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Pollen, not pollution: Utrecht’s new bus stops are buzzing

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Utrecht’s bee friendly bus shelters are capturing the world’s imagination with media from across the globe reporting on a solution to urban pollution that is both simple and effective.

From Mexico City to Melbourne, local officials have been in touch about how to make bus shelters a part of efforts to combat pollution and protect bees, the Volkskrant reported on Friday.

When Utrecht city council started looking for ways of making the city more sustainable Reclamebureau Limburg (RBL), which specialises in advertising in public spaces, was quick to take up the gauntlet.

Apart from bamboo seats, RBL’s new bus shelter, of which there are now over 300 in Utrecht, has a green roof. The hardy sedum plants provided by family firm Mobilane reduce the amount of lung-damaging fine dust, store rainwater and combat heat.

They also promote biodiversity, and the ‘bee stops’, as the foreign press dubbed them, could well play a part in saving this endangered insect.

With July entering the history books as the hottest ever recorded the shelters were put to the test almost immediately. RBL, which built and maintains the shelters from the proceeds of advertising, told the Volkskrant that the plants survived the heat wave ‘surprisingly well’.

Sedum plants need little water and are able to withstand extreme temperatures. But convincing sceptic Utrechtenaren was not always plain sailing. ‘People in Utrecht initially said “oh not another GroenLinks scheme that will only cost tax money and won’t do anything.

And will I be stung by a bee while I’m waiting for a bus?” But it’s become the summer hit of 2019,’ the paper quotes council spokesperson Jacqueline Rabius as saying.

While the sustainable shelters are not going to save the world, the 2,000 m2 of additional green roofs will contribute to cleaner air in the city and 96 of them have also been equipped with solar panels.

Stimulus

They are also proving a stimulus to others because requests for subsidies for green roofs have been multiplying since the bus shelters hit the headlines,’ Utrecht public space manager Maurice Prijs said.

Nijmegen, Rotterdam, Hoorn and Apeldoorn are reportedly also looking into replacing conventional shelters with bee stops. To put things in perspective, spokesperson for environmental organisation Milieu Centraal Puk van Meegeren told the paper that the effect on air quality of the shelters will not equal that of a number of big trees in a park.

‘But the shelters are a start and other bigger roofs may follow. Green roofs help to store water which would otherwise disappear into the sewage system. For homes with a flat roof they make a good alternative for air conditioning systems.’

(DutchNews)

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Student accused of killing dog walkers confesses, blames ‘voices’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The student suspected of murdering three people who were out walking their dogs earlier this year has confessed to the killings.

Thijs H was appearing in court for a procedural hearing, during which he said that he had been instructed by voices in his head to carry out the crimes.

H also told the court he would cooperate fully with plans to send him to the Pieter Baan psychiatric clinic for an assessment. H, who is studying for a master’s degree in industrial ecology at Delft University, was arrested in May after police put out a nationwide alert.

He faces charges of killing three people – two people found dead on heathland in Limburg and a woman whose body was found in woods near Scheveningen. After the arrest it transpired H had reported to a clinic in Maastricht seeking help but later left.

He was picked up after police circulated a photograph of him taken at the clinic itself. The next hearing will take place in November.

(DutchNews)

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20-Year old arrested as Point Blanche Prison Guard responds with warning shots

SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) - On Tuesday August 13th at approximately 7.50 a.m. the Emergency Central Dispatch received a call from Point Blanche Prison informing them that one of the guards on duty in one of the towers at the prison noticed that an unknown man with his face covered with a white T-shirt and wearing a dark blue jeans was trying to throw a black plastic bag over the wall of the institution, police said in a statement on Tuesday.

The guard then fired two warning shots at which time the suspect fled the scene through the bushes and not getting the opportunity to throw the bag and its content over the wall.

According to witnesses the suspect then jumped into a black SUV that was parked in the area and he and the driver of that vehicle fled the Point Blanche area.

Several police patrols and detectives were sent to the scene to investigate what had taken place.

