Sun rises at 6:37am

Sun sets at 6:14pm

Moon phase: last quarter, waning crescent

Moon rises at 1:07am

Moonset: 2:22pm


The evening sky is currently blessed with a smattering of planets. Jupiter rises around 11:30pm snuggling close to the slightly less bright star, Spica. Saturn rises about 2:30am. Between these two planets is the moon, a waning crescent in the last quarter of its cycle. In fact, the moon Saturn and the bright star Antares make a nice little triangle that graces the sky in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Don’t want to stay up so late? Seek out other planets.


Venus is at her brightest these nights and Mars is nearby, both hanging in the western edge of the sky. Almost impossible to spot is Uranus, just above Mars; use good binoculars or a telescope. The three planets seem to form an almost vertical, almost straight line, with Venus at the bottom. These celestial bodies sink below the horizon early, around 9:00pm.


About that time is prime Winter Circle viewing time! Directly overhead at 9:00pm, the Winter Circle is a group of well-known constellations’ brightest stars which roughly form a circle that dominates the sky in the winter months. Prominent among these constellations is Orion. Known as a hunter, Orion’s three stars in a row mark his belt which is why he is easy to spot and why then the Winter Circle is easy to find.


Once you see the three stars in a row, look to the northeast to Orion’s “shoulder,” for a reddish or ruddy-hued star. This is Betelgeuse and it sits at the middle of the circle. By the way, kids especially like the star Betelgeuse, because its name sounds so much like beetle juice, but astronomers pronounce it slightly differently: BET-el-zhews. People have described this star as sombre or sometimes even grandfatherly. Betelgeuse is old for a star, as a matter of fact, well into the autumn of its lifespan. Betelgeuse is no ordinary red star. It’s a magnificently rare red supergiant. Another is Antares in the constellation Scorpius, but I digress…


Back to the Winter Circle: At Orion’s foot is the bluish-white star Rigel; from there you can see a circle of bright stars around Betelgeuse. Looking clockwise, there is Rigel, then the “Dog Star” Sirius (the earth’s brightest star), Procyon (the Little Dog Star), then the Twin Stars of Castor and Pollux which mark the heads of the constellation Gemini. The Winter Circle finishes off with Capella (in Auriga) and Aldebaron (in Taurus).


Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email

Just Be More Natural Or how I learned to not trust silky-haired friends to give hair advice!


“Can you be more natural?”


“What do you mean?” I asked my boyfriend of fewer than six months. I tried to conceal my thoughts with a Stepford Wives meets Serial Mom smile.


Here’s the thing: I was already the most natural I’d ever been in my entire life. Yes, my hair was straight, but it was only a temporary effect created with my flat iron and blow dryer. I didn’t wear hair extensions, fake nails, or makeup. I’d never had plastic surgery!


From my crazy eyes, he could tell that my inner monolog had switched from “quirky brown girl” to “angry black woman.” Cue: hand clapping, finger pointing, and neck rolls. See, interracial dating was new for me. I anxiously searched for signs of being tokenized. I was secure in my blackness and was not here for men looking to cure their Jungle Fever or feed their low key melanin fetish.


“Can you be more natural?” His words rang in my mind as I soaked in the tub. Should I? I removed my shower cap. Reaching for the nearest towel, I dried my hands and then touched my roots and the tightly coiled top bun. Sigh. Without thinking, I released my hair. I lowered my torso and head allowing the water to penetrate my follicles. I can't lie; yuh gyal was feeling like Janet Jackson in her Everytime music video.


Hopping out of the tub to check my hair out; I was all “praise hands emoji” because my curls were popping. Team No Heat Damage! Next was the moment of truth: Would I use products or give this “be more natural” thing a chance. Insert the longest sigh of your life. I skipped the products, wrapped my head in a scarf, and went to bed.


Yo! The next day, my hair was stuck in a Sideshow Bob confection! It was up, hard, and looking like Don King. I was late for church so I had to walk the street with this hard ashy afro.


Later that night, my face is all pushed up ready to rip him a new one for convincing me to turn my hair into stone. Boo, I am not mixed. I know exactly what’s growing out of my head.


“You’re beautiful. What's wrong?”


That’s how I learned to not trust silky-haired friends to give hair advice. That night, I spent six hours detangling and “un-crisping” my hair. Never again. Meh say, never again!


Created on St. Maarten; based in Chicago, Onicia Muller (@OniciaMuller) writes, says funny things, and enjoys hanging with creative minds. ‘Just Be Funny’ is a weekly reflection where Onicia laughs at life. Learn how to be more natural at

February is Black History Month, and against all likelihood, the iconic 19th Century Abolitionist Frederick Douglass is currently enjoying a wave of unprecedented popularity. Even less likely, the buzz is apparently due to the newly sworn-in US President’s remarks about Douglass. This despite that, according to a White House staffer, the President knew virtually nothing about this historically significant leader, other than that he is “being recognized more and more.”

So let’s follow the trend and delve into this Frederick Douglass, who was he? Well for starters, Douglass is considered to be the most prominent black Republican statesman in American history. Yes, he was Republican, as was Abraham Lincoln. It’s interesting the changes in the Republican Party in the last century and a half.


Douglass was born into slavery in 1818 in Maryland. His mother was Harriet Bailey, an enslaved woman there. He barely knew his mother as they were soon separated, and he never knew who his father was, but had been told it was the plantation’s master. By age six he was put to work, given no shoes nor even pants, whether winter or summer, he only had a loose rough shirt that hung to his knees. He was fed boiled cornmeal which they called mush. He witnessed many terrifying beatings of slaves, including his relatives. An aunt was once tied to a hook on the wall and beaten fiercely, while the young boy hid in the closet.


At age 12, Frederick was sent to help at the home of Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore. This is when he first began to read. Sophia Auld taught him the alphabet and he learned quickly until her husband discovered the lessons and forbid them, stating that reading would only encourage slaves to desire freedom. Frederick later recalled the scolding as his first exposure to anti-slavery reasoning. Nevertheless, he persisted in learning to read, finding newspapers, the bible or school primers borrowed from white children. One of his favorite books from that time was The Colombian Orator, an anthology of essays on human rights written for school children.


At about age 16, Frederick Douglass was hired out to a plantation. There he began teach other enslaved people to read, using the New Testament, at a weekly Sunday school. The interest in learning to read was so great sometimes more than 40 slaves would come. This lasted several months, until nearby plantation owners discovered what was happening and became outraged. One Sunday morning they burst in on the gathering, armed with clubs and put an end to the lessons.


In 1833, Thomas Auld sent Douglass to work for a farmer who had a reputation as a "slave-breaker." He whipped Douglass repeatedly and almost broke his spirit; however the teenager rebelled, finally fighting back. This put an end to the beatings permanently and he was soon sent back to Baltimore.


Four years later Douglass was in Baltimore when he met a free black woman named Anna Murray. She was older than Frederick and she inspired him to seek his own freedom. In time he fell in love with her.


By 1838, Douglass had finally escaped after several unsuccessful attempts. Anna managed to obtain a sailor's uniform and some identification papers belonging to a free black seaman. With these and some money from Anna, he boarded trains and crossed rivers on ferries. Eventually he went by steamboat along the Delaware River further northeast to the "Quaker City" of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an anti-slavery stronghold, and continued to the safe house of noted abolitionist David Ruggles in New York City. His entire journey to freedom took less than 24 hours. He sent for Anna and they were married.


Frederick Douglass could be considered a criminal, as he was a runaway slave, he might have been seen as an undocumented alien. But his eloquence, gentle nature, intelligence and persistence carried the day. Today he is known as an author, an activist, an abolitionist and orator. He was a preacher in the African-Methodist-Episcopal (AME) church and in time was appointed to be the US Ambassador to Haiti.


Here’s the gist: Frederick Douglass was great and he remains a hero. His voice could not be silenced. He despised the system of slavery and condemned slave owners as hypocritical Christians. He met with President Lincoln multiple times to argue his points. His own accomplishments and demeanor were evidence enough that slaves, if freed, could in fact thrive. This was in complete opposition to most arguments made at the time.


He once said, “The white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by the black man’s misery.” Another noteworthy quote: “No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.” 


