Louisville Film Society to host annual Oscar Watch Party

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‘And the winner is …’ It’s time to start making your Oscar night plans, Louisville


Kirby Adams


Louisville Courier Journal
Published 10:48 AM EST Jan 7, 2020

The 77th Golden Globes on Sunday night kicked off the 2020 season of entertainment awards shows. Now, with that glittery and booze-soaked celebration fading in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward to February to the opulence of the 92nd Academy Awards. 

Who will win the golden Oscar for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Picture and Director? Find out the answer to these Academy Awards night nail-biters in the company of friends, new and old, at the seventh annual Oscar Watch Party presented by Louisville Film Society Feb. 9.

With a little over one month to go before the famous words “and the winner is” are heard around the world, the Louisville Film Society is hosting its own award-worthy Oscar Watch Party at Rabbit Hole Distillery in NuLu at 711 E. Jefferson St.

Guests are invited dress to dazzle and walk the red carpet starting at 7 p.m. then join the fun and festivities. Christine Fellingham (Louisville Magazine) and I will again serve as Masters of Ceremony and will welcome guests on the red carpet before the live broadcast begins at 8 p.m. Multiple large-screen TVs will be placed throughout Rabbit Hole to view the awards streaming live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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And even though this is a party, don’t worry if you’re a “serious” Oscar viewer. There will be a special designated area for serious Oscar watchers set in the active distillery.

Throughout the broadcast, you’ll enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts and a full open bar, including custom cocktails designed by Rabbit Hole, all served in an ambiance reflecting the glamour of Hollywood’s biggest night. 

Be sure to bring extra cash to test your skill at predicting the winners in a $250 ballot competition. Plus, there will be raffles and a silent auction with film-related items and more.

Tickets to Louisville Film Society’s Oscar Watch Party are $100, which includes a one-year $50 Louisville Film Society membership. They may be purchased at louisvillefilmsociety.org.

The Louisville Film Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources and support to local filmmakers as well as enriching the Louisville community through exposure to engaging and innovative films and cinematic programming. The Oscar Watch Party is the organization’s primary membership drive and fundraiser helping to support the organization’s programming and operations throughout the year.

For more information, contact Nancy Tafel at nancy@louisvillefilmsociety.org or 502-593-1243.

Oscars 2020: Here are the films and actors leading the race

 Reach Kirby Adams at kadams@courier-journal.com or Twitter @kirbylouisville. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/kirbya.

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Olympic officials shoot down cancellation rumours amid coronavirus outbreak | Stuff.co.nz

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Tokyo Olympic organisers are trying to shoot down rumours that this year’s 2020 Games might be cancelled or postponed because of the spread of a new virus.

Japan has so far reported no deaths from the coronavirus that has killed more than 200 people in China. Japanese organisers have hesitated to say much for several days, but on Friday they addressed the rumours. So did the International Olympic Committee, which also has said little.

Olympic organisers have finally addressed rumours that the Tokyo Games could be cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The Olympics open on July 24, just under six months away.

“We have never discussed cancelling the games,” Tokyo organisers said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the IOC and relevant organisations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary.”

READ MORE:
* Coronavirus: How does NZ compare? 

* Coronavirus dooms Winter X Games 
* McCaw understands Olympics pressure 

Rumours of a cancellation have spread in Japan with reports that the Swiss-based IOC has met with the World Health Organisation about the outbreak. The WHO has called the virus a global emergency.

“Preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue as planned,” the IOC said in a statement. “It is normal practice for the IOC to collaborate with all the main UN agencies, as necessary, in the lead up to the games and this naturally includes the WHO.”

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, speaking earlier in the week to the heads of 62 municipalities, warned about the dangers. Japan has also urged citizens not to travel to China.

“We must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it,” she said.

Rumours have spread online with thousands of comments on Twitter under the hashtag in Japanese “Tokyo Olympic Cancelled”.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, is pressing ahead with the construction of two purpose-built hospitals.

The IOC has faced challenges like this before, and carries insurance for such possibilities. It has cancelled Olympics during wartime, and faced boycotts in 1980 and 1984. It also held the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City just months after the 9-11 attacks in the United States.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus also cast a shadow over the run-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The larger problem for the Olympics could come with qualifying events in China and elsewhere being cancelled or postponed. International federations will have to reschedule events and Chinese athletes could present extra challenges and screening.

World Athletics, the governing body of track and field, announced earlier in the week it was postponing the world indoor championships in Nanjing, China, until next year. The event had been scheduled for March 13-15.

Travel, screening and allaying fears are certain to be more complicated if the outbreak continues. The 11,000 athletes expected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics will also face pressure to stay safe.

Sponsors and television networks who have invested billions of dollars will also try to keep the games on track.

Demand for Olympic tickets in Japan is unprecedented, exceeding supply by at least 10 times. Organisers say 7.8 million tickets are being issued for the Olympics.

Organisers say they are spending about US$12.6 billion to put on the games. But a national audit bureau says the costs are twice that much.

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EXTRA: How single mum married her rug in bizarre wedding ceremony – TheCable Lifestyle

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Bekki Cocks, a 26-year-old casino worker, took a bold, albeit strange step in December 2019, when she tied the knot with ‘Mat’, an inanimate object — which turns out to be her “favourite rug.”

, the single mother of two’s marriage to ‘Mat’ follows her growing bond for the rug ever since she purchased it.

Bekki was then encouraged by her friends to marry the rug after she had on “several occasions” told them how “obsessed” she was with ‘Mat’.

“I bought Mat about a year ago and I’ve been banging on about how much I love him to anyone who will listen ever since,” she was quoted as saying.

“It became a bit of a thing with my friends who used to joke ‘if you love Mat so much why don’t you marry him?’. I spend so much time looking after him – cleaning him and vacuuming him a couple of times every day and making sure he always looks his very best – I couldn’t imagine being without him now.

“I am a little obsessed with Mat. When the kids are in bed, I’ll often just lie down with him and tell him my most private thoughts.

“I’m a single mum, so he’s become a confidant and I always seem to be able to think things through properly when we’ve been together. So, a few months ago when one of my friends said I should marry him, I said ‘I will then’.

“It started as a bit of fun but I soon started looking into a service and eventually it became something I was determined to go through with. I couldn’t be happier – I’m really looking forward to spending Christmas with Mat. I’ve also promised that while I might step on Mat from time to time, I won’t ever walk all over him.”

Single mum marries her rug! pic.twitter.com/gjvtQtJ5HT

— The Sun (@TheSun) December 7, 2019

Bekki, who was clad in a traditional all-white wedding dress during the intimate hour-long service, promised to love, honor and care for ‘Mat’ “till death us do part”.

The bizarre wedding ceremony took place at the Independent Fitters carpet store, close to Bekki’s home in Stockport in front of specially invited guests.

“We’re gathered here today in a special place to celebrate a very momentous day for Becky and her husband to be Mat. The love this two have for one another is rare and unique, and clearly, they have been swept off their feet since they met. Take this ring, wear it always and know that I rug you,” said the officiating priest.

“Mat we assume by your silence that you also feel the same. May every joy and happiness be yours, may your love wax stronger. I know present mr and mrs AD 20 Wool Twist. You may now hug the rug.”

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How to Promote a Flash Sale on Facebook and Instagram : Social Media Examiner

Do you run flash sales? Wondering how to promote your flash sale on social media?

In this article, you’ll discover how to promote short-term sales with organic posts and paid ads on Instagram and Facebook.

Why You Need a Different Approach for Promoting a Flash Sale

Everyone loves a flash sale. Limited-time offers and short-term sales can be effective ways to inject revenue into your online store, especially around prominent days in the marketing calendar.

Most flash sales last for 24 hours or less; therefore, the campaigns promoting them are also short-lived. Maximizing performance within such narrow timeframes requires a different campaign management approach than for longer campaigns.

Here’s how you can maximize your efforts to drive your campaigns further and make your ad spend work harder.

#1: Create a Facebook Event for Your Flash Sale

Creating a Facebook event for your flash sale allows you not only to add all of the important details about the event but also create organic reach by customers marking they’re “attending” or “interested.”

Additionally, Facebook’s algorithm is likely to show your event to people who might be interested as indicated by their social activity, which extends your reach even further.

More importantly, people who mark themselves as attending or interested will receive a notification about content or updates to the event and a reminder when the event is due to start.

Discover the best social media marketing strategies from the world’s top experts! Don’t miss this event!
SALE ENDS
January 7th!

#2: Run a Pre-Launch Reach Campaign With Ads on Instagram and Facebook

Running a promotion announcing your flash sale ensures potential customers will see it. Using paid ads on Facebook and Instagram is vital in today’s pay-to-play market. You’ll not only increase exposure and build conversation about your upcoming sale but also prime your Facebook pixel.

Priming your pixel means you’re warming up Facebook. If you build engagement and extend your reach before you launch your flash sale, Facebook will know exactly who’s ready to buy because of their activity and engagement in the run-up. You’ll be building a warm audience you can retarget (as discussed a little later).

