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ST. MARTIN'S ORIENT BEACH NOMINATED IN USA TODAY'S 10BEST READERS' CHOICE AWARDS FOR 'BEST CARIBBEAN BEACH'

ORIENT BEACH, St. Martin - Orient Beach in St. Martin/Sint Maarten (www.VacationStMaarten.com) has been nominated among 20 beaches for the title of "Best Caribbean Beach category" by USA Today's10Best Readers' Choice Awards.

 

Fans of the idyllic island are encouraged to vote daily for St. Maarten's Orient Beach through Feb. 2, 2015 to ensure that Orient Beach earns the top spot as the Best Caribbean Beach by visitinghttp://www.10best.com.

 

"Our beaches are some of the most beautiful in the Caribbean and we take pride in the unique options each beach has to offer and we would love the honor of being named the Best Caribbean Beach by USA Today readers," said Marla Chemont, Interim Director of Marketing for the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau. "Orient Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike and we encourage everyone to vote," added Chemont.

 

Guests visiting St. Maarten will enjoyOrient Baywhich combines the beach with bistro - further solidifying St. Maarten as "the culinary capital of the Caribbean." In addition to being an official "clothing optional" beach and offering a large variety of water sports, Orient Bay's numerous restaurants offer local as well as other fine dining opportunities.

 

St. Maarten/St. Martin is home to 37 breath-taking beaches and boasts numerous historical and romance-oriented attractions. During the day, water sport enthusiasts can take full advantage of the island's scuba diving and snorkelling facilities, while the capital of Philipsburg offers duty-free shopping with a beautiful city atmosphere, 14 world-class, Vegas-style casinos and plentiful nightclubs provide endless entertainment.

 

With the widest variety of dining experiences of any other island in the Caribbean , the Dutch nation of St. Maarten and the French overseas Collectivity of St. Martin offer a wide range of cuisines served in 365 restaurants-one for every day of the year.

 

For more information on St. Maarten, visit the official site of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau atwww.VacationStMaarten.com.

St. Maarten

St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, creating a European-influenced vibe with a Caribbean flair. As "the culinary capital of the Caribbean," St. Maarten offers an eclectic array of cuisine fusion for food lovers with more than 365 restaurants, one for each day of the year to satisfy the tastes of every palate and pocketbook.

 

Accommodations are varied and include elegant private villas, family oriented resorts, quaint cottages and luxury spa resorts. Air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport from numerous U.S. and Canadian cities as well as from Europe, South America and the Caribbean.

 

Find St. Maarten on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/VacationStMaartenand on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/StMaartenTravel" shape="rect">http://twitter.com/StMaartenTravel. For more information, visithttp://www.vacationstmaarten.com/" shape="rect">www.VacationStMaarten.com.

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Caribbean Seismic Research Unit Warns Region about the Big Earthquake that’s Coming

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is warning the region to “move expeditiously” towards building resilience amid predictions of the Caribbean being hit with an earthquake with a magnitude of eight or larger.

“We must develop, legislate and enforce Building Codes using up-to-date seismic hazard maps based on the latest available science. Preparedness measures at the individual levels are insufficient and greater efforts are needed to facilitate self-resilience,” the SRC said in a statement as it marked the fifth anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ricked Haiti in 2010, killing an estimated 300,000 people.

The SRC said that the earthquake in Haiti “should have been the wakeup call for a fundamental shift in regional mechanisms for coping with seismic hazards”.

It said major earthquake disasters around the world have stimulated similar shifts and resulted in greater resilience to seismic hazards in these regions.

“This has not happened in the Caribbean and the region continues to be extremely vulnerable to seismic events,” the SRC said, adding “research suggests that the region is capable of generating an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or larger every 3-5 years.

“Of more concerns, we are long overdue for a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, which has 32 times more energy than the Haiti event. In light of these sobering facts, it is imperative for the region to move expeditiously towards building resilience to such events,” it added.

The SRC said that while there have been advances in many areas, “the effectiveness of the implemented strategy from country to country still needs to be measured.

“The need for broad based impact assessments for seismic hazards and risks is now greater than ever with clearly established short term and long term objectives. Every year that passes without the necessary measures being in place is a year closer to a repeat of the Haiti disaster. Now is the time to be ready,” the SRC added. (CMC)

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SAFE New Year’s Message 2015- Stronger together

PHILIPSBURG—The Board of St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance For Equality (SAFE SXM) would like to extend best wishes to everyone as the community continues into the start of 2015.

The organization said that it only looked forward to more events and better things in this upcoming year. While the organization is still a very young one (launched in December 2013), a lot has been achieved in the past 12+ months. Local, regional and international partnerships have been fostered and contact has been made with a number of relevant entities on the island.

These partnerships will be further explored and cemented in the coming years and local partnerships will also be concretized. There have been social events, including meet and greets, hikes, parties, and general meetings and educational events, including discussion evenings, workshops (abroad and locally), a booth at the annual Lions Health Fair, radio interviews, a theatrical production and the inaugural International Human Rights Day Lecture; all with the aim of bringing LGBT people closer together and building a strong LGBT community here on the island. There is also the Facebook community where there is continued interaction and sharing of information.

Most importantly, awareness has been raised about LGBT people on St. Maarten/St. Martin and the need for further dialogue in order to move forward in a way that is beneficial to us and respectful of our human rights. To this end, SAFE SXM wishes to reiterate that it is open to dialogue, with any and all members of the community, as long as these conversations are carried out in a courteous manner.

Already there have been discussions with religious and political leaders, but not nearly enough. In the upcoming year, more of these discussions will be attempted in order to come to a better understanding and perhaps even cooperation. Union leaders and school boards will also be contacted in order to dialogue about how to make safe spaces for LGBT youth in order for them to learn and become their best selves.

The board acknowledges that while there were considerable successes, there were also areas where obstacles and challenges were encountered and projects that had less impact than intended. There are also areas that still need the board’s attention in order to have improvement and these will certainly be addressed in 2015. However, the board wishes to repeat that  these things can only be accomplished if all hands are on deck and LGBT people and allies are available to constructively help make our organization a safe, supportive, social and educational space and place, where people can come and hang out, and grow communally, spiritually and intellectually. This organization can only continue to grow and develop if we have consistency, honesty and support.

In 2015, a survey will be conducted in order to assess the needs and desires of the LGBT community, so that a way forward can be structured based on the reality of the situation at hand. The board hopes that all LGBT persons will assist by filling out this digital survey once it reaches them. SAFE SXM also notes a need for physical, mental/emotional and spiritual health in the LGBT community and so will have events geared specifically towards these areas, including, weekly walks, continued discussion evenings with relevant stakeholders, and outreach with willing religious counterparts.

“We remain true to our objectives which are to 1) promote the social acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people on St. Maarten/St. Martin, in order to create an island free of stigma and discrimination towards said persons, where they enjoy freedom and equality at all levels of society, 2) promote personal empowerment by encouraging the awareness of one's own (sexual) identity, and social situation in general, and where needed (and possible) support those LGBT individuals who are in need of assistance and care, 3) represent the collective interests of the LGBT people, and 4) improve awareness, promote equality, especially where they relate (but are not limited) to the LGBT community,” the board members said.

The board members for 2015 are Lysanne Charles – Arrindell; President, Nadjesca Gumbs; Treasurer and members Laurent Drouin Le May, Gerard van Osch, Nigel Lalman and Arman Hodge. The board is currently looking for a new secretary and also looking for interested persons who are willing to head the following committees; Public Relations and Marketing, Education, Social Events, Youth and Fundraising. All interested persons can email the organization at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“There is still a lot of work to be done for our community and while the board is more than happy work to our benefit, we also need the input, energies, expertise and assistance from the wider community. We also know that there is a lot happening in and to our community and we hope that in the coming year more people start to speak out against the injustices they are experiencing or know that others are experiencing so that we can record these and offer support and assistance to said persons. We must strive to move from tolerance to acceptance and not backwards to intolerance and in order to do this we must stand strong and united. SAFE SXM is about all of us and for all of us, because in the end, we are stronger together” the board concluded. (SAFESXM)

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UN, educators applaud Paramount’s ‘Selma,’ chronicling Martin Luther King’s campaign for voting equality

INTERNATIONAL – Top United Nations officials recently attended a special screening in New York of the movieSelma, about the historic struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s marches from Selma to Montgomery Alabama that led to United States President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The film screening was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon along with his wife, Madame Ban Soon-taek, Deputy -Secretary General Jan Eliasson, as well as the film’s director, Ava DuVernay.

