RNW Press Review - Thursday 24 January

24th January 2008, Comments 0 comments

The daily roundup of the press from Radio Netherlands.

RNW Press Review - Thursday 24 January - by Jackie Carver 

Today's front pages are dominated by the news that 24 patients died in recent years during research into a new treatment for pancreatitis. "Medical research proves fatal" screams the headline in De Telegraaf. AD's headline is slightly less hysterical, "medical experiment killed at least 10" and Trouw's headline is rather more sombre "24 patients die after medical experiment with bacteria".

As you may have heard, the research, carried out by the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, looked into the effects of slowing pancreatic inflammation by using Probiotica, or good bacteria. In a double-blind study, patients were either given the bacterial cocktail or a placebo. Almost 300 people took part in the test and 24 in the Probiotica group died as against nine in the placebo group.

De Volkskrant interviews an immunologist who says: "I've never heard of anybody dying from Probiotica". The paper also interviews the lead researcher who says: "Surprised isn't the right word, we were flabbergasted".

* Risks

Trouw reports that the Dutch Health Inspectorate is going to investigate the matter and a spokesman for the organisation says: "This will not be a standard investigation, we're dealing with a calamity". A Labour Party MP says: "For some time now, we have been concerned about the quality of information given to patients participating in medical experiments".

* Terrorism

The other story dominating today's papers is news that an appeals court in The Hague acquitted seven men accused of belonging to an Islamist terrorist organisation known as the Hofstad Group. The court ruled the Hofstad Group had an insufficient organisational substance to conclude that it was an organisation and that the prosecutor had failed to prove that the suspects made up a terrorist group.

De Volkskrant writes that the CDA Christian Democrat and the conservative VVD parties were not pleased with the court's decision. One CDA MP says he respects the ruling but that "it is important to be able to combat terror". The MP also said that if the public prosecutor's office decides to appeal and loses, then he will push for a broadening of existing legislation in order to make it possible to convict people of similar offences under anti-terrorism laws.

A VVD MP says the ruling was "unsatisfactory", adding he would support moves to make membership in a less structured organisation a prosecutable offence.

However, according to one Socialist Party MP, changing existing legislation won't solve anything. "If you broaden the definitions, then taking part in any gathering could be a prosecutable offence".

* No choice

"Eindhoven fails as well" is the headline above De Telegraaf's coverage of the mayoral referendum in the Netherlands' fifth largest city. Mayors are not directly elected in the Netherlands, but in recent years there have been moves to increase direct democracy in the country. The referendum system involves a city council choosing two candidates and allowing the city's residents to vote for one or the other. The people’s choice is only valid if at least 30 percent turn out to vote.

The process does have a few flaws, the most obvious of which is that a city council can choose two candidates from the same party. Eindhoven's residents, just like Utrecht's residents last year, had a choice between two Labour Party candidates and just 24 percent of voters bothered to cast a ballot.

De Telegraaf writes that the failure of Eindhoven's referendum, coming in the wake of the failure in Utrecht, looks as though it has sounded the death knell for the referendum system.

AD reports that there were lots of people out and about in Eindhoven yesterday, but they weren't going to vote and that many of those that did actually make it to the polling station, only did so in order to rip up the ballot papers. The paper writes that one man tore up his ballot paper. "There", he says, waving the pieces about, "I have made use of my democratic right not to vote. This idiocy doesn't deserve a vote. This is a choice between an apple and an apple."

* Climate costs

The European Commission unveiled ambitious plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions throughout the European Union yesterday and De Telegraaf reports that Brussels' climate package will cost the Netherlands almost two billion euros or around 150 euros per person per year. The paper quotes Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer as saying: "It will cost people between two euros and two euros 50 per week."

De Volkskrant writes that last year, EU leaders agreed to cut CO2 emissions by at least 20 percent and quotes the environment minister as saying that she thought the cuts could have been even higher. The paper reports that at the moment, the Netherlands generates just two and a half percent of its energy needs through renewable sources.

* Saved from the chop

Trouw reports that the Anne Frank chestnut tree, which had been threatened with the axe, can survive for another five to ten years. The 31-tonne tree, which was mentioned in Anne Frank's world-famous diary, has been attacked by an aggressive fungus and could blow down in a high wind.

The chair of the Support the Anne Frank Tree group reported yesterday that the organisation has reached an agreement with the Amsterdam city council and the Anne Frank Foundation takeover care of the tree and to construct a support system to stop it falling over. The Support the Tree group also announced that it was seeking funds and donations. The support system will cost 50,000 euros and care of the tree a further 20,000 euros annually.

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