In a nutshell, this initial priming—thanks to the pixel—will put your product in front of people who are already interested in the sale. With no extra cost to you, this will reduce CPA (cost per acquisition) and increase your ROAS (return on ad spend). This is a smart application of ad technology.

Here’s an example of an announcement ad for a flash sale:

Normally, when setting up Facebook ads for eCommerce, you would choose the Conversions objective because it’s likely to achieve the highest ROAS. It’s also training your pixel to go after the customer who’ll buy from you. In the process, it also allows Facebook to learn about your ideal customer.

This is great for people who are in the buying phase. When you run conversion ads, you’re effectively removing a piece of the pie; you’re going after quick wins with people who buy. But with flash sales, customers may look a little bit different. For instance, they may have thought about buying from you but were waiting for a sale, or they needed an added incentive to get them to cross the finish line.

When you’re promoting the flash sale in the run-up, you want to set up a Reach campaign. This will let you reach a larger audience and therefore more prospects.

To create this campaign, simply select Reach as your campaign objective. Target your ad to your following or a cold audience that may have similar product interests. To illustrate, if you own a children’s clothing store, you can target people who are parents or who have an interest in a similar brand.

#3: Count Down to the Sale With Organic Posts on Facebook and Instagram

About 5–7 days before your flash sale, begin sharing daily countdown posts on Facebook and Instagram. Plan your posts a few weeks in advance to give yourself time to think about how you’ll drive organic engagement. It’s a good idea to schedule your posts to avoid missing a day.

Create 5–7 posts that clearly call out your sale. Be sure to include the date and how many days there are to go, as in the example below:

When creating these posts, consider using engagement hooks such as “tag a friend who NEEDS to know about this sale,” or “Comment below with what you’re thinking of buying.” These are quick and easy ways to build your social engagement and organic reach. More importantly, you’re building a custom audience of people who have recently engaged with your page, which you can then retarget via your ad campaign on the day of your sale.

In addition to these feed posts, both Facebook stories and Instagram stories can provide more organic exposure. Alongside your countdown posts, share 2–3 daily story posts of your products. Include the flash sale reminder, date, and savings on featured products. Rather than simply sharing the sale discount, you’re contextualizing the discount on real products, helping customers visualize their savings.

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Sale ends Tuesday, January 7th, 2020.

Another way to use the Stories features to promote your flash sale is to share live content of yourself talking about your brand. This can work if you’re the face of your brand, or as a way to introduce yourself as the face behind the brand. You could also ask your employees to share their excitement about your sale.

Describe to your audience how this is your biggest sale yet, and how you’re excited to offer customers this opportunity to buy the products they’ve had their eye on for a while. You’ll be generating buzz about your sale and connecting with your customers. Giving a sneak peek into who you are and why you’re doing this is a fantastic way to build a relationship with audience members.

#4: Run Instagram and Facebook Ads via a Conversions Campaign on the Day of Your Flash Sale

When you’re ready to go live with your flash sale, I recommend setting it up as a Conversions campaign. By running a Conversions campaign, you’re telling Facebook you want conversions. Don’t run your campaign for adds to carts, landing page views, engagement, and so on, because this is what Facebook will deliver.

Set Your Budget

For campaigns that run for less than 24 hours, I recommend using a lifetime budget for the best results. To do this, toggle Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) on and select Lifetime Budget from the drop-down menu.

Alternatively, you can edit this in the Budget & Schedule section at the ad set level.

Lifetime Budget is the most sensible setting. If you were to use a daily budget for a 6-hour campaign, Facebook wouldn’t spend more than 25% (6 ÷ 24) of the budget you specified so you’d have to take that into account.

More importantly, Facebook’s pacing algorithm (which optimizes delivery to get the best results available for your budget) isn’t designed to optimize daily budgets for shorter periods.

Target Ads to Your Warm Audiences

Once you’ve set up your campaign, you can create a number of ad sets to test your audience success rate and measure which audience targeting performed best.

Because you’ve been running your flash sale warm-up campaign, you can now set up several ad sets targeting different audiences. These should include:

If you set up your naming conventions correctly (as in the example below), you should instantly be able to see which ad set is performing best.

Choose Accelerated Delivery

Keep in mind that Facebook’s pacing algorithm can take some time to calibrate itself in the beginning. This clearly isn’t ideal if you want your campaign to start with a bang. In this case, use Accelerated Delivery. Selecting this option will disable the pacing algorithm altogether and enter you into as many auctions as possible.

Be careful, though; while this improves delivery and helps to gather data, it can also drive up costs. It might even spend your entire budget before the campaign is over.

You should always have a plan for monitoring results and reacting appropriately in various scenarios.

Some businesses choose to announce flash sales on the day of the sale. On its face, this approach seems to make sense. However, announcing the sale at least 1 week before will give you sufficient time to generate buzz around the offering.

Start by creating an event on Facebook and encouraging your audience to like, share, and comment. Also post organic content through a series of countdown posts and share Facebook and Instagram stories talking about what will be offered in the flash sale and emphasizing that stock levels are limited.

You’ll then want to run a pre-launch ad to promote your flash sale to your following or a cold audience that may have similar product interests.

Finally, on the day of the launch, run an ad for the duration of your flash sale using the optimization techniques discussed above.

Remember that your pre-launch efforts will frame your flash sale launch. If you nail the pre-launch, you’ll have your customers primed and ready for your sale. This will dramatically increase your conversion rate and you’ll see a much higher success rate.

Discover the latest tactics and master social media marketing in 2020! Don’t miss this event!
SALE ENDS
January 7th!

What do you think? Will you follow this plan to promote your next flash sale on Facebook and Instagram? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Breakout prospects for 2020 | MLB.com

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Every organization takes pride in its ability to identify and develop talent. We’re the same way at MLB Pipeline, especially when it comes to predicting future breakout prospects.

Looking at last year’s list of breakout candidates, we see many examples of players who realized their potential en route to becoming some of the sport’s premier prospects. White Sox outfielder Luis Robert shot up from No. 44 to No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list thanks to a 32-homer, 36-steal campaign across three levels, while Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearson, another three-level climber in ‘19, ascended from No. 90 to No. 10.

With the start of the 2020 season around the corner, MLB Pipeline once again is picking one breakout candidate from each organization. And while some of the names on this year’s list might be more recognizable than others, they all have the potential to jump on the scene during the upcoming season and establish themselves as can’t-miss prospects.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP (No. 6) — The Mets’ second-round pick from the 2018 Draft pitched better than his numbers suggest he did at Class A Columbia, and he made six impressive starts for Class A Advanced Dunedin after joining the Blue Jays in the Marcus Stroman Trade Deadline deal to finish his first full season with a 126/24 K/BB and .238 BAA in 106 2/3 innings. The 19-year-old righty is a high-ceiling pitching prospect, armed with a plus fastball-curveball combo, an advanced changeup and a mature overall feel for his craft that could help him move quickly through the Minors.

Orioles: DL Hall, LHP (No. 3, MLB No. 60) — Baltimore’s 2017 first-rounder boasts some of the best pure stuff in the Minors among left-handed pitching prospects, with a plus fastball-breaking ball pairing and a promising changeup. Hall’s overall control, however, leaves much to be desired after the 21-year-old southpaw issued 6.0 BB/9 over 80 2/3 innings last season at Class A Advanced Frederick. The good news is that Hall has never had any issues missing bats (11.1 K/9 across his first 185 1/3 pro frames) and continues to be tough to barrel (.201 BAA), so it’s easy to envision him taking a step forward in 2020 with improved strike-throwing ability.

Rays: Shane Baz, RHP (No. 7, MLB No. 94) — Acquired from the Pirates as the PTBNL in the lopsided Chris Archer deal, Baz spent all of 2019 at Class A Bowling Green in the Midwest League, pitching to a 2.99 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 37 walks in 81 1/3 innings (17 starts). He was especially good down the stretch, too, posting a 2.22 ERA over his final six regular-season starts for the Hot Rods before turning in an eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League. With a fastball that can touch triple digits, a devastating slider and a raw but promising changeup, the 20-year-old right-hander could develop into a front-of-the-rotation force if he can improve his control and command.

Red Sox: Gilberto Jimenez, OF (No. 7) — A $10,000 steal from the Dominican Republic in 2017, Jimenez skipped a level last season and led the short-season New York-Penn League in batting (.359) in his U.S. debut. The best center-field defender and one of the fastest runners in Boston’s system, he’ll make the jump to full-season ball in 2020.

Yankees: Clarke Schmidt, RHP (No. 5) — Schmidt had Tommy John surgery as a South Carolina junior a month before New York made him a first-round pick in the 2017 Draft. Though he has been brought back slowly, taking that summer off and totaling 114 innings in 2018-19, he already has reached Double-A and shows the makings of four plus pitches.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: Aaron Bracho, 2B (No. 13) — Bracho’s advanced bat earned him a $1.5 million bonus out of Venezuela in 2017, but he didn’t make his pro debut until last season because he fractured his right arm in May 2018. A switch-hitter who possesses deceptive power and precocious command of the strike zone, he hit .296/.416/.593 in the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer.

