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Nicole de Weever behind the scenes at Swizz Beatz party

5aNEW YORK--Professional Broadway dancer Nicole de Weever, best known for her role as Art Saves Lives (ASL) Founder and St. Maarten Cultural Ambassador, worked with R&B singer-songwriter Alicia Augello-Cook, better known as Alicia Keys and Artistic Director Luam Keflezgy in throwing a surprise "Coming to America" themed birthday party for Keys' husband, hip-hop artiste Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean in New York on September 12.

De Weever acted as an assistant to Luamky Productions Artistic Director and Choreographer Luam Keflezgy, who also taught hip-hop for ASL in the summer of 2014. De Weever was involved in costume design, as well as casting of the dancers, drummers and choreographer Abdel Salaam, who is the Director of the 'Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.'

The dance troupe gave an energetic West African performance to live drumming, in costumes complete with body paint and feathered head pieces. They cleared a path on the floor for Keys' grand entrance as she walked up to Dean, who sat on a red and gold coloured throne.

"It was a dream come true for me, working behind the scenes which is a process I really enjoy, as well as making the impossible possible and providing opportunities for others," De Weever said.

"Forces of Nature was the first dance company I toured with. I performed a 23-city tour with this company, it was one of my first jobs out of college. Life just works full circle." She added that it was great to be in a place in her life and career where she could provide an opportunity of a lifetime to people who had once done the same for her.

"I am extremely grateful to Alicia Keys and Luam Keflezgy for trusting in my talent." This is De Weever's second time working for both women, but she described it as "a whole other artistic level." She called it an honour to have worked with them, who she called "inspirational" and "brilliant, both on and off stage."

The star studded party, covered by major news outlets, was held at the Capitale venue. The African theme was based on the classic 1988 Eddie Murphy film "Coming to America." It was Dean's 36th birthday celebration, and Keys is currently around six months pregnant with the couple's second child.

Marlin on track to report to governor on Sept. 24

PHILIPSBURG--National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament William Marlin expects to complete his tasks of forming a new government by September 24, according to a press statement.

Marlin, who was appointed Formateur by Governor Eugene Holiday, has met three times with the governor to update him on the progress made since his appointment earlier this month.

The governing programme for 2014-2018 should be completed before the swearing-in of the new Parliament on October 10 and the Council of Ministers on the following day.

A team of nine people – three each from the United St. Maarten Party, Democratic Party (DP) and NA – have been working on the governing programme. A team from governmental consultancy firm Bearing Point is supporting the team.

All candidate-ministers have been identified by the three coalition partners. Marlin will start to interview the candidates this week.

All candidate-ministers will have to present information required by the National Ordinance regulating the screening of ministers, including an integrity declaration and the questionnaire on their background, activities, financial and tax position and interests. Each candidate must also submit a declaration from the Inspectorate of Taxes and the Receiver’s Office indicating their compliance with their tax obligations.

All completed forms will be submitted by Marlin with a request for screening of all candidate-ministers by the Prosecutor’s Office for the judicial background check and the National Security Service for the security check.

Marlin will present his final report on the formation of the new government following the August 29 Parliamentary Elections with the governing programme to the governor after he has all the completed forms, including tax declarations and the screening results for the candidate-ministers.

With competition spending millions, Mingo stresses cruise re-invention

PHILIPSBURG--With news over the weekend of Antigua's intention to construct a multi-million-dollar cruise facility, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Port of St. Maarten Mark Mingo used the opportunity to re-iterate a position he has championed on numerous occasions: the importance of St. Maarten re-inventing itself as a cruise destination.

Local online news outlet Soualiga Newsday

(www. soualiganewsday.com) reported on Friday that the Antigua Port Authority announced a US $200 million redevelopment of its current facilities that serve cruise passengers.

This redevelopment includes a new cruise terminal; cargo/container facility; a logistics park; warehousing; distribution and fulfilment services; and bunkering facilities. The project is forecast, according to Antiguan port authorities, to get off the ground early 2015 and take 36 months to complete. Financing for the US $200 million project is expected to come from the Chinese.

