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Preparations underway to Observe World Health Day – Depression: let’s talk.

GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – World Health Day (WHD) is celebrated on the April 7 every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

A specific health topic of concern to people all over the world is selected annually by the WHO, and for 2017, the theme is about depression under the slogan: ‘Depression: let’s talk.’

Every year Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), as part of its annual calendar of observances, highlights and creates awareness about health matters based on the WHO annual calendar.  CPS would like to draw the community’s attention to World Health Day 2017 and the theme that has been chosen as part of its contribution to creating awareness.

Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks.

The risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use.

Depression causes mental anguish and can impact on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends.

Untreated depression can prevent people from working and participating in family and community life.

In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt,

or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living.

At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Yet, depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Depression can be effectively prevented and treated. Treatment usually involves either a talking therapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.

Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.  Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.

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3RD ANNUAL PINEAPPLE PETE OPEN SINGLES TOURNAMENT SET FOR SATURDAY. REGISTRATION ENDS MARCH 30

CAY HILL - The St. Maarten Tennis Club (SMTC) is hosting its third annual Pineapple Pete open singles tournament, which is scheduled to commence on Saturday April 1st and the finals will be held on Saturday April 15th, 2017.

Every tennis player in St. Maarten (SMTC club members, non-members, young, old, beginner, advanced, French side, or other islands) are invited to participate in this yearly event.

The categories are: women’s open, men’s open and men’s 40+. The matches will be held on evenings and weekends and a fee of USD 15 per category is charged. Registrations have to be communicated to the SMTC’s tennis pro Alex Schvartz by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 588-8259.

The deadline for registration is March 30th, 2017. It is also possible to pass by the tennis club on a daily basis after 5 PM.

“This tournament is sponsored by Pineapple Pete for the third year in a row, for which the club is very grateful. Without the help of our kind, generous and royal sponsor, it would not have been possible to organize an open singles tournament, according to the club’s President, Roeland Zwanikken,” an SMTC press release said on Monday.

SMTC is located at the Raoul Illidge Sports Complex (across from the St. Maarten Medical Center’s emergency entrance). SMTC has been established in 1988 and has been trying to promote the tennis sport in St. Maarten, through having courts available, organizing tennis trainings, and as mentioned above, through the organization of events and tournaments.

Additional information can be found on the club’s website (www.sintmaartentennisclub.com) or Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sintmaartentennisclub/)

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Global experts focus on cybersecurity at LACNIC On the Move Guatemala

CARIBBEAN - Guatemala and other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean must continue to develop a more proactive, all-inclusive response to cybercrime and cyber terrorism. That's the opinion of an international expert panel at a recently concluded regional technology conference.

“Our response to cyber security threats must include broad-based and multi-stakeholder dialogue. The integration of various, diverse voices is foundational to the process of developing a comprehensive understanding of the dynamic threats that exist in our evolving cyber security landscape,” said Guillermo Cicileo, Coordinator of Security, Stability and Resilience at the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Address Registry (LACNIC), a non-governmental organisation established in Uruguay in 2002.

LACNIC’s stated mission is to lead the strengthening of a single, open, stable and secure Internet at the service of the development of Latin America and the Caribbean, promoting the collaborative Internet model.

Cicileo was among several cyber security experts gathered in Guatemala City for LACNIC On The Move, a regional technology conference taking place from March 20 to 22.  

Anabella Rivera Godoy, Head of the Guatemala-based Central American Institute for Social Democracy Studies, called for egalitarian dialogue about cyber security that includes actors and representatives from every sector of Latin American and Caribbean society—governments, businesses, technical community, academic fraternity and community-based organisations.  

“The development of cyber security legislation and regulation is very important but is not sufficient to change the behaviour of Internet users. For this reason, policy development must be accompanied by an aggressive agenda to educate the users of technology on their rights and responsibilities,” said Jose Luis Chavez, Operations Manager at SSASA, a Guatemala-based digital security firm.

LACNIC On The Move Guatemala was held with the support of the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and attracted the participation of global Internet giant, Google.