Royals: Kyle Isbel, OF (No. 8) — The Royals were excited after Isbel’s exceptional pro debut after they took him in the third round of the 2018 Draft, but his 2019 season was interrupted by injuries and he played in just 59 games. He made up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League and should use his impressive .315/.429/.438 (leading the league in OBP) showing to catapult him to the upper levels of the system

Tigers: Parker Meadows, OF (No. 12) — The Tigers knew that Meadows — Rays outfielder Austin Meadows’ younger brother — would need time to develop when they selected the athletic prep outfielder in the second round of the 2017 Draft, and his .221/.296/.312 showing over 126 games at Class A West Michigan in his first full season only confirmed that assessment. However, the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder’s five-tool profile offers reason to be optimistic about his future, as all the raw qualities are in place for the 20-year-old to develop into an impact player.

Twins: Wander Javier, SS (No. 7) — While it’s true the Twins didn’t protect Javier on their 40-man roster this offseason, that was a relatively low-risk move given the shortstop hasn’t played above A ball. A torn labrum cost him the 2018 season and he struggled once he got to full-season ball for the first time in late May of 2019 (.177/.278/.323). But he still has tremendous tools, the ones the Twins saw when they gave him $4 million to sign in July 2015.

White Sox: Matthew Thompson, RHP (No. 13) — Before Chicago selected Thompson 45th overall last June, it had spent just two picks that early on high school pitchers in the previous 17 Drafts (Gio Gonzalez in 2004, Spencer Adams in 2013). Though he was inconsistent as a senior last spring, the White Sox love his athleticism and quick arm, which could result in a mid-90s fastball and plus curveball once he’s fully developed.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

A’s: Marcus Smith, OF (No. 30) — The Kansas City high schooler was a bit of a surprise third-round pick, one who wasn’t on our Draft Top 200 list in 2019, but he sure made the A’s look smart during his relatively brief pro debut in the Arizona League (.361/.466/.443 in 29 games). That advanced approach should serve him well and let him use his 70-grade speed to his advantage in his first full season of pro ball.

Angels: Jeremiah Jackson, SS/2B (No. 4) — He’s yet to reach full-season ball, but he set the stage for the jump by leading the Pioneer League in home runs and RBIs in 2019. He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts (33 percent rate), but he’ll also only be 20 for all of 2020, so there’s time for him to refine his approach and become a truly impactful middle infielder.

Astros: Jeremy Pena, SS/2B (No. 8) — The son of offensive-minded second baseman Geronimo Pena, Jeremy was one of the best defensive shortstops available in the college class of 2018, when Houston popped him in the third round out of Maine. His glove was as good as advertised in his first full pro season, when he exceeded expectations by batting .303/.385/.440 with 35 extra-base hits and 20 steals between two Class A levels.

Mariners: George Kirby, RHP (No. 6) — Kirby made a name for himself as a control artist at Elon University and parlayed that into being a first-round pick last June. He showed just how good that command was by not walking a single batter in 23 innings during his pro debut. Seen as a safe pick who could ride his pitchability quickly up a ladder, his first full season could show that he’s more than that, with the potential to join others from his class on our Top 100 in 2020.

Rangers: Cole Winn, RHP (No. 4) — One of the most polished high school pitchers in the 2018 Draft, Winn went 15th overall but struggled more than expected while being kept on a tight leash in his first full pro season in 2019. But he finished the year with a 2.81 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings over his final 12 starts, showing signs of a quality four-pitch mix once he dials in his command.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Bryce Ball, 1B — Ball spent two years in junior college before transferring to Dallas Baptist for his junior year. The Braves nabbed him in the 24th round of last June’s Draft after he hit .325/.443/.614 with 18 homers and then he hit 17 more combined in the Appalachian and South Atlantic Leagues during his pro debut. He might have the most power in the system and has already shown the ability to get to it.

Marlins: Braxton Garrett, LHP (No. 7) — The seventh overall pick in 2016, the Alabama high school product required Tommy John surgery after just four pro starts, costing him all of 2018. Garrett looked like his old self last season, pairing a low-90s fastball with a plus curveball in high Class A, and could move quickly in 2020 as he puts elbow reconstruction further behind him.

Mets: Francisco Alvarez, C (No. 5) — Alvarez’s $2.7 million bonus in July 2018 was one of the top totals handed out during the 2018-19 international period, and it wasn’t long thereafter that he began to receive rave reviews from those inside the organization. The Mets challenged Alvarez last summer in his pro debut, assigning him straight to the Rookie Gulf Coast League before a quick promotion to the Appalachian League, and the then-17-year-old backstop responded by slashing .312/.407/.510 with seven homers in 42 games between the two stops. The Venezuela native is already perhaps the best pure hitter in New York’s system, with defensive chops behind the plate that could make him an impactful two-way catcher.

Nationals: Jackson Rutledge, RHP (No. 3) Taken with the No. 17 overall pick in last year’s Draft, Rutledge, a 6-foot-8 right-hander, has some of the best pure stuff among college pitchers from his class with an explosive mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider that front his four-pitch mix. Harnessing his stuff to throw more strikes and developing a better changeup will be developmental keys for the 20-year-old in his first full season, though he’s exactly the type of power pitcher the Nats have successfully developed in the past.

Phillies: Francisco Morales, RHP (No. 6) — One of the top pitchers in the 2016-17 international signing class, Morales has tremendous raw stuff. In many ways, it played well during his full-season debut in 2019, as he struck out just over 12 batters per nine innings and held hitters to a .226 batting average. He needs to refine his command to reach his very lofty ceiling, but here’s betting he takes a big step forward in 2020.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Tristen Lutz, OF (No. 2) — Tabbed as the Brewers’ top breakout candidate a year ago, Lutz advanced to Class A Advanced Carolina in 2019 and produced a nearly identical line (.754 OPS, 13 HR, 137/46 K/BB) compared to his first full season (.742 OPS, 13 HR, 139/46 K/BB). The elevated strikeout rates fuel questions about the 21-year-old’s hit tool, but there’s a lot to like in his blend of right-handed power potential and patience at the plate. Lutz has the makings of becoming an everyday corner outfielder if it all clicks for him, and a strong showing at Double-A in 2020 would mark a significant turning point in his development.

Cardinals: Ivan Herrera, C (No. 6) — Signed out of Panama for $200,000 in July 2016, Herrera was pushed up to full-season ball at age 18 in 2019 and responded to the challenge by slashing .284/.374/.405 with nine home runs in 87 games across two levels, including Class A Advanced Palm Beach. Herrera continued to impress on both sides of the ball after the season as one of the Arizona Fall League’s youngest players and will enter 2020 with a big up arrow next to his name.

Cubs: Brennen Davis, OF (No. 3) — Though scouts considered Davis one of the better prep athletes in the 2018 Draft, a hamstring injury slowed him as a senior and helped Chicago grab him in the second round. More advanced than expected, he batted .305/.381/.525 and flashed 30-30 upside in low Class A last season — albeit while limited to 50 games by multiple finger injuries.

Pirates: Jared Oliva, OF (No. 11) — A seventh-round pick out of Arizona in 2017, Oliva has had a solid, if unspectacular, first two full seasons of pro ball with a career .274/.348/.403 line, to go along with an impressive 84 steals. He opened a lot of eyes by leading the AFL with 11 steals (in 12 attempts) and hitting .312/.413/.473, setting the stage for a big 2020.

Reds: Tyler Stephenson, C (No. 7) — The 2015 first-round pick got hit by the injury bug quite a bit during the first stages of his career, but he’s going to look back at 2019 as the year it all started to click. After a solid regular season in Double-A, the backstop had a very strong AFL campaign (.347/.372/.410 in 49 at-bats) to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. A big follow-up campaign should vault him onto the top catching prospects list and have him ready for Cincinnati.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Kristian Robinson, OF (No. 2, MLB No. 71) — Signed out of the Bahamas for $2.5 million in July 2017, Robinson offered a glimpse of his potential in 2019 as he slashed .282/.386/.514 with 14 homers and 17 steals while ascending from Class A Short-Season Hillsboro to Class A Kane County in his age-18 season. The 6-foot-3 outfielder’s massive right-handed power highlights an all-around exceptional set of tools, and, overall, it gives him one of the higher ceilings in the Minors among teenage prospects.

Dodgers: Diego Cartaya, C (No. 11) — MLB Pipeline’s top-rated international amateur in the 2018 class, Cartaya signed for $2.5 million out of Venezuela. Often compared to Salvador Perez, he has the tools to make a difference offensively and defensively and hit .281/.343/.432 between two Rookie-ball stops in his 2019 pro debut.

