puerto Rico National Guard
Last week Ambassador Moreno joined more than 60 firefighters from across Belize in Ladyville to witness cross-training with the Puerto Rico National Guard. During the exchange firefighters utilized the almost BZ$1.2 million dollars’ worth of fire fighter equipment that was donated by the US Southern Command through the Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP) last year. Over 200 pieces of personal protective gear, 80 breathing apparatus replacement cylinders, 12 heavy Duty Rescue saws, 14 combustible gas detectors, 6 vehicle stabilization kits, 5 transportable pumps and 40 hand held radios were provided to the Belize National Fire Service.
Last week’s exchange represented the second phase of that firefighter project where members of the Puerto Rican National Guard were able to provide their expertise on best practices and procedures to use the equipment with Belizean firefighters from every fire station in Belize. The information exchange allowed the local fire departments to improve their ability to respond to large scale fires, fire threats, and road traffic accidents.
Banana Bank Horse Camp 2016
Banana Bank Lodge has finished another successful Summer Horse Camp. The kids, and the horses, had a fun time. Thanks, Banana Bank!
"Every year we have a Family Horse Camp and this year was no exception to the fun-filled adventures at Horse Camp. This year we held camp from July 27th - August 1st and the weather could not have been better - ehem fortunately missing hurricane Earl that started 3 days later."
Zack & Kiki's First Big Adventure at Belize Bird Rescue
62 copies of Zack & Kiki's First Big Adventure: The Great Escape have just arrived at BBR! We are so excited to finally have them on hand in Belize, many people who have visited wished they could buy one and have it signed and had to "make do" with Amazon instead. A great story for all ages about two baby Red-Lored Amazons in the Belize wild. Get your copy when you visit or buy it on Amazon now! Available now at BBR and Corkers Restaurant in Belmopan for $30 ($15 US) and more outlets soon to be. Signed copies by request.
American Sex Offender George Stephen Cunningham in Belize Police Custody
George Stephen Cunningham, 51, American from Delaware, Ohio was arrested on Friday night in Belize City after his boat ran aground off the City's coast.
Coast guard came to his rescue and took him into custody after they learnt his identity and background. A warrant has been issued by his home state for his return.
No word on when Cunningham arrived in Belize and whether he violated anyone there. He was convicted in Delaware for "Gross Sexual Imposition, Victim Under 13, (attempted)sexual Motivation Conviction Date:15 September 2015"
BELIZE FISHING REPORT: August 14th – 20th, 2016
Adam Marton and this tarpon tagging expedition has become an annual event here at El Pescador. Adam brings a skilled group of Anglers to Belize each summer to satellite tag adult migratory tarpon (fish that are 80 pounds or more are sure to be sexually mature) This is in an effort to save tarpon throughout the world and especially Belize. We do not have any idea where our migratory tarpon are migrating to or from! Tarpon are in decline worldwide and Adam has taken on the cause full force. I personally thank him for this efforts and I am humbled by the time and energy he donates to this cause. The Silver Kings TV show also took up residence here for a few days of permit and tarpon fishing. Look for a couple episodes coming your way soon!
Chosen to Carry the Canadian Host organization's Flag, young Belizean Girl Sailor Excels in International Regatta
In a gracious salute to Belize for participating in Canadian Regattas for the very first time, the host organization (CORK - Canadian Olympic Regattas, Kingston) chose Blanca Velasquez, 16, a Laser sailor from San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, (Belize) to be its standard bearer at the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Sail Canada International Youth Championship Regattas in Kingston, Ontario, August 14th (PHOTO 1). Arrangements for Blanca and another San Pedrana, Sarah White, 16, to enter the regatta were made by San Pedro's Belize Sailing School.
In the regatta itself, Blanca (PHOTO 2) fought her way through the qualifiers to become one of only 7 girls out of the 38 girls entered to advance to the Gold fleet (the top third of 146 international entrants). And she was the only foreigner among the Gold fleet girls; the others were all Canadians desperate to show that they are worthy of selection to the highly competitive Canadian international team and qualify for Worlds.
Seventeen (17) New Persons now Equipped to Take Care of the Elderly
The Belize Training and Employment Centre (BTEC), a unit of BELTRAIDE, is Belize’s leading centre for industry specific workforce development, providing effective, demand driven, user-friendly and value based programs that will develop, deliver and sustain a quality work force. Its’ mission is to develop a cadre of well-trained, marketable and self-sufficient individuals able to confidently compete in the marketplace.
