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Safety Tips for Decorating your Home and Christmas tree this holiday season

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, DCOMM) – Holiday shoppers are busy buying Christmas trees and lights to adorn their home this holiday season.  As the day gets closer, families are bustling around to have everything in place for Christmas Eve.

Parents and family members should keep in mind some holiday safety tips where it concerns decorations and the Christmas tree.  The season is all about family togetherness and we would like everyone to have a safe holiday season incident free.  

Every year the Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department that falls under the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, as part of its calendar of observances, highlights and creates awareness where it concerns holiday safety.

Check out this list of holiday season safety tips:

Trees:

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean the tree won't catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • When setting up a tree at home, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.

Lights:

  • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights - they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

Decorations:

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair."
  • Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
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Information meeting about Victim Crime Fund

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS - On Thursday December 13th a mixed group of professionals with representatives from various aid organizations, health care, the legal profession, the police and from the public prosecution office among others, attended an information session.

During this session information was provided about Schadefonds (Victim Crime Fund), which is pending to be launched in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Schadefonds Geweldsmisdrijven (Victim Crime Fund) is an independent administrative body that is included in the Ministry of Justice and Security.

They provide one-off benefits to victims of violent crimes if they suffered serious physical and/or psychological injuries as a result. Relatives of victims of a violent crime or death-by-offense can also submit an application with the fund.

At the moment the organization is only active in the Netherlands. However, the Minister for Legal Protection has submitted the bill to the Tweede Kamer regarding expansion of duties of Schadefonds in the Caribbean Netherlands.

As soon as this has been approved by Parliament in The Hague, Schadefonds Geweldsmisdrijven will also start processing applications from the Caribbean Netherlands.  

Because the applications are submitted via Bureau Slachtofferhulp (BSH), BSH employees from all three islands attended courses from Schadefonds earlier this week.

The delegation from The Hague also visited various stakeholders, such as the Lieutenant Governor, the Public Prosecution Office, KPCN, the judiciary, the guardianship council, medical services and RCN.  

In the meantime, for more information regarding Schadefonds you can take a look at www.schadefonds.nl. A website will be launched soon with information specifically for the Caribbean Netherlands. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Rolando……AGAIN!?

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY) - It is with interest, that I read the article on the front page of The Daily Herald of December 13, 2018, headlined: “Brison pays past due training bill from Tourist Office stint”.

According to the article, the MP in his previous job, at the Department of Tourism, received funds from government to ostensibly attend a training course related to Tourism.

Part of the amount received was earmarked to pay for that training course. Seemingly, this payment did not take place, at least not at time of the training, or when it was first due.

It seems from the article that only when the MP was called out on his failure to pay, did he rush to do so yesterday, more than a year past due. Are we experiencing a Rolando Brison “déjà vu” event???? Remember the missing funds when Brison worked for WINAIR?

In that case, the good gentleman misappropriated funds as well (US$30,000-plus).  WINAIR was gracious enough not to press criminal charges, but instead allowed him to pay back the money that went missing, only to have him renege on the deal.

That prompted me to write my first Letter to the Editor dated August 14, 2016 regarding the man’s financial integrity, or rather, the lack thereof. At which point, Mr. Brison made a second deal to pay back WINAIR.

Starting to sound familiar? I can’t say for certain why he did what he did, but given his modus operandi, I am speculating that it has to do with politics.

In the WINAIR case, he ultimately needed to clear the slate in order to run for political office, and in this case, he holds a political office and wants to maintain his soap box.

I might add, that thanks to transparency, at least the monies got paid back to the rightful owners in both cases, albeit with some delay. If there is a moral to this story, it is that there is truth to the saying “A leopard does not change his spots”.

Michael J. Ferrier

COMMENTARY: The comments here are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Critically endangered sawfish and vulnerable silky shark gain additional protection

SABA/ST. EUSTATIUS - Last week Caribbean nations agreed to add two more species to the Annexes of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol, the only transnational legal instrument for the environment of the Caribbean.

At the insistence of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, regional SPAW member governments unanimously decided to recommend largetooth sawfish and silky shark for (obligatory) protection under SPAW.

