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Soualiga Newsday Features (1575)

Cut city traffic speeds to 30 kph, says car industry lobby group

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The maximum speed limit in Dutch cities should be reduced from 50 kph to 30 kph, according to car industry lobby group RAI. A lower speed limit would not only be safer but would also improve air quality, the organisation says in Monday’s Financieele Dagblad. 

Some local authorities have introduced 30 kph zones in residential areas, but this does not go far enough, RAI says, pointing out that current national laws on speed limits are now 62 years old. 

In particular, the arrival of new forms of transport on the Dutch roads – such as electric cargo bikes – has led to an increase in accidents on 50 kph roads, RAI says. And from April, small mopeds will be banned from the cycle lanes in Amsterdam, adding to pressure on the roads. 

‘All these difference speeds on the roads cause more accidents,’ chairman Steven van Eijck told the paper. ‘And supervising the speed limit will be easier if no-one is allowed to drive faster than 30 kph.’ 

National legislation would make it easier and faster to achieve lower speed limits in town than leaving it up to local authority processes, Van Eijck said.(DutchNews)

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Here it is: Introducing Easy Income Tax filing with EasyFiling.sx

SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETERS) - We have launched a site called www.EasyFiling.sx  as a tool for the general public to file their Income taxes, because we are of the opinion that the general public is deliberately being made to believe that taxes are complicated and you have to spend a lot of money and time to file your taxes, Spaceless Gardens said in a press statement on Thursday. “This can be made easy and we are doing just that.”

“Easy Filing is the first in the Easy group of services, we will be launching more Easy tools to make it easy for persons and business to file taxes, manage HR tasks, Payroll, Accounting and more.

“Filing taxes is considered a huge and difficult task by many, because the forms are quite complicated. The forms are translated from Dutch and the terms used are uncommon to the man in the street. Secondly, most of the questions asked are inapplicable to man in the street. The myth is being maintained, rather than empowering the people to be self-sufficient, we intend to change that with this product.

“All Easy products are easy to use, as the name implies, if you have your information ready, it doesn’t take more that 5 minutes to file your Income tax. To make it even easier, we only ask normal questions, no more cryptically translated legal/technical Dutch questions. The first Declaration is FREE, and the next ones are at a small fee. Try it out at www.easyfiling.sx and do you Income tax in 5 minutes for FREE,” the Spaceless Gardens press release concludes.

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Warning for all scuba divers and dive schools

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - After the Nature Foundation St Maarten recently established the presence of ‘Tissue Loss Disease’ on several local coral reefs in October 2018, the Foundation was able to establish through further investigation that in many locations some 90% of coral is either infected or dead. 

The disease is a relatively new issue that has been plaguing coral reefs in the Atlantic Basin for the last few months. The coral reef disease manifests itself through the creation of white blotches on stony coral, eventually leading to the loss of tissue and eventual death in the coral colony. 

The disease affects 20 different species of coral and is able to kill colonies within several weeks or months. Unfortunately, the spread and lethality of the disease is being facilitated by poor water quality at several locations surrounding the island.

The Nature Foundations recommends all divers and dive schools to be vigilant to not spread the disease. The disease appears to be water borne and may potentially be spread by divers their gear according the Florida Disease Advisory Committee. 

They advise scuba divers in the Caribbean and Florida to soak their gear in a 5% chlorine bleach solution for 30 minutes, and rinse well after, especially when moving in between locations. We also advise all divers to be aware of their fins and to not touch any diseased or healthy coral; as you will probably transmit the disease to other corals!

Warning for scuba divers;

1) In order to protect our coral reefs and prevent the spread of the disease a 100% NO TOUCH policy is in effect on all St Maarten dive sites. Scuba divers touching St Maarten coral reefs could risk a fine.

2) All scuba diving gear leaving our island (or being used on another island) should be soaked in a 5% chlorine bleach solution, be rinsed in a lot of fresh water and dried in the sun. This is mandatory, Dive Schools will need to forward this message to their customers, and we recommend visiting divers to use the gear of our dive schools.

3) Please do not use any single-use plastic item on board of the boat or close to the ocean. Single-use plastics are not allowed to enter the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area dive. Recently the Nature Foundation also located large amounts of single-use plastics on local reefs, research has found a link between plastic and disease on coral reefs. The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic and it suggests that ocean waters with lots of plastic waste might also carry other pollutants that could also be contributing to higher rates of coral disease; therefore, please leave the single-use plastics at the supermarket!

We hope that together we can stop the spread of this disease any further, as the situation is very critical at the moment and we don’t want islands around us to experience the same conditions!!

The disease first appeared in Florida off the Miami-Dade County area in September 2014. The outbreak area has since progressed 175 km to the northern limit of the Florida reef tract and southwest to Looe Key in the Lower Keys. 

Numerous coral species (except acroporid coral) have been afflicted, disease prevalence has reached 80% of all colonies present at a site, and a number of coral diseases have been observed. Meanwhile, sick and dying corals are found on Jamaican and USVI reefs with similar signs of disease and overlap with the reports from Florida. Also, in Mexico a severe outbreak of coral disease affecting similar species and exhibiting similar patters as those in Florida has been recorded. Sint Maarten can unfortunately now be added to the list of affect areas for tissue loss disease.

The Nature Foundation is continuously monitoring the disease in St Maarten waters and is counting on your support.

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Dutch move up to fifth in UN’s World Happiness Report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands has overtaken Switzerland to move into fifth place in the World Happiness Report, compiled every year by the United Nations. 