“The process of hammering out consensus around cybersecurity policy involves ongoing discussion about the kind of Internet that we want and the the kind of Internet that we need. Ultimately, the purpose of regulation is to facilitate the development of an open and safe Internet that we can all enjoy,” added Maria Cristina Capelo, Public Policy Development Manger for Latin America and the Caribbean at Google.  

The next LACNIC On The Move event is expected to take place in Guyana in July. By GERARD BEST

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Outgoing UN peacekeeping chief praises reduced cost of operations, as agility increases

INTERNATIONAL, 24 March 2017 – United Nations peacekeeping is becoming more agile and capable, the outgoing chief today said, even as the cost for each peacekeeper fell 16 per cent in recent years, dropping the entire budget of the blue helmets worldwide to around $7.2 billion.

“It’s a lot of money at face value, but it’s 0.4 per cent of world military expenditure,” Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told journalists in New York during his final briefing in this post.

“No other army has done what the United Nations has done over the past six years,” he added. The price for UN peacekeeping operations is currently $7.2 billion, down from $8.2 billion in 2011. “We diminished the cost per peacekeeper by 16 per cent without any diminution in the level of equipment.”

Comparing UN costs with the price tag for similar operations done by Governments alone, Mr. Ladsous said the UN operation cost was one-quarter of such operations.

Even as the costs have decreased, the agility and capacities of UN peacekeeping has strengthened, Mr. said Ladsous.

For example, the UN will shortly have a permanent capacity to deploy a vanguard brigade within 30 to 60 days, a “very useful” improvement over the current six to eight months to deploy a unit.

Technological advances, such as surveillance drones, balloons and cameras, are helping to bring “peacekeeping into the 21st century”

Another example of progress cited by Mr. Ladsous is the work under way to create a framework policy on intelligence which will save lives and allow peacekeepers “to do a better job.”

Technological advances, such as surveillance drones, balloons and cameras, are helping to bring “peacekeeping into the 21st century,” Mr. Ladsous added.

The geographic makeup of the peacekeepers is also changing, with an increased number of units from the so-called Global North, which incorporates countries from North America and Europe, as opposed to the Global South, which consists of South America, Asia and Africa.

“When I can in in 2011, 95 per cent of peacekeepers were from the Global South,” said Mr. Ladsous. “Now we have more countries from the Global North, from Europe, the European Union, in Mali and in Central Africa.”

Another key aspect of change in peacekeeping is their ability to adapt to the situation in each country and in creating exit strategies “because missions are not eternal,” Mr. Ladsous said.

He noted that three peacekeeping operations – in Côte D’Ivoire, Haiti and Liberia – are expected to close down this year.

‘Peacekeeping is about political solutions’

Despite the evolution of peacekeeping, its operations are often hampered by ongoing challenges, Mr. Ladsous noted. These include deployments to countries where there is no political process.

“Peacekeeping is about political solutions. The visible part is the soldiers, the uniforms, the policemen, but the reality is that we’re there to serve a political solution and quite often, it was the case in Mali initially, it was the case in CAR [Central African Republic] initially, there was no political solution in sight,” he said.

The Security Council “is not always as supportive as it should be” in such circumstances, nor in instances where UN ‘blue helmets’ should be sent.

One of the greatest challenges, however, is managing expectations of UN Member States, donor countries and other actors.

“The heart of the mandate is about protection of civilians. This is an extremely difficult issue. Yet we cannot have a peacekeeper behind every single citizen in the theatre,” said Mr. Ladsous.

While it is difficult to quantify, UN peacekeeping saves lives, the outgoing chief said. Pointing to South Sudan, where he just visited with the incoming chief, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Mr. Ladsous said the UN saved at least 220,000 lives in South Sudan alone.

Among other issues discussed in his final press briefing was the recent sexual exploitation and abuse report, asymmetrical attacks on peacekeepers, and uncooperative Governments hosting peacekeeping operations.