Giants: Alexander Canario, OF (No. 7) — Signed for $60,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, Canario possesses the quickest bat in San Francisco’s system and batted .318/.377/.623 with 16 homers in 59 games between the Rookie and short-season levels last year. He fits the right-field profile well and could have even more value if he’s able to stick in center.

Padres: Reggie Lawson, RHP (No. 21) — The Padres’ second-round pick in the 2016 Draft, Lawson spent much of the ’19 season on the injured list with a balky right elbow, but he returned late in the season to make six starts for Double-A Amarillo, then dominated while making three impressive outings in the Arizona Fall League (0.82 ERA, 14 K, 11 IP), where he operated with a mid-90s fastball, a sharp, 12-to-6 curveball and a promising changeup. With his blend of size and stuff, Lawson could break out in earnest with a healthy 2020 campaign.

Rockies: Helcris Olivarez, LHP (No. 25) — Olivarez made his United States debut in 2019 and missed a lot of bats in the Pioneer League (11.76 K/9 in 46 2/3 IP), largely with a very lively fastball. He’ll need to improve his command (4.63 BB/9) and tighten up his secondary stuff, but the ingredients are all there for him to take a big step forward, perhaps with a move to full-season ball.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

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Man Sentenced To 16 Years in Prison for Burning LGBT/Gay Flag In Church

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Martinez said he removed the flag because he didn’t believe the church should support the LGBTQ community since it is a house of worship.

Adolfo Martinez was Sentenced To 16 Years in Prison for Burning LGBT/Gay Flag In Church
Adolfo Martinez was Sentenced To 16 Years in Prison for Burning LGBT/Gay Flag In Church

A man has been sentenced to about 16 years after burning an LGBTQ flag hanging from a church in Iowa.

Adolfo Martinez, 30, was found guilty of stealing an LGBT banner that was being flown at Ames United Church of Christ. He then went to the Dangerous Curves Gentlemen’s Club and set the flag on fire outside the club.

Martinez said he removed the flag because he didn’t believe the church should support the LGBTQ community since it is a house of worship, the police report read.

On Wednesday, Martinez was sentenced to prison on convictions of committing a hate crime, third-degree arson in violation of individual rights and reckless use of fire as a habitual offender.

Adolfo Martinez did not fight the charges, saying he committed the act “intentionally”

Pastor Eileen Gebbie of the Ames United Church of Christ posted a statement on the church Facebook page saying the church did not press charges against Martinez.

LGBTQ Flag At Ames United Church of Christ
LGBTQ Flag At Ames United Church of Christ

Martinez told police that he lit the banner on fire with lighter fluid and a lighter, according to the Des-Moines Register.

The hate crime charges were added because Martinez is suspected of criminal mischief against someone’s property because of “what it represents as far as sexual orientation,” Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said.

He is the first person in the county to be convicted of a hate crime, she added.

Martinez faced a maximum of five years in prison for the hate crime and arson charge. He also faced a maximum of 13 months for the other charges, but because he is a habitual offender, he was eligible to be sentenced to a longer term.

Adolfo Martinez was Sentenced To 16 Years in Prison for Burning LGBT/Gay Flag In Church
Adolfo Martinez was Sentenced To 16 Years in Prison for Burning LGBT/Gay Flag In Church

“Basically, he was looking at three years but as soon as he opened his mouth and said ‘This is why I did it,’ he gave them the motivation of why it occurred and he turned it into a hate crime,” said Drake University Law Professor Bob Rigg.

Police Commander Jason Tuttle said the extra patrol was called because of social media posts protesting Martinez’ sentencing.

The post Man Sentenced To 16 Years in Prison for Burning LGBT/Gay Flag In Church appeared first on Believers Portal.

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Christ Embassy Church probe in UK: The Full report | P.M. News

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Pastor Chris Oyakhilome: heads the Christ Embassy Church in UK

Christ Embassy Church, owned by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and registered in the UK in 1996 as a charity came under probe of the Charity Commission in 2013, following complaints about the use of charitable funds on large connected party payments.

Truly, investigators discovered numerous failings in its management. They established that a number of informal grants and payments were made, including over £1.2 million* to a broadcasting company, Loveworld Television Ministry, which was wholly owned by a trustee of the charity.

Also, for six years the charity had allowed Loveworld free use of a £1.8 million property it had purchased, and was subsidising a proportion of the company’s utility bills. The inquiry found a lack of formal contracts or appropriate record keeping, and a lack of evidence of proper decision-making or of conflicts of interest being appropriately managed.

Financial management at the charity was also found to be poor. The trustees claimed 9 bank accounts held funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria, and that 3 UK properties belonged to Christ Embassy Nigeria, however the inquiry concluded that all of these in fact belonged to the charity.

Oyakhilome’s ex-wife Anita Ebodaghe: was on the charity board at the time

The inquiry considered that there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity, and took action to remove two of the trustees of the charity, however the individuals resigned before the sanction was applied. The Commission has since been granted new powers to address this loophole, which it secured under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016.

As a result of the inquiry, a new board of trustees was set up to strengthen the administration and management of the charity.

Amy Spiller head of the investigation team spoke on how the investigation was able to dissect the complex web of entities connected with the Christ Embassy Church:

“This was a complex inquiry that unveiled numerous failings by those running Christ Embassy over a number of years, which exposed the charity to undue risk. I am pleased that these issues have been resolved and that the new board of trustees has shown a clear commitment to move the charity forward responsibly.

“Those running a charity should always be guided by their charitable purpose. Trustees have an important responsibility to ensure that they act in the best interests of their charity at all times, and take care to safeguard their charity’s assets. Our guidance around governance arrangements is there to help trustees ensure they do just that.

“Charities are trusted in a way that is unique, and people often put a lot of faith in religious charities. It is therefore vital that trustees, particularly those with a large following, do all that they can to inspire public trust”.

Christ Embassy operates over 90 churches in the UK, providing religious services to over 5000 people, and has a substantial international following.

Here is the full report released 14 November, 2019 as culled from www.gov.uk

The Charity
Christ Embassy (the charity) was registered on 19 November 1996. It is governed by a Declaration of Trust dated 23 October 1996.

The charity’s entry can be found on the register of charities.

Charity Structure
The charity was established in South London in 1996. The charity’s Headquarters is located at the Loveworld Conference Centre (commonly referred to as the “Christ Embassy International Office”), in Folkestone, Kent and is supported by three sub offices situated in Bermondsey, Croydon and Hendon. The sub-offices operate in excess of ninety churches throughout the country, providing religious services to in excess of five thousand beneficiaries.

The charity has a trading subsidiary company called Christ Embassy Limited (Company Registration No. 05862298) which became a subsidiary in 2012. The trading subsidiary shares the charity’s UK headquarter premises. The trading business involves the production, sale and distribution of religious books and media products.

The charity’s reported income in the year ending 31 December 2013 was £14,055,229 and its expenditure was £15,923,977.

Trustees
During the Commission’s engagement with the charity (since 2012) there have been numerous trustees in office. The table below only lists the trustees who were in office for a part of the inquiry.

Trustee From To
A (Reverend Christian Oyakhilome) 23 October 1996 17 May 2014
B (Reverend Anita Oyakhilome) 6 April 1999 2 June 2015
C (Pastor Obioma Chiemeka) 6 October 2009 13 October 2015
D (Pastor Nkemakonam Odiakah) 6 October 2009 15 February 2016
E (Pastor Ifeoma Onubogu) 6 October 2009 12 February 2016
F (Pastor Uche Onubogu) 17 May 2014 26 January 2015
G (Pastor Tony Obi) 17 May 2014 16 October 2015
H (Reverend Raymond Okocha) 17 May 2014 8 August 2017

Trustee A resided in Nigeria and was the founder and international leader of the charity. His wife, trustee B, resided in the UK and was leader of the UK based charity.

Trustees B, D and F were also paid employees of the charity during periods of their trusteeships, which was permitted by their governing document in particular circumstances.

Following the appointment of an Interim Manager and full governance review, a new board of trustees (the new board of trustees) was appointed on 12 April 2016 who are now responsible for the administration and management of the charity going forward. Significant progress has been made to address the governance and improve oversight and control by the new board of trustees.

Issues under Investigation

On 29 July 2013, the Commission opened a statutory inquiry (the Inquiry) into the charity under section 46 of the Charities Act 2011 (the Act).

The Inquiry closed with the publication of this report.

The scope of the Inquiry was to examine a number of issues including:

*the transactions between the charity and “partner organisations” that include grants made to a number of unidentified entities and Loveworld Television Ministry, Healing School, International School of Ministry, Christ Embassy France, Christ Embassy Canada, IPCC Conference and Rhapsody of Realities

*the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees with specific regard to connected party transactions in respect of payments to Loveworld Limited and the management of conflicts of interest

*the financial controls and management of the charity

*whether or not the trustees had complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law

Findings
Transactions between the Charity & “partner organisations”
The Inquiry team examined the accounts of the charity, for the period 2009-2011 which showed that the charity had paid substantial grants to organisations classified as “partner organisations”.