Based on the information that was gathered during the investigation a suspect identified with initials J.A.J. (20) was arrested and taken to the Police Headquarters in Philipsburg where he is being held for questioning and further investigation. No one was injured during this incident. The investigation continues. (Sint Maarten Police Force)

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BirdsCaribbean Conference Highlights Lessons Learned from 2017 Hurricanes

SINT MAARTEN/GUADELOUPE - The BirdsCaribbean International Conference takes place every two years in a different Caribbean location. This year, over 250 delegates came to Guadeloupe from 34 countries and islands. Much of the focus was on the major hurricanes of 2017 and their impact on birds, landscapes and people.

The members of BirdsCaribbean include teachers, scientists and conservationists. All three groups have learned important lessons over the last two years and shared them at the conference. The topic was explored over five days of keynotes, talks, field trips and workshops. 

Much research has been done after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. On Barbuda, researchers were relieved to find the Barbuda warbler still present. It is a small songbird that lives only on Barbuda and nowhere else in the world. Others shared their studies of the recovery of wild spaces, from mountain forests to saltwater lagoons. Hannah Madden presented on the decline of the Bridled Quail-Dove on Statia. Its population dropped by about 75% since the storms. 

Educators also shared their experiences. On many islands, bird education efforts were tricky after the storms. But many teachers made strong connections with people during this time. Many people felt closer to nature after the storms. Jenn Yerkes presented on work done by Les Fruits de Mer and other St. Martin groups to help people connect with birds and nature after Irma.

The chance to help birds was often a bright spot during a tough time. BirdsCaribbean and partners on eighteen islands gave out over 4,000 bird feeders and five tons of bird seed after the storms.

The storms also influenced efforts to save and protect birds and wild spaces. Although hurricanes are natural, their impact is more severe when natural areas are already under stress. Members started a new working group learning to restore habitat with native plants. In the long term, healthier wild spaces are more resilient. They also protect people from floods, storm surge and landslides.

With over 100 sessions and talks, many other topics were also explored during the week, such as the role of sustainable bird tourism in conservation and a special celebration of Guadeloupe’s birds. BirdsCaribbean also started a mentor program to help young people working with birds and conservation in the region. A new generation of members is one of the most important resources for the region.

The conference was made possible by many sponsors, including Parc national de la Guadeloupe, Karibea Beach Hotel, Environment Canada, US Forest Service International Programs, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Para la Naturaleza, Benjamin Olewine IV, The David Webster Charitable Trust, American Bird Conservancy, Caribbaea Initiative, Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildside Nature Tours, Carefree Birding, Holbrook Travel, Optics for the Tropics, NuStar, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Vortex Optics, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Bermuda Audubon Society, Environment for the Americas, Levesque Birding Enterprise, AMAZONA, The Friendship Association, and Hideaways of Ti Bay Hieghts.

More information about the conference is available at the conference website: http://birdscaribbean.org/bc2019/

birds Jenn Yerkes ins1

Jenn Yerkes shared how to engage people with nature after a disaster.

birds Guadeloupe Conference Poster 2

The Guadeloupe Conference Poster features five special birds—four that are resident in Guadeloupe and one that migrates to the island. (Artwork by Guillaume Zbinden)

 

 

 

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Food companies caught selling fake organic products escape prosecution

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Government and organic food label inspectors identified 68 companies which have been selling or trading products labeled as organic which broke the rules, RTL Nieuws said at the weekend.

In some cases, the companies earned tens of thousands of euros selling non-organic coffee, meat, chocolate and vegetables as organic even though they did not meet the proper standards, RTL said.

The broadcaster bases its claim on an analysis of reports made to the two watchdogs covering the sector between 2015 and 2018. In total, 58 cases involved ‘misleading’ the public and the remaining 10 were more serious fraud offences, RTL said.

‘These are not incidents,’ VU University criminologist Wim Huisman told the broadcaster. ‘This shows that there is a substantial problem and that it is happening systematically.’

