Dutch news in brief, Friday 21 November 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.21 November 2008
Fake drug dealers cause trouble
Amsterdam has had a reputation for drug dealers but now it’s fake drug dealers who are causing the problems.
Police in the city's Red Light District have arrested around 1,000 fake dealers in the past 18 months. They try to pass off chalk, washing powder or ground-up cough sweets as drugs and sell them for the full street value, mostly to foreign tourists.
"The numbers are frightening,” sighs local councillor Els Iping, who is worried they may only be the tip of the iceberg.
Tourists are reluctant to report such crimes for fear of attaching blame to themselves. The real problems start when the fake dealers don't take no for an answer and resort to threats and intimidation. Or in the worst cases, robbery and assault. "They prowl around like predators looking for vulnerable prey in the shape of someone who doesn't know the city."
Iping tells the tale of an unsuspecting British tourist who was offered fake drugs, intimidated, threatened, pushed out of sight of the security cameras and robbed at knifepoint - all within half an hour of arriving in the city.
Because fake dealers do not carry illegal substances, they can't be held under narcotics laws and are soon back out on the streets. "Bad news for the authorities, for the tourists and for the city. The last thing our capital needs is more bad press."
A report is due out next week and tougher measures are already in the pipeline.
Other political groups ignore Freedom Party
Parliament was a lonely place for Freedom Party MP Sietse Fritsma on Wednesday. When he stepped up to the rostrum to call the justice minister to account for the unrest at a kiddies' parade in The Hague - caused by what he called "cowardly Moroccan scum" - he faced a sea of empty seats.
There were 143 absentees to be exact. Only three members of his own party and two Socialist MPs bothered turning up.
Were the rest trying to tell Fritsma and his party something? Yes, replies Labour MP Attje Kuiken. "We are not about to let ourselves be taken hostage by the Freedom Party. If they continue to put things on the agenda that have no place in the House, then we will stay away." The other parties agree - the disruption of a kiddies parade in The Hague is a matter for the city council, not for parliament.
In its editorial, NRC Handelsblad argues that "while there's reason enough for annoyance at the way the Freedom Party uses the parliamentary spotlight, keeping a minister from going about his legislative business in the process, staying away from a debate is not the best way to express such irritation. Instead they'd be better off taking a fresh look at the rules for asking questions in the House."
The paper goes on to warn that staying away is "tactically unwise" as it "works to the advantage of the other side". The Freedom Party has wasted no time in slamming the "boycott" as an "utter disgrace" and pointing out on its website that apparently "the established political parties do not regard taking a tough line on street scum as being important enough to merit a debate."
Dutch woman was Barry Obama’s nanny
AD features an interview with a Dutch woman who was Barack Obama's babysitter when his family lived on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Ans Michels, 63, who hails from the small town of Wijchen (near Nijmegen), was 19 when she responded to an ad for a nanny placed by Obama's recently divorced mother Ann.
"I always called him Barry," she recalls. "He was four years old at the time." There are no skeletons in Obama's closet as far as Ans is concerned. "Barry was a wonderful kid. I was crazy about him. Even then he was a brave little boy."
The paper prints a number of nostalgic photos, including one of fresh-faced little Barry pedalling away on his first tricycle.
She says she's full of pride that "her Barry" is set to become the first black president of the United States but she has her worries too.
"Of course, I hope everything goes well for him but I do worry about assassination attempts."
[Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica]