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CAPT. DINO'S SIMPSONBAY CHICKEN SHACK

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Closed down, victim of a possibly outdated, easily circumvented Government policy on vending licenses. That policy states (and I am paraphrasing) that vending licenses can only be issued to unemployed persons who have no other means of income.

Capt. Dino does have a day job. But I suggest we do not go down that road.... how many persons with a day job including Commissioners (when WE were The Government) and now Parliamentarians, Civil Servants and other holders of jobs in the Public as well as Private Sectors did and do not also hold taxi, bus and/or other permits that are SUPPOSED to only be issued to persons with no other means of income?

I know, two wrongs do not make a right. But Capt. Dino in his latest FB rant has a point. Why should he and his wife, two local St. Maarteners, have to jump through hoops to show their ambition, their good intentions, their entrepreneurial spirit here on their own soil? Dino and his wife ARE ambitious.

They are local as can be. They have been allowed to operate their shack for the past several years now. Their Chicken Shack has grown to be a favorite hangout for locals as well as tourists.

They offer an excellent F&B product. Taking into consideration how difficult it is for locals to get financing from our local financial institutions, thanks to Capt. Dino's day job salary, he was able to start up and grow their now well-known Simpson Bay parking lot Local/Tourist hang out, thereby contributing in a positive way to our economy in general and our Tourism in particular.

Do I believe it could use some sprucing up and made to look more presentable for the area it is in? The answer is yes. Do I believe they should not turn the newly constructed public parking lot on the Simpson Bay strip into an uncontrolled-growth, open-air restaurant without running water and properly operating bathroom facilities?

The answer is yes. Do I believe our present and subsequent governments could at times look at individual circumstances and ensure that well intentioned local St. Maarteners, especially those with a positive personal track record, are not hurt by policies that with all due respect should have been put in place to PROTECT, rather than hinder and fight local citizens?

The answer here again is YES! So, I implore the Powers that Are, to find a solution, if need be by thinking and acting "outside of the proverbial box" to allow Dino and his wife to re-open DINO'S CHICKEN SHACK on the Simpson Bay public parking lot. Their ribs are DA BOMB!!

Michael J. Ferrier

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

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Satellite tracking tiger sharks in the Dutch Caribbean. Tiger Shark ‘Quinty’ swims from the Saba Bank to Trinidad in four weeks!

COLE BAY - During an expedition last year, a number of tiger sharks were caught on the Saba Bank and fitted with satellite tags to study how these animals move around the Caribbean Sea.

This research provides invaluable information about shark migration and it is the first time that work of this kind has been carried out in Dutch waters. The sharks were tagged as part of the region-wide Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance “Save Our Sharks” project which is funded by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery.

The first tiger shark to be tagged with a satellite transmitter was named “Quinty”, after Quinty Trustfull, television personality and Dutch Postcode Lottery ambassador. Now Quinty’s travels can be tracked live by visiting www.saveoursharks.nl/shark-tracking.

“I am proud that the Save Our Sharks project was made possible by the participants of the Dutch Postcode Lottery. And what a special honor to have the first tagged shark named after me!” Quinty Trustfull commented. Quinty is a fully grown female tiger shark measuring 3.4 m and estimated to be about 15 years old.

“She was tagged on the Saba Bank in October 2016 and started transmitting data almost from day one. It was quickly apparent that of the five adult tiger sharks tagged during the expedition, Quinty was by far and away the most active.

“Since then she has travelled an astounding 1200 kilometers and crossed thirteen maritime boundaries on her journey from the Saba Bank to southern Trinidad. Clearly a seasoned traveller, it took her just a month to reach Trinidad and Tobago, where she stayed for three months before heading off for Barbados.

Trinidad is the center for the trade in shark fins and meat in the Caribbean. It is ranked the number six country in the world that exports shark fins to Hong Kong – the world’s largest shark fin market. In 2011 Trinidad and Tobago exported as much as 332,396 kg of shark fins to the Asian market.

