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If You Drink Beer You Contribute to Sint Maarten’s Environmental Problems

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - I enjoy drinking beer. Nothing beats coming up from a dive doing research in the Marine Park or after a long day in the office, ordering an ice-cold beer, and downing it in just a few swallows.

I also enjoy beer because it is in my genes, with my father being Belgian I have no choice, and I enjoy the complexity of flavors, the variety, the history and the camaraderie that goes into having a few beers with friends. I do not enjoy the headache the following morning when a few turns in to too many.

Unfortunately, on Sint Maarten, this enjoyment of beer is not guilt free, and by having a cold one after working in the sun for a long time I am contributing to the growing environmental issues on Sint Maarten. 

With every cold brew I, and my fellow beer drinkers both resident and visiting, and there are a lot of us, am helping to compound the solid waste issue already critical on the island. Every year tons of glass from beer bottles, and other bottles not to mention, are being dumped on our landfill, growing it in size and contributing to the environmental impact it is having on our nature as well as the health issues it causes to our population.

Unrecycled and untreated glass causes harm to wildlife as well as helps with the famous fires on the Philipsburg Landfill, the glass refracting and magnifying the sun and contributing to setting the dump on fire.

We are a tourism destination and some estimates suggest that during the peak of high-season, including on a day when there are numerous ship in port and considering some of the waste from the French Side being dumped on the Dutch Side (which is ironic since they do recycle glass) some half a ton of empty beer bottles are deposited on the landfill alone.

This again highlights what the Nature Foundation and other environmental organizations have been calling for so long; a government supported and subsidized recycle program which makes sorting and recycling garbage mandatory. The two voluntary recycling bins in two neighborhoods are simply not enough.

The solution is not difficult, and we may have to partner with our neighboring islands to find it, but we need to do what we can to solve our issues on the island and not be lulled into the dangerous complacency that so often affects us.

And I look forward to that one day, on our island gem in the Caribbean Sea, drinking an ice-cold beer completely guilt free and with the knowledge that I am not contributing to the environmental challenges of Sint Maarten.

Tadzio Bervoets

Cole Bay

COMMENTARY: The content is the sole responsibility of the author.


Women invited to Breast Abnormalities Screening this Saturday as part of Women’s Health

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – Saturday, June 24, is the second breast abnormalities screening survey for women.

It is being held at the Vineyard Office Park Building in Philipsburg at the Collective Preventive Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA).

Breast abnormalities represent a large spectrum of disorders including benign, congenital, hormonal and malignancies such as breast cancer.

Breast cancer death rates have been declining due to earlier detection and better treatment.

The purpose of this study is to screen for risk factors as well as estimate prevalence of breast abnormalities in the patient population of Sint Maarten.

Major risk factors for breast cancer in women are age, genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalance. Breast density is also a significant factor, especially in women 40 to 49 years of age.

The purpose of the study is to gain insight into the types of breast abnormalities and risk factors in women 18 and above with no age cap in Sint Maarten.

CPS is one of three stakeholders which includes the Positive Foundation, and the American University of the Caribbean (AUC), the latter, is lead research agency.

The screenings will be carried out every Saturday or Sunday and the target audience are women 18+ years of age.  The screening is carried out between 9.00am to 3.00pm.

For additional information you can call CPS at 542-3003 or 542-2078.


Residents advised of HUREX 2017 Training Exercise in Cay Bay and near the Hospital on June 27

CAY BAY, (DCOMM) – Hurricane Exercise 2017 (HUREX 2017) will once again involve a major training exercise which will take place in Cay Bay and in the vicinity of the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) on Tuesday, June 27 between 8.00am and 11.00am.

Residents of Cay Bay are advised to take notice as well as motorists.  Residents and motorists will see an increase in emergency response vehicles (with sirens) on the public roads en-route to Cay Bay in response to a major incident.

Response to the major incident will include military and civil authorities such as Police, Ambulance, Fire, Voluntary Corps of St. Maarten and other emergency response services, as well as NV GEBE, SMMC and SOL fuel supplier.

The public and motorists do not need to be concerned with respect to the heightened emergency response activities, as this is part of the training exercise.

This exercise will be the largest in the history of emergency disaster training.

HUREX takes place on an annual basis and includes the 10 Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) from the country’s Disaster Management Organization along with the Dutch military detachment based on the island and additional military resources and assets from overseas.