Finland tops the list, followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Southern Sudan is considered the most unhappy country to live in the ranking of 156 countries. Benin has made the most advances, moving up 50 places over the past 10 years while Venezuela, Syria and Botswana have fallen the most. 

Every year, the UN ranks countries in terms of their population’s self-reported wellbeing, as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom. Last year’s index included a separate assessment of immigrant well-being, in which the Netherlands was in 11th place. (DutchNews)

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Strong marijuana boosts risk of psychotic episodes say researchers

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of people having first-time psychotic episodes in Amsterdam could be halved if strong marijuana was no longer available, according to a report by King’s College London researchers. 

The research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, says banning breeds of the drug with a high THC content, would reduce the number of first-time episodes from nearly 38 per 100,000 Dutch people to nearly 19. 

‘If you are a psychologist like me who works in this catchment area and sees first-episode psychosis patients, this has a significant impact at the level of services and, I would also argue, family and society,’ Marta Di Forti, the lead author of the research, told the Guardian. 

Cannabis is classed as high strength if it has levels of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) of above 10%. The researchers found the biggest link between daily cannabis use and having a psychotic disorder was in Amsterdam, where the chances were seven times higher than for those who had never used the drug. 

According to research by Dutch addiction institute Trimbos in 2017, Dutch grown marijuana sold in the city’s coffee shops has an average THC concentration of 17%. and has been going up since 2013.  (DutchNews)

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Rebuilding Work at Police Stations in Full Swing

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Director of the National Recovery Program Bureau, Claret Connor, recently completed a supervisory visit to the Philipsburg and Simpson Bay police stations that is currently undergoing repairs.  

The Philipsburg Police Station and the Simpson Bay sub-station have also started with much needed repairs that will make both buildings better able to withstand future hurricanes.  Works include the installation of aluminum shutters as well as electrical wiring, replacement of cabinets, light fixtures and ceiling tiles.  

During this visit Director Connor and Project Manager Sijssens were accompanied by the Chief of Police, Mr. Carl John, the contractor and the supervising company. 

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Ministry of VSA distributes donated food kits to residents in need

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The department of Social Services and Community Development Family & Humanitarian Affairs has been giving out boxes of Emergency Food Kits (EFK) to various foundations and churches on the island. 

The donation of EFK’s was made to the Government of Sint Maarten by Global Medic. The total amount of kits adds up to 123,336 meals. Minister Emil Lee thanked Global Medic for their generous donation and the community partners who are assisting the Ministry of VSA with the distributions. Together ensuring that residents, who need these food kits the most, receive them.

The donation was made to Government as preparation for distribution in the event of a major storm during the 2018 hurricane season. Government received a donation of 20,556 Emergency Food Kits from Global Medic. 

“Luckily, we were spared from the 2018 hurricane season and did not have to make use of the Emergency Food Kits after a major storm.” In 2017, after Irma, Global Medic donated water filters to Sint Maarten, which was distributed directly with the assistance of the Tzu Chi Foundation. 

Global Medic is a registered Canadian charity, whose mandate is to save lives by providing short-term rapid response in the wake of disasters and crisis, both in Canada and abroad. 

Each emergency food kit includes 6 Meals consisting of 4 ingredients: long grain rice, dehydrated soy flour, a dehydrated vegetable blend, and vitamin fortified powder. In order to ensure that the donation does not go unused, the food kits that cannot be used for the 2019 hurricane season are being distributed via the Ministry of VSA to those most in need within the community. 

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Rent, health insurance and energy are eating more of basic salaries

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch households are spending more of their income on fixed costs, such as energy bills, health insurance, rent and mortgages increase, according to research by family spending institute Nibud. 

Fixed costs now account for an extra 5% of spending compared with 10 years ago, before the financial crisis, Nibud said. A household with an modal income of €2,252 per month is spending 55% of their net income on fixed costs, Nibud said. 

‘This explains why so many people – almost 40% – have difficulty making ends meet,’ director Arjan Vliegenhart said in a statement. ‘Additional costs, such as higher health insurance premiums, result in financial stress,’ he said. 

Home owners on higher incomes have slightly more to spend after deducting fixed costs because mortgage rates have gone down in the past few years. However, they are still spending 45% of their income on essentials, which is up from 40% ten years ago. 

Earlier Nibud research shows that the percentage of households which don’t always pay their rent or mortgage on time went up from 12% in 2012 to 19% in 2018.  (DutchNews)

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Dutch are smoking less but half of population still overweight

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch are smoking and drinking less, but official targets for improving health remain far off, national statistics office CBS and addiction monitor Trimbos Institute have found. 

The number of overweight people remained stable, with half of the Dutch population in the overweight category while 15% are classified as obese. The biggest decline is in the number of people who smoke. 

In 2014, 25.7% of the adult population were lighting up but this fell by over one percentage point to 22.4% in 2018. The number of people who drink too much (more than 14 units of alcohol a week for women and 21 for men, according to government guidelines) went down from almost 10% in 2014 to 9% in the same period. 

The number of heavy drinkers (more than 4 units for women and six for men a day at least once week) remained the same. Some 35,000 people in the Netherlands a year die from the effects of smoking, being overweight or problem drinking. 

The Nationaal Preventieakkoord, a government prevention programme, aims to bring back the number of smokers and problem drinkers to 5% and the number of overweight people to 38% by 2040. 

The number of overweight and obese children has also remained stable between 2014 and 2018. Almost 12% of Dutch children between the ages of four and 18 are currently classified as overweight and 2.7% as obese.  (DutchNews)

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