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Sylvain Henry wins iSTEP Logo Competition. Minister Jacobs officially unveils new logo during ceremony

POND ISLAND – Sylvain Henry of the Seventh Day Adventist School is the winner of the iSTEP logo competition and has won himself an Apple IPAD. Henry, who wants to be an animator amongst other feats when he grows up, is a vibrant 6th grader who admits that at first, he was intimidated to enter the competition but with the support of his family and a lot of hard work he was able to submit his winning artwork.

A total of 18 submissions from various age groups and schools were judged by a panel of judges that comprised of two iSTEP team members, PRO of Minister Jacobs’ Cabinet, La Rich of Funtopia and Piet Valies of DWorks Graphics Design.

The judging panel was very impressed with the creativity of all the artwork submitted which made judging the competition even harder. The judging panel and the iSTEP team were so impressed that they decided to also honor the second and third place entries as well.

To commemorate the hard work of the youngsters and to officially unveil the final version of the logo, a ceremony was held in the press briefing room at the Government Administration Building. The winners along with their families and school representatives were all in attendance.

Hon. Minister Jacobs addressed the winners and encouraged them to continue being creative. She was impressed at the works displayed by the three young men and encouraged them to never give up on their dreams.  “Continue to strive and use your talents for the betterment of your education and your future,” Minister Jacobs added.

Both second and third place winners showed their artwork and gave a brief speech about their future ambitions and their thought process when creating their logos. A video interview with the winner was also shown where everyone in attendance got to learn more about Sylvain, his family, his school and his thought process while he was creating the winning logo.

Once the video presentation was completed, Minister Jacobs officially unveiled the logo which was well received by all in attendance, especially the winner Sylvain Henry. Minister Jacobs also presented the three young men with their certificates to pick up their prizes and thanked Klass Electronics for co- sponsoring the IPAD prize for the winner.

It was also announced that the winning school, Seventh Day Adventist School, will receive an Apple IPAD and an Apple TV. School representatives in attendance erupted in joyful cheers at the news. Minister Jacobs and the iSTEP team would like to take the opportunity to thank all the students (and their schools) that submitted logo entries and encourage them to keep up the great work and continue being creative.

iSTEP is a government initiative that focuses on the integration of ICT in the classrooms and goes beyond just the implementation of tablets but also other ICT devices and accessories that promotes 21st century learning.

For more information on iSTEP, please feel free to email the team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the Project Manager, Janelle Presentacion at 542-4594. To keep up to date with iSTEP activities, please like the Facebook page iSTEP SXM. 

iSTEP logo 800x734

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Making the region Internet stronger. Guatemalan ISPs favour Internet exchange point

CARIBBEAN - Internet service providers in Guatemala have expressed a commitment to explore ways to work together to strengthen the local Internet. This significant step forward for the country's Internet landscape was facilitated by a regional technology conference held in Guatemala City from March 20 to 22.

Several Internet service providers attended the three-day meeting, called LACNIC On the Move, where they expressed interest in working together to establish an Internet Exchange Point, or IXP, in Guatemala. An IXP is a piece of Internet infrastructure through which the ISPs could exchange local Internet traffic between their networks.

Alfredo Verderosa, Manager of the Services Department at LACNIC, said that the establishment of an IXP would be “a very positive development for the development of Guatemala’s Internet.”

LACNIC is the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Address Registry, a non-governmental organisation based in Uruguay. Since its establishment in 2002, LACNIC has played a leading role in developing a single, open, stable and secure Internet at the service of the development of Latin America and the Caribbean.  

Guillermo Cicileo, Coordinator of Security, Stability and Resilience at LACNIC, said, “All Internet service providers, even fierce competitors, would do well to consider the superior benefits of working together for the greater good.”

A local IXP would improve the quality and cost effectiveness of delivering local web-based services to Guatemalan citizens and businesses, which is in turn a major benefit for local ISPs, Cicileo explained.

The IXP would also enable new forms of local innovation and entrepreneurship, allowing Internet users to capitalise on e-commerce opportunities, he added.

In other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, IXPs have done more than address the inefficiency of local Internet traffic exchange. They have also allowed other important Internet infrastructure to be located in-country, such as domain name root services and content delivery caches from major content networks such as Netflix, Akamai and Google.

