Thursday, July 31, 2008

Constitutional Expert: Deputy Minister Damaged Dutch Position with Remarks about McCain

Jan Vis, a constitutional expert, says that Deputy Minister Jet Bussemaker (Labor) has damaged the Dutch reputation by remarking on a television program that, if John McCain would be elected as President of the United States, she would consider it a disaster. She said that she was speaking in a personal capacity. Vis says that governments speak with one mouth and members of the government should not express an opinion about candidates for positions in other countries.

Parliamentarian Asks: Is Crown Prince Involved In Project where Bribery Was Paid?

Parliamentarian Ewout Irrgang (Socialist Party) has asked Minister of Development Bert Koenders (Labor) to what extent Crown Prince Wilhelm Alexander and his wife Maxima are involved in a real estate project in Mozambique where they are building a house. There are strong indications that the developers have bribed local officials by offering them free housing. The State Information Service has so far not been able to give any comments

British Football Team Tells Fans: Dutch Police will not Tolerate Flags with Star of David

Before their trip to Rotterdam for the Feyenoord Jubileun Tournament, the British football team Tottenham Hotspur sent a travel advisory to those fans who are traveling with them. It states that “whilst flags and banners will be welcomed by the Club it must be fully understood that Feyenoord officials and the local Police will NOT tolerate any flags which depict the Star of David. Any such items will be confiscated and may not be returned.”

Big Cities Want to Abolish Telephone and Internet Shops

Shops where one can make phone calls and use the Internet are an indication of the deterioration of neighborhoods. Municipalities, police and the justice department claim that these shops are often used for money laundering, illegal trade in stolen goods and drugs. Furthermore, the people who frequent these places disturb the neighbors. Almost leading municipalities are acting to reduce the number of these shops.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Town of Deventer Prohibits Football Game

The municipal authorities of Deventer have prohibited the practice game of the local first division soccer club Go Ahead Eagles against the Aberdeen team from Scotland, scheduled to take place this coming Sunday. Last year a practice game against the Amsterdam Ajax team led to serious riots.

Dutch Deputy Minister: Disaster if McCain Wins Election

Deputy Minister of Health Jet Bussemaker (Labor) said in a television program recently that it will be a “big disaster” if John McCain wins the US elections. She said that this is her personal opinion and not that of the Dutch cabinet. Earlier this year Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, who is the leader of the Labor pary, also expressed his preference for Barack Obama, after which he was reprimanded by Prime Minister Balkenende (Christian Democrats). Parliamentarian Hans van Baalen of the Liberal opposition party asked the Prime Minister to reprimand Bussemaker.

Open Day of Football Club Canceled Due to Threats

The first division soccer club Fortuna Sittard has canceled its open day this coming Sunday. This is due to verbal and physical threats by fans against members of the staff.

Dutch Consumer Confidence Declines Further

A new study by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of pessimists concerning the economy now exceeds the number of optimists by 31%. One month ago the figure was only 19%. The Bureau says that among the reasons for this are the credit crisis and increasing fuel prices.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Forty percent of Dutch Babies Born out of Wedlock

In 2007 181,000 babies were born in the Netherlands, of which 70,000 were born out of wedlock. Half of the first-born children had an unmarried mother. This is double the number of ten years ago. Nine out of ten mothers under the age of 20 were not married. Fifteen years ago this was 40%. These data were published by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

East Netherlands Area Suffers from Sewage Rats

The area of Twente in the eastern part of the Netherlands is suffering from a plague of sewage rats. It turns out that the only legally permitted poison against rats does not affect them. The Ministry of the Environment says that rats increase the probability of hoof and mouth disease, bird flu and the swine plague.

Five Dutch Volunteers Raped in Kenya

Five female Dutch volunteers were raped after an attack on the guarded area of a project of the Livingstone Christian organization in Kenya. They and other participants in the project were robbed of their money and mobile telephones by about ten locals who came into the area with spears and a gun. All the Dutch participants have returned to the Netherlands and Livingstone has discontinued the project.

Target Date for Relief of Dutch Soldiers in Afghanistan Unrealistic

Maurits Jochems, until recently ambassador of NATO in Afghanistan, has said that the Afghan army will not be ready to replace the Dutch soldiers in the Uruzgan province by 2010. The Netherlands has already prolonged its mission by two years, till the end of 2010. Parliamentarian Hans van Baalen of the Liberal Party says that the Netherlands must emphasize that under no circumstances will it prolong its stay there any longer.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ninety People Arrested Before Football Game

Ninety people were arrested in the town of Zwolle before the Ajax football game against a selection of All Stars. Most of those arrested were Ajax fans who were involved in public disturbances. Some had walked over cars and destroyed the inside of a coffee house. There were a number of fights during which one policeman was wounded.

