Press Review Monday 17 May 2010

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Miracle boy Ruben, who survived last week’s plane crash in Libya, has returned to the Netherlands. Pictures of the seriously injured boy are conspicuously absent from the Dutch dailies today.

De Telegraaf, which was forced to print an apology to its readers last week after hundreds of angry reactions to the paper’s interview with the boy just after surgery, gives the story low prominence on its front page. Last week the populist paper published a special edition on Ascension Day to cover the story. There was public outrage at photos being taken of the child as he lay helpless in a Tripoli hospital bed.

Similarly, the other papers today have also shown restraint. In AD there is only a picture of the ambulance taking him to a Dutch hospital after landing at Eindhoven airport, and a picture of the Libyan plane behind a fence. The only pictures of the boy himself were taken in Libya and simply show ‘someone’ being transferred from an Libyan ambulance into a plane.

Nevertheless AD writes that his return was a “media spectacle” with a Libyan photographer breaking a wrist and dislocating her shoulder when doctors beat her up. The journalist in question works for the Seif al-Islam media company which belongs to Muammar Gaddafi’s son. He called it an attack on press freedom. De Volkskrant reports that calls to leave Ruben in peace have been heeded.

In the meantime, the papers speculate on the cause of the crash. AD and de Volkskrant agree that poor visibility contributed to the accident, in which 103 people died. At least 70 passengers were Dutch nationals. Battle of Bangkok may be about to begin Trouw and both print photos of the demonstrations in Thailand. Trouw shows a demonstrator with a head injury, being helped by another protestor. Pictures in make Bangkok’s business district look more like a war zone. A lone man waves a Thai flag amid burning barricades on an otherwise empty road. The paper calls it the “Battle of Bangkok”. The demonstrators have got rid of their red shirts as the situation turns more serious.

Trouw informs us that the Dutch embassy is closed and that the Dutch foreign office advises against travelling to the embattled country. At least 30 people have been killed in clashes with government troops since last Thursday. More than 230 people have been injured. The army has surrounded the fortified camps of the anti-government demonstrators and given women, children and the elderly until today to leave the makeshift  camps. Schools in the Thai capital have been closed for a week now.

The large-scale demonstrations began in mid March. There appeared to be a solution two weeks ago, when Prime Minister Vejjajiva Abhisit agreed to early elections in November. But when the Red Shirts made new demands the prime minister had had enough. writes that the Thai people cannot understand it: Thai killing other Thai. Meanwhile in the backpackers’ district, it is business as usual, tourists in shorts and flip-flops sip their drinks at street cafes, and the rickshaws are still running. You can even still visit the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the palace. A hotel receptionist points on a map to the no-go zones - the luxury shopping streets and the business district.

The paper asks whether the “land of smiles” will survive. Tourism, already down by a third last April, is suffering in what used to be the most stable southeast Asian country.

Rubbish war on Amsterdam’s streets over Back in the Netherlands, the battle by council workers in a labour dispute appears to have been won. Trouw reports that after a nine-day strike by refuse collectors and street clearers in the capital, Amsterdam, and in Utrecht, the municipalities appear to have given in to demands for a 1.5 percent pay rise.

Meanwhile, it will take a week to clear the huge piles of bin bags on the capital’s streets. De Volkskrant prints photographs of refuse collectors starting the job at the weekend. One bin man stands triumphantly on top of a pile of rubbish, behind him is Dutch architect Berlage’s stock exchange building.

In another photo a street cleaner sprays rubbish in the direction of a sweeper van, in the background is Amsterdam’s characteristic Central Station.

Trouw calls it a strategic victory, after a year of negotiations. Last year Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner froze salaries for the civil service in anticipation of huge government cuts. But no one knows how extensive the cuts will be under the next government after the 9 June parliamentary elections. The unions were not prepared to wait and see. The victory is also good news for other public sector workers. Only Friends opens gates for disabled sports In Amsterdam, a very special sports complex has opened its gates for disabled children, writes AD. The Ronald McDonald Centre for games and sports all began, as such things often do, with the dream of one man. Dennis Grebbink, himself a top amateur footballer at one time, set up his own football club for eight girls and boys with disabilities, when he realised that his own son, Myron, wouldn’t be able to play in an ordinary team.

Since then, Only Friends has grown into a club with over 170 members offering several sports. With the help of the local council, which rents out the terrain for just one euro a year, and sponsorship from the Ronald McDonald children’s fund, a state of the art complex has arisen including two sports fields, a ‘Johan Cruyff Court’ an all weather football pitch, an athletics course, two swimming pools, a sports hall and a fitness area.

A proud Mr Grebbink tells the paper that children used to be taken all over the place to get training. They never had one spot where they could hold a tournament, for example. “These children have a right to enjoy sport. It is important for this group to do well, to show that they can win in spite of their disability.” Icelandic ash clouds Schiphol’s optimism Iceland’s ash cloud is causing yet more havoc in European airspace as airports in Great Britain and Ireland were forced to close at the weekend affecting hundreds of flights. Flights to New York are also affected and have to fly around the cloud.

De Telegraaf reports that Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport did not expect any problems – when it went to print - in spite of weather maps showing the cloud above the north of the Netherlands on Monday. Apparently the wind direction was favourable and air currents had dispersed the thickness of the cloud sufficiently enough for flights to continue.

Unfortunately, Schiphol’s optimism was misplaced as this morning the airport closed down completely until at least until 2 p.m. Dutch time It has now reopened.

The paper reports that experts warn the volcanic ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano could cause problems for maybe several months more – but possibly as long as two years. “The last eruption in 1820 lasted two years,” says a British volcanologist. Back then, at least, they didn’t have to worry about planes.


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