Dutch news in brief, Thursday 2 July 2009

2nd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

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

Crack down on cannabis
A number of today’s papers cover a leaked official report in which sweeping changes to the famously permissive Dutch cannabis policy are recommended. De Volkskrant says the document also pushes for the age at which alcohol can be bought to be raised from 16 to 18. The authors of the report believe the authorities should give out a strong message that alcohol and drug use by people under 18 “is not normal” and is highly dangerous.
Licensed outlets called ‘coffeeshops’ are at present allowed to sell small amounts of cannabis products. However, producing the soft drugs is not legal and coffeeshops must rely on criminals for their supplies. Foreigners crossing the Dutch border to stock up on the soft drugs have caused increasing trouble over the last few years. Both problems are highlighted in the report which also indicates, on the other hand, that 30 years of permissive policy towards soft drugs has had a positive effect on public health.
The report recommends that coffeeshops should be limited in scale and only allowed to supply local cannabis users. It also wants the institution of a drugs authority which would follow developments in the market and come down hard on people abusing the system.
Nrc.next reports there have been suggestions that the distinction between cannabis and ‘hard’ drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, is outdated because of the strength of modern cannabis products.
What’s best for dementia patients?
Trouw questions whether small-scale care for dementia patients, the subject of recent hype, really delivers the best results. Some time ago, the government launched an EUR 80 million plan to provide dementia sufferers with small living units in their communities. Trouw quotes a number of experts who list the advantages of grouping patients together in larger numbers.
Money is one problem, as ever, and providing enough specialist care is cheaper in larger institutions. Raymond Koopman worries that specialist doctors for nursing homes may disappear: “In the Netherlands, we have specially trained doctors who are looked at with envy from abroad. With the small-scale trend, you run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water,” he warned.
Postal company announces huge job losses
AD’s headline says it all: “11,000 jobs go at TNT”. The postal company has fallen on hard times, with falling volumes of mail and more competition. TNT announced the jobs will be shed over two years. One insider complains: “I don’t envy the regional managers just now. […] The timing is really bad. It’ll mean loads of people will have a rotten summer holiday.”
The unions are more scathing. “Why not wait for our report into whether a solution can be found, without immediately resorting to forced redundancies and a worsening of pay and conditions for those who stay on? The postal unions should have the report ready by early September,” argues one union man.
Country won't grind to a halt with Mexican flu
The government’s worst-case prediction for Mexican flu is “5 million ill, 80,000 dead, economic fallout”, according to nrc.next. Companies are being called on to get ready for an imminent flu pandemic. However, the paper complains that the government is leaving it up to companies—even vital companies—to make their own contingency plans to keep the country running if up to half the workforce becomes ill.
The paper hints, however, that the government is just covering itself. “It’s more likely to be in the order of nuisance rather than the country grinding to a halt,” explained one expert. “The biggest risk is that people will worry too much. […] If, in September, people stop going to the cinema and cafés, you’ll be left with a huge economic problem,” he affirmed.

Angel on the line
We are often told that not enough people in the Netherlands are willing to allow their organs to be used for transplants after their death. The scarcity of available organs means a shocking number of patients in need of transplants die while crawling up long waiting lists. The mass-circulation daily De Telegraaf today leads with a heartwarming story that bucks that trend.
“There’s an angel on the phone,” said Adrie van Graaf, when he heard Maggy van Manen’s offer of one of her kidneys. Van Graaf had advertised on radio and television and in the press for someone with O-positive blood type to offer him a kidney for transplant. “Why am I doing it? Just because, if I can help someone, I will. You can live perfectly well with just one kidney,” said van Manen. “Now we’ll begin all the tests to see if it’s a match.” Let’s hope so.

Radio Netherlands / Mike Wilcox / Expatica

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