“We encouraged all interested parties to form an informal group and to continue to hold talks around the possibility of establishing the first Guatemalan IXP as a matter of urgent priority,” Cicileo said.

The Guatemala edition of LACNIC On The Move was held at the Hilton Hotel Garden Inn from March 20 to 22. The next LACNIC On The Move event is expected to take place in Guyana in July.  By GERARD BEST

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Greener energy for a third of the world bodes well for all, says UN on International Forest Day

INTERNATIONAL, – Cautioning the impact of human activity such as practices use of woodfuel on world’s forests, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Tuesday called for better wood-energy conversions technologies and more sustainable management of forests so that everyone benefits.

“This is an area where we can make a real difference,” said Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

“Sustainably managed forests are productive and resilient ecosystems, providing people with livelihoods and renewable energy, along with timber, food, shelter, clean air, water and climate benefits,” he added.

At the same time, fuel wood – the primary source of energy for nearly a third of the world’s population and a product derived from forests – is also an important part of the energy equation.

However, current fuel production practices (such as production of charcoal) are not only contributing to degradation of forests and soils, they are estimated to cause up to seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

Most of the emissions is largely due to unsustainable forest management and inefficient charcoal manufacture and fuelwood combustion, FAO said in the report, The Charcoal Transition, which was launched coinciding with the International Day of Forests .

“This is especially important for poor people in rural areas of developing countries, where wood is often the only energy source available [and its] conversion to charcoal is often done using rudimentary and polluting methods,” noted FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva announcing the report at a ceremony marking the International Day in Rome.

Forests, energy, climate change and sustainable development

Forests and energy are also linked to sustainable development and can help combatting climate change.

According to estimates, about a third of the world’s population (about 2.4 billion people) still rely on the traditional use of woodfuel for cooking, and many small enterprises use fuelwood and charcoal as the main energy carriers for various purposes such as baking, tea processing and brickmaking.

Of all the wood used as fuel worldwide, about 17 per cent is converted to charcoal, however the production often relies on inefficient technologies and unsustainable resources and in some cases the emission of greenhouse gas can be as high as nine kilograms of carbon dioxide-equivalent per kilogram of charcoal produced.

“Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [and it is] fundamental for addressing the impacts of climate change and eliminating extreme poverty and hunger,” explained the head of FAO.

“We need, for instance, to adopt improved technologies for energy conversion,” he noted, referring to the UN agency’s programmes to deliver fuel-efficient stoves, especially for poor people in Latin America and Africa.

Greening the charcoal value chain and applying sustainable forest management practices can, therefore, mitigate climate change and further efficiencies can be gained by reducing charcoal waste, for example, by transforming charcoal dust into briquettes, adding a new iteration to the energy cycle.

Economic benefits and environmental improvements

The FAO report also argues that although the transition from unsustainable to sustainable sourcing could impose costs on the charcoal value chain, a greener charcoal sector would have an overall positive economic impact.

For instance, a cost-benefit analysis in Kenya estimated that a transition to efficient charcoal production would require an investment of $15.6 million per year excluding upfront costs. However, it would generate $20.7 million in benefits.

At the same time, demand for sustainable charcoal production can provide opportunities for afforestation and reforestation. And providing local people with greater tenure security can increase their willingness and ability to invest in sustainable approaches.

Furthermore, fostering an enabling political environment and an attractive investment climate for transition to a greener charcoal sector can also help increase government revenue collection and investments in sustainable forest management and efficient wood conversion technologies.

A win-win for all concerned, including for the forests.

 
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At UN event, people with Downs Syndrome ‘speak up’ to influence government policy and action

INTERNATIONAL – March 21 was World Down Syndrome Day. On that day, the call was made that people with Down Syndrome be included to fully and equally participate in all aspects of society echoed widely throughout United Nations Headquarters in New York.

With a full agenda, a special event to mark World Down Syndrome Day identified and turned key issues that affect individuals with Down syndrome into a call for inclusive policy making.

