Press Review Thursday 1 July 2010

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The president of the Dutch Central Bank fails to convince MPs he is the man for the job in spite of apologies. Libyan plane crash victims are commemorated, while black boxes may be introduced into hospital operation rooms. Problem neighbourhood policies are working and Popeye sells spinach better than a healthy label.

It's an ongoing saga. After severe criticism in the Scheltema report of the role played by the Dutch Central Bank in the fall of DSB bank president Nout Wellink faced his political critics in a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday evening.   De Volkskrant headlines "Wellink fails to convince parliament in spite of genuflection". Trouw explains that it may be partly due to the roundabout way he offered his apologies: "Yes, it could have been dealt with a little better. For that part I wish to offers my apologies on behalf of the organisation."

Although he began the session by eating humble pie, the atmosphere soon turned sour when MPs got the impression he was trying to wriggle out of taking responsibility for the report's findings by using legal formulations. Trouw reports that Green Left MP Jolande Sap said in no uncertain terms that he had failed and should leave the job. Although according to de Volkskrant, she conceded that she needed to "sleep on it".

  Although the politicians are reluctant to call for Mr Wellink's resignation outright, and formerly they have no say in the matter as the central bank is supposed to independent, they were not convinced he was the right man to introduce a change in culture.   AD goes a step further and speculates who might be Mr Wellink's successor, as his term is due to end next year anyway. The most prominent person in the list is former treasurer Wouter Bos. Today, caretaker treasurer Jan Kees de Jager will defend the president of the Dutch Bank in parliament. The saga continues.   Libya crash victims commemorated The Dutch victims of the Libyan plane crash on 12 May were commemorated on Wednesday afternoon in The Hague in the presence of Queen Beatrix and caretaker Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.   At the time the disaster caused a sensation, followed by outrage, in the Netherlands. Not only were 70 of the victims Dutch nationals, one of them, a 12-year-old boy survived. Now, the story is relegated to the inside pages. Mass circulation daily De Telegraaf, which lost 1000 subscribers after an interview by telephone with the boy in hospital, mentions his full name at the end of its report, but only says he did not attend. Trouw and AD are the only papers to say he is recovering well.   All the papers carry photographs of candles being lit in a metal frame depicting the globe against a dark blue background. The interest of De Telegraaf seems to have dwindled to such a low point that it hasn't even got the number of candles right, reporting that 33 candles were lit. It should have been 70 the number of non-Dutch victims was 33.   Luckily AD is more accurate, it reports that one candle was lit for each victim and a minute's silence was held. Trouw reports that the body of the last victim to be identified was returned to the Netherlands on 15 June.   The papers describe it as an emotional commemoration. Relatives of the victims told their stories. The queen, visibly moved, is photographed holding hands with the prime minister in AD. A daughter recounts how she received a postcard of the Kruger National Park from her parents a few days after the plane crash. "A sign of life, when they were already gone."   Problem neighbourhood policies are working In an interview with Trouw, caretaker Neighbourhood Minister Eimert van Middelkoop warns against ending policies to improve problem neighbourhoods. He even suggests that to do so would lead to more Freedom Party votes. He says he is concerned that problem neighbourhood policies may be scrapped as a result of cuts and a change of course by the next government.   The policies were created under former minister Ella Vogelaar, who was forced to resign partly because her policies were not showing results quickly enough. In the plan, she wanted to transform 40 problem neighbourhoods by joint investment from the government, local councils and housing associations in social infrastructure. According to Minister Middelkoop, the approach is bearing fruit. Corporations and local councils now want to see commitment from the government that it will continue the policies. "We have created expectations that we will continue working in these neighbourhoods for the next ten years... Politics wouldn't be credible if we were to stop."   The plan was controversial when it was introduced, and minister Vogelaar had almost no money to fund it. Eventually, then treasurer Wouter Bos found money to finance the plan which up to them was supposed to be funded almost entirely by the housing associations themselves. Needless to say the housing associations were less than pleased with the idea and rows ensued. But now they are on board, Minister Middelkoop says it would be " disastrous" to stop. Failure would play into the hands of the Freedom Party as it mobilises dissatisfaction among voters. When asked whether that is a recommendation for including the controversial far-right party in government, he says, "It would be interesting to see the Freedom Party take responsibility for making all those dissatisfied people satisfied."   Should black boxes be introduced in operation rooms? What about introducing a black box into operation rooms at hospitals? Everything a surgeon says and does would be registered as would the condition of the patient. If things went wrong, you would be able to find out exactly what happened.   The idea has been introduced in a hospital in the southern Dutch city of Breda, according to AD. It has been welcomed by the Dutch Health Inspectorate and other hospitals are interested too.

A staggering 1750 patients die unnecessarily in hospitals every year. A doctor explains "By discussing operations and births that go wrong, the number of deaths can be reduced."

The inspectorate agrees a black box would be a "useful aid" to improve team performance. But it warns that it should only be used for this purpose and not to investigate cases afterwards. Otherwise doctors might refuse to cooperate for fears that their work would end up on YouTube.

  Interestingly the surname of the journalist who wrote the report happens to be Docter. Coincidence, I guess. Or is Big Brother watching you? Popeye sells spinach better than health campaigns Government campaigns to get people to eat more healthily often don't reach the very people they are aimed at. While the well-educated and the well-off are getting the message, health campaigns fail to stimulate people on lower incomes to buy healthy products.   Trouw reports that research by a scientist at Amsterdam's Free University shows that this group of people is more likely to buy a product if it is reduced in price or features a cartoon. So putting comic strips featuring Popeye on spinach might actually get more people eating it. So why not use pop stars to promote fruit rather than ice creams?   It would also help if health food weren't more expensive. The scientist suggests turning things around and making all healthy products cheaper. She experimented with customers in a virtual supermarket and found that people were more likely to buy fruit and vegetables if they had a 25 percent discount.   Sticking a "healthy choice" label on products, even in big letters doesn't persuade people to buy them. But sticking a "special offer" label on them does.   The experiment is about to be continued in a real supermarket for six months. So look out for the cartoon characters on the fruit and veg in your local superstore.


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