In keeping with its mandate, seventeen persons, who are employed or seeking employment as caregivers in homes of the elderly or in assisted living facilities, were certified by BTEC on August 23, 2016. The brief ceremony, which was held at the Belize Training and Employment Centre (BTEC) on the ITVET Compound, Freetown Road, Belize City; signalled the end of 5 weeks of training and internship.
Training began on 18th July 2016 and was conducted by BTEC in collaboration with PAHO/WHO, the Ministry of Health, the National Council on Ageing, and with Sister Cecilia Home for the Elderly.
MEET THE WINNER OF THE SEPTEMBER CELEBRATIONS THEME!
The National Celebrations Commission is pleased to announce that the winner of the competition to select the September theme received her prize today, August 23.
Mrs. Argelia Mendoza Ken is a teacher and counselor at the Belize High School of Agriculture in the Orange Walk District. Hon. Elodio Aragon, Jr., Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, will acknowledge her contribution and award
her a check for $1,000.
This award usually takes place at St. George’s Caye during the official September Celebrations Launch ceremony. However, due to damages from Hurricane Earl, that ceremony will not take place this year. Instead, Minister Aragon made an address, which will be broadcast nationwide.
BELIZE DEFENCE FORCE PISTOL COMPETITION
The Belize Defence Force hereby informs the general public and in particular Pistol Clubs, that its Annual Pistol Competition will be held on Saturday 3rd September 2016, at the Hattieville Range next to the Kolbe Foundation. Registration for the competition will commence at 0700 hrs and conclude at 0800 hrs, however pre-registration can be done by contacting Major Ismael Romero at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or by cell 620-5510 or office 225-4889.
Members of the media are invited to cover this Competition. For further information contact Lt Col Louis Sutherland, Chief of Staff at 634-7226 or 225-3584
Ground-breaking Ceremony to officially commence the construction of a new Grace Primary School Extension in Belize City
Was held at the new school’s site on Fabers Road, Collet Division on Wednesday August 17, 2016.
The Government of Belize in recognition of the critical role of education for social, economic, cultural, environmental and political development by way of empowering future leaders with knowledge, skills and values to enhance Belize’s socio-economic development; is funding the construction of a new Grace Primary School Extension at an estimated cost of $562,300.00 courtesy of a loan from Caribbean Development Bank with counterpart funding from Government.
Belize Social Investment Fund is an implementing agency of the Government of Belize and is collaborating with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports for the implementation of this school project as part of its mandate to work in line with the Government’s strategy to address the basic needs of Belizeans in the areas of education, water, sanitation, health, human development and social transformation etc.
Rotaract School Bag Drive
The Rotaract Club of Belmopan had a very successful first School Bag Drive. Thanks, Rotaract!
"The Rotaract Club of Belmopan completed their first annually bag drive project. Thanking our sponsor Social Security Board for their kind and generous donations! "
Benque September Celebrations Calendar Launch
Benque is having their September Celebrations Calendar Launch next Saturday, September 3rd, at the Benque Market Plaza.
"September celebrations is around the corner! Join us for our official launch on September 3rd! "
General: 13 Year Old Was Not Killed By BDF Weapon. General Says OAS Report Will Vindicate His Army
Last night, we told you that the independent OAS team of experts has completed their investigation into the fatal shooting of 13 year-old Guatemalan Julio Ruano. That's the shooting which happened in April of this year inside the Cebada area of the Chiquibul Forest, which caused the Guatemalan President and his senior diplomats to accuse the BDF soldiers of murder and human rights violations.
A press release from the Government of Belize said that the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, would be making a statement on it, but up to news time this tonight, no such comment has been forthcoming. They did tweet these photographs of a meeting between Almagro, OAS Adjacency Zone official Magdalena Talamas (prounounced Tala Mas), the Belizean delegation; Ambassadors Pat Andrews and Alexis Rosado; the Guatemalan delegation, and representatives of the International Group of Friendly Countries.
So, tonight, we still don't know what the investigation from the forensics experts says, but BDF Commander David Jones told us this evening, that he confident that it will vindicate his soldiers who came under fire that night in the Chiquibul. Here's what he had to say about his suspicions of where the fatal gunshot came from:
Christians March Against Section 53 Judgment, GOB Non-Appeal
Last night, we told you about how the evangelists were preparing to stage a protest on the steps of the National Assembly Building. They're trying to bring public pressure against the Barrow Government to force them to re-consider their decision not to appeal the Chief Justice's ruling to decriminalize gay sex.