As if spending time in Trinidadian waters was not dangerous enough, swimming from island to island can be a perilous undertaking for a shark. Of the 52 nation states in the Caribbean only three have so far established shark sanctuaries and have the necessary protection in place to protect these important apex predators: the British Virgin Islands, Bonaire - Saba and St Maarten. Whether she realized it or not, Quinty took her life in her hands as she traveled through ten different territorial waters in the Caribbean where she could have been legally caught and killed for her fins, meat, oil or cartilage, joining over 100 million sharks which are killed annually worldwide to fee the trade in shark fins which are considered a delicacy in the east.

Quinty’s journey highlights the fact that we are not doing nearly enough to protect these thrilling animals, which are essential to the health of our oceans and our endangered coral reefs. Regional-wide protection for sharks is needed now more than ever.

“We are thrilled that to be able to conduct this research, especially since it is unprecedented in this area,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Project Manager of the Save Our Sharks-project. “When looking at the long migration that Quinty is making, one realizes that local protection of sharks is insufficient, and shark conservation should be prioritized on a regional scale.”

During the Save Our Sharks Expedition 2016, five tiger sharks were tagged in Sint Maarten and on the Saba Bank with satellite tags, allowing scientists and conservationists from the Saba Conservation Foundation, the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation and the Shark Education and Outreach Organization Sharks4Kids to track the animals and to gather information about their migration patterns.

The tags were attached to the dorsal fin of the tiger sharks. Each time the dorsal fin breaks the surface, its location is sent to the satellite. Visitors to the Save Our Sharks website can follow the current swimming route of one the tagged tiger sharks, Quinty, has made since October.

Tiger sharks are one of the largest species of shark. They can grow up to 4,5 meters long and live for up to 50 years. They are one of the oceans’ most powerful predators and are known to migrate vast distances in search for food, a mate or breeding grounds.

Their diet includes everything from jellyfish to stingrays and seals. Tiger sharks are so regularly sighted on the Saba Bank that they have been adopted as the Saba Bank ‘mascot’. Unfortunately, they are classified on the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened”.

Little is currently known about the status of shark populations in Dutch and regional Caribbean waters and tagging studies are a pivotal first step in determining which sharks are present, where they can be found and most importantly how best to improve regional management and protection of these important apex predators. 

Quinty track Caribbean copy 2

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Free plastic bag ban cuts demand 70%, shopkeepers say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch shopkeepers are handing out far fewer plastic bags since a fee was introduced at the beginning of last year, junior environment minister Sharon Dijksma said on Tuesday.

In total, the use of plastic bags by the retail sector has plunged 71%, the minister said. Some 60% of bakers, butchers and market customers still pay for a bag, but only 40% of department store clients do so.

Many retailers have also made the switch to paper bags, the ministry research shows. Research into the composition of litter also shows a 40% drop in the number of plastic bags left lying around.

‘Not only are fewer bags being produced, but the ban has led to a tangible drop in the amount of plastic rubbish on the street and in water,’ Dijksma said. (DutchNews)

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New Philipsburg Promotional Board a Positive Development

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Mid-March it was announced that a group of professionals and business persons came together and established the ‘Philipsburg Promotional Board Foundation (PPBF)’ who has as its objective to revitalize Philipsburg at night and grow the capital’s day-time economy.  This is a positive development for destination Sint Maarten.

The purpose of the foundation is to foster partnership and relationship with government authorities, non-governmental organizations, police force and investors; to strategize ideas in resolving issues with the improvement of the overall environment of Philipsburg, such as stimulation of the day-economy and to regenerate the night-economy in the areas of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos and churches amongst others.

The PPBF has met with a number of groups such as Government, the Chamber of Commerce & Industry, a business group from Philipsburg, restaurants among other stakeholders in order to get ideas and information about re-branding Philipsburg.