"We are very pleased that our proposals could count on so much support," said Paul Hoetjes, of Coordinator of nature policy for the Caribbean Netherlands of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). "Through the SPAW protocol, signatory countries have made firm commitments to ensure the protection of these unique animals."

Just this week, a study was published classing the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis) as the elasmobranch* species most in danger of extinction in . Human activities like overfishing and destruction of vital habitats such as coral reefs and mangrove forests have caused this decline.

In the case of Silky Sharks the numbers have been severely reduced by overfishing around the world and protection is now needed to prevent further decline.

The Dutch elasmobranch Association (NEV) worked closely with the Ministry of LNV, providing the scientific input for the proposals and ensuring they were aligned with other international standards.

Irene Kingma, director of the NEV: "In 2015 we started working with the Kingdom of the Netherlands on protection of sharks and rays under SPAW. We are very happy to continue this partnership with the formulation of the proposals for these iconic species.”

“We are elated to see that these two very important species can now gain legal protection in the Caribbean Sea and look forward to the listing of additional species, making the Caribbean a global safe-haven for elasmobranchs,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, leader of the Save our Sharks Project of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance, funded by the Dutch Post Code Lottery.

The adoption of the proposal is an important first step toward permanent inclusion on the protocol. In March the final decision will take place at the SPAW Conference of the Parties after which the protection will come into force.

For more information on Save our Sharks visit www.saveoursharks.nl or follow us on www.facebook.com/SaveOurSharksNL or www.twitter.com/SaveOurSharksNL

Background

*Sharks and rays belong to the subclass of the elasmobranchs (cartilaginous fish). Elasmobranchs help to keep our marine ecosystems healthy and productive. As large predatory fish sharks and rays deliver a vital contribution to the preservation of the natural balance in the ocean, the biodiversity and its sustainable function. All available evidence shows that the number of sharks in the Caribbean region has declined sharply, a development that reflects the large decline in shark populations worldwide. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that currently one quarter of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, mainly due to overfishing and disappearing habitats.

silkyshark phot GuidoLeurs

Silky shark. Photo by Guido Leurs.

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Tourism Minister Johnson welcomes Rotary International President Rassin

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - Fanfare and merriment was the order of the day at SXM Airport around when Rotary International President Barry Rassin stepped onto the tarmac around 4:00pm Wednesday.

He was greeted by a large delegation led by Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & telecommunication (TEATT) the Honourable Stuart Johnson.

President Rassin was also met outside the arrival hall of the Airport by the District Governor for St. Maarten, his wife, AG, current Presidents, Secretaries and members of the various clubs.

Minister Johnson said "As a Rotarian and a Minister in the Council of Ministers for the Government of St. Maarten, I take great pride in welcoming the Rotary International President to St. Maarten. I am pleased that he has taken the time to visit us here in St. Maarten."

Also, part of the Welcome Committee was Rotary Sunset President Jaida, DGND Louis Wever and his wife Amanda Wever, Secretary Elisia along with other members of the Rotary Club.

Rotary Sunset President Jaida presented RI President Rassin with a St. Martin Scarf, which he wore from the tarmac to the arrival hall where he was greeted with a Ponum Dancer performance by 6 students of the NIA (namely Ray Angel Simon, Zacquell Phipps, Tyreke Arrindell, Naomi Jonelle Wasop, and Faith Peterson & Kiara Vanterpool).

Local Calypso Kings Kenyo Baly, King James and King Vers as well as Carnival Queens Shanice, Shakiynah and Michelene were also on hand to welcome RI President Rassin.

Senior Queen, Ms Shanice Powell handed President Rassin some welcome gifts and a few words of welcome. Johnson said following the arrival of the RI President “considering that it is the first visit of the RI President, we want to give him a real St. Maarten welcome and show him the type of atmosphere that this incredible country has which draws people from around the world to our shores.” A strong relationship with Rotary International is significant for the island as there are often many events that the Rotary Club holds annually with its members, and we in St. Maarten can play a major role in hosting these events. We can also benefit from and be part of the Rotary Club International’s many outreach programs.”

RI President Rassin is a member of the Rotary Club of East Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas and has been elected Rotary International President for 2018-19. He has an MBA in health, as well as hospital administration and spent 37 years as President of Doctors Hospital Health System. He is a lifetime member of the American Hospital Association and has served on the Quality Council of the Bahamas, Health Education Council and Employer’s Confederation.