Teachers, educators and students also attended the event as part of a programme that encourages public schools to teach the history of African-Americans and the African Diaspora. The event was co-organized by Paramount Pictures and the New Jersey Amistad Commission and the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), as part of itsRemember Slaveryprogramme.

Selmachronicles a string of historical events that led to the trailblazing marches, including the relationship between Dr. King and President Johnson and the struggle of ordinary citizens.

The film tells the story of the American south in the early 1960s, where black citizens applying to vote were repeatedly blocked by local registrars. By 1965, there were countries in Alabama, one of the worst cases in the south, where not a single black person had voted in any election for the previous 50 years – although African Americans were guaranteed the right to vote in 1870.

These events came to a head on 7 March, 1965, when marchers, led by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were assaulted by local and state troopers. Describing her process in directing the film, Ms. DuVernay said her goal was to humanize Dr. King so the audience could connect with him.

“I think if you see [Dr.] King as a man and not a myth, not a ‘mountaintop’ speech and not all of the things that we have constructed about him, and when you see him as a man it allows his greatness to be closer to us and allows us to touch that greatness and be that great.”

New Jersey 7th grader, Celeste Hopkin, toldUN Radiothat watchingSelmainspired her.

“I think [the film] was very interesting especially because in school we don’t really learn a lot about Dr. Martin Luther King…It revealed a lot of things I didn’t even know about the march. I think it was very important because it showed all of the hardships they went through and what we have overcome in the past 50 years,” she said.

“Dr. Martin Luther King had hope and that pushed him…and now in Ferguson they need that hope and that guidance to overcome what has happened and not to have it revealed in violence but in a different way,” Celeste added, referring to the city in the US state of Missouri, where in August 2014, unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer.

TheSelmascreening was part of the UN Remember Slavery programme, which mobilizes educators to teach about the causes and consequences of the transatlantic slave trade and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice.

“Selma reminds us of the issues and challenges that people of African descent have faced in the recent past and continue to face long after slavery has officially ended,” said Maher Nasser, the Acting head of DPI.

The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2015-2024 as theInternational Decade for People of African Descentciting the need to strengthen cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of all rights by people of African descent, and their full participation in all aspects of society.

“Films can serve as powerful educational tools to teach the young generations about the dangers of racism and prejudice,” added Mr. Nasser.

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Prime Minister Gumbs pushes to have Ms. Lalie’s statue repaired

PHILIPSBURG - Prime Minister (PM) the Honorable Marcel Gumbs has made sure that one of St. Maarten’s national figures and a local heroine is remembered with respect. The statue of Lalie Duzanson on the Dutch Quarter/Belvedere round about was damaged during the passing of Hurricane Gonzalo and has ever since been leaning backwards.

Prime Minister Gumbs recently got in contact with sculptor Michael Maghiro with a simple yet deliberately strong message: Ms. Lalie was good to St. Maarten and we cannot let her memory be disrespected in such a manner, even if it was an act of God.

To his credit, Maghiro took it upon himself to cover the statue with the blue tarpoline prior to the call of the Prime Minister. However, he said the PM showed genuine urgency in getting the statue repaired as soon as possible. Maghiro said he is also maintaining the other statues.

“If we immortalize our people and honor them with statues, we have to ensure that these reflect the greatness of our people at all times. These are the things I care about, the memories and contributions of our people who sacrificed personally for St. Maarten and selflessly helped others,” Prime Minister Gumbs said. (Press Secretariat Government of Sint Maarten Council of Ministers)

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MLK attends opera concert

PHILIPSBURG - Some of the students of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School attended a special school opera concert this morning which was hosted by the Foundation Classical Delight.

The Foundation Classical Delight is a non-profit organization established with the purpose of bringing classical music to our island. They invite annually professional, gifted and sometimes famous musicians to perform. 

Getting the students acquainted with classical music is part of children’s education and often highly appreciated by them. 

"We deeply appreciate this opportunity for our students to meet with the opera artists this morning at this special school concert and witness first-hand another musical genre," remarked School Manger Stuart Johnson of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School.