It happened today, and our 7News team was right there to watch it all unfold. Daniel Ortiz was also there to challenge them on their continued attempts to resist the ruling. Here's his report:
Daniel Ortiz reporting:
Hundreds of Evangelists assembled at the foot of the National Assembly Building to show what they claim is just a breath of the full might of their discontent.
There were moments which resembled the religious leaders delivering powerful sermons from the pulpit, and at times, it looked like a church crusade had taken up residence on Independence Hill.
Stirm: Church Leading, Not Misleading
While we had the opportunity today, we asked Pastor Scott Stirm about the suggestion that leaders within the church are misleading their congregations to create a false sense of urgency that the ruling is the first step toward same-sex marriage.
Last week, the Prime Minister himself took a few questions from the pastors who challenged him that indeed the ruling paves the way in that direction, which conservatives say is the final plan in the LGBT agenda. The Prime Minister firmly rejected that, and when we asked the Attorney General that question once again yesterday she maintained the same position.
So, today we asked Stirm if he and the other church leaders who insist that the ruling opens the door to other gay rights challenges are simply misrepresenting the facts. He told us that the leaders of the National Evangelical Association of Belize has gotten numerous legal opinions to back their assertion, and so they firmly believe that they are not misinforming anyone:
The Auditor General's Report: The Visa Hustle
The Citizen Kim scandal broke three years ago in September of 2013, and since then we have learnt many despairing details about how the Immigration and Nationality Department was run like a flea market by public officers, politicians, party cronies, and passport and visa peddlers of all types and backgrounds. Well, tonight, the wider picture is just becoming apparent, and it's like a horror movie, that's so scary, you just can't look away. The long delayed Auditor General Special Audits into the issuances of passports and visas between 2011 and 2013 will be tabled in the House of Representatives on Friday and members received copies last week. It's two documents, the first on passports is well over 200 pages, and the other on visas is about 150 pages. We've been poring over the documents all day, and tonight we can share a few initial details.
Aragon: Tough Time For UDP
So, right now, with all this breaking, it's a tough time to be a member of the ruling UDP, especially for those young politicians who are at the beginning of their career. The Barrow Administration is lurching from one scandal to the next, having only being given a small ease from the William Danny Mason saga.
So, what does what Orange Walk East Representative think about the Auditor General's reports? That's what we asked him today, and here's how he responded:
"It would be a very tough time to be affiliated with the UDP Government. Are you prepared for that?"
Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr., Minister of State, Youth, Culture & Sports:
"First and foremost I am a representative of the people of Orange Walk East Division and I've been given this opportunity to serve them as a representative in the House of Representatives and thus a part of the United Democratic Party in government and I will continue to do that. I don't see any issues that are there. I was not there in terms of that, so I don't see it as an issue. Of course there are issues out there and I think those are being addressed as best as they can by the government."
Workshop On Inner City Violence
In June we told you about the launch of Dr. Herbert Gayle's book entitled "Like Bush Fire". The book explores the topic of violence and what fuels it among young people. Well, Dr. Gayle wants the youth advocates, counselors and leaders to put the content of this book and his research to practice. Today was the start of a 3 day training that focuses on a number of relevant topics dealing with crime and violence in Belize. Dr. Gayle explained why this training is crucial to the future of Belizean youth and those who interact with them:
The workshop ends on Thursday.
Educating Caregivers For The Elderly
Today 17 persons graduated from a 5 week care giving course. The main objective was to train those who are interested in caring for the elderly. It was about ensuring these care givers understand what to do with an elderly, how to meet their basic needs and why it is important to properly care for them. We spoke to the coordinator and she told us more about the course.
17 people graduated today.
Investing In Chiquibul
The Chiquibul Forest, its 423 thousand acres make up almost 8% of Belize's territory - but as we've shown you many times on this newscast - it's abundant protected areas are almost a magnet for Guatemalan farmers who have run out of arable land in their own country, and for Guatemalan poachers who press into`the Chiquibul to steal Xate, timber, gold and wildlife.
Well now the effort to protect the Chiquibul is getting a major boost form the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development. It's called the Chiquibul Forests Investment Initiative - which was launched this afternoon at the Biltmore. Minister Omar Figueroa outlined the broad strokes of the effort:..
The two and a half hour launch finished this evening - and we'll tell you more about the details in tomorrow's news.
