Dutch news in brief, Monday 24 November 2008
Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.24 November 2008
Winter weather hits the Netherlands
The main story on most Dutch newspapers’ front pages is the sudden onset of winter, with photographs of children playing in the snow, cyclists struggling to stay upright in a snow shower and a man walking his dog in a wintry landscape.
However, as the photograph on the front page of the country’s biggest-circulation newspaper De Telegraaf makes clear, there is also another side to the weather: nine people were killed in traffic accidents during the weekend, including three members of a family of four. The surviving 11-year-old son is in hospital in critical condition.
According to De Telegraaf, the authorities expect at least 500-kilometres worth of traffic jams Monday morning.
Compulsory drug testing in Rotterdam schools
The front page of AD features a story about compulsory drug tests at four Rotterdam secondary schools. One of the four schools regularly tests all its students, while another only makes students take a test if a child is suspected of using drugs.
Rotterdam Education Councillor Leonard Geluk says he wants to radically increase the number of schools which use drug tests.
In January 2008, random tests taken at all of Rotterdam's secondary schools showed traces of cocaine use at half of them, while pupils at an even larger number of schools used marijuana.
Councillor Geluk says, "This is unhealthy. Marijuana stays in your blood for three days; it affects your learning abilities. We do not accept students attending school under the influence of drugs."
The councillor added that the tests are not intended to cause the expulsion of students caught using drugs. "Mere repression does not work. We want to offer help and involve the parents."
However, lawyer Frank van Ardenne is critical of the compulsory drug tests, saying, "They are a gross violation of the students' physical integrity. Schools are overreacting in their desire to control everything. There is still such a thing as privacy. I don't think schools are the proper institutions to carry out such tests. This is something that's done in prisons to maintain order; you can't do this to students. This method takes things too far."
Politicians and linguists divided over Dutch courses for migrants
Trouw reports that politicians across the political spectrum believe that if immigrant parents take Dutch lessons, they will start speaking Dutch at home, allowing their children to learn the language faster.
The integration ministry is considering making Dutch lessons compulsory for immigrants with children. However, linguists argue that after such a course parents will simply continue to speak their own language at home. They say parents would learn minimal Dutch and their children would copy their language mistakes.
Socio-linguist Nadia Eversteijn says linguists stated this several times, but politicians in The Hague don't listen to their arguments. "In the current political climate, trying to propagate linguistic ideas is a losing battle. And it's not just a matter of politicians trying to win votes; it is also ignorance and a lack of knowledge,” she says.
According to AD, there is a common misconception that the migrant's native language must be eradicated to make more room in their brain for Dutch, but the human brain does not work that way.
Linguists argue that children are perfectly capable of becoming fluent in more than one language.
Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan fear using their weapons
Free newspaper De Pers reports that Dutch soldiers in the Afghan province of Uruzgan are afraid to use their guns for fear of legal repercussions.
Wim van den Burg of the military union AFMP says, "There is so much uncertainty over their legal position that it leads to hesitation. That can be life-threatening."
Mr Van den Burg says that despite the 4,000 people killed in Afghanistan since early 2008, the cabinet still pretends the Netherlands is involved in a peace mission. "Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan are treated differently - from a legal perspective - to their US counterparts even if they face the same combat situation," he says.
According to De Pers, the Dutch military criminal code is behind the times. Labour MP Angelien Eijsink will ask Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop for clarification later in November. "I have also heard reports that soldiers are sometimes afraid to take action. There are loopholes in the law. They need to be fixed fast," he says.
Ab Klink considers a marijuana nursery in Eindhoven
De Volkskrant reports that Health Minister Ab Klink agreed to discuss a proposal to allow the municipal authorities in the city of Eindhoven to start their own marijuana cultivation nursery.
The minister said that the proposal, which was adopted by 33 local councils at a ‘marijuana summit’ conference in the city of Almere on Friday, was not in line with the current coalition-government agreement. "But I don't want to jump to conclusions, I want to look at this with an open mind," he said.
A council-controlled marijuana nursery would eliminate the criminal gangs that often control the marijuana supply to the country’s ‘coffee shops’ where the sale of small quantities of marijuana is tolerated by the authorities.
Mr Klink said he was willing to consider the pros and cons of the proposal, but the coalition parties are strongly divided on the issue.
During the 2006 coalition negotiations, the three parties that make up the current government - Labour, the Christian Democrats and the Christian Union – agreed not to conduct any experiments in this field, so there is little chance that the proposal will be accepted.
[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]