Dutch EU Parliamentarian On Turkish Extremists’ Hit List

The name of Joost Lagendijk (Green Left Party), a Dutch EU parliamentarian, has been found on the hit list of the extreme nationalist Turkish group Ergenekon. In 2005 a nationalist lawyer had brought a complaint against Lagendijk claiming that he had insulted Turkey. This was a punishable offense, but the attorney-general’s office decided not to prosecute.

Dutch Waste Exports Increase

Dutch exports of waste to China increased ten-fold between 2000 and 2007 and are now about 1.9 million tons per year. Waste exports to Germany doubled to 2.3 million tons. These data have been provided by the Dutch Ministry of the Environment and Eurostat.

Thirteen People Arrested at Festival

Thirteen people were arrested at the Zwarte Cross festival in Lichtenvoorde, mainly for destruction and theft.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Police: Attorney-General’s Office Doesn’t Prosecute Enough

The police have criticized the Attorney-General’s office, claiming that it doesn’t prosecute many relatively small crimes. The police say that 41% of these cases are not taken up by the Attorney-General, even though iti was possible to do so. Gerrit van de Kamp, chairman of the police union ACP, says that the Attorney-General’s office is thus giving the wrong signal to the public.

Police Union Afraid of Reduction of Jobs

Gerrit van de Kamp, chairman of the police union ACP, says that the cost cuts of 100 million Euro in police expenses will lead to a reduction of 1,000-1,200 jobs in the police force. This will lead to less policemen in the streets as well and a deterioration in its ability to catch criminals. This is happening at a time when the government hopes to reduce criminality by 25%.

Number of Out-Patient Clinics for Obese Children Quadruples

In the last national study of 1997, 400,000-600,000 Dutch children were found to be overweight. Prof. Remy Hirasing, who teaches youth health care at the Free University of Amsterdam, says that the number must have increased greatly since then. The average weight is also increasing and it is affecting increasingly younger children. The number of out-patient departments for obese children has quadrupled in the Netherlands since 2004.

Subsidies for Many Music Ensembles to be Abolished or Reduced

Roeland Hazendonk, an expert of the Dutch fund for the performing arts, has said that new proposals by his colleagues will cause irrevocable damage to the Dutch music world. The recommendations include abolishing or reducing subsidies to a number of music ensembles.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Court: Minister Must Release List of Worst Neighborhoods

The Amsterdam court has ruled that Minister of Integration Ella Vogelaar (Labor) must publish the list ranking the worst functioning neighborhoods in the Netherlands. The Minister had sent this list to Parliament 2007 in a confidential letter. The court decided that publishing the list is in the public interest.

Entire Amsterdam Municipal Government by Chance on Holiday

All members of the Amsterdam municipal government happen to be on holiday at the same time. If there are any security issues or other serious problems, the mayor and the aldermen are being replaced by the member of the municipal council with the most tenure. However, the first two in line are also not available. So, now the person who is responsible is the faction leader of the opposition Liberal party.

Dutch Companies Pay Employees Less than Foreign Companies

Dutch companies pay their employees much less than subsidiaries of foreign companies operating in the Netherlands pay their workers. American companies pay their employees in the Netherlands 70% above the average;
the Japanese pay 51% more; and companies from other European countries pay 20% more. Even if one takes into account that foreigners work in sectors which pay higher salaries, they are still being paid much more than the local population.

Dutch Confidence in Economy is Declining

The Dutch population is losing confidence in the economy of the country. Nearly a quarter of the population thinks that the economy is in poor shape. The number of pessimists is now the highest since 2005.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Amsterdam Neighborhood Wants Prostitutes to Come Back

A poll taken among the residents and businessmen in the Amsterdam red light district shows that the majority would like to maintain the character of the neighborhood. Thirty-four percent want the prostitutes to return to those shop windows which are empty. However, the locals are demanding a tougher attitude toward drug dealers and addicts. The poll was taken by the neighborhood Labor Party.

Judges: Proposal to Restructure Courts Threatens Independence

The Association of Judges and Prosecutors (NVvR) says that the proposal by Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin (Christian Democrats) to restructure the courts may threaten their independent status. In an unusually sharp statement the association says that the proposal is no more than the fighting of symptoms rather than finding a cure.

Many Universities have Marginal Quality Programs

Twenty-six universities and 24 colleges in the Netherlands have been warned by the professional accreditation body (NVAO) that the quality of one or more of their courses is marginal. This concerns matters such as the level of papers submitted by students, the content of the courses, the level of knowledge and the intensity of study. The courses concerned include Dutch law, food business, pedagogy, construction, business and management studies, as well as environmental studies.

