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Big Dutch banks, brewers and housing corporations have cannabis cafe interests

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The four biggest Dutch banks – Rabobank, ING, ABN Amro and the Volksbank (formerly SNS) – have lent cannabis cafe owners some €1.1bn using 170 coffee shops as security, the Financieele Dagblad said on Wednesday.

The figures come from a major research project carried out by the FD and investigative journalism website Investico which looked at the connections between Dutch firms, entrepreneurs and the public sector, and the cannabis industry.

The research also shows that brewers such as Heineken and AB InBev have also lent money to people active in the sector while 46 of the country’s 570 coffee shops are located in property run by a housing cooperation.

The findings are particularly significant given that earlier research suggests around 25% of coffee shops have links to organised crime, the paper said.

No risk

Criminologist Vyrille Fijnaut told the paper that the findings are not a great surprise.

‘In terms of paying off a loan or paying rent, coffee shops are not a financial risk,’ Fijnaut said. Twelve people on the Quote 500 rich list have investments in 19 coffee shops and even the tax office has accepted two coffee shops as security for a loan, the paper said.

‘This shows the duplicity of Dutch drugs policy and Dutch society,’ professor Pieter Tops told the paper.

Market

‘People will say the market is without morals and coffee shops are legal,’ he said. ‘But a lot of money is being invested in a world where it is known that there are connections with criminal organisations. People are investing – legally – in a world that is illegal and earning money.’

Although coffee shops are licenced and the police turn a blind eye to the possession of small amounts of cannabis, how the drug gets to the coffee shop remains a controversial subject and growing the plant is still illegal.

The FD estimates coffee shop turnover to total some €1bn a year.

Licences

In 2010, the government and Dutch banking association VNG was forced to intervene after coffee shop owners – who run local authority licenced businesses – complained they were finding it hard to get a bank.

Nevertheless, the big banks told the FD that they are less willing or not at all willing to lend money to coffee shops. Housing corporations including Ymrere and De Key also told the paper they no longer rent property to be used as a cannabis cafe. Most – 86%- of the loans in the FD research come from prior to 2010, the paper said. (DutchNews)

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Dutch suicide rate is stable but more over-60s kill themselves

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Last year 1,894 people committed suicide in the Netherlands, a slight rise of 23 on the previous year, the national statistics office CBS said on Wednesday.

Given the growth in the size of the population, the suicide rate remains 11 per 100,000 inhabitants, roughly in line with the European average.

However, there has been an increase in the number of people over the age of 60 killing themselves – the over-60s now account for one third of all suicides, the CBS said.

Men in the Netherlands are twice as likely as women to kill themselves, and divorce or the death of a partner are major risk factor. (DutchNews)

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Quarter of IT firms in the Netherlands have staff shortages

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – One in four information technology firms in the Netherlands say their production has been down since April because they are short of staff, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.

The IT sector has been most affected by the tight jobs market since the first quarter of 2015 when one out of every nine IT companies had staffing problems. Until then the mining sector (gas, oil) had the biggest need for employees.

There were 12,300 job vacancies in the IT sector in the first quarter of 2017, equating to 6.3% of the national total, the CBS said. The catering sector (hotels, restaurants, cafés) report an 11.3% shortage, industry 9.9% and construction 7.6%.

Above-average growth

Separately, the CBS reported that the IT sector grew faster than the economy as a whole in the period between 2011 and 2015. The CBS follows OECD guidelines and defines the IT sector as including industrial firms and wholesalers dealing in information technology as well as telecoms and IT services companies.

The number of IT firms increased to nearly 72,000 at the end of 2016 from 59,000 in 2011. This means 4.5% of Dutch companies are involved in IT. Most (65,500) are service providers, with 5,600 wholesalers and 800 industrial IT concerns. (DutchNews)

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Half of Dutch pensioners are now using social media

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Eight out of 10 people aged 12 years or older in the Netherlands make use of social networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.

And while the use of social media among younger people is barely changed, those in the 45 to 65 age range are catching up rapidly, according to a report by the national statistics office CBS published on Tuesday.

In 2016, nearly 80% of the population aged 12 years and older were active on the social networks, up from just under 72% in 2014. A full 75% of them used them to exchange messages with others, for example on Skype Messenger or WhatsApp.

Two years ago the figure was only 63%. The use of other social networks such as Facebook or Twitter and on the professional network LinkedIn rose slightly in the two-year period.

The CBS said the use of social networks by those aged between 45 and 65 rose to 83% in 2016 from 70% two years earlier. WhatsApp and Skype were particularly popular with this age group and is coupled with the increased use of smart phones.

For those over 65 years of age, 49% were using social networks in 2016 up from 26% two years earlier. They favour Facebook to maintain contacts and to send messages via several platforms. (DutchNews)

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Central Committee meets about Draft Code of Conduct on Tuesday

PHILIPSBURG – The Central Committee will meet in a session on June 27.

This Central Committee meeting is a continuation of the meeting which started on March 9, 2017 with a continuation on June 1, 2017. The continuation meeting has been set for Tuesday, June 27 at 11.00 hrs. in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelminastraat #1 in Philipsburg.

The agenda point is:

Draft Code of Conduct Members of Parliament.

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations. 

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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