During 2009-2011, the charity’s accounts show grants amounting to £1,281,666 were paid to Loveworld Television Ministry; £118,995 to Healing School, £186,616 to International School of Ministry, £10,000 to Christ Embassy Canada, £10,566 to Christ Embassy France, £37,216 to IPPC Conference and £77,266 to Rhapsody of Realities.

The trustees provided the Commission with a copy of their grant making policy, and admitted to the Inquiry that “Prior to the involvement of the Charity Commission the grant making practice consisted of a discussion by the Trustees at a Trustee meeting regarding who should receive grant”.

Following his appointment on 6 August 2014, the Interim Manager (the IM) examined the charity’s records and found no evidence of compliance with the Grant Making Policy. Documents examined, by the IM, demonstrated a lack of records and receipts to account for grants made and there appeared to be little consideration given to whether the receiving parties had expended grants appropriately and for intended purposes, as was required by the policy.

This demonstrates failure to comply with its grant making policy and inadequate recording of decision making by the trustees which is misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Administration, governance and management of Charity by trustees-specific regard to connected party transactions in respect of payment to Loveworld Limited (also known as Loveworld Television Ministry – registered number 4691981) and management of conflict of interest
The inquiry had serious concerns regarding the trustees’ decision making relating to the charity’s relationship with Loveworld Limited.

It was established that Trustee C, was the sole shareholder of Loveworld Limited since its incorporation in March 2003. Trustee C had also been trustee of the charity between October 2009 and October 2015. The primary objective of the Loveworld Limited was to advance Christian programming in the UK and to provide entertaining and educational programmes for the diverse demographics of the UK, which it did by carrying out both radio and television broadcasting services.

The trustees informed the Inquiry, payments made by the charity to Loveworld Limited were not grants/donations as indicated in their accounts but represented payments for broadcasting services provided by the company to the charity. On 28 March 2013, the trustees were asked to provide all documentation held by the charity or its trustees that recorded the decisions made in respect of the payments by the charity to Loveworld Limited. On 19 September 2013, the trustees provided only two sets of minutes of trustee meetings (minutes of trustees meeting dated 6 January and 6 April 2012) that appeared relevant to the issue. However, neither set of minutes included any decision or resolution to make payments to a company of which one trustee was sole shareholder.

The trustees did not have any formal contracts in place, or indeed rationale for using Loveworld Limited as opposed to any other broadcaster. Additionally the IM, during his inspection of books and records found no evidence to suggest that any of the trustees considered whether the costs charged by Loveworld Limited were better value than the costs charged by any other service provider. The trustees have failed to take, or have failed to record, any proper decisions as to why such payments are in the best interests of the Charity.

The IM confirmed that as early as 2009, the Audit Report highlighted to trustees that transactions with organisations and companies controlled by trustees were required to be disclosed in the financial statements as related party transactions. Auditors also recommended that trustees seek professional advice on whether these payments were permitted under their governing document, discuss and decide whether the payments were in the best interests of the charity and minute those discussions, ensuring that any conflicted parties withdraw from the meeting during discussions. The IM’s investigation into these matters found that this advice had not been followed and in particular there was no evidence that the trustees had sought legal advice.

The IM’s scrutiny of charity records and documents demonstrated that the trustees had failed to comply with the terms of the charity’s governing document and that they failed to comply with the requirements of section 185 of the Act in paying for services by a company owned by a trustee.

Additionally, the Inquiry identified that the charity had purchased a property in March 2006, costing £1.8 million and allowed Loveworld Limited free use of the property from 2006 until September 2012. The trustees informed the Inquiry that Loveworld Limited had only occupied a “small part of the premises”, on an informal basis, with the charity using the premises themselves until February 2014. They informed the Inquiry that the arrangement had been formalised since 2012 and the company was charged £75,000 per year for use of the property. The Inquiry considers that this level of rent indicates that Loveworld Limited occupied a substantial proportion of the building.

The trustees failed to demonstrate that rent for occupation of the premises was a properly assessed market rent which would cover the charity’s overheads. The trustees stated, that the yearly rental income covered all mortgage costs incurred by the charity, however later stated that the charity’s annual mortgage payment was higher than this.

It was unclear to the Inquiry how the permitted, free use of the premises to Loveworld Limited between 2006 -2012 was in the best interests of the charity and was properly authorised.

This indicates that the trustees failed to act in the charity’s best interests or with reasonable care and skill in terms of their decision-making and in the negotiation of the arrangements with Loveworld Limited and in not seeking appropriate advice regarding formalising occupation of premises by the company. In addition, the fact that the charity was also subsidising a proportion of the company’s utility bills indicates a lack of reasonable care and skill and a failure to use the charity’s resources responsibly. These actions were not in the charity’s best interest or in furtherance of its objects and were misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Ventaja Limited
An audit conducted by the IM on appointment also identified purchases in excess of £30,000 by the charity from Ventaja Limited – trustees’ reports and financial statements for year ending 31 December 2013: the charity declared £44,925 of purchases made from Ventaja Limited for decorating and the construction of a stage. The company was wholly owned by Trustee G. The payments were made while, Trustee G was church pastor and zonal pastor (prior to being appointed trustee in May 2014). His wife was also director of the company, church pastor and a salaried employee of the charity. The IM found evidence indicating that Trustee G had employed the services of Ventaja Limited to provide services to the charity but it was unclear from the charity’s records what considerations were made regarding potential conflicts of interest. It is unclear to the Commission that the decision making trustees, in position at the time payments were made, were acting only in the interests of the charity.

The trustees failed to provide any records to evidence that conflicts of interest had been identified or correctly managed prior to the opening of the Inquiry. Although the trustees provided the inquiry with a copy of their new “Conflicts of Interest Policy” in their 2013 response, they did not have any policy which covered the conflict which arose as a result of Trustee G, being a church pastor and trustee, authorising payments from his church to his company and therefore effectively paying his own company. The trustees failed to demonstrate that they had recognised or properly managed conflicts of interest. Consequently the Inquiry found this was misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Financial control & management of the Charity
When interviewed by the Inquiry in October 2013, the trustees explained the structure and administration of the charity to the Commission. The structure involved Chapters (also known as churches) within the charity which were spread across the UK with the use of over 100 premises. The IM found that cash collection and payment recording processes were not uniform across the charity, with a number of basic key controls (for example timely bank reconciliations or maintenance of the SAGE records ) found to be lacking.

Bank Accounts/Assets
The inquiry identified nine active bank accounts that the trustees identified as holding funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria (Christ Embassy Nigeria is a separate company to the charity). The inquiry found no evidence to suggest that any of the banking institutions were aware that they were holding funds controlled by Christ Embassy Nigeria. In addition, the accounts were not named in such a way as would indicate the funds are controlled from Nigeria: for example, two of the active accounts are named Christ Embassy East London.

The inquiry, not being satisfied that the funds held in these accounts were owned by Christ Embassy Nigeria, exercised legal powers and issued orders dated 8 august 2014, under section 76(3)(d) of the Act, freezing six of these nine bank accounts, protecting funds to a value of £615,420.

In the absence of clear evidence to support the trustees’ position, the Inquiry concluded that funds held in the accounts belonged to the charity and these accounts remained frozen until the order was revoked on 24 August 2016. The Inquiry being satisfied that the new board of trustees had assumed control of the charity’s property discharged the freezing order on 24 August 2016.

This demonstrates the trustees’ failure to deal with the bank accounts appropriately and their lack of understanding of financial management and the importance of clearly identifying the charity’s property and/or assets held on behalf of another entity and is mismanagement and/or misconduct in the administration and governance of the charity by the trustees.

Tax related issues
The IM informed the Inquiry that the trustees’ failed to submit the charity’s 2010-11 and 2012-13 Self-Assessment Tax returns on time to HMRC thereby incurring penalties for late submissions. In addition, the IM found that the trustees had failed to comply with information Notices issued by HMRC thus incurring further penalties.

The trustees’ non-compliance and failure to submit the charity’s Self-Assessment forms within statutory deadlines resulted in scrutiny by HMRC creating a risk to the charity’s assets in regard to financial penalties incurred and is further evidence of trustees failing in their duty to protect and manage resources responsibly.

Gift Aid is available on donations made by UK tax payers such that the charity can reclaim the tax already paid on the donation by the donor. This means the charity can receive an extra 25p for every £1 donated. It is the trustees’ responsibility to ensure that the charity has effective systems and internal controls in place to ensure complete and accurate returns are made, reducing the risk of amounts being reclaimed by HMRC and ensuring that the charity receives the Gift Aid promptly and with confidence.

The IM established that the charity had failed to maintain:

*sufficient records or processes to show that expenditure by employees had not been an employee benefit and therefore subject to tax
*sufficient records to show that charity vehicles were being used solely for charitable purposes and not used by trustees/employees for private use
*sufficient records to support the charity’s claim to Gift Aid and to demonstrate the expenditure was in fact charitable

The IM dealt with these inquiries and agreed a settlement with HMRC. During discussions with HMRC, the IM made payments on account of £250,000 in order to minimise interest/penalty charges.