Not far from the heels of PPBF, is the St. Thomas Task Force, a new government body that has been put together to improve the visitor experience within the capital of the aforementioned island, Charlotte Amalie.  The task force also includes reps from the port authority, the private sector, taxi association and other stakeholders.

The St. Thomas task force was formed after discussions with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).  The mission of the group is to take a holistic approach to revitalize, refurbish, and re-invigorating the territory’s tourism product, particularly within the area of downtown Charlotte Amalie, the main shopping area of the destination.

St. Thomas and Sint Maarten are cruise competitors in the north/north eastern Caribbean area.

At a legislative meeting in St. Croix, USVI, comparisons were made between the aforementioned two destinations.  This demonstrates that destination Sint Maarten is seen as the ‘benchmark destination’ in the Caribbean.  This also points out that competition is gearing up to improve their own offerings and experiences which will eat away from other destinations including ours, which means we have to be on the ball and not become or remain complacent.

The USVI Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty stated during a presentation that visitor cruise line arrivals are estimated to drop 11 per cent through 2018.  Destination St. Thomas saw a significant reduction in calls in 2016 and this would continue through 2018 (cruise ship calls in 2016 was 535, forecast for 2017 is 489; and forecast for 2018 is 478).

A Carnival Cruise Line Executive contacted the St. Thomas Government and informed them about his visit to the destination in which he described it as being “horrible.”  The executive sent photos and descriptions of what he saw: “It was a horrible visit. The downtown stores were pretty much empty, Main Street was not busy and his response was that the visit was so bad for him, as an experience, that he didn’t know if he wanted to come back to the port of Charlotte Amalie again.”

The St. Thomas Task Force is looking at a number of things to improve the visitor experience in which one businessman described it as a “stale pond” based on comments he received from clients that have been repeat customers for 30 years.

Destination Sint Maarten has its challenges in various areas: infrastructure, product aesthetics, visitor experiences, choice of tours, new tours etc.  On the other side, some stakeholders have done their part over the years to keep the destination competitive such as Port St. Maarten.  The PPBF has its job cut out, but with a collective approach involving all committed stakeholders; a lot can be accomplished with a smart approach in 2017 and beyond.

The destination needs a tourism model for the 21st century that is based on ‘smart tourism.’

Smart tourism is an international topic of discussion to create ‘Smart Destinations.’ Smart tourism’ is not a trend, but the future of tourism development.  The Philipsburg area as well as the destination overall, has to become an ‘evolutionary flow of change’ in order to remain competitive with other destinations within the Region and beyond.

As a destination we need to differentiate ourselves and value, and preserve the natural, social and cultural environment while at the same time implementing a smart destination approach that would allow us to continue to develop in a sustainable manner.  The country’s socio-economic future is based on a ‘smart destination’ approach where each one of us has a stake.

Roddy Heyliger

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Private investigators set up second opinion service for suspicious deaths

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A team of private sector experts have set up a new organisation to investigate suspicious deaths because, they say, government officials may be overlooking potential crimes.

Doodsoorzaak Onbekend is a free service set up by Leiden lawyer Sébas Diekstra, pathologist Frank de Groot and former detective Dick Gosewehr to give a second opinion on deaths which worry relatives and friends.

Every year more than 100 people die in the Netherlands without a clear cause of death. ‘Too often officials refuse to carry out the necessary investigation into how someone died,’ Diekstra told local broadcaster Omroep West.

‘This is difficult for relatives to accept, and we want to help them.’ Last November, the Dutch forensic institute NFI warned that there has been a sharp drop in the number of autopsies performed in the Netherlands.

In 2005, 617 post mortem investigations were carried out but the total fell to just 279 in 2015. This could mean that 20 to 25 murders have gone undetected, the NFI said. Both Diekstra and De Groot have been involved in a number of high profile cases in which relatives have cast doubt on official post mortem results.

