Press Review Tuesday 20 April 2010

20th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Volcanic ash and air traffic chaos still dominate the Dutch headlines. But there’s also a look at climate controversy, hard times for prisons and a cross-border battle of the boobs…

Iceland's volcanic ash cloud is still hanging ominously over the Dutch press today but a faint glimmer of hope is peeping through. "At last we're flying again!" cheers De Telegraaf, bearing news that a number of flights have now been permitted to leave and arrive at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. The paper gives much of the credit to airline KLM, which "forced a breakthrough" by carrying out successful test flights.

Other papers aren't getting too carried away. Trouw leads with "Air traffic gets off to a cautious start", while AD emphasises that the skies above the Netherlands are only "partly open under strict conditions". The fact that planes are in the air again doesn't mean the problems are over. AD reports that Schiphol Airport "fears a run on the first flights", and Trouw notes that after days of "waiting, waiting, waiting... the real trouble begins when the first aircraft are allowed to fly".

The paper talks to experts on the psychology of waiting, who point out that tough choices need to be made as to who gets to fly first. They advise "even though you can't explain these choices to everybody... the airport should still try. If people know what to expect, it gives them back a feeling of control over their waiting time, and that is crucial."

If, as notes today, humans are "animals driven by primitive instincts" it's a recommendation the airports would be well advised to follow.

Winners and losers in the volcano crisis Several of the papers report that indignation about the flight ban is growing. "Who shut down our air space?" asks NRC Handelsblad accusingly. De Volkskrant reveals that the "UN volcano experts are coming under fire due to the ban", as EU transport spokesman Matthias Ruete argues that the "scientific basis for the flight ban is too small."

De Volkskrant also features a two-page spread of those most directly affected by the volcano, with dramatic photos of masked Icelandic farmers braving the ash cloud to protect their cattle and scrape thick blankets of ash from their roofs. But the indirect damage stretches much further afield. Trouw estimates that the Kenyan horticultural sector has lost an estimated 9 million euros so far due to cancelled flights.

There appear to be winners too, however. De Volkskrant reports that companies providing video and internet conferencing services have seen a significant rise in revenue. The climate also seems to be benefiting, as the paper points out that "the effect of the non-flying planes far outweighs the greenhouse gases produced by the volcano".

Dutch inquiry seeks truth on climate reports on a rare gathering of all shades of opinion on climate change, which took place yesterday, involving Dutch scientists, sceptics, science journalists and policy makers. They all turned up for a parliamentary hearing prompted by bloopers which appeared in a recent report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC for short. For instance, the report stated that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level. The actual figure is 26 percent.

Perhaps predictably, the scientists were keen to emphasise the precision and integrity of the IPCC’s procedures at yesterday’s proceedings, while the sceptics argued that the search for a consensus on climate change is blinding the organisation to the facts. “If one thing was made clear,” asserts “it was that a great many things remain unclear in the world of climate science. And how much and what exactly, depends on who you ask.”

The paper positions the whole discussion “on the fault line between knowledge and policy” and concludes that “policy calls for a level of knowledge that science cannot yet supply.” This puts the ball firmly back in the politicians’ court. “They are the ones who have to make the choices, without hiding behind the science.” The paper reckons this might present the committee members with an inconvenient truth all their own…

Hard times behind bars De Telegraaf reports on an unlikely victim of the current economic crisis: Dutch prisons. “Thousands of detainees are without work… as companies farm out less and less work to custodial institutions.” In order to combat this downward trend “a national marketing organisation is being set up to attract new customers.” It’s a dramatic turnaround. The paper reports that as recently as 2008, the prisons had trouble keeping up with demand.

Dutch prisons have a long working tradition, which takes in everything from making clothes to metal work and carpentry. The paper notes that some institutions even have complete factories and a range of companies from painting firms to print shops. Call centres have also been added to the range of services provided. The detainees are paid 76 cents an hour, roughly equivalent to a social welfare income. The recent downturn poses a problem for prison regimes, as rules dictate that guards cannot simply force prisoners to spend more time in their cells.

Dutch win battle of the breasts AD gives a whole new dimension to the neighbourly rivalry between the Dutch and the Belgians. An online retailer with a customer base spread over both countries has discovered through bra sales that its Dutch female customers appear to have considerably more ample breasts than their Belgian counterparts.

Forty percent of the firm’s Dutch customers have ordered a D cup or larger this year, compared to a mere 28 percent of Belgian customers. The head of the company tells the paper he is surprised by the finding. “I know quite a few Dutch women,” he declares “but I can’t say they ever struck me as so abundantly endowed.”

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