The IM informed the Inquiry, in excess of £1.4m of expenditure was disallowed by HMRC and became subject to tax.

The IM reached final settlement over these matters prior to his discharge.

The trustees’ failure to maintain sufficient records and processes to account for expenditure resulted in scrutiny by HMRC creating a risk of criminal proceedings and loss to the charity’s assets in regard to tax liabilities and is further evidence of trustees failing in their duty to protect and manage resources responsibly.


Whether complied and fulfilled duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law

The Inquiry found a number of breaches of their legal duties by the trustees as evidenced in the previous sections of this report. Additionally the Inquiry found evidence that the trustees exposed the charity, its assets and/or its beneficiaries to harm or undue risk for example:

Property Related matters
The charity is unincorporated, and as such does not have legal personality and cannot hold property in its own name. Instead property must be held on behalf of the charity by nominated individuals (known as holding trustees, and often in practice one or more of the charity’s trustees). From time to time these individuals will change for example due to retirement or death, and the legal ownership of the property will need to be transferred to the new trustees to ensure that the Land Registry records are accurate.

The charity’s main asset other than cash was its ownership of a number of properties. The Inquiry identified 3 UK properties that were not disclosed to the Commission in the trustees’ first responses or during the October 2013 meeting. The trustees asserted that despite the legal title of the properties being vested in the name of two of the charity’s trustees, the properties “were acquired on behalf of, and held in trust for, Christ Embassy Nigeria”.

The Inquiry noted that the Land Registry entries in respect of the 3 properties made no reference to the beneficial owner being Christ Embassy Nigeria and documentation supplied by the trustees provided no evidence to support their assertions. None of the Land Registry proprietorship registers differed in any material way from those of the properties originally disclosed to the Commission as belonging to the charity. These matters were explored further by the IM. His investigations confirmed that the properties were held legally and beneficially by the charity and that there was no trust in place suggesting they were held on behalf Christ Embassy Nigeria.

The Inquiry obtained evidence that the trustees’ failed to ensure land registry details for charity properties were amended once trustees resigned. This was raised a number of times by Auditors in their reports from 2009 onwards and as a result the trustees failed in their duties and responsibilities as trustees to act in the charity’s best interests.

Insurance
The Inquiry found that the trustees failed to secure adequate insurance to protect charity assets and protect against claims for accidental damage to property/or compensation for accidental injury to third parties. The IM was made aware of an outstanding claim in February 2015, brought by a member of the congregation who was injured at a charity premises in 2012. The IM sought to identify whether any relevant insurant was in place. The trustees confirmed that there was no relevant insurance cover and following legal advice obtained by the IM, he settled the claim, in order to avoid lengthy and costly litigation.

The failings of trustees to act appropriately left the charity open to financial and reputational risk and losses, as well as to risk of litigation.

Planning & Building
The trustees failed to ensure that a property purchased by the charity had the necessary planning permission for use as a place of worship – D1 use as Non-Residential institutions, which include a place of worship and church hall. The previous owner had applied for permission to use the property as a place of worship, in 2003 but the planning application had been refused by the local authority. The charity appealed the decision unsuccessfully. Enforcement action was commenced by Southwark Council (18 April 2011). This was also unsuccessfully appealed by the charity. The continued unauthorised use of the premises as a place of worship by the charity, exposed it to enforcement action by the Council. The IM team liaised with the Council to permit a planned exit from the premised which was vacated in January 2015.

The existence of the enforcement notice is a criminal matter. Any breach of the enforcement notice and continued unauthorised use of the premises as a place of worship exposed the charity to prosecution by Southwark Council. Legal advice obtained by the IM confirmed that the breach could have led to criminal sanctions being imposed against the charity and potentially exposed the charity to confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

This demonstrates the trustees’ lack of understanding regarding planning law and regulations which exposed the charity to substantial financial risk as well as legal costs.

Conclusions
The Inquiry concluded that there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the charity’s administration. The former trustees, at the relevant times had not complied with or fulfilled their duties as trustees under charity law. They failed to:

*exercise reasonable care and skill in the execution of their roles and as a result exposed the charity to risk and financial loss
*ensure sufficient financial controls and procedures to protect the charity’s property file their annual accounting information, in accordance with their statutory obligations, on time
*ensure that conflicts of interest were effectively managed comply with the terms of the charity’s governing document in relation to remuneration of trustees
*obtain professional advice during their decision making process and to properly record their decision-making
*comply with planning law and regulations and adhere to enforcement notices, causing the charity substantial financial loss
*address the need for Health & Safety compliance and the lack of adequate property insurance exposed the charity to considerable losses which could have been avoided or minimized with proper management and prompt action

In light of the findings and evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement, the Inquiry exercised its legal powers under section 79(2)(a) of the Act to remove two of the trustees of the charity.

However the trustees subject to regulatory action resigned prior to the Commission being able to complete the process. Section 79(5) and 82 of The Charities (Protection and Social Investment ) Act 2016 has closed this loophole, thereby allowing the Commission to proceed to remove a charity trustee who has resigned following the Commission having given notice to the charity trustees of its intention to make a removal order. The law has since been amended so that resignations following the Commission issuing a notice of intention to remove a trustee would not prohibit the trustee’s removal and consequent disqualification from action as a trustee in the future.

Regulatory Action Taken
During the course of the Inquiry the Commission exercised its legal powers (Sections 47, 52 and 54 Charities Act 2011), provided by the Act, to issue various orders and directions for the purposes of information gathering from local authorities, private individuals and companies, including financial institutions.

The Inquiry directed trustees to a meeting on 18 October 2013 to discuss regulatory concerns and seek further explanation from the trustees. The charity’s books and records were also inspected on 13/14 November 2013.

The Inquiry, being satisfied in accordance with section 76(1) of the Act, that there had been misconduct and / or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and that it was necessary or desirable to act for the protection of the property of the charity, used a number of regulatory powers, under the following sections of the Act:

*section 76(3)(d) orders (8 August 2014), directing the banks not to part with the charity’s property without the Commission’s prior written consent, protecting £615,420 of the charity’s funds

*section 76(3)(g) appointing an Interim Manager on 6 August 2014 (appointment to take effect from 11 August 2014) and then under 337(6) varying the order (25 January 2016) to authorise the
*Interim Manager to appoint a new board of trustees
section 337(6) discharging (18 November 2014) the order not to part by further order, once the

*Interim Manager assumed control of the charity’s property

The former trustees exercised their right to appeal (8 August 2014) to the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber (Charity) against the order appointing the Interim Manager. The appeal was withdrawn on 20 January 2015 with the charity’s legal representatives, notifying the Commission that the trustees were “now willing to accept that the statutory threshold under section 76 of the Act was met in the present case”.

Appointment of an interim manager
The Inquiry appointed an interim manager, Rod Weston of Mazars LLP, (the IM) on 6 August 2014 under section 76(3)(g) of the Act to take over the management and administration of the charity to the exclusion of trustees. The trustees were not excluded from performing the religious and/or spiritual functions connected with their roles as Pastors within the charity.

The scope of the IM’s appointment included:

*taking control of the management and administration of the charity to the exclusion of trustees and taking steps to secure and protect charity property

*reviewing the governance and administration of the charity and taking remedial action in the best interests of the charity

*reviewing the charity’s financial controls, systems and reporting procedures, safeguarding funds and ensuring proper expenditure controls and governance
consider whether any of the decision making trustees were personally liable for any breach of duty/loss of the charity, taking remedial action to regularise any breaches of duty in the best interest of the charity

The costs of the IM’s appointment, including legal advice and fees that would have been necessary and incurred by any trustee, amounted to £1,244,983.50 excluding VAT. The costs of the IM’s appointment were met out of the charity’s funds and are itemised as follows:

*fees directly related to work as IM – £390,358.40
*professional fees – £854,625.10 (relating to work conducted by 3rd parties on behalf of the IM)
*In addition £208,000 of work was undertaken by the IM on a pro bono basis.

As part of his appointment, the IM completed a full governance and infrastructure review of the charity and its activities. His initial findings, on 9 October 2014, corroborated the Commission’s regulatory concerns relating to the charity, reporting that “the board of trustees appears to be fragmented” and “appear to have little appreciation of their roles, duties and obligations as Trustees”. He identified a number of Health and Safety risks and concerns as well as legal issues relating to property matters which had failed to be dealt with by the trustees and which posed financial risks to the charity. The IM’s investigations found failings in the charity’s governance, leadership and management structures and personnel, including identifying that the charity had insufficient financial controls and procedures.