September Theme-Maker Honoured
The September CELEBRAITON SEASON is starting, and this year, theme is "Sovereign and Strong - Together as one!".
The person who penned that theme and handed it over to NICH is Argelia Mendoza Ken, who's a teacher and counselor at the Belize High School of Agriculture in the Orange Walk District.
So, to make sure that she does not go down as just a footnote in the September Celebrations, NICH and Minister of Culture Elodio Aragon, awardED her with a cheque for $1,000 and an opportunity to meet the press.
Today, Aragon told us that he was happy to recognize her public, especially because she is a fellow Suga City resident:
This year is also Aragon's first time as co-chair of the September Celebrations Commission, and told us what Belizeans can look forward to on this year's calendar:
Eric Chang Worked Hard For Citizen Kim
Eric Chang - he's the former Belize City Councillor who seemed to have been the intermediary between Wong Hong Kim, or Citizen Kim and former Minister of State Elvin Penner. Penner got the passport fast tracked in Belize, and Chang - it seems - was the man who was to grease the wheels for Kim in Taiwan. At the time, Kim was in a Taiwanese jail - awaiting - and desperately trying to avoid - extradition to South Korea. He wanted the entirely fraudulent Belizean passport to use as a sort of get out of jail card.
Now, the auditor general's report on passport irregularities shows the extent of Chang's machinations to get Citizen Kim freed.
The report details this in an email from the then Belize Ambassador to Taiwan Cherie Nisbet who says that she got an urgent call from Chang in mid-September 2013. Chang reportedly told her he needed two urgent visas to Belize for two South Korean nationals who needed to go to Belize the next day. Nisbet said she needed all the details before she could help anyone. Chang - she claims - could not explain the emergency and said he may have to call a minister in Belize to issue visas upon arrival.
Christian Pastors Protest Section 53 Change on Independence Hill
Independence Hill on Belmopan felt the wrath and fury of the evangelical movement this morning. About a thousand strong, protesters from all over the country came out against the recent [...]
COLA: “Government Has Washed its Hands like Pontius Pilate”
Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, COLA, shares the same position that the Church has taken where it concerns the preservation of Section Fifty-three of the Criminal Code. While the [...]
COLA President Demands That Maya People Be Respected Too
Interestingly, Brackett makes the comparison that government has moved with haste to state that it will not appeal the Section Fifty-three judgment, while it has gone to great pains in [...]
1000 Marched; But Was Anybody Listening?
There was no weekly Cabinet meeting today since Prime Minister Barrow is presently out of the country. In fact, all was quiet on Independence Hill this morning, save for a [...]
Do You Believe the Ruling on Section 53 Should Be Appealed?
And tonight’s question is: Do you believe the ruling on Section Fifty-three should be appealed? Send your comments and responses using your SMART phones to 8686 or post your vote [...]
News Five’s First Look at the Special Audit Report on Nationality
The Special Audit Report on Nationality at the Immigration and Nationality Department, 2011-2013, to be laid at the House of Representatives this coming Friday. The audit was concluded three years [...]
Immigration Officials Got Sloppy with Passport Documents
In the following report, News Five Duane Moody zeros in on specific cases of persons provided with passports without the requirements. It is a sorry state of affairs that stinks [...]
No Word As Yet on Independent Investigation of Shooting Death in Chiquibul
The report from the O.A.S. on the shooting death of Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano is highly anticipated and up to news time, the C.E.O. in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, [...]
American Sex Offender Captured off Belize Coast
There’s another revolting report…Police made a significant arrest last Friday which has landed U.S. Sex Offender George Stephen Cunningham in police custody. Fifty-one year old Cunningham, from Delaware, Ohio was [...]
Minister of State for Culture Comments on Immigration Audit Reports
We have been reporting on the Auditor General’s trio of reports on the Immigration and Nationality Service between April of 2011 and September of 2013. They contain hard-to-swallow truths about [...]
Nearly $16 Million to be Spent on Chiquibul Forest
Nearly sixteen million dollars will be spent over the next two years in what the Government is calling its most significant investment to date in the endangered Chiquibul forest and [...]
F.C.D. Has Ambitious Plans for its Portion
Rafael Manzanero, the executive director of F.C.D., welcomes the resources as his organization and its Guatemalan partner, Asociacion BALAM continue to fight illegal Guatemalan incursions for land and natural resources. [...]