‘People who buy organic food pay a higher price for produce which is animal and environment friendly,’ food scientist Gertjan Schaafsma said. ‘If there is fraud, these people are being ripped off.’

Prosecution

Just one of the cases uncovered by RTL are being looked at by the public prosecution department. Calls from farmers for a get-tough approach from government inspectors are likely to go unheard and a spokesman for the NVWA told RTL that the agency does not have enough staff to tackle all the fraud involving organic food.

Priority, therefore, is given to cases which have implications for food safety. In May, RTL Nieuws reported that hundreds of products are being sold in Dutch shops as organic, but which actually come from farms which have broken the rules on animal welfare, the use of medicines and the environment.

Produce from 220 farmers – including eggs, honey and dairy produce – is being labeled and sold as organic, even though it does not meet all the proper standards.

(DutchNews)

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Mystery woman found murdered in June to be buried on Tuesday

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A woman found naked and shot dead in a Zeeland field seven weeks ago will be buried in Terneuzen on Tuesday, without an answer about who she is, police said at the weekend.

The woman’s body was found by a farmer on June 22, and despite 174 tips, police have still failed to identify her. The woman was naked, with no jewelry and no tattoos or personal possessions.

She was aged 50 to 65, is white and has red hair. Her nails and teeth had been well taken care of and at some point, in the past she had undergone a hysterectomy and her appendix had been removed, police say.

The woman had been dead for no more a couple of days. A garbage bag with a printed text in French, which is related to the crime, was found at the site. In the meantime, the search for the woman’s identity has been extended to Belgium, France and Germany and her DNA has been sent to missing persons data banks across Europe.

We have checked many files of missing people in the Netherlands and Belgium and plan to do so in other countries as well,’ Martine Jacobs, leader of the large-scale investigation team, said.

‘Her DNA, fingerprints and dental information were compared with data files in many European and other countries. ‘We really need the public both in the Netherlands and abroad to be able to identify the woman.

This is our key mission right now. Only then we can properly investigate who is responsible for this.’

(DutchNews)

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NA Leader MP Silveria Jacobs New School Year 2019-2020 Message

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – National Alliance (NA) Leader and Member of Parliament (MP) Silveria Jacobs on Monday issued her New School Year message.  “As the first day of the academic year 2019-2020 is upon us, Member of Parliament and leader of the National Alliance, Silveria Jacobs, wishes all students, teachers and parents, a Happy and Productive School year,” said a statement from the NA parliamentary faction.

MP Jacobs encourages students to do their best and strive for greatness. She stressed on the great responsibility that parents have in ensuring their children’s success by urging them to continue to be vigilant and involved in their children’s academic performance.

“Parents should ensure that their children do what they have to do and have all that they need during the school year. They should also maintain a healthy parent-teacher relationship in an effort to stay up to date with their children’s progress. This would allow parents to detect if their children are having difficulties early on, and they can seek timely and efficient assistance,” MP Jacobs explained.

“Teachers are encouraged to continue to do their best at this very significant and rewarding job, as the children look up to them as role models and depend on them to provide some essential tools that they will need in the future,” the statement continued.

MP Jacobs therefore wishes educators and support staff much success in motivating and encouraging youth to become lifelong learners.

MP Jacobs took note of the fact that unfortunately, the St. Maarten Academy is still not to ready be reopened. She also noted that some schoolteachers and students are returning to the same pitiful circumstances as for example, Public Schools have not been repaired in the summer as was promised. However, MP Jacobs ensured that she will follow up with the Minister of Education about these matters, the NA parliamentary faction statement concludes.

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Nature Foundation Joins Expert Meeting to Tackle New Coral Disease

SINT MAARTEN/FLORIDA - Experts from around the Caribbean region are meeting at the Eco-Discovery Centre in Key West to share information on an emerging and unprecedented threat to Caribbean coral reefs posed by a coral disease first documented in Florida and now being reported at sites across the region.