He understood that those in power will always fight against democracy, noting that a citizen’s duty is to fight for justice. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted.”


He advocated for freedom and the right to vote not only for African Americans, but also women, Native Americans and all immigrants. He supported freedom of speech, proclaiming, “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.”

There is of course a sour irony to the focus on Frederick Douglass and other Black leaders during February. Why do we have only a single month set aside for Black History? The man was dignified and defiant, let us emulate his determination and strength in our own fights for justice, in every month of the year.

A Jamaican orthopaedic surgeon has patented and created an artificial disc that can be used to replace damaged and diseased discs. Dr. Kingsley Chin performed surgery on a patient at Andrews Memorial Hospital in St. Andrews, Jamaica, using in the procedure the cervical artificial disc he had created. Named “Freedom Cervical Disc” and made from viscoelastic polymer, the product is used for spinal surgery in the neck area. The artificial disc is said to be similar to a natural disc and the design and materials would withstand wear and use for decades.

Most people are aware that there are replacement artificial joints for the hip, shoulder and knee, but they are probably less aware of the possibility of disc replacement. However, artificial disc replacement (ADR) was performed in Europe for decades before it was tried in the United States. Total disc replacement was available in Germany in 1982, but it only became available in the United States in 2000. In fact, many persons had to go to Germany to get ADR treatment. So it is not an experimental treatment and the implants have apparently proven to be reliable.

According to Ryan Dueck, founder of Six Degrees Freedom website, research up to 2012 shows that “nobody has managed to blow out or ‘herniate’ an artificial disc.” Dueck himself sustained a neck injury from football and had his ADR surgery in Germany. Back pain is a common enough complaint among athletes and sportsmen, workers who do a lot of lifting and anyone really in the general population. Famous athletes such as Tiger Woods and Jason Day in golf, Peyton Manning in American football have had trouble with back injuries. For some, the pain is persistent. Sometimes, the cause is damage or disease of the discs between the vertebrae or bones of the spine as the damaged discs can also cause damage to the nerves in the area.

Dr. Chin’s artificial disc and other artificial discs surgery can bring relief to those whose condition might require surgery. It could, however, be one route towards the treatment of spinal pain. Jamaicans will no doubt be proud of their native son and his achievements. The story of Dr. Chin’s achievement is interesting on several levels: He is a doctor and he created a medical device. It is a fitting combination for, as an orthopaedic surgeon, his surgical experiences give him first-hand knowledge of the composition of discs and spine. From that knowledge, he can seek to create a product that closely approximates to the natural disc in an effort to bring relief to patients.

Dr. Chin is more than an inventor, innovator and surgeon for he is also an entrepreneur. He owns the product he created choosing not to sell his invention to a medical technology firm, for instance, but opting instead to create his own company AxioMed. He was striving for independence and for control of his own product and intellectual property. Dr. Chin’s story has some teaching moments. The origin of the journey to higher education started with a football scholarship. The emphasis was on education initially as he made his way through several academic degrees, finally studying medicine at Harvard Medical School.

We observe his persistence towards reaching his goal as he did not land in medical school immediately. We pause to observe that someone could combine education and experience with entrepreneurship to achieve success. Sometimes the perception is that you have to choose one or the other. Looking at Dr. Chin’s achievements, it is possible that his earlier degrees in Mathematics and in Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering could have contributed to his creation of a product. He is in fact like a medical engineer and we can add to that the fact that he is a businessman.

One famous patient of Dr. Chin is fellow Jamaican Chris Gayle, the West Indies cricket star batsman. Gayle had been suffering from back problems for at least a year before his search for treatment eventually led him through several referrals to Dr. Chin. What we learn from Gayle’s treatment is that the Jamaican orthopaedic surgeon is also a creator of innovative medical procedure. On Gayle, Dr. Chin used the Less Exposure Surgery technique which is described as “utilizing the least invasive techniques and technologies to achieve the quickest and best outcomes.”