Rotterdam Muslim School Takes Alderman to Court

The Rotterdam Muslim Ibn Ghaldoun school wants to take Rotterdam Education Alderman Leonard Geluk to court. Geluk sent a letter to the parents of the pupils advising them to send their children to a different school. According to the inspectorate, the quality of the school is the lowest ranking in the Netherlands. The inspectorate says that the educational material is poor and the quality of tests administered is bad. In addition, subsidies have been used wrongly. The Ministry of Education is reclaiming 1.2 million Euro from the school. The school claims that it has recently made significant progress in improving the quality of its educational program.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Doctors Prescribe High Risk Antibiotics Unnecessarily

The Foundation Working Group on the Use of Antibiotics (SWAB) claims that doctors prescribe high risk antibiotics far more than necessary. These high risk medications cause more side effects than regular antibiotics. SWAB was established by the government and its members are medical microbiologists, medical specialists and pharmacists.

Cardiologists: Increased Heart Problems among Youngsters with Piercing

Two heart specialists of the Wilhemina Children’s Hospital in claim that piercing and tattoos lead to increased risks of hundreds of percents of heart valve infections. The small wounds caused by the piercing and tattoos may take months to heal and they allow harmful bacteria to enter the body.

Minister of Social Affairs: Retirement Age Must be Raised to 70 Years

Piet Hein Donner, Minister of Social Affairs (Christian Democrats) has said that eventually the retirement age must must be raised to 70 years, in view of the demographic forecast for the Netherlands. Parliamentarian Jacques Tichelaar of the Labor Party, which is part of the coalition, said that this statement will only make people worried and will have no practical consequences. Donner’s own party was also not very happy with his statement.

Dutch Vacationers Bring Home Imitation Machine Guns

There is a great increase in the number of vacationers who bring home imitation weapons which cannot be distinguished from real ones. Importing these is a crime in the Netherlands. By the beginning of July this year nearly as many of these imitation weapons – 892 – were confiscated at Amsterdam airport as in all of last year. Imitation pistols, shotguns and even fully automated machine guns can be purchased freely in a number of Mediterranean countries.

Monday, July 21, 2008

60 Million Euro Worth of Marijuana Found

The Fiscal Information and Tracking Services (FIOD) have found 19,000 tons of consumer-ready marijuana on a ship anchored in Amsterdam harbor. This is the largest catch of drugs in the Netherlands in the 21 Century.

Forest Rangers Training against Aggression

In view of increased attacks on forest rangers, more and more of them are taking special courses on how to deal with this kind of aggression. A spokesperson of The National Forest Management Service says that the aggression is a result of the hardening of Dutc h society.

High Prices in Canteens May Cause Army Additional Problems

The Federation of Dutch Officers (FNVO) has warned that the sharp rise of prices in the soldiers’ canteens is causing more and more soldiers to leave the bases to eat. This may lead to commanders not knowing where their soldiers are or what they are doing off base. A special commission investigation was held after much public misbehavior by soldiers was reported. Its recommendation was that more effort should be made to make it attractive to soldiers to remain on base.

Supermarkets Give Forged Money as Change

The professional journal Distrifood has published an article stating that supermarket operators who find forged bills in their registers frequently give them back to clients as change. A number of supermarket operators have admitted this to the paper. The amount of forged money in the Netherlands is on the rise.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Large Increase in Threats to Authorities

Threats to ministers, parliamentarians and members of the royal family have greatly increased. The specialized police department “Threatened Politicians” in The Hague has received 225 notices of such threats in the first half of 2008, as opposed to 267 in all of 2007. Threats include powder letters, intimidating telephone calls, letters and e-mails with death threats as well as hate rap songs. The person most threatened is Geert Wilders, the leader of the Freedom Party. The threats come from all segments of society. Many are from minors who, when they are arrested, say things like, “I wrote that I would cut off his head, but I didn’t mean it.”

Parliament Asks for Investigation of Maltreatment of Mentally Handicapped

A majority of Parliament is demanding that Jet Bussemaker (Labor), the Deputy Minister of Public Health, starts an investigation of the abuse of the mentally handicapped. Clinical psychologist Aafke Scharloo says that foreign research shows that 50-60% of the mentally handicapped are regularly maltreated. She says that the situation in the Netherlands is no different from other countries and that institutions try to present the abuse as incidental.

Parliament Wants No Additional Imams from Morocco

The Dutch Parliament has rejected an offer from Morocco to send seven imams to the Netherlands during the Ramadan period. Many members of Parliament criticized Morocco’s interference in the Netherlands. Christian Democrat Madeleine van Toorenburg said that it would be very difficult to control what they preach since they do not speak Dutch. She is also critical of statements by the Moroccan government that the Dutch Moroccan community is the 17th province of Morocco.