Since 2014, the Florida Reef Tract has been severely impacted by a newly documented coral disease which scientists are calling “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease” because it affects only hard stony corals and is characterized by the rapid loss of live coral tissue. The disease has rapidly spread across coral reefs from Palm Beach to the lower Florida Keys and in the last year has been reported elsewhere in the Caribbean, including in Mexico, Jamaica, Sint Maarten, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Belize.

“Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease affects some of the slowest-growing and longest-lived reef-building corals, including the iconic brain corals, star corals and pillar corals,” explained Dr. Andy Bruckner, Research Coordinator at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where the meeting is taking place.

“Scientists from NOAA and the state of Florida, sanctuary managers and academic partners have been working to document the outbreak, identify causes and contributing factors, and develop treatments and interventions,” he added.

As the disease has begun to be reported in other parts of the Caribbean, experts from Florida are sharing their valuable knowledge with counterparts around the region to help them identify the disease and learn how to respond once it has been documented. The learning exchange includes 22 participants from 17 countries and territories of the Caribbean.

“The visitors will see first-hand how this disease has impacted Florida’s coral reefs. With local experts, they’ll learn about monitoring for and treating the disease and about local efforts to save this incredibly important ecosystem,” explained Dana Wusinich-Mendez from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.

“The visitors are not only learning from Florida’s experience but are also sharing with their hosts and with each other. The gathering is an important opportunity to exchange information and experiences about the disease progression and status of response efforts in other affected countries.”

Tadzio Bervoets, director from the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation attended the meeting and commented: “Given the significance of coral reef ecosystems to our islands, it’s imperative that we join forces with scientists, communities and the authorities to find possible solutions to this issue. By exchanging ideas and sharing expertise with other countries we hope to keep pace with advances in managing the disease. We are learning from our Florida hosts that once the disease has been reported it is essential to respond rapidly to prevent it from spreading to a wider area. What we learn at this meeting is giving us a head start to face this disease.”

Superintendent of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Sarah Fangman, welcomed the visitors and commented: “Everyone here is aware of the vital role corals play in our region. In the Florida Keys, coral reefs help to support some 33,600 jobs and bring over $2.1 billion to the local economy. While the situation is urgent, it is not too late to save this incredibly important ecosystem. Corals are resilient if given the chance and the enabling conditions for their growth and survival.”

The meeting is an initiative of the MPAConnect Network which comprises marine protected area managers in 10 Caribbean countries and territories, working in partnership with the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, with funding from NOAA CRCP and the NFWF Coral Reef Conservation Fund.

For more information please contact Emma Doyle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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New fuel delivery problems hit Schiphol, 10 flights cancelled on Friday

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport was again hit by fuel supply problems on Friday night.

The airport authority said on Saturday it had still not determined the cause of the disruption or if it is connected to the major breakdown last month, which resulted in 180 flight cancellations.

‘Yesterday there was no fuel and we do not yet know the cause,’ the spokesman said. The problem was made worse by the thunderstorm hanging over the airport, which halted the resumption of fuel deliveries.

In the end, 10 flights were cancelled and 17 were delayed. The TNO research institute is investigating the latest problems alongside the July crisis, fuel company AFS said.

(DutchNews)

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Amsterdam judges get tough on violent crime, impose higher sentences

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam judges have reached an agreement to impose higher sentences on people found guilty of weapons offences, the AD said on Saturday.

The aim, the paper said, is to make a statement following a spate of violent incidents in the Dutch capital. ‘There have been a lot of stabbings and killings in the city and people are more willing to use hand grenades,’ spokesman Domien Huijbregts told the paper.

‘That is why we want to give a clear signal. This is completely unacceptable.’ Sentences for gun, knife or grenade crime in the Dutch capital can be four times as high as in other parts of country, the paper said.

This means someone caught with a pistol would be jailed for 12 months, while the recommended sentence is three months. ‘Amsterdam judges are able to go their own way in this,’ a spokesman for the Council for the Judiciary told the AD.

‘They are completely independent.’

(DutchNews)

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