Remedial actions were taken to regularise the charity’s governance to ensure it was fit for purpose. This encompassed the following:

*establishing a central record of all properties leased and/or rented by the charity to ensure that the terms of leases were being met appropriately and suitable exit plans were in place where leases were due to expire
*establishing an accurate record of assets (ownership of a number of properties, motor vehicles and a range of fixed assets ) owned by the charity, gaining control of the charity’s property portfolio and cash reserves – the IM reduced the number of bank accounts in operation from approximately 40 to 8 and in September 2015 took control of just under £12,000,000

*introduction and implementation of financial controls, systems and reporting procedures, regularising the management of income and expenditure

*Health and Safety audits and fire risk assessments were carried out; training provided to staff and implementation of suitable Health & Safety policies and procedures
extensive liaison with HMRC resulting in settlement of the charity’s tax liabilities
recruitment of new board of trustees

*induction and training of new trustees

Restitution
On 18 November 2015, the IM considered professional advice and the particular circumstances of this case and decided that restitution (by way of civil claims against former trustees for breaches of duties and losses to the charity was not in the best interests of the charity.

Following the appointment of a new Board of Trustees on 12 April 2016, significant progress has been made to address the governance and improve oversight and control by the new trustees, as a result of which the IM was discharged on 12 April 2016.

Issues for the wider sector
Financial Controls & Accounting Records
Proper financial controls are a necessary feature of any well-run organisation. Because of the special characteristics of the charitable sector, they play an essential part in helping to show potential donors and beneficiaries that a charity’s property is safeguarded, and that its management is efficient.

Trustees are equally responsible for the overall management and administration of the charity. Every charity’s accounting records must be sufficient to show and explain its transactions and disclose with reasonable accuracy its financial position. Trustees should ensure that financial controls are not only adequate but provide sufficient information to satisfy the trustees that the controls are being observed. If, due to the nature of the charity, its work, location and /or set up the trustees delegate supervision of financial arrangements to one or a small number of trustees or employees, they need to ensure that there are arrangements in place for proper reporting back to the whole trustee body. In this way, system failures or issues can be identified at an early stage.

Therefore, in order to show that they are complying with their legal duties, trustees must keep records and an adequate audit trail to show that the Charity’s money has been properly spent on furthering the Charity’s purposes for the benefit of the public.

Conflicts of Interest Policy
Charity trustees should ensure that they have a conflicts of interest policy in place to ensure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities and that any conflicts that do arise are appropriately managed.

Where a charity trustee has a conflict of interest they should follow the basic checklist set out in the Commission publication Conflicts of interest: a guide for charity trustees (CC29) and where necessary or appropriate take professional advice.

The law states that trustees cannot receive any benefit from their charity in return for any service they provide to it or enter into any self-dealing transactions unless they have the legal authority to do so. This may come from the charity’s governing document or, if there is no such provision in the governing document, the Commission or the Courts. Further information is available from Trustee expenses and payments (CC11).

Charity Property
Charity trustees have a general duty to manage their charity’s resources responsibly, reasonably and honestly. This means not exposing their charity’s assets, beneficiaries or reputation to undue risk. It is about exercising sound judgement and then taking decisions that a reasonable body of trustees would do.

Trustees must put appropriate policies, procedures and safeguards in place and take all reasonable steps to ensure that these are followed.

If a charity owns land or buildings, trustees need to know on a continuing basis what condition it is in, that it is being properly used, and that adequate insurance is in place. The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do (CC3) makes clear that decisions about charity land and property are important. If the charity owns or rents land or buildings, the trustees need to:

*make sure the property is recorded as belonging to the charity
know on what terms it is held
*ensure it is properly maintained and being correctly used
*make sure the charity has sufficient insurance

A charity’s governing document or the general law can provide a ‘power to insure’. If the governing document imposes a positive duty to insure, if trustees then fail to insure property, this will be a breach of trust. More details are available in the Commission’s guidance Charities and insurance (CC49).

Trustee Decision Making
Charity trustees are responsible for governing their charity and making decisions about how it should be run. Making decisions is one of the most important parts of the trustees’ role. Trustees can be confident about decision making if they understand their role and responsibilities, know how to make decisions effectively, are ready to be accountable to people with an interest in their charity, and follow the 7 principles that the courts have developed for reviewing decisions made by trustees. Trustees must:

*act within their powers
*act in good faith and only in the interests of the charity
*make sure they are sufficiently informed
*take account of all relevant factors
*ignore any irrelevant factors
*manage conflicts of interest
*make decisions that are within the range of decisions that a reasonable trustee body could make

It is important that charity trustees apply these 7 principles when making significant or strategic decisions, such as those affecting the charity’s beneficiaries, assets or future direction.

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Our German new worshipping community. – Saint Benet’s Church Kentish Town

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ageFor over a year now, a group of people has met at St Benet’s to celebrate the Mass in German on the first Sunday of the month at 4.00 pm.  This group is soon to be registered as a “New Worshipping Community” of the Diocese of London. This forms part of the Diocese’s vision for evangelism, mission, and church growth laid out in its plan “Capital Vision 2020.”

Where did the idea come from?

The idea came from the fact that a number of people at St Benet’s noticed just how many German-speaking families there were worshipping with us.  Some were bilingual families with one parent from Germany or Austria. Others were German-speaking families who had moved to London, and whose children were, therefore, thoroughly bi-lingual.

Our vicar, Fr Peter Anthony, read German as an undergraduate and had been involved in our Diocesan link with Berlin for several years.  He wondered whether people would welcome a service now and then in German.  After a few initial Masses in German, it became clear there was definite interest, and a small but sustainable number of people willing to support the project. We decided on a trial run of a service on a Sunday afternoon once a month for a year.

Our intention was to see if we could reach out to a new category of people who did not already worship with us, and who might welcome the ability to worship in German. We wanted to help them come to faith, or grow deeper in their relationship with the Lord, especially through sacramental worship.

What happens & when?

AllWe usually have a said Mass at 4.00 pm on the first Sunday of the month with a homily, and the entire service takes place in German.

We have had a range of guest preachers over the past year.  Some have been native German speakers, such as Dr Andrea Werner, a lay reader at St Michael’s Camden Town; or Robert Pfeiffer, an ordinand at S. Michael’s, Highgate; or Fr Andreas Wenzel, the Shrine Priest at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Others have been English people who happen to be good German speakers: Dr Colin Podmore, well known expert in German Church history, for example; or Fr Desmond Bannister, Vicar All Siants’ Hillingdon, who used to teach German.

We have also sought to invite people associated with our Diocesan Partnership with the Church in Berlin-Brandenburg. Fr Brian Leathard and the Fr Luke Miller, the Archdeacon of London, both of whom have responsibility for the diocesan link, have visited to preach, as have august visitors from Berlin such as Pfarrer Holger Schmidt.

The liturgy is always followed by a time for refreshments and chat over that most venerable of German traditions – “Kaffee und Kuchen.”  The conversation is mainly in German, but if people want to talk in English they are also welcome to, and a mixture of conversations in both languages usually emerges.  There is no language police!

Who comes?

Fr Andreas Wenzel, Shrine Priest of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, came as our guest preacher for All Saints’ Day.

A range of people attend this Sunday afternoon service.  Many of the bi-lingual families living in our parish, who have both English and German, are frequently there. Bilingual children are also frequently present.

There have also proven to be a number of English speakers who have German and who want to keep their language up or enjoy worshipping in German (one of whom comes all the way from York for the liturgy!).  Word of mouth has proven to be very important and several new German speakers have started worshipping with us who had never previously worshipped with us on a Sunday morning.

A number of academics in the realm of philosophy who need German for their academic work have also been present on several occasions. German and Austrian students who have come to London universities also frequently form part of the congregation, which has proven to have a pretty young average age over all.

The numbers at the monthly Mass in 2018-19 have ranged between 8 and 21, with an average in the first year of 13, but on big occasions larger congregations have gathered: our first German Advent Carol Service last Sunday, for example, attracted 63 people. We have also celebrated one baptism in German.

Why do Germans want to worship at an Anglican Church?

Fr Peter Anthony, our vicar, and Dr Andrea Werner, lay reader from our neighbouring parish, St Michael’s, Camden Town, photographed after one of Andrea’s excellent homilies.

We have welcomed a wide range of people from a large sweep of theological and liturgical traditions.  One of the characteristics of this worshipping community has been a strong spirit of ecumenical welcome. Our ministry has also been resolutely rooted in the concept that the Church of England’s ministry is available for all living within our parochial boundaries, or who wish to avail themselves of it.

St Benet’s liturgy lies in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England, and we have found many German or bilingual families have been happy to make their spiritual home with us. There may be something going on in terms of the Church of England’s ministry representing a theological middle way between the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Roman traditions. It may also be that the parochial commitment of St Benet’s to the parish in which it is set simply makes it a place where visitors and those moving from abroad find it easy to settle. Many of our German speaking families send their children to our parish school, and so that might also be a connection which makes St Benet’s a place where they feel they want to worship.