The exercise allows all relevant government agencies along with the military to familiarize themselves with operational protocols in the event of a disaster and in this case a hurricane threat/disaster.

The exercise takes place under the banner of the Fire Department/Office of Disaster Management.

The Office of Disaster Management falls under the Ministry of General Affairs.


World population to hit 9.8 billion by 2050, despite nearly universal lower fertility rates – UN

INTERNATIONAL, 21 June 2017 – The world population is now at least 7.6 billion, up from 7.4 billion last year, spurred by the relatively high levels of fertility in developing countries – despite an overall drop in the number of children people have around the globe – the United Nations today reported.

The concentration of global population growth is in the poorest countries, according to World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, presenting a challenge as the international community seeks to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which seeks to end poverty and preserve the planet.

“With roughly 83 million people being added to the world's population every year, the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline,” said the report's authors at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

At this rate, the world population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and surpass 11.2 billion in 2100.

The growth is expected to come, in part, from the 47 least developed countries, where the fertility rate is around 4.3 births per woman, and whose population is expected to reach 1.9 billion people in 2050 from the current estimate of one billion.

In addition, the birth rates in African countries are likely to “at least double” by 2050, according to the report.

That trend comes despite lower fertility rates in nearly all regions of the world, including in Africa, where rates fell from 5.1 births per woman up to 2005 to 4.7 births in the five years following.

In contrast, the birth rates in Europe are up to 1.6 births per woman, up from 1.4 births in 2000-2005.

“During 2010-2015, fertility was below the replacement level in 83 countries comprising 46 per cent of the world's population,” according to the report.

The lower fertility rates are resulting in an ageing population, with the number of people aged 60 or over expected to more than double by 2050 and triple by 2100, from the current 962 million to 3.1 billion.

Africa, which has the youngest age distribution of any region, is projected to experience a rapid ageing of its population, the report noted.

“Although the African population will remain relatively young for several more decades, the percentage of its population aged 60 or over is expected to rise from five per cent in 2017 to around nine per cent in 2050, and then to nearly 20 per cent by the end of the century,” the authors wrote.

In terms of other population trends depicted in the report, the population of India, which currently ranks as the second most populous country with 1.3 billion inhabitants, will surpass China's 1.4 billion citizens, by 2024.

By 2050, the third most populous country will be Nigeria, which currently ranks seventh, and which is poised to replace the United States.

The report also noted the impacts of migrants and refugees between countries, in particular noting the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis and the estimated outflow of 4.2 million people.

In terms of migration, “although international migration at or around current levels will be insufficient to compensate fully for the expected loss of population tied to low levels of fertility, especially in the European region, the movement of people between countries can help attenuate some of the adverse consequences of population ageing,” the authors wrote.


Record high temperatures grip much of the globe, more hot weather to come – UN agency

INTERNATIONAL, 20 June 2017 – Extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the United Nations weather agency reported today, warning of more heatwaves to come.

The heatwaves have arrived unusually early, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said, noting at the same time that average global surface temperatures over land and sea are the second highest on record for the first five months of 2017, according to analyses by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Raging wildfires in Portugal

In Portugal, extremely high temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius contributed to the severity of the devastating, fast-moving weekend wildfires that ripped through the country's forested Pedrógão Grande region, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) north-east of Lisbon, leaving dozens dead and more injured.

WMO reported that Portugal is not the only European country experiencing the effects of the extreme weather, as neighbouring Spain – which had its warmest spring in over 50 years – and France, have seen record-breaking temperatures. France is expected to continue see afternoon temperatures more than 10 degrees above the average for this time of year.

Plane traffic halted in southwestern US

On the other side of the Atlantic, the US is also experiencing record or near-record heat. In parts of the desert southwest and into California, temperatures have hovered near a blistering 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). Media reports suggested today that some plane traffic was halted in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport in Arizona because it was too hot to fly.

The flight cancellations came amidst of one of the hottest days in the past 30 years of record keeping in the US state.

Death Valley National Park in California issued warnings to visitors to expect high temperatures ranging from 100 to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit (38 to over 49 degrees Celsius), WMO added.

WMO will set up an international committee of experts to verify the temperature and assess whether it equals a reported 54 degrees Celsius recorded in Kuwait last July, what was then the highest temperature for Asia, as well as for the entire Eastern hemisphere.


