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House of Parliament Host another successful Annual Christmas Cheer

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Each year the Parliament of Sint Maarten makes an effort to bring good cheers to the public of Sint Maarten in some form. This year six grade students of the Oranje School, St. Joseph School and Sister Borgia School were treated to a Christmas breakfast.

The event, which took place at the House of Parliament on Thursday, December 13, 2018, had over 80 students joined by their respective teachers in attendance.

Each school gave a short performance, in the form of a song, poetry or dance, thereafter the students were served breakfast by the Members of Parliament.

After enjoying their breakfast, the students then joined the Members of Parliament that were present in singing Christmas carols.

As a token of appreciation in helping to make this event possible, each school was presented with a group picture of their students. The pictures were taken upon their arrival at the House of Parliament.

PARL IN1 THUR1312

PARL INS2 THUR1312

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City of Amsterdam Technology Office inspires SHTA with Innovative Opportunities Ahead

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - "Technology can bring new economic opportunities, but even more importantly solve societal challenges." This was the key message of Ruben Polderman, Mobility Project Manager of Amsterdam's Chief Technology Office, in his presentation to the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) membership at their end of year mixer held on Wednesday December 12th.

The mixer was hosted by Topper’s Rhum Factory in Cole Bay, which proved to be a very interesting venue, with cocktails made with Topper’s Rhum and delicious catering by Topper’s Simpson Bay Restaurant.

An increasing number of cities have founded an innovation or technology office in order to cope with the rapid change of societies and economies by technology. The offices deal with systemic change brought forward by new technological innovations like AirBnB, Uber and self-driving cars and try to change challenges into opportunities and new policies.

Polderman shared how in many cities self-driving shuttles and self-driving cars already have hit the road.   Recently, even Caribbean islands like Aruba are founding comparable offices in order to hedge technology innovations and nudge its citizenship toward more desirably behaviors such as shared rides in doing so.

Polderman enlightened the business community about Amsterdam's Startup-in-residence program, fostering startup companies helping to create opportunities out of Amsterdam's challenges.

“Amsterdam is growing, but the city can’t handle more cars on the streets. Sint Maarten might need a low-car diet too.” Polderman stated that data gathering is essential to identify new trends and to determine the impact of new technology as well as to determine the best policies for integration.

As an example, he stated when the City of Amsterdam brought AirBnB into compliance, not only did they identify necessary usage restrictions such as in low income or subsidized housing areas and to restrict the number of AirBnB nights allowed in certain neighborhoods, but they were also able to double their room tax revenue. A key indicator for gaining a better understanding of AirBnB usage in Amsterdam was not initially suspected missing tax revenue but escalating property values—something that St. Maarten doesn’t even adequately track.

The presentation about new technologies has great connection with SHTA’s successful SMILE event hosted at USM in November. SMILE highlighted how things can be done differently after Irma – most notably with sustainability and innovation. For more information about SMILE visit www.shta.com/SMILE.

The SHTA thanks Mr. Polderman for his interesting and informative presentation and to Topper’s Rhum for their gracious hospitality.

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Dutch university grows bananas to help stamp out fungal diseases

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Researchers from Wageningen University are this week harvesting the first Dutch bananas which will be offered to restaurants and hospitals in the region as a ‘regional product’.

The aim of the experiment, which marks the 100th anniversary of the university, is to investigate whether new ways of cultivation will help stamp out soil-borne fungal diseases which threaten banana production throughout the world.

Taking the banana trees out of the soil and growing them on stone wool appears to have been very successful, says Gert Kema, professor of tropical plant pathology at the university.

‘The banana plants grow very well on coco peat and stone wool substrate with only the application of a nutrient solution,’ Kema said on the university website. ‘The Dutch banana does not need disease control, which makes cultivation more sustainable than in traditional production areas.’

Ripening

There are 60 plants in the Wageningen greenhouse. ‘One of the things that we have learned is that the plant density is too high at the moment,’ Kema said. ‘We are going to adjust that, so that we will have more light and the bunches will be able to ripen faster in future experiments.’

Once the Wageningen bananas have been harvested they will be moved to a ripening centre operated by banana giant Chiquita, which is involved in the project.

New breeds

‘We are on the way to developing sustainable banana cultivation with new breeds of bananas that are resistant to diseases and that are grown in healthy soils in a responsible social climate,’ Kema says.

The research group is also planning a trial in the Philippines to see how precision cultivation works under ideal conditions. Bananas are a staple food for more than 400 million people in the tropics, the fourth most consumed food crop, the most consumed non-cereal staple food, and the most consumed fruit in the world, Wageningen says. (DutchNews)

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Dutch cabinet to launch fake news awareness campaign in 2019

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch cabinet will launch an online campaign to make people aware of disinformation next February and is to carry out research into the impact of fake news during elections, home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren has confirmed.

Elections for the members of the 12 regional councils take place on March 20 and the European parliamentary elections follow in late May. An earlier report by the Rathenau Institute shows that disinformation has not had a ‘major negative impact’ on Dutch society because of ‘the strong media system, the variety of news on offer and high trust in the media,’ the home affairs ministry statement said.