Dr Chin is the founder of LESS Institute which, according to the founder, “is an academic centre of excellence which provides outpatient treatment for spine and orthopaedics. LESS Institute’s mission is to tailor treatment to each patient, to pinpoint the problem, fix it and let the patient go home the same day to recover quickly.” There is more. In addition to all this, Dr. Chin is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SpineFrontier Inc., a company that designs and develops medical devices and implants for use in spine surgery using the LES techniques. The doctor is multifaceted as surgeon, innovator and businessman. He is certainly an asset to Jamaica for his impact and contribution to medicine and as an example to young Jamaicans and other youths in the region as well.

While some focus has been placed on the possibility for medical tourism, there is also the comfort that patient care for foreign and local patients alike will improve at least in some areas. But the opportunity for medical tourism should be assessed. As the story of Dr. Chin shows, medicine and business can co-exist. At one point, persons had to travel to Germany in order to be able to get disc replacement treatment. Currently, too, the United States only approves one level disc replacement so persons who may need more than one disc replaced would have to travel to countries that have approved multi-level replacement.

Once again, Europe as expected is further ahead in this regard. Ryan Dueck, for instance, had a four-level replacement surgery in Germany. This means then that the surgery performed in Jamaica by Dr. Chin that was a four level replacement would not have been possible in the United States. That points to the possibility of medical tourism in relation to that procedure. At this point in time, with pessimistic predictions for the upcoming tourist season, some diversification and addition to the tourism product is needed. The news of Dr. Chin who performed his ground breaking surgery in Jamaica is an illuminating ray, especially amidst the problems of nurses being poached and other weaknesses in the health sector there. He may well provide further opportunities for both health and tourism in Jamaica.


Contributed by Terry Nisbett

Diverse and indigenous cuisine brought by the many ethnic people to St. Maarten from all over the world piques our interest. To this end, we are on quest to find where it comes from, if it is used for celebrations, if it is exotic to some but normal food to others. Anything to do with keeping the body and soul nourished with what is produced from good old terra firma is what makes the world go round.

 Valentine and women’s rights.

 The years come and go, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, other celebrations and of course Valentine’s Day. Thing is this day – one of romance and love – started out, so the legend goes, with the love of a man for a woman who subsequently died for his efforts; more recently, this story captured the imagination of some soft-hearted person who started building on the story, this was taken up commercially and made into a day of romance between lovers of all ages. In recent times, school teachers and children make the day one where everyone in class may get a gentle poem or handmade gift – spread the love, so to speak.

Yes, how lovely is this idea! As children grow up, they in turn (hopefully) give an extra little bit of love to their spouses, children, parents and friends on Valentine’s Day – and so the love spreads – as it should.

But then we are in the now and awful things are coming to light about the lifestyle of some ethnic groups where love seems to be taboo, where straight women and those of alternative gender are down trodden and treated like the proverbial! Women in our communities give a big sigh and feel happy to live in a world where love is all around us, especially from the men towards the women.

And then things have suddenly changed and there are marches going on around the world, particularly big marches where woman – and quite a large number of supportive men – are marching for a world where “their rights” are equal to men’s rights (their salaries for instance); where a woman can be loved and adored by men without having any restrictions put in them; where she can have her own say about her life (that incudes her own body); and where there is peace.

These marches, one hears said by many of the younger generation, are ridiculous. Life is just fine, one hears said in some quarters. But there is a very real threat that, at a stroke of some man’s pen, all will not be as it is today where women have as many rights as they have. At a stroke of a pen, women could find themselves in similar positions as some ethnic groups hold their women in – interestingly, the very people who want to sign women’s rights away (especially about her choice of what to do with her body) oppose the ethnic group’s attitude to woman.

It doesn’t make sense really! There is a real reason that women (and a lot of men) are marching – as many realize life could change back to the dark times.

A 100 years ago or so (1870s) women could not own property, sign contracts, have their own money or file law suits. Until married, a girl/woman was her father’s property and once married, she became her husband’s property. If she ran from an abusive situation, she was searched for and returned as property to her husband. Woman could not vote; they were turned away if they tried.

Around 1878, citizenship and suffrage were granted to blacks but not to women – of any colour! Over the years, women marched, were arrested, beaten, jailed or even killed. The women who went before really struggled and made way for today’s women’s freedom. In the 1960s, women were fighting for the power to decide on whether they could use birth control if they so wished to! It was even “illegal” to discuss such a subject.