These include the case of an 18-year-old Dutch boy who was found dead under a bridge in Belgium in 2010 and that of a young woman who was killed by a train in 2013. Both deaths were officially branded suicides. (DutchNews)

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Crunch time as coalition talks resume in crucial week

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Talks on forming a new government start up again on Tuesday between the VVD, CDA, D66 and GroenLinks.

GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver, who pulled out of the talks last week when his mother was taken ill, will be at the negotiating table, although his mother’s condition is still serious, broadcaster NOS said.

Commentators say this week’s talks are seen as crucial ahead of a week-long break for the May holiday. ‘If the four parties come to the conclusion that they do not wish to work together, they need to break off the talks this week,’ NOS correspondent Joost Vullings said.

‘It would be stupid to have a week off and then say that you don’t wish to continue.’ Edith Schippers, who is leading the negotiations, said last week the four parties are serious about forming a new alliance, even though they have major differences of opinion on some subjects. (DutchNews)

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Chemical plant under fire over polluted river, officials call for change

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS - Infrastructure ministry and water board officials say a Dordrecht chemical plant should stop pumping a potentially carcinogenic chemical into the river Merwede because of the risk to drinking water, the AD said on Friday.

Local water board Oasen, which supplies drinking water to 750,000 people, says the pollution poses a ‘significant’ risk, the paper said. It bases its claims on confidential letters between officials and the factory.

The Chemours plant permit is currently being amended to stop it pumping 6,400 kilos of waste water containing GenX into the river. Officials want an initial reduction to 2,000 kilos and then a stop altogether, the paper said.

The company, which used to be part of the Dupont chemicals group, is prepared to half the volume but says the province does not have the right to make further demands.

The public health institute RIVM is currently carrying out research into the impact of GenX which some toxicologists say is a danger to health.

The chemical has been located in drinking water in various parts of Zuid-Holland, the paper said. The public prosecution department is carrying out a parallel investigation.

GenX is used in the production of teflon, and replaces another chemical, known as C8, which is a carcinogen. (DutchNews) 

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CANTO Chair and Secretary General Pay Courtesy Visit to New CEO of Belize Telemedia Ltd.

CARIBBEAN - CANTO Chairman, Julian Wilkins and Secretary General, Teresa Wankin paid a courtesy visit to Rochus Schreiber the new CEO at Belize Telemedia Ltd. (BTL) headquarters in Belize City, Belize.

Mr. Rochus Schreiber was appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BTL with effect Wednesday, April 5th, 2017.  Mr. Schreiber boasts over 20 years of professional experience, and has worked in diverse global settings throughout the Americas and Europe. Within the Caribbean region, he has served as CEO of Digicel's local operations in Anguilla, Nevis and Montserrat.    

CANTO had the privilege of meeting the new CEO on his first day on the job. Discussions were held on the upcoming CANTO conference, the Code of Practice for safeguarding the open Internet; the CANTO working committees and the work of the CICC working committees. CANTO was also given a tour of the BTL facilities.

Belize Telemedia Ltd. is an active member of CANTO and will be at CANTO's  upcoming 33rd Annual Conference & Trade Exhibition in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic: 16th -19th, July, 2017.

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Seeking Competitive Edge, Caribbean Firms Turn to Internet Technology Cloud computing in focus at CaribNOG 13

SINT MAARTEN/CARIBBEAN - As clouds of uncertainty loom over the global economy, it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for Caribbean companies. But these days, a different kind of cloud is creating fresh opportunities for regional businesses.

For techies, the term 'cloud' is just a metaphor for the Internet. And the advent of Cloud Computing is creating new possibilities for businesses in the Caribbean and across the world.

Where in the past, businesses would run applications from a physical computer or server in their building, cloud computing provides a simple way to access servers, storage, databases, analytics and a broad set of application services over the Internet. Some of most recognizable names in the tech industry are among the major providers of cloud computing, including Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

“As more Caribbean companies confront the reality of rising costs for technology services, cloud computing is emerging as an attractive option for those seeking to reduce routine expenditure without compromising on competitiveness or service delivery capability,” said Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist with US-based non-profit organisation Packet Clearing House.