“What we need to see is a paradigm shift towards understanding that people with Down’s syndrome have valuable contributions to make to society and until that happens there are always going to be blockages to getting into school, to getting proper medical attention and living independently,” Andrew Boyd, Director Down’s Syndrome International, told UN News.

For many, prevailing negative attitudes result in low expectations, discrimination and exclusion – creating communities that prevent people with Down Syndrome from successfully integrating with others.

In contrast, the message reverberating from today’s event underscored that “when people with Down Syndrome and other disabilities are given opportunities to participate, all people benefit from this shared environment of friendship, acceptance and respect for everyone and high expectations are created.”

Those gathered for the event agreed that people with Down Syndrome and their advocates must be empowered to influence policy makers at all levels.

The speakers said that these individuals may need additional support in specific areas, such as health, education, work and living accommodations, which underscored the importance for them to directly influence policy formation and implementation covering those and other issues.

The resounding chorus of ‘My Voice, My Community’ encouraged people with Down syndrome and those who advocates for them to speak up, be heard and influence government policy and action.

The special event was organized by Down Syndrome International and sponsored by UN Permanent Missions, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and international agencies and non-governmental organizations.

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World Tourism Travel Council warns Trump to reverse negative perceptions caused by travel ban

TRAVEL-INTERNATIONAL - The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned a strong dollar and 'anti-foreign sentiment' will adversely affect visitor numbers to the US this year and has called on President Trump to act immediately.

The WTTC's Economic Impact Report 2017 says the US business and leisure travel sector continues to rank number one in the world, representing 20% of the world's travel and tourism GDP contribution, but growth figures are expected to slow down.

For 2017, growth is expected to be 2.3%, slower than the rate of 2.8% seen in 2016.

The contribution of travel and tourism to the US's GDP will predominantly be stimulated by strong outbound expenditure, which is expected to grow by 5.4% in 2017.

As a result of a strong dollar, travel abroad will be cheaper for US citizens, with the most likely beneficiaries expected to be Canada and Mexico, as well as the Caribbean and Mediterranean destinations.

Visitor exports, which is money spent by foreign visitors in a country, is expected to fall by 0.6%, primarily because continued dollar strength will make the US less attractive from a pricing perspective.

The WTTC said there are indications in flight search data that sentiment towards the US has suffered significantly in recent weeks, as a consequence of the Trump Administration's controversial attempted travel ban on visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries.

WTTC president and CEO David Scowsill said: "The US…currently ranks number one in the world in terms of the sector's contribution to GDP, twice the size of the nearest competitor, China.

"Stimulated by the marketing approach of Brand USA established in 2011 and the visa facilitation efforts undertaken, international arrivals have shown very strong growth over the last few years.

"For the US to continue on this growth path, it is important to address the current forecast drop in inbound travel, and to reverse the negative perceptions created by the proposed travel ban.

"We urge the Administration to recognise the importance of our sector, both to the economy and to American jobs."

He urged Trump to 'continue to be open for business, which means no discrimination amongst those that want to visit the country for business and leisure purposes' and called for continued investment in Brand USA. (TravelMole)

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US to ban laptops, tablets, cameras and DVDs on flights from eight countries

INTERNATIONAL - Electronic devices will be banned from cabin baggage on flights to the US from eight mainly Middle Eastern and North African countries.

The move affects nine airlines operating from 10 airports. They have been given 96 hours from 7am today (Ed Tuesday) to ban all electronic devices bigger than a mobile phone from hand-luggage.

The ban, which is apparently due to intelligence gathered overseas, includes laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD players and computer games, which must be packed in check-in luggage.

The US Department of Homeland Security said extremists were looking for 'innovative methods' to blow up aircraft and it said bombs could be hidden in devices such as laptops.

The nine airlines covered by the ban are Emirates, Etihad, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc and Qatar Airways.

The electronics ban includes flights from Cairo, Istanbul, Amman in Jordan, Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Casablanca in Morocco, Doha in Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

"The US government is concerned about terrorists' ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years, as evidenced by the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt; the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia; and the 2016 armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul," said the Department of Homeland Security.

"Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items." (TravelMole)

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