Invited for his reaction by The Daily Herald, Mingo said that after hitting 50 years of cruising in 2014, Port St. Maarten has reached the crossroads in its cruise development and is now considered a mature destination. "As a cruise destination, we now have to reinvent ourselves.

"If we keep looking in the past, we will not move forward. The competition is fierce in the cruise business. St. Maarten as a cruise destination has to look at where we go from here. We don't have any time to waste, because our competitors are moving forward," he said.

"We have competitors at our doorstep, such as the Federations of St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. They are all working on expanding their cruise facilities and securing millions of dollars to do so, because they also want to be on top," he added.

Mingo explained that, at the moment, St. Maarten is focused on coastal blue tourism, where the emphasis is on anything and everything related to the sea, sun and sand. All services and products mostly cater to the cruise passenger and are primarily beach-related. This, he stressed, must be complemented with more.

"We need to transition from this area and add something else as part of reinventing cruise tourism. Blue coastal tourism will always be there. We now need to add urban heritage grey tourism to our tourism mix, which looks at cultural/heritage and environmental/green tourism. The development of the aforementioned will give an impetus in economic development, environmental conservation, enhancement of heritage and cultural sites, which in turn will increase the identity and well-being of our community," he explained.

Mingo said the 21st FCCA Cruise Convention and Exhibition being hosted by destination St. Maarten will allow the port to bring all stakeholders together at one location. Insight will be provided into current trends and developments in the cruise sector and where things will be in five to 10 years from now.

He added that the formation of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority is also very essential in reinventing our tourism product, and Port of St. Maarten has played an important role in getting this moving in collaboration with the minister of tourism and other stakeholders.

"The continued innovation and development of shore excursions is necessary to keep the cruise sector alive and vibrant. New excursions mean new entrepreneurs are in business, which also translates into job creation. We also need additional brand-named hotels as well as cruise conversions. The latter is very important because, when there is a dip in cruise, we can offset with stay-over visitors and vice versa.

"St. Maarten's cruise sector is worth more than US $350 million annually and employs directly and indirectly thousands of people. This is a sector that we cannot fool around with, and we have to plan in a strategic manner to protect the sector by reinventing cruise St. Maarten in order to maintain the economic input into our economy and protect existing jobs and create more jobs for our people," CEO Mark Mingo said on Sunday.

Man shot in chest in drive-by shooting

page1b101CUL DE SAC--A 25-year-old man from French Quarter was brought into the hospital by friends on Sunday morning after having been shot in the chest, a source confirmed.

K.L.B. had been a passenger in a grey Kia Picanto, which had come from St. Peters and was approaching the roundabout near Le Grand Marché in Cul de Sac in the left lane, preparing to turn left towards Philipsburg.

Another vehicle pulled up next to the vehicle in the right-hand lane, and at least one shot was fired into the Kia, hitting L.B. in the upper left chest. The vehicle then sped off in the direction of Cole Bay.

L.B. is believed to have been in the car with two other men. The driver continued directly to the hospital, where L.B. was admitted in a critical condition. Detectives attended the hospital, along with forensic investigators who examined the Kia in which L.B. had been taken to the hospital.

A source at the hospital confirmed that L.B. had been brought in with a gunshot wound to the chest, and that he was initially in critical condition. However, he has since stabilised and is expected to survive the shooting.

It is unclear at this stage if the shooting is linked to any of the recent murders. The police were unable to comment, but are expecting to be able to give more information today, Monday.

Suspects in grocery store armed robbery released

MARIGOT--Gendarmes arrested two suspects on Thursday in connection with the armed robbery of a grocery store on Rue de Hollande on Tuesday morning, but subsequently released them from custody pending further investigation into the incident.

A man was detained at 8:00pm on Wednesday for firing shots with a gun at a car in French Quarter. The occupant of the car was not injured. The incident is under investigation.

Elsewhere, there were no incidents to report on Friday, Gendarmerie spokesman Capitaine Sylvain Jouault said.

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