Wooding is the founder of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, or CaribNOG, the region’s first volunteer-based community of network engineers, computer security experts and tech aficionados. For the last few years, CaribNOG has been increasing region-wide awareness of cloud computing and other important issues related to technological innovation and regional development.

The CaribNOG community is preparing for its thirteenth regional gathering, to be held at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown, Barbados. Stephen Lee, CaribNOG Programme Director, said the meeting will have a strong focus on cloud computing.

“A slate of international experts will be on hand to deliver high-level presentations and conduct hands-on sessions covering technical, social and policy aspects of cloud computing,” he said.

It’s not the first time the event is taking place in Barbados, he added.

“CaribNOG 5 was held in Barbados in April 2013, and we’re very pleased to be able to return for CaribNOG 13, with the support of the Government of Barbados.”

Since 2010, the event has become a nexus for industry professionals from across the region and around the world seeking a forum to build relationship, exchange information and share experiences.

For the uber-geeks who build, maintain, repair and upgrade the Caribbean’s computer networks, these twice-yearly meetings are among the most highly anticipated events on the regional calendar.

CaribNOG13 is being supported by regional partners such as the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, and international partners, including ArkiTechs, the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), The BrightPath Foundation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Society and Packet Clearing House.

Registration is free but spaces are limited. More information is available on the official CaribNOG website, caribnog.org. By GERARD BEST

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Dijsselbloem stands by controversial ‘drink and women’ comments

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Caretaker finance minister and Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem has refused to apologise for his ‘drink and women’ comments that prompted angry calls for his resignation.

Southern European countries criticised Dijsselbloem over comments in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the need for budgetary discipline among the member states in the Eurozone. ‘I cannot spend all my money on drink and women and then ask for help,’ he said.

Portugal’s prime minister accused Dijsselbloem of being ‘racist, xenophobic and sexist’ while Gianni Pittella, head of the social democratic group in the European parliament, said the comments were ‘shameful and shocking’.

But in an interview with the Volkskrant on Monday, the departing Labour (PvdA) minister denied suggesting that southern countries were ‘big spenders’. ‘Nonsense!’ he said. ‘I’m not the sort of person to lie down straight away and say, I’m so sorry, I take it all back. What am I supposed to take back? Something I didn’t say? Something I didn’t mean?’

Dijsselbloem admitted that ‘tiredeness’ may have influenced his choice of language in the interview, which took place three days after the Dutch election in which the PvdA’s representation plunged from 38 seats to nine. But he added: ‘I stand 100 per cent behind the thrust of my message, which is that you can’t have unlimited and unconditional solidarity.

 ‘Everyone knows that I didn’t say that southern Europeans spend their money on drink and women. That’s not what was in the interview and it wasn’t my message. The anger about the interview is anger about eight years of policies to deal with the crisis. ‘A section of the euro countries think that that policy is too tailored towards a strict northern model, with terms and regulations that are too restrictive and destroy the economy.

That they’ve made the eurozone into a stringent framework rather than a fraternal club in which money is transferred from rich to less rich countries.’ Dijsselbloem came under fire again last week for not turning up to a meeting about the Greek crisis because it clashed with a meeting of newly elected Labour MPs.

But he told the Volkskrant he intended to see out his term as chair of the Eurogroup, the committee of finance ministers in the Eurozone. ‘If there is a new Dutch government in the short term, the Eurogroup will quickly look for a new chair,’ he said.

‘If not, then the chances of me completing my term [in 2018] increase. It doesn’t matter so much, it’ll just stop. ‘In my discussions with my colleagues this weekend I haven’t heard anyone demanding a full-time chairman. That’s interesting, because it wasn’t always the case.’ (DutchNews)

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