The theme for the school concert was opera and piano, including four-handed piano works. Shane Schag and Chun-Wei Kung are well known for their inspiring school concerts and performed at the event held at the Belair Community Center for the various schools in attendance.

"We look forward to many more opportunities such as this one being afforded to our students as our students truly enjoyed themselves while learning to appreciate classical music," Johnson concluded. (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School)

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Minister Connor pays Tribute to D’Shnay

PHILIPSBURG - Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Claret Connor recently paid tribute to St. Maarten’s Reigning Teen Carnival Queen D’Shnay York who won the Haynes Smith Talent Teen Pageant in St. Kitts on December 30. He congratulated her on behalf of his entire Ministry.

The Minister presented D’Shnay with a congratulatory letter from his Ministry and hailed her as a true ambassador for St. Maarten. He said the competition was very close between D’Shnay and the first runner-up who hailed from St. Kitts which is evidence that the judges recognized the hard work D’shnay put into the pageant.

“Your success at the competition is a great victory for the people of St. Maarten, not because you emerged victorious, but because you were able to give your best while you proudly represented St. Maarten,” the Minister said.

“We are extremely proud of you and your team and wish you much success during your reign. May your reign be one of continued growth and success. Continue to make St. Maarten proud in all of your endeavors.” (Press Secretariat, Government of Sint Maarten Council of Ministers)

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Tzu Chi spreads cheer at St. Martin’s Home on January 1st

CUL DE SAC - The St. Maarten Tzu Chi Foundation began the New Year by helping to brighten the day of clients of the St. Martin’s Home on January 1.

A total of 23 volunteers and some of their family members visited the home on Thursday to help put smiles on the faces of the elderly. They performed for the clients, served them a special New Year’s cake, gave them an opportunity to sow seeds of love and presented a total of 65 gifts to clients.

The day began early for some volunteers who enjoyed breakfast together at the Tzu Chi Foundation office and assisted to pack gift packages for the clients before heading to the St. Martin’s Home. The first activity at the home was having a client help to light the candle of a special cake, which was subsequently shared amongst clients.

This was followed by a special performance of the Lion Dance and the skit “The Four Wives,” performed by volunteers. The skit was done to share the message that each person has four wives in their life – their body, possessions, family and karma. One of the volunteers explained that none of these so-called “wives” accompany us when we leave this world, so it’s very important that we all do good to have good karma as this is the only “wife” that will follow us.

Clients were also given a chance to sow seeds of love by contributing to Tzu Chi’s recycled “bamboo banks” (donation boxes made from recycled plastic bottles). Donations received go back to the community via the various projects that Tzu Chi executes.

The day’s celebrations ended with Tzu Chi volunteers performing a sign language song “one family” with elderly clients and presenting everyone with special gift packages containing two colour books, crayon, coloured pencil, a box of tea, a teddy bear, chocolate and sweets.

Throughout the event, Tzu Chi volunteers took time out to spend some quality time with clients, speaking to them, wishing them a New Year and in some cases also helping St. Martin’s Home staff share lunch for clients.

Volunteers were grateful for the opportunity to spend the first day of 2015 putting smiles on the faces of the elderly at the Home. The visit to St. Martin’s Home on New Year’s Day is an annual activity for Tzu Chi.

Tzu Chi Commissioner Sandra Cheung thanked volunteers for spending part of their New Year’s Day with clients; thanked St. Martin’s Home for accommodating the foundation and thanked clients for being gracious recipients. She wished the entire community a blessed 2015. 

Ends. (Tzu Chi Foundation)

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Court House Staff and Prime Minister Gumbs Resume Past Tradition

PHILIPSBURG - Prime Minister Hon. Marcel Gumbs was invitedon Tuesdayby the staff of the Court House to symbolically resume a tradition that has been put aside the last few years: lighting of a string of fireworks to close off the working year.

Court House staff welcomed the Prime Minister with snacks and hugs and said the two-minute fireworks presentation was simply the resumption of something many businesses on Front Street used to do.

With all safety precautions in place, the Prime Minister lit the string of fireworks. Several tourists and residents alike cheered at the end of the short display and shouted "Happy New Year!"

The Prime Minister wished the Court House staff and their families a safe and Happy New Year. (Press Secretariat Government of Sint Maarten, Council of Ministers)  

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