Dr. Herbert Gayle Trains Frontline Workers in Fighting Violence
Anthropologist Doctor Herbert Gayle is currently in the country. Along with a team, he is providing training to youths to equip them with the skills to effectively fight and reduce [...]
Caregivers for Older Persons Graduate Training
A caregiver provides three levels of care: preventative, assistive and educational care. They are the bridge between older persons and society and often times recommend interventions to make life better [...]
Argelia Ken Collects Prize for September Celebrations Theme
This afternoon, the National Institute of Culture and History presented the winner of the theme competition for the September Celebrations with a cheque for one thousand dollars. Orange Walk teacher [...]
Why Theme is Appropriate, According to Culture Minister
Co-Chair of the National Celebrations Commission and Culture Minister Elodio Aragon Junior, like Ken, hails from Orange Walk. He told us the theme is apt for this year’s festivities. [...]
OAS Allegedly Rules BDF Not Responsible For The Death Of Guatemalan National
During an interview with the media last week, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that the independent investigation into the death of 13 year old Guatemalan, Julio Alvarado, who was shot and killed in the Cebada area of the Chiquibul forest reserve, allegedly by members of the BDF, was about to conclude. Following the incident Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales and Foreign Minister, Raul Carlos Morales launched an aggressive campaign against the BDF in which they accused them of behaving inhumane and unprofessional. We can report tonight that the investigation has been concluded and unofficial reports reaching our news station is that the findings of the probe vindicates our soldiers. While the report has not become available there are very credible reports that point out that the BDF are not responsible for the death of the Guatemalan minor. We are awaiting the official release from the OAS which reportedly should have been released today.
Sex Offender Caught In Belize
Fifty one year old US national and resident of Delaware, Ohio, George Stephen Cunningham, is tonight in custody of authorities from the Belize Police Department after his boat ran aground off the city’s coast on Friday night. Reports indicate that at the time of the incident, members of the Belize Coast Guard responded to his aid but after learning Cunningham’s identity he was handed over to police where he was detained thereafter.
Back in his hometown, Cunningham had been indicted November 10th, 2014 on four counts of first degree rape charges against a nine year old minor which he pleaded not guilty to all charges. However, in October of 2015, Cunningham returned to court where he pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted gross sexual imposition so as to avoid facing a jury trial on the previous four rape charges, and a result was sentenced to eighteen months in prison.
Hundreds Demonstrates In Belmopan Against Section 53
Earlier today some 800 hundred religious leaders and members of the National Evangelical Association of Belize convened a protest at the foot of the National Assembly Building in Belmopan, demonstrating against the recent decision taken by the Supreme Court to strike down Section 53 of Belize's criminal code and the Government of Belize’s decision not to appeal. Concern Citizens - Demonstrators: “I came out here to support the church and stand by what the bible says and no turning back.” Reporter: “So you are one of those persons who would like to see the ruling of the Chief Justice appealed?” Concern Citizens - Demonstrators: “Yeah for sure, 100%”
PUP Southern Caucus Joins NEAB In Demonstration
As previously mentioned, members of the PUP Southern caucus were present in this morning’s protest in Belmopan, which was carried out by members of the Evangelical community in demonstration of the Section 53 ruling which overturned Belize’s sodomy law. But this stance is in contrary to previous statements made by the Opposition Leader, Honorable John Briceño in which he accepted the Court’s decision. In an official release, the party leader had gone as far as to say that it supports the Church’s decision to appeal but he did not call on the Government to appeal the order of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. Ministers who were present during the protest today were questioned about the official stand of the party.
Honorable Mike Espat – Southern Caucus Representative: “The Party Leader has its own opinion just like everybody else and they are free to share their opinion and that is the way they feel we are just telling you that the Southern caucus is present her today is not supporting this we all members of the People’s United Party and I believe that we can put our heads together and think this out properly.”
Explosive Findings In Auditors General' Report
Explosive – that’s how we can best describe the findings in the three-part special audit carried out by the Auditor General’s office into the Immigration and Nationality Departments. We continue to carry out our own thorough review of the document, and tonight we can report on something else that has caught our eyes.
According to Auditor General Dorothy Bradley, while the audit was initially supposed to have been carried out on the Visa Section only, due to the mountain of irregularities the investigation was expanded to cover the National and Passport Sections. And apparently, there is more than enough reason for this decision. According to one of the findings, there were 55,579 cases of approved passports that did not have the required biometric checks during the period August 2011 to September 2013. This is the finger-print and eye scan which are now requirements of passport applications.