The new research will begin in early 2019 and focus on analysing the use of social media during the election period and the way messages are swapped between media, politicians and citizens.

At the same time, the government will launch an online campaign to make citizens ‘more aware of the phenomenon… and their own responsibilities in recognising it,’ the ministry said.

‘The protection of freedom of speech and independent journalism are primary in this. We are not talking about pointing out disinformation in individual news items.’ (DutchNews)

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Household income rises: 500,000 households have more than €50,000

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 500,000 Dutch households had purchasing power of more than €50,000 last year, a rise of 120,000 on 2013, the national statistics office CBS said on Wednesday.

Purchasing power is disposable income adjusted for differences in household size and composition and is also referred to as standardised income, the CBS said.

The Netherlands has some 7.7 million households and the figures show 7% have purchasing power of more than €50,000, mainly due to economic growth, the CBS said.

Some 55,000 families had purchasing power of more than €100,000 – up around 12,000 on 2013.

The CBS survey also showed that the self-employed are more likely to be high earners – with 20% having purchasing power of more than €50,000. In the population at large, just 7% of workers earn such high amounts. (DutchNews)

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Girls more likely to do better at school than teachers suggest

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Girls are much more likely than boys to take school leaving exams at a higher level than recommended by their primary school, national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.

Last year, 16% of girls and 10% of boys were in a higher stream than suggested by the time they reached the third year of secondary school, the CBS said. At the same time, 14% of boys and 9% of girls have moved down a stream by the time they hit 14 or 15.

‘It is extremely difficult to draw conclusions from this,’ researcher Tanja Traag told broadcaster NOS. ‘Is the skill level of girls underestimated or are they judged differently by teachers to their male peers?

It is hard to draw conclusions.’ Dutch children are selected for one of three streams at the age of 12: pre-university (vwo), pre-college (havo) and vocational training (vmbo).

Since 2015, the role of teachers in deciding what sort of school pupils go to at the age of 12 has been boosted and that of national tests, such as the Cito, downplayed.

Earlier this year, a survey of 2,000 teachers showed three-quarters had faced pressure from parents to recommend children went to a more academic secondary school.

Development

The CBS does point out that girls find it easier to make the move from primary to secondary education because they are more advanced in terms of their neuro-psychological development.

However, University of Amsterdam professor Herman van de Werfhorst told NOS that the statistics are surprising.

‘If we are underestimating performance and giving the wrong advice, then we have a problem,’ he said. ‘We should be more flexible in looking at where pupils end up.’

Inspectors

Some 54% of 12-year-olds currently go to vmbo schools, while 22% are in pre-university streams and 24% in pre-college streams. The proportion of vmbo pupils has been declining in recent years.

The pressure to avoid vmbo schools led school inspectors in 2016 to say there is an ‘unacceptable’ inequality in Dutch secondary schools and the children of well-educated parents are scoring better in final exams than children of equal intelligence from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

For example, well-educated parents are more involved in the choice of school and invest money in tutors, homework classes and training in exam techniques. Their children are also more likely to be labelled dyslexic or as having adhd, which also entitles them to extra teaching time, the inspectors said. (DutchNews)

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Memoire of 99 year old St. Martiner– Nominated for Eric Hoffer Award

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - Carmen Eleanore Hodge Carrington, at 99 years old, may soon be helping to curb the growing trend in divorce and relationship disruption through her memoire, Love is Forever… written by #1 Bestselling author, of Success from the Heart, Dr. N. Erna Mae Francis Cotton. Oswald Francis, educator, retired journalist and author of “In Emilio Wilson Park with Uncle Joe,” a soon to be released children story book states: “At a time when the divorce rate internationally is alarmingly high and marriages are short lived, it is imperative to read, “Love is Forever.”

In a press release, Oswald Francis stated: “In this compelling, absorbing, and easy to read book, Mrs. Carrington, a 99 year old Saint Martiner gives a vivid account of the struggles and sacrifices one might have to endure to attain a fulfilling and lasting marriage.”

Francis-Cotton, a marriage and family therapist and success coach who believes in the sacredness of wholesome marriages and families, stated: I believe that Mrs. C.’s story of her love and romance is pivotal in helping our current generation to understand the importance of harmonious marital relationships. Moreover, a marriage spanning 54 years, which transcends death is a moving testimony in the 21st century where marriages can last for one week or even less.”

Mrs. Carmen Eleanore Hodge Carrington celebrates her 100th year on January 28th, 2019, the same birth date as the author, Francis Cotton. Consequently, Francis Cotton is diligently working towards ensuring that Mrs. Carrington’s book, Love is Forever… will be launched in time for her birthday.

The almost 100 year old has contributed significantly to the clothing design industry and has done St. Martin proud by her designs being featured on Saks Fifth Avenue [an American luxury department store owned by the oldest commercial corporation in North America, the Hudson's Bay Company in Midtown Manhattan].