Addressing economic inequalities key to countering terrorism without fueling racism – UN expert

INTERNATIONAL, 20 June 2017 – A spate of recent terrorist attacks has driven an increase in security measures and exacerbated hate speech, a United Nations human rights expert warned today, calling for States to do more to meet the challenge of countering terrorism without fuelling racism and xenophobia.

“After recent terrorist attacks, I have witnessed the proliferation of anti-Muslim rhetoric and the rise of right-wing extremist parties,” Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Introducing his latest report, he said: “This has led to an atmosphere of fear towards Muslims in countries where they are seen as a separate ethnic group or viewed as foreign.”

“Meanwhile,” the UN expert continued, “counter-terrorism policies have disproportionally affected people from Middle Eastern countries, considerably restricting their freedom of movement. Several countries have amended legislation to make it easier to strip citizens of their nationalities if they are suspected of terrorist-related activities.”

Mr. Ruteere called addressing economic inequalities “key” to meeting the challenge of countering terrorism without fuelling racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

“With the onset of economic crises worldwide, populist parties have gained support by capitalizing on constituents' concerns over the financial burdens of migration and their belief that migrants engage in crime, take jobs away from nationals, pose a threat to national identity or have religious practices that are incompatible with modern societies,” he explained.

He also noted the particular challenges being posed to human rights and democracy by neo-Nazis, skinhead groups and other extremist movements.

“Consistent vigilance against racist and xenophobic crimes is required,” underscored Mr. Ruteere. “States must do more to combat the rise in extremist groups, and highlight good practices developed by each other and by other stakeholders.”

“Extremists continue to blame vulnerable groups for society's problems and incite intolerance and violence against them. States and other relevant groups must ensure better protection for victims and prevent future crimes,” he stressed.

Mr. Ruteere's report also looked at racism in sport, the Internet and social media, the role of education in the prevention of racism, and the use of racial profiling in law enforcement.

While pointing out that new technologies, including the Internet, are key tools in preventing racism and discrimination, he noted: “The intersection of poverty and racism means that excluded minority groups might have less access to the internet. States should, therefore, adopt measures to make the Internet widely available, increasing opportunities for meaningful interaction and participation.”

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.


UN chief appoints new envoys on youth; accessibility; and for Haiti

CARIBBEAN, 20 June 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today announced the appointment of senior officials as his envoys, respectively, for promoting universal accessibility, on the rights of young people, and to guide the implementation of the Organization's new approach to tackle cholera in Haiti.

The senior appointments include Josette Sheeran of the United States, who shall serve as the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Haiti and will guide full implementation of the Organization's new approach to reduce the impact of cholera in the country and support national efforts on sustainable development.

The new UN approach on cholera involves two tracks: the first to intensify efforts to reduce and ultimately end the transmission of the disease, improve access to care and treatment, and address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems.

Track 2 involves developing a package of material assistance and support for those Haitians most directly affected by cholera.

Ms. Sheeran, currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Asia Society, previously served as the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) from 2007 to 2012, where she also lead the agency's response in the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck the island nation in 2010.

She has also held senior positions at the World Economic Forum as well as in the US Government, including the Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs and Deputy US Trade Representative.

Similarly, María Soledad Cisternas Reyes of Chile has been appointed the UN chief's Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility, a role in which she will promote the rights of persons with disabilities, with a particular emphasis on accessibility for all.

Ms. Cisternas most recently served as the President of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She is also the recipient of the National Prize of Human Rights (2014) and Director of the Legal Programme on Disability, Faculty of Law, Diego Portales University.

She previously served as an expert on the Ad-hoc Committee that developed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), for which she was also the Rapporteur for individual complaints. She has also authored various publications.

Also today, the UN chief appointed 27-year-old Jayathma Wickramanayake of Sri Lanka – who played a key role in transforming the youth development sector at the national level – as his Envoy on Youth.

Ms. Wickramanayake is also credited with having established the 'Hashtag Generation,' a large civic and political engagement movement of young people. She has also represented and motivated global youth development at the international level since the age of 21, including at the UN, such as in the declaration of World Youth Skills Day.