Eventually, the hard won battle for women (and in fact the LGBT community) gained some rights; this brings us to today; but those rights are fragile. Those rights, with a swipe of a pen, could be taken away.

So what has all this got to do with Valentine’s Day? Well, women, men and in fact everyone who is anyone with love in their hearts really want the same thing; they don’t want that very expensive commercially thought up gift – although that would not go remiss by any means – what they really want is something from the heart: love, peace, gentleness kindness, putting the loved one first, to enjoy a life of equality without the many restrictions “man” wants to meter to whatever gender they want to “control.”

Valentine’s Day is about an admirer sending a secret gift to someone, a lover spoiling his/her mate, a younger or older person being given the special something they deserve! The teachers at the schools may have it right: handmade cards with meaningful kind words on them, a great meal at home or out in a romantic setting, a handpicked bunch of lovely colourful leaves, oh yes, and those roses or other flowers of course – all would do very nicely, thank you. A bottle of fine wine, laughter, cuddles, thoughts, gestures and no demands (a box of chocolates and a rose should not guarantee a roll in the hay!), and the assurance that a woman’s place is besides her man – not way behind as he marches ahead as if she is only an object, a piece of property he owns.

Spread the love with some thoughtful tasty gifts made especially for the one you admire.


Heart Choccies on a stick


12 peppermint candy canes

200g white chocolate, chopped

Edible sprinkles / gold or silver non-pariels

6 ovenproof lolly sticks

Cellophane bags and ribbons


Heat oven 350° F

Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.

Arrange candy canes on paper trays in a heart shape.

Put a lolly stick between each one where they meet at the bottom.

Put the trays in the oven and cook for 5 mins.

The candy canes should now be soft pinch together where they join at the top and the bottom very carefully. They will be extremely hot.

Melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.

Spoon melted chocolate into the middle of the heart lollies. Make sure it touches all sides of the candy canes. Scatter with sprinkles.

Leave to cool completely.

When set, peel off the baking parchment, wrap in cellophane bags and tie with a ribbon.

Valentine Biscuits


300g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting

200g salted butter, diced

120g golden caster sugar

2 large egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp rosewater

Red or pink food colouring


Whizz flour and butter to fine crumbs in a food processor.

Add sugar and yolks, whizz to a smooth dough.

Remove one-third of the dough, add vanilla to what’s left and pulse to whizz in.

Wrap this dough in cling film and leave at room temperature.

Put reserved dough back in processor with rosewater and a drop of food colouring.

Pulse – adjust colouring if you want darker hearts.

Put dough in fridge – remove the 30 mins before you want to roll it out.

Roll out coloured dough between baking parchment.

Use a small 3-4cm heart cutter to stamp out hearts.

Repeat until the dough is used up.

Roll out vanilla dough and cut into rounds larger than the hearts, place on baking sheet.

Lightly brush milk or beaten egg white over biscuits.

Place one heart on top of each round.

Sprinkle light with granulated sugar.

Chill for 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350° F

Bake for 20 mins. Cool on wire racks.

Place some biscuits in a pretty Valentine box.

Chocolate Coins


Dark chilli drops

200g 70% cocoa dark

Pinch hot chilli powder

Edible glitter – red / any colour

Salted pistachio drops

200g milk chocolate – Black & Greens with extra cocoa butter

Pinch flaky sea salt

25g pistachios chopped finely

Rose drops

200g white chocolate

Crystallized rose or violet petals


Dark chilli drops:

Break chocolate into chunks and melt in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.

Line a few flat baking trays with baking parchment.

Once chocolate has melted, stir in chilli powder.

Use a teaspoon to drop “drops” of chocolate onto baking parchment.

Every 10 or 20 drops, scatter over a small amount of edible glitter before the chocolate sets.

Leave to set in a cool place; do not put in the fridge.

Salted pistachio drops:

Melt chocolate, prepare baking parchment as before.

Once chocolate has melted, stir in salt; make drops topping with chopped pistachios.

White chocolate drops:

Carefully melt chocolate and line baking tray as above.

Make drops and top each with a crystallized petal.

Box prettily.



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