Rotary President Arrives group

(Seventh right) Tourism Minister Stuart Johnson, (eight right) RI President Barry Rassin and several members of various Rotary Clubs on St. Maarten including Rotary Sunset Club pose for a photo shortly after RI President Rassin arrived at the Princess Juliana International Airport on Wednesday.

Rotary President Arrives welcome

Rotary International President Barry Rassin, Tourism Minister Johnson, and members of several Rotary clubs on St. Maarten along with arriving passengers enjoying the entertainment that was prepared in honour of the visit of the RI President.

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CPS Reminder: Advises persons at risk to get their flu vaccine

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, DCOMM) – It’s that time of the year when influenza, better known as the flu, becomes more predominant. Make sure to get your flu shot.

Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection. Unlike the common cold, influenza can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, which often require hospitalization.

The flu poses a risk or can be dangerous for the elderly people (65-years and over), pregnant women, and very young children (aged six months and over) as well as for people with underlying medical conditions (severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity, diabetics).

The aforementioned groups are considered high-risk groups and it is highly recommended that these persons get their flu shot (vaccine), the Collective Prevention Service (CPS), a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA) said in a reminder press statement on Thursday.

Vaccination offers effective protection against influenza. Persons are also reminded to adhere to proper handwashing and cough etiquettes. Vaccines need to be given each year as flu viruses are always changing.

There are three different types of influenza viruses that infect humans: influenza A, B and C. Only influenza A and B cause major outbreaks and severe disease, and these are included in seasonal influenza vaccines. Influenza spreads from person to person through the air by droplets as a result of coughing and/or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands.

The flu usually differs from a cold as symptoms develop suddenly and can lead to complications such as chest infections and pneumonia – particularly among the elderly and young children.

Flu symptoms tend to develop abruptly one to three days after infection, and can include: tiredness, high fever, chills, headache, coughing, sneezing, runny noses, poor appetite, and muscle aches.

Most people who get the flu will suffer from mild illness and will recover in less than two weeks. However, some people can develop longer-term health problems, including pneumonia, bronchitis, chest and sinus infections, heart, blood system or liver complications, which can lead to hospitalisation and even death.

Consult your physician to assure the correct diagnosis, to obtain laboratory confirmation of the condition and acquire treatment for respective condition.

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COM recess clarified by Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - During the Council of Ministers (COM) Press Briefing of Wednesday December 12th, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin clarified the miscommunication concerning the Council of Ministers "recess" from Monday December 24th until Tuesday January 8th, 2019.

“Let me emphasize that the day-to-day operations of government will continue as customary and the Ministers will continue to carry out their individual tasks. In order to avoid the end-of-the-year rush of advices the Council of Ministers decided to be proactive and informed the civil service on November 21st, 2018 via an internal memo to submit all their pending advices before considering the holidays,” explained Prime Minister Romeo-Marlin.

As is commonly known, the Council of Ministers holds its weekly meetings every Tuesday and when necessary continues on Thursday. The next two Tuesdays following December 18th are the 25th which is Christmas day and January 1st which is New Year’s Day. Thus, no meetings of the Council of Ministers can be held, unless it is an emergency. Government will open on January 2nd, 2019.

Prime Minister Romeo Marlin elucidated, “In the spirit of transparency, we believe it is necessary to inform the public at large and clarify any miscommunication and/or misinterpretation. Please note that a majority of Ministers will be on the island and available to meet should any emergency arise. Any Minister taking vacation during this period must avail themselves when necessary.”

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Rotarians Prepare Food Baskets for Holiday Meals

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - Members of the Rotary Club of St. Maarten, and Learning Unlimited Interact Club gathered at the Belair Community Center in Cay Hill to prepare 175 Food Baskets for those in need during the Holiday season. 

An assembly line of volunteers put flour, rice, cereals, canned vegetables, and many other food items necessary for a great holiday feast together in Prime Distributor bags and staged them for delivery. 

About 15 Rotarians and another 10 Interact members participated in the preparation. 