Presently working as an officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service, Ms. Wickramanayake previously served as Secretary to the Secretary General of the Parliament of Sri Lanka (2016-2017) as well as a Senator at the Sri Lankan Youth Parliament (2013-2015).

In the statements, Mr. Guterres expressed that he was grateful to the outgoing senior leaders.


Dry spring puts rural provinces on bushfire alert

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The long dry spell has raised the risk of bush fires, especially in southern provinces, weather experts have warned. Zeeland, Gelderland and northern and central Limburg have all issued Code Oranje warnings, while Brabant is on yellow alert.

Three months with little rain have put 2017 in the top 10 driest years on record, according to the meteorological institute KNMI. It expects that by the end of this week average rainfall across the country will be 150mm short of the usual level.

Most of the rainfall in the spring has come in short, heavy bursts, which makes the problem worse, Weerplaza meteorologist Michiel Severin told AD. ‘When it rains steadily the water can soak into the ground, but in a heavy shower part of it flows over the ground and straight into the drainage system.’

The dry spell has continued into June, with only one day of significant rain on June 9, when between 15 and 35mm fell. Long spells of warm sunshine cause the ground to dry up faster.

‘Because no rain is falling and moisture on the ground is evaporating, natural areas are continuing to dry out,’ said Severin. Visitors to the countryside are advised to be extra aware of the potential of fire and report any incidents immediately. Fires are likely to spread quickly in the tinderbox conditions, Weerplaza has warned. (DutchNews)


National heatwave plan kicks in as temperatures soar

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The national hot weather plan has come into force in the southern half of the country as temperatures are expected to top 30 degrees again on Monday.

The national meteorological service KNMI has issued yellow alert warnings and expects to declare a heatwave by the end of Monday. A heatwave is defined as five consecutive days above 25C including three on which the temperature exceeds 30C.

The hot weather plan has been activated by the public health service RIVM in seven provinces: Utrecht, Overijssel, Gelderland, Zuid-Holland, Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Zeeland.

It was brought in to focus attention on people who are vulnerable to extreme temperatures, such as the elderly, those in institutional care and people with long-term health problems.

General advice includes drinking more fluids, wearing thin, loose-fitting clothing and keeping activity to a minimum in the middle of the day. People are also advised to apply plenty of sunscreen and keep in the shade as much as possible.

The official temperature at De Bilt will need to rise above 30C on Monday for a heatwave to be confirmed. It will be the first official heatwave since 2015 and the ninth since the turn of the century.

In the whole of the 20th century there were 15 heatwaves, but between 1948 and 1975 not one was recorded. (DutchNews)


A tropical storm could form in the Gulf of Mexico by early next week

By Brian McNoldy 

Atlantic hurricane season is only 15 days old, but the ocean basin presently features two areas of disturbed weather that forecasters are monitoring for tropical development — one in the Caribbean and a second in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean.

The prospects of the disturbance in the eastern Atlantic developing are low, so we will focus on the disturbed weather in the Caribbean that could evolve into Tropical Storm Bret next week in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although there is presently no organized weather system in the area of concern in the Caribbean, models have consistently predicted storm development in the region, which then drifts into the Gulf of Mexico next week.

The National Hurricane Center says there is a 50 percent chance a tropical depression or tropical storm will form within the next five days.

If this disturbance earns a name, it will be Bret — the second named storm of 2017, coming nearly two months after Tropical Storm Arlene formed over the central Atlantic Ocean in April.

While it is too soon to pin down exactly where this disturbance will track and how strong it will become in the coming days, these models suggest a relatively high likelihood of a tropical depression or storm in the Gulf of Mexico early next week.

Areas from Texas to Florida should monitor this system, as they could, at the very least, receive a lot of rain next week.

Some recent June storms have formed under similar circumstances and include Andrea (2013), Debby (2012), Alberto (2006), Arlene (2005), Bill (2003), Allison (1995) and Alberto (1994). None of these storms became very intense (Allison was briefly a Category 1 hurricane). Storms that form in the gulf this early in the hurricane season have somewhat limited potential given water temperatures only marginally warm enough for tropical development.

On average, the second named storm of hurricane season forms July 7, so this would not be too out of the ordinary if it did form. And this is a highly favored region for development this time of year as well.

(Author: Brian McNoldy works in cyclone research at the University of Miami’s world-renowned Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). His website hosted at RSMAS is also quite popular during hurricane season.)

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