One-Third Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions is Illusion

The consultancy firm Roland Berger Strategy Consultants has undertaken a study of the Dutch energy sector. They have come to the conclusion that the Dutch targets of reduction of carbon dioxide emissions are entirely illusory. Even though the official target is a reduction of 30%, this in fact means a reduction of almost 50% because the base year for the target is 1990. Dutch electricity plants are largely obsolete units from the 1960s and 1970s, which have an expected lifetime of another few decades. The cosultancy says that as the Dutch government has no clear priorities in its energy policy, it will achieve very little in the next three years.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Climate Changing Relatively Fast in Netherlands

The Royal Dutch Meteorology Institute (KNMI) says that the climate in Western Europe is changing twice as fast as worldwide. However, an expert of the institute says that there is no reason for panic in the short term.

Jail Wardens Intimidate Each Other

Jail wardens are subject to aggression and intimidation not only by the inmates but by their colleagues as well. These were the findings of research carried out by the Labor Inspectorate, which investigated 31of the 79 jails and related facilities in the Netherlands. Half the wardens are stressed. Half the institutions visited have now been subjected to sanctions as a result of these findings.

2007: Employees in Retail Stores steal 165 Million Euro

The Foundation for Counteracting Fraud in Retailing (FAD) has called for a national hot line where retailers can report thefts and fraud by staff. In 2007 the average fraud by an employee rose by 8% to 5,000 Euro. Retailers now often do not report these incidents to the police, saying that the police and the justice department act too slowly on such issues. Last year employees in retail establishments stole 165 million Euro.

Mentally Handicapped Often Given Unnecessary Medication

An article by two psychiatrists and two pharmacologists in a scholarly Dutch medical journal reports that about 40% of mentally handicapped people living in institutions receive anti-psychotic medication. In homes which replace a family environment this is for 15% of the people. All in all this occurs with well over 20,000 facilities. Very often, however, there is no good psychiatric reason for this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dutch Expats and Foreign Residents: Dutch are Impolite

A majority of Dutch expatriates consider Dutchmen to be impolite when compared with other nationalities. They refer especially to teenagers and salespeople. This was the result of research by the Dutch World Service Radio among more than a thousand Dutchmen living abroad. The longer they live abroad, the more they find Dutchmen to be lacking in manners. A poll conducted by the website Expatica found that foreign experts living in the Netherlands are even more critical of Dutch behavior.

Many Swimming Pools Do Not Observe Safety Measures

Many enclosed swimming pools do not observe sufficient safety measures. The inspectorate of the Ministry of Environment found severe lapses in the storage and use of chemicals at 28 of the 72 pools checked. The inspection was carried out after repeated incidents of escaping chlorine gas in swimming pools which affected the swimmers. In three pools the emergency exits were found to be blocked.

Experts on Dutch Antilleans Criticize Government Programs

A few months ago, Ella Vogelaar (Labor), Minister of Integration, discovered that 128 projects to help immigrants from the Dutch Antilles in 21 communities, had had no results. These projects had cost 22 million Euro. In reaction, three experts said that this is because of the mentality of many people from the Antilles. They need to learn to take responsibility for their actions. Furthermore, today there are cases where individual immigrants have to participate in 20 different programs. One of the experts called this idiotic.

Prosecution Demands Punishment for Three Policemen

The prosecution has demanded that three policemen receive punishment of community service and fines due to their use of excessive force an incident in the town of Pijnacker in 2006. At a festivity in honor of the royal family hundreds of people attacked policemen. One of the policemen let his dog loose on the crowd. Other policemen thought that the violence was excessive in relation to the threat.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Insufficient Police Control on Owners of Firearms

The Dutch police is supposed to visit at least once a year all persons with permits to have firearms in their homes, and to verify that they are kept safely. It turns out that these rules are frequently not adhered to. The Utrecht police corps visits only 10 percent of owners of firearms. In many other cities the police corps visits a quarter to almost a half of firearms owners. The Royal Dutch Marksmen Organization says that its members adhere to the rules of safety and the police would do better to go after people who have firearms illegally.

Wilders Demands Report on Prime Minister's Meeting in Paris

Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, has demanded to get a report of the conversation in Paris between Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Jordanian Prime Minister Nader Dhahabi regarding the aftermath of his movie "Fitna." Wilders wants to know whether Balkenende told the Jordanians that if they start criminal procedures against him, this will be considered a hostile act. He called Jordan a "dictatorial banana republic." Wilders told Balkenende "When will you finally become an efficient man who truly represents Dutch interests in the politically and culturally backward Arab and Muslim world?"