Some of our younger German students have been genuinely intrigued and captivated by what they have discovered in the Anglicanism they find at St Benet’s – i.e. a church which they perceived as “protestant” but which turned out to have a rich and quite catholic liturgical and theological tradition.

Where to now?

We have proven over the first year of this project that the core congregation which supports this project is large enough to sustain a monthly Mass into the future.  However, we are keen to explore other ways in which we can grow and expand this ministry.  We recently organised a German Advent Carol Service, and this proved to be popular.

We plan in the next few weeks to register the congregation as a “new worshipping community” with the Diocese of London in order to release extra funds to help us plan slightly larger or more adventurous events.

Social media have been a crucial part of the way in which we have made contact with German speakers, so we want to ensure our social media presence continues to be the best it can be. Word of mouth has also been crucial to making new contacts amongst the German/Austrian ex-pat community, and will be something we intend to build upon.

We ask all our friends to keep praying for us as we explore further where God is calling us to go in this venture, and we thanks the Diocese of London and its bishops for their support and encouragement as we become one of its latest “new worshipping communities.”

Our first German Advent Carol Service: Sunday 1st December 2019.

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Meet the Nigerian developer that runs free online digital skills training on Facebook and Slack

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Martha (not real name) had no choice but to stay with her sick mum in hospital, but this didn’t mean much until it was clear her stay would run into a year. For Martha, it meant placing her life on hold as she wouldn’t have time to do anything else.

However, this changed when she came across Tech Skills Hack (TSH), an open Facebook group where people get free training on diverse digital skills ranging from graphic design to data analysis to content creation.

Martha joined the group, attended training religiously, and soon discovered she could become a certified digital skills expert running her personal creative agency.

Iniobong Udoh, the brain behind TSH, would be overwhelmed by a sense of fulfillment hearing this testimonial because it is clearly fulfilling the startup’s mission.

“Tech Skills Hack is a platform dedicated to equipping Nigerians with the in-demand and futuristic digital skills to curb unemployment and help businesses scale free of charge,” she says.

Demystifying digital literacy

There is a belief that people in the tech space are a bunch of code-writing geeks. However, Udoh thinks it’s only a myth.

“The tech ecosystem is a large community that includes all digital skills, ranging from graphic design, data analysis, content creation, that has nothing to do with writing code.”

Her mission was clear; to bridge the gap that exists between employers of labour and applicants without basic skills. And she does this by compiling curated digital skills resources and sharing on the various training platforms used.

To her, “Digital skills literacy means possessing skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information is [sic] increasing through digital technologies like the online platforms, social media, and mobile devices.”

If anything, Udoh’s experience as a Google Certified Android developer and a certified UX expert came in handy as she brought the startup to life in February 2019 — a year after she got the idea but was held back by funds to either rent a hub or acquire equipment for physical training.

“I had to use the available platform and it was Facebook for me. Aside from programming, we train undergraduates on basic or foundational skills like Excel, PowerPoint, Canva, Google Sheets, and social media usage.”

TSH’s offering is twofold: solving the challenge of affordable training and acquiring the basic equipment to practise – a laptop. The aim is to assist young people to acquire relevant digital skill sets via their smartphones at no fee at all. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an encouraging first outing for her.

“I felt bad when we sent out the ad inviting people to learn and the response wasn’t impressive as thought [sic], but 50 people responding to our ad was fair.”

To build trust, Udoh made the platform open for interested individuals to join instead of adding people randomly. With time, the platform would have a good number of open-minded, willing, consistent, and determined members.

Apart from Udoh who is the founder, TSH’s team includes Nzaki Ekere who doubles as the CTO and in-house developer who takes web development classes and Anthony Eyo as the digital marketer. Extra help for on-site training also comes from volunteers, some of who have gone through training on the platform.

A social enterprise

“Tech Skills Hack is a non-profit venture. We’ve been running this for 9 months and it’s been self-funded. It is not too capital intensive because I use a free platform (Facebook) and get free volunteers. I get to search top-notch courses from organisations like Google, Udemy, and Coursera for free, so we don’t pay for these courses, except with our time, because I need to go through every course before sharing them on our platform,” Udoh explains.

With no change of business model in view, Udoh affirms that TSH will retain its non-profit social enterprise status for the next two years, but it will need as much help as it can get.

“Our aim is to equip every Nigerian with a digital skill at no cost or low cost, and we would appreciate support from people to achieve that.”

In over 9 months of operation, the startup boasts of more than 1000 users on both Facebook and Slack. It has also assisted 30 budding Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) to design logos and business cards for free. Lately, it conducted two free offline trainings in two Nigeria cities, Lagos and Uyo, in partnership with a Ghanaian tech hub, iSpace; and Directorate of Microfinance and Enterprise Development, Akwa Ibom State, respectively.

At a point when incorporating offline training is needed because online classes do not fully capture the startup addressable market, the founder admits that TSH is greatly in need of funds.

“We would appreciate financial and hub support. We need founders to allow us to use their hubs and gadgets for our trainings. We’ll also love free publicity so that more people can hear about what we are doing and get to join.”

Undeterred by challenges

Apart from funding, Udoh names trust issues as another challenge some people have because the belief is that with free trainings, the quality of content is usually bad.

She said they may not be able to change this perception, but the reviews, testimonials, and feedback received from students, who have gone ahead to get their certifications and even begin their own creative agencies, are enough motivation for the TSH team.

“I’ve lost count of the reviews and tags we get once a student learns a skill. Not only the testimonials but students using the skills they’ve learnt to better their lives and also pass down this knowledge to others is also what we use to measure our success and this we’ve been able to achieve in a short span of our existence.”

With another physical training program in the offing, the team is presently working on integrating an eLearning site with better and friendly learning features to further expand coverage.

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Mario Flores el Perico murio: Mario Flores death – what happened?

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Mario Flores el Perico murio: Mario Flores death – what happened?

Mario Flores el Perico Murio: Mario Flores death the Parakeet was announced December 1, 2019 by Alex “El Genio” Lucas in a statement that read:

Con profunda tristeza anunciamos el fallecimiento de nuestro amigo, compañero y gran ser humano, Mario Flores “El Perico”. Acompañamos a su familia en el sentimiento y honramos su memoria y contribución al programa de Alex El Genio Lucas.

Todavía conmocionados por la triste noticia que recibimos desde Lake Elsinore, CA, nos nace desde lo mas profundo expresar todo nuestro cariño y aprecio a Mario en su partida. Quienes compartimos con el en mi programa, fuimos afortunados. Fue franco y directo, daba seguridad, despertaba ternura y reforzaba un carácter entrañable.

Fue modesto y nunca persiguió la figuración, así como tampoco le gustaba la adulación. Le interesaba ser protagonista en aquello que amaba: su familia y sus ideales. Lo extrañaremos mucho. Un abrazo grande y lleno de gratitud a la familia de Mario Flores “El Perico”, en la hora de su despedida terrenal. Mañana en mi programa, lo seguiremos recordando.

Aquí la foto de nuestra última presentación juntos el pasado 9 de noviembre en Thousand Palms, CA.

Coincidencias de la vida… mañana Don Pitoloco cumple 3 años de su partida, y en vispiras de su aniversario luctuoso, parte Mario Flores. Seguramente, hay programa radial en el cielo.

Hasta siempre Mario…

With deep sadness we announce the death of our friend, companion and great human being, Mario Flores El Perico.

We accompany your family in feeling and honor their memory and contribution to the program of Alex The Genius Lucas.

Still shocked by the sad news we received from Lake Elsinore, CA, we are born from the deepest to express all our love and I appreciate Mario in his departure. Who we shared with him in my program, we were lucky.

He was frank and direct, gave security, aroused tenderness and reinforced an endearing character. He was modest and never pursued figuration, nor did he like flattery. He was interested in being a protagonist in what he loved: his family and his ideals. We will miss him a lot.

A big hug full of gratitude to the family of Mario Flores “El Perico”, at the time of his earthly farewell. Tomorrow in my program, we will keep remembering it.

Here is the photo of our last presentation together on November 9 in Thousand Palms, CA.
Coincidences of life … tomorrow Pitoloco turns 3 years old from his departure, and on the eve of his happy anniversary, Mario Flores leaves. Surely, there is radio program in the sky.
Goodbye Mario …

Mario Flores el Perico murio: Mario Flores death

Before broadcaster Mario Flores El Perico death, he was working on the syndicated radio of ‘The Show of Genius Lucas’.

He was passionate about radio from an early age, since he was 15 years old and became involved in the radio station of his school.

It was in the 80’s when Mario began to emerge in the AM / FM and television industry.

He currently had more than 30 years of professional experience and was known for his sarcastic humor and unexpected comments , thus highlighting observations about politicians, singers, actors, television programs, etc.

During the last decade, the audience has pointed to ‘El Perico’ as the fierce lawyer of freedom of expression for his controversial statements.

Undoubtedly, Mario Flores El Perico death represents a great loss for the Hispanic radio industry in the United States.

May his soul rest in perfect peace.

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