Press Review Friday 2 July 2010

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Temperatures soar as the Netherlands gears up for the big match, a report on racial discrimination is open to different interpretations, and a healthy cycling lifestyle makes the Dutch live longer.

Inevitably today’s papers are wallpapered with speculation about tomorrow’s news. “We’re going to win” AD leads optimistically. “Football, Friday, beer and heat: a dangerous combination,” de Volkskrant warns. As the Netherlands gears up for the Dutch team’s World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil, no angle is left unscrutinised – including health and safety. With temperatures expected to hit 30 degrees this afternoon, and many people taking to the streets and squares to watch on outdoor screens under a scorching sun, ambulances will be standing by, de Volkskrant reports. It remains to be seen whether they’ll be treating football fans for heatstroke or broken hearts.

Of course there’s plenty of serious football analysis, and trips down memory lane, as classic showdowns against what De Telegraaf calls the Netherlands’ most “feared opponent" are remembered. De Volkskrant recounts the scores of past World Cup matches against Brazil, in which the Netherlands won once 1974, lost once 1994 and drew once but lost on penalties 1998.

For those who would rather avoid the football frenzy, de Volkskrant has a tip. Many websites are offering big discounts for online shoppers during the match, and bargain hunters will be able to browse deserted shops in peace.

Discrimination figures raise eyebrows Ethnic minorities in the Netherlands are experiencing less discrimination, Protestant daily Trouw reports, quoting a housing and integration ministry report, the Monitor of racial discrimination 2009. Among the country’s big ethnic minority groups – Moroccans, Turks, Surinamers and Antilleans – the proportion of people who say they feel discriminated against has dropped from 47 to 41 percent.

However, the researchers did find there was an increasing level of violence against Muslims. Although they concluded there was no direct link with the growth of Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party, they did suggest that “both the growth of the Freedom Party and the increase in anti-Islamic violence can be seen as a gauge of anti-Islamic sentiment in Dutch society.”

Left-leaning de Volkskrant looks at the report from a different angle, headlining the story “Fewer reports of anti-Semitism.” This might come as a surprise, the paper comments, given that in recent weeks the press has been filled with reports of increasing anti-Semitic intimidation, and a proposal to deploy police posing as Jews to smoke out anti-Semitic Moroccan youths. What’s more, the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel CIDI claims there has actually been a huge increase in violence against Jews in the Netherlands. According to the ministry report, however, anti-Semitic incidents only peak when Israel hits the headlines.

De Volkskrant also points out that 70 percent of people from ethnic minorities say they have experienced discrimination, but have not bothered to report it. CIDI – not only concerned about anti-Semitism – calls this a “shocking figure”.

Computer game ban is “government censorship” De Telegraaf devotes its editorial to a “drastic” threat by the justice ministry to ban violent computer games if producers and retailers fail to restrict sales to young children. Trouw explains that last year Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin struck a deal with retailers to enforce the age classification system and make sure children didn’t get their hands on the nastiest sort of computer games. But now the minister says if the sector fails to make any progress, he’ll start drawing up a ban.

Populist paper de Telegraaf is indignant. Yes, some games do feature “increasingly realistic and detailed expressions of bloody and sadistic violence”, which studies have shown can produce “extremely aggressive behaviour” in children. But the editorial concludes that a ban would be unworkable, and anyway, “in general the government should steer clear of any form of censorship.”

School skivers may have child benefits cut The Amsterdam-based Het Parool reports on the latest tough local government measure to tackle the rise of truancy. More than half of Dutch county councils have agreed to cut child benefits for 16 and 17-year-old “persistent absentees”. A spokesperson for the SVB – the national body charged with allocating state benefits – says Amsterdam sees the measure as a “threatening deterrent that will only be used as a last resort”. That last resort has already been applied in a number of cases in Amsterdam to “encourage parents to send their children to school again”.

De Volkskrant picks up on the story, quoting a local government official who reassures parents that the cuts “shouldn’t be interpreted as a punishment”. Parents with a “different cultural background” or who’d “like to see their children work in the family business” will have to change their mindset before claiming the allowance. The truancy officer is key to the plan’s success as his truancy-monitoring tools and powers are to be ramped up. If a child misses 16 or more school hours in a four-weeks period, then the officer can sanction the cuts. But be consoled: the truancy officer will first hold talks with school, parents and child before bringing down his axe.

Longer life for Dutch cyclists Two pieces of good news for the bicycle-crazy Dutch. For one thing, this weekend sees the first leg of the Tour de France, which this year sets off in Rotterdam. Entire areas of the city will be closed off to traffic, De Telegraaf reports, much to the annoyance of some local residents. The tour would be the front-page news of the day, of course, if it weren’t overshadowed by the more thrilling sporting event in South Africa. Only Trouw dares to venture a football-free front page, featuring a photo of the Spanish cycling team training in a sedate Dutch landscape.

It’s Trouw that also has the other happy cycling news: cyclists live longer than motorists. Utrecht University’s Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences weighed up the risks of traffic accidents and air pollution against the health benefits of cycling in the city. The pollution reduces the cyclist’s average life expectancy by between one and forty days, and traffic accidents knock off another five to nine days. But the exercise involved in the Dutch cycling lifestyle more than makes up for it. Cyclists can expect to live up to fourteen months longer than car drivers.


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