Francis Cotton was pleasantly surprised and honoured when the publisher, Litfire Publishing contacted her and stated “We are recommending and endorsing your book for the Eric Hoffer Award in the category of Autobiography and Memoir categories. The Eric Hoffer grand prize is the highest distinction awarded each year. The Eric Hoffer Award honours the memory of the great American Philosopher Eric Hoffer. In addition to the grand prize, Hoffer honours are bestowed by press type and category, and also through the Montaigne Medal, da Vinci Eye, and First Horison Award.”

This Wednesday December 12th, Francis-Cotton will be the guest of Wendell Moore on PJD2 Radio’s “In The View,” at 12:10 p.m. where she’ll share more about the book and how persons may pre-order their copies at a discounted rate until December 31st, 2018. Francis Cotton may be reached at www.victoriouslivingfoundation.com, phone: 1-721-524-8731 and via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NCotton

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Doctors call for helmets to be compulsory on all scooters

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 100 doctors have signed a letter calling for parliament to make helmets compulsory on mopeds. The doctors say dozens of people a year are killed on low-powered scooters known as snorfietsen, which carry blue license plates and are allowed on cycle paths provided they have a maximum speed of 25 km/h.

Helmets are only required for larger scooters with yellow plates, which have to use the roadway. The doctors point out that the Netherlands is the only country in Europe where helmets are not compulsory for all types of scooter.

‘All over the country snorfiets users collide with objects or lose control of the steering. It often leads to traumatic head injuries and makes these accidents very serious,’ they wrote.

Neurologist Joukie van de Naalt, one of the leaders of the initiative, added: ‘The loss of brain function has a much greater impact on victims’ lives than permanent damage to other bodily functions.’

The traffic safety advisory research bureau SWOV recommended compulsory helmets on scooters back in 2012. The doctors are calling for this advice to be adopted as soon as possible.

The initiative comes on the eve of a debate on measures to improve road safety after the government last week set a target of eliminating road traffic deaths by 2030. Last year 613 people died on the roads, compared to 570 in 2014. (DutchNews)

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Nurse accused of care home murders allegedly forged disclosure check

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 22-year-old nurse from Rotterdam has been charged with murdering six patients and attempting to kill six more by giving them overdoses of insulin.

Prosecutors investigated 15 suspicious deaths of patients at nursing homes where Rahiied A. worked as a trainee or locum nurse between January 2016 and November 2017, NOS reported.

In three cases no charges were brought because investigators could not establish his involvement. A.’s work included evening and weekend shifts when he was alone with patients.

Concerns first arose after a female resident in one of the care homes became seriously ill and was taken to hospital, where doctors found a high quantity of insulin in her blood.

The details emerged during a procedural hearing in the case, which has been ongoing since A. was arrested last year.

At least three bodies of people who lived in the nursing homes in Rotterdam, Puttershoek and Ridderkerk have been disinterred during the investigation. A. is also accused of stealing medicines and medical documents and falsifying his ‘declaration of behaviour’ (Verklaring Omtrent Gedrag), which is a prerequisite for jobs that involve working with vulnerable people.

Prosecution service spokesman Ernst Pols said A.’s motivation for the alleged killings had not been discussed in court. ‘The suspect has talked to the police, but exactly what was said will be revealed during the substantial court hearings in the case next year,’ he said. (DutchNews)

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Seven parliamentary workers report sexual intimidation: NRC

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A survey among parliamentary staff has shown that seven women have been subjected to sexually intimidating behaviour and that their complaints had been ‘100% badly handled,’ the NRC reported on Friday.

The survey, conducted in a reaction to the MeToo movement, took place in September and comprised questions about workplace experiences, including some on sexual harassment.

In total, 300 out of 415 civil servants participated in the survey which did not cover MPs or party workers. Five out of the seven cases involved a colleague or superior and two an ‘external’, which can mean anyone from a politician to a person visiting parliament.

The exact nature of the abuse was not specified although the report said it mainly referred to touching and sexual innuendo. A further 33 workers complained about being threatened or aggression, 22 said they had been bullied and 18 had faced discrimination.

‘We know people find it difficult to report abuses and we see from the results that these complaints are badly handled,’ works council chairman Ton van der Zee told the paper. Parliamentary chairwoman Khadija Arib has said the results of the survey will be taken into account but has not specified any measures to be taken.

Investigation

A straw poll conducted by the paper shows political parties are not in a hurry to investigate the personal safety, sexual or otherwise, of their staff. Of the parties which promised to investigate possible sexual transgressions only GroenLinks has so far conducted and concluded a review.

The other parties said they were either preparing a review or not conducting one at all. Two cases of alleged sexual intimidation made the headlines recently. One involved VVD MP Han ten Broeke who stepped down as a result of having had an ‘unequal’ relationship with a member of staff.

The other concerned a GroenLinks member of staff who was fired for accosting an intern. From 2020 all ministries will be obliged by law to report breaches of personal integrity, the NRC said. (DutchNews)

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