Dutch news in brief, Friday 21 August 2009

21st August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.

False alarm on Dutch weather front
AD dedicates its front page to Thursday’s severe weather alert. The Dutch meteorological office (KNMI) had issued storm warnings for late in the afternoon. Winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour, torrential rain and thunder and lightning were expected.

When the extreme conditions failed to materialise, the KNMI was inundated with complaints from people who had cancelled events “for nothing”.

Nevertheless, the weather alert was not withdrawn until 10pm. Harry Geurts of the KNMI defends the decision to issue a warning.

“Five hundred bolts of lightning per five minutes is categorised as ‘severe’, one of the criteria for a severe weather alert,” he said, adding 100-kilometre-per-hour winds were measured in some places, which is “very severe”.
Enormous hailstones fell in the north-eastern province of Friesland and the south-eastern Betuwe region.

A website showing satellite images of the weather front crossing the country received the highest numbers of hits ever.

Smoking uncool among teenagers
There is good news for parents and the health authorities. The number of secondary school children who smoke has fallen by half in the last 10 years according to AD and Trouw.

Researchers from the University of Maastricht asked between 20,000 and 25,000 secondary school children in the second and fourth years whether they smoked.

In 1996, 22 percent of second year pupils smoked but by 2005 this figure had fallen to just eight percent. Likewise among fourth-year pupils, the percentage of smokers fell from 38 to 22.

The spectacular figures could lead to an equally spectacular drop in smoking-related illnesses: 11,500 fewer cases of bronchial diseases, 3400 fewer cases of lung cancer, 1800 fewer heart attacks.

Trouw asks what brings the drastic drop in smokers. Is it the government anti-smoking campaigns or a ban on smoking in schools? The advertising of cigarettes was banned in 2002 and since 2003 only the over-16s are allowed to buy cigarettes.

Onno van Schayck, Professor of Preventive Medicine at Maastricht University, thinks the main reason is because young people simply find smoking dirty.

“The fact that you could die early in around 70 years time is irrelevant. But that your skin goes yellow and your breath smells, your teeth go yellow and your libido drops, that matters.”

Home-made party drug back on the scene
While smoking is down, party drug ghb appears to be back on the scene according to nrc.next.

Once used in hospitals as an anaesthetic, gamma hydroxyl butyric acid made its entry into the Amsterdam dance scene in the 1990s.

“Back then it was new,” said drugs researcher of the University of Amsterdam, Ton Nabben. “Now people are using it more and more in public. People don’t even bat an eyelid if someone goes into a coma during a night out.”

Because ghb occurs naturally in the body, it appears innocent, but an overdose can be lethal. Short-term side effects can be nausea, memory loss, serious breathing difficulties, convulsions and coma.

Years ago researchers thought the drug was not addictive, but a dramatic increase in ghb additions has led the Trimbos Institute to sound the alarm. It is cheap to buy and easy to make from ingredients that you might find under the sink.

It is like alcohol, but without the hangover. Needless to say the journalist tries out an internet recipe, but when she has it tested is told “I wouldn’t drink it neat”.

Lack of investment is leading to braindrain
With student numbers soaring, it seems the failure of the Dutch authorities to invest in research and higher education is leading to a braindrain. According to de Volkskrant, levels of investment in the “knowledge economy” in the Netherlands are low compared to other European countries.
Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is investing millions in universities and public-private initiatives precisely because of the recession.

“It’s a missed opportunity,” said Robbert Dijkgraaf, President of the Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW). “Now is the time for European research institutes to catch up on the United States, because top universities like Harvard are seeing their wealth dry up.”

Professor of Economy at the University of Tilburg Sylvia Effinger points out that the rise of knowledge economies in Asia makes the problem all the more urgent.

The Netherlands needs invest three to four percent to keep up internationally, but it only invests 1.5 percent of its gross national product in research – far less than the amount set in the Lisbon targets.

Top institute Pharma, which was set up with government subsidies, hopes it can persuade the government to change its mind so that it doesn’t leave a decision on the financing of the institute until after the next elections.

Animals get cooling down shower
Overheated elephants had to be cooled down by the fire brigade on a motorway lay-by during Thursday’s extreme high temperatures.

De Telegraaf prints a photograph of the comical scene where a fireman sprays the head of an elephant in the doorway of the blue and yellow circus lorry. The vehicle they were travelling in was forced to pull over when the engine broke down.

Not wanting to be upstaged by the elephants, the monkeys were also treated to a cool shower. The whole performance attracted a lot of attention from motorists passing by.

Radio Netherlands / Nicola Chadwick / Expatica

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