According to Rotary Club of Sint Maarten President, John Caputo, “The preparation and distribution of food baskets to those in need goes right back to reason so many of us are members of Rotary. 

“We all simply want to ‘do good in the world’ and the distribution of these food baskets is just another example of doing good in the world right here in our local community.  On behalf of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten, please accept our best wishes for a joyous, safe, happy and healthy holiday season. Spreading Holiday Cheer and providing food to so many who just may be lacking in both is so very heartwarming," said The Rotary Club of St. Maarten's President John Caputo.

"Rotarians work tirelessly to help make St. Maarten...and the world a better place. We provided 175 huge hampers of food which will surely help make for a holiday feast for so many.  Each hamper contained more than 40 pounds of food.  We would especially like to thank the suppliers who helped fill these hampers with such great and needed products. Prime, Carrefour Market, Fairway Mark It, and Divico; your support is greatly appreciated," President Caputo continued to say.

Members of the Rotary Club of Sint Maarten are now in the process of distributing these food baskets in various districts around Sint Maarten. 

For more information about the Rotary Club of St. Maarten, please contact the Rotary Club of St. Maarten Press Officer at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website www.rotarysxm.org.

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Arrival Hall of Terminal Building Back in Use for the First Time Since Irma

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) - Passengers on board a WINAIR flight from Saba that landed at 7:56AM on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 were the first to make use of the Arrival Hall at the Terminal Building of the Princess Juliana International Airport since the building was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017.

This serves as a part of the Package One - Temporary Operations of the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). They were followed by passengers aboard two other WINAIR flights from St. Eustatius that landed back to back at 8:12am and 8:14am respectively.

The return to the Terminal Building followed the successful testing after the transfer of Arrival operations was carried out on Monday, December 10, 2018. The Managing Board has also confirmed that Departure operations will also be transferred back to the Terminal Building on Thursday, December 13th, 2018.

Once this is done, the Temporary Arrival and Departure Pavilions will be dismantled on December 15th, 2018. Passengers on board Divi Divi airline, which made its inaugural flight to St. Maarten on Monday, will be processed in the Arrival Hall when they land at 12:30pm today as will those arriving on JetBlue at 1:28pm and on KLM at 1:45pm.

“I have nothing but admiration and respect for the tireless work done by each and every member of our staff who have made it possible for this giant step forward that we have taken today,” said Acting CEO and CFO, Ravi Daryanani, while Chief Operations Officer, Michel Hyman added that “this was a very important step in our recovery and reconstruction process. Additionally, the staff are the true heroes of this accomplishment.”

The official ceremony marking the return to the Terminal Building will be held on Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 which will also kick off the 75th anniversary celebrations of the airport.

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Rotary International President Barry Rassin to visit St. Martin

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The Rotary International President, Barry Rassin, will be making his official visit to the island on December 12th and 13th

President Rassin, of the Rotary Club of East Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas, will be the first sitting Rotary International President to visit St. Martin during his term.

On December 12th, President Rassin will be attending the official charter ceremony of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset taking place at the Refuge from 7pm. He will be assisting in the pinning of all rotarians of the club as well as a new Paul Harris Fellow. 

The Paul Harris Fellow program, named after Rotary Club founder, Paul Harris, recognizes individuals who have contributed $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

As part of the visit, on December 13th, President Rassin will be attending a meet and greet with, amongst other dignitaries, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin, The Governor, His Excellency drs. Eugene Holiday and Senator of Saint Martin Guillaume Arnell at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort.  

He will also be attending projects being undertaken by the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset including a donation to Mental Health Foundation and the unveiling of a Library Reading Mailbox. President Rassin, along with the President of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset will be live on air with Dr. Soc at the studios of Island 92 91.9fm at 11:15am. 

President Rassin, a Rotarian since 1980, has served Rotary as director and as vice chair of The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees. He was an RI training leader and the aide to 2015-16 RI President K.R. Ravindran.

Rassin received Rotary's highest honor, the Service Above Self Award, as well as other humanitarian awards for his work leading Rotary’s relief efforts in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there. He and his wife, Esther, are Major Donors and Benefactors of The Rotary Foundation.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset is elated to be graced with the presence of the Rotary International President and deems it a distinct honor to host the President.

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