Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 7 April 2009

7th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

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

Were warnings ignored for Italy's earthquake?
Photographs of dazed and distraught earthquake victims wrapped in blankets amid the rubble of collapsed buildings appear on all of today's front pages.

AD shows an injured mother comforting her six-year-old daughter, while De Telegraaf focuses on a heavily bandaged man walking through a scene of total devastation. Its headline reads simply "Hell on earth".

NRC-next points out that "the damage is greater than Richter suggests", explaining that while the earthquake registered a relatively modest 5.8 to 6.3 on the Richter scale it only indicates the amount of energy released by a tremor. "The difference with this quake is that it was only ten kilometres deep, which means that its force was translated directly into damage above ground.”

AD reports that the authorities dismissed warnings of imminent disaster: "The Italian government failed to respond to 200 tremors in three months leading up to the earthquake".

The paper says a geologist who called for action found the police on his doorstep to warn him about panic-mongering. It quotes Enzo Boschi of the National Geophysical Institute who concludes "Italy just can't deal with earthquakes. It's not in our culture to take precautions."

Another soldier killed in Afghan attack
All the papers report on the death of 20-year-old Dutch soldier Azdin Chadli who was killed in rocket attack on the Dutch military base in the Afghan province of Uruzgan.

AD reveals just how cruel the young serviceman's fate was "He had only arrived in Uruzgan last week".

The latest fatality brings the Dutch death toll in Afghanistan to 19.

AD makes the connection with the words of praise for the Dutch expressed at last week's Afghanistan Conference in The Hague and says "it's not unthinkable that yesterday's attack is the Taliban's response. If it was, they hit at the heart and soul of the Dutch strategy: Camp Holland is where soldiers and civil servants are working together to bring about reconstruction."

De Volkskrant quotes Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, who describes the tragedy as "a major shock", especially since the situation had been relatively peaceful in recent months.

The situation has been so peaceful that on Sunday, Agriculture Minister Gerda Verburg who was visiting Camp Holland took part in a fun run outside the camp.

Commander-in-Chief of the Dutch Armed Forces, General Peter van Uhm, insisted: "We owe it to the families of the victims to redouble our efforts to complete this difficult job."

Is Dutch development minister Rwanda's lap dog?
Dutch Development Cooperation Minister Bert Koenders is due to visit Rwanda at the end of the week and is expected to discuss about financial aid that has since been frozen since last fall.

Relations between the Netherlands and Rwanda have been strained since Koenders froze direct Dutch aid to the Rwandan government because of its role in the violence in neighbouring East-Congo.

In De Telegraaf’s editorial, the paper expresses its anger with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame who "turns up his nose at financial aid from the Netherlands" because he is unhappy with the conditions attached.

The paper slams President Kagame for "weighing up education, justice and agriculture in his country against his own political games." It goes on to describe the situation as "farcical ... Why should a Dutch development minister go begging Rwanda to accept financial aid?"

If that's how the leader of a country treats a generous giver ... then he should accept the consequences."

The paper warns "Minister Koenders mustn't allow himself to be treated like Kagame's lap dog ... If the Netherlands offers aid, the Netherlands has the right to set the conditions."

Mobile phones: the health worry that won't go away
Trouw reports on a warning issued by 50 doctors about the health dangers of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones and other wireless equipment.

The physicians, who have an affinity with alternative medicine, talk of an "explosive rise" in everything from headaches, insomnia and skin problems to high blood pressure, Alzheimer's and even cancer.

The most striking thing about the statement is that it flies in the face of medical consensus, which reassures us that the amount of radiation from mobile phones and household appliances is simply not powerful enough to cause any lasting damage.

A spokesperson for the Dutch Health Council welcomes the doctors' input but sees it mainly as a sign that it needs to try harder to get its own message across: "It appears that our analyses have yet to allay people's concerns. The minister has now set up a platform aimed at translating our information for a general audience."

Opponents, however, remain adamant. One concerned opponent said: "It's getting worse and worse. In Sweden there are already groups of people living in forests because they can't take it anymore. Radiation will be the new asbestos scandal."

Schiphol cleaners want respect
AD reports on the protests by cleaning staff at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

The cleaners are staging a series of 24-hour strikes to demand various improvements in working conditions, but one word seems to sum up their grievances more than any other. "What do you want?" shouts one cleaner through her megaphone. "Respect!" yell the strikers in chorus."

"I'm always on the look out ... My foreman spies on me sometimes. I'm scared of him," admitted one cleaner. "He yells at me and stamps his feet. He makes a laughing stock out of me in front of passengers."

More worryingly, a union representative revealed: "Their bosses try to intimidate them into not striking. The temporary staff have already given in because they fear for their jobs."

Strikers have the support of airport bosses but not their own bosses despite claims from one cleaning company who said: "We do invest in our people."

Meanwhile, AD reports that negotiations have ground to a halt.

Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica

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