Press Review 2 April 2008

by Mike Wilcox

All today’s front pages cover yesterday’s parliamentary debate on right-wing MP Geert Wilders’ anti-Qur’an film, Fitna. He and his film came under fire from all sides of the house.

The pictures say it all, with Trouw showing a leader of the opposition turning away in disgust from Mr Wilders while he is still in mid-flow. The AD has a blurry image of the back of the MP’s head, recognisable by its tell-tale mane of blond hair, with the accusing faces of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin facing him (and us) in sharp focus.

De Volkskrant reports that minutes record Mr Wilders telling members of the cabinet last November that his film would show verses of the Qur’an being ripped up and burned. This would seem to indicate that he softened the film under political or religious pressure.

“…making me out to be a liar when it’s you who are lying…”

The mass-circulation De Telegraaf says the MP was furious, claiming the minutes had been altered. “You’re making me out to be a liar when it’s you who are lying,” he is quoted as saying. The paper says he found it reason enough to call for the cabinet to resign.

NRC Handelsblad reports that the first attempt to agree compensation for those who lost money on what have come to be known as ‘shark-policies’ has failed. The investment policies were often touted as alternatives for conventional mortgages and private pension schemes.

Investors paid huge sums in ‘administration costs’ and many only became aware of these after years. The policies often ended up being worth considerably less than the total capital invested.

“…worth considerably less than the total capital invested…”

The paper reckons one in four of the Dutch population has taken out such a policy. Interest groups are trying to secure compensation settlements with the financial companies involved to reimburse those who have lost money.

A lawyer says: “We’re banking on a good outcome. A battle through the courts is in no one’s interest”.

Women on top
De Volkskrant covers the call by the chairwoman of the Trades Union Federation for companies to be obliged to employ positive discrimination in favour of women. She believes only this will achieve the target of women holding 40 percent of the top jobs in the Netherlands by 2012.

“…we’ll just be left with the same old good intentions…”

She says: “If you’re talking about women at the top of companies and non-profit organisations, the Netherlands is down there with Botswana. If there’s no legal enforcement, we’ll just be left with the same old good intentions. But the last 25 years shows that nothing comes of these.”

Early stage
Trouw picks up on a Health Council report advising that 12-year-old girls should be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus which causes 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The high costs of a nationwide campaign mean Health Minister Ab Klink is unwilling to commit himself immediately to across-the-board vaccination.

“…continue having cervical smear tests…”

The AD points out that, even if mass vaccination goes ahead, women will still need to continue having cervical smear tests. A Health Council member explains: “It’s because the vaccine doesn’t work with all types of this cancer. And also people don’t become ill for 20 years, so, without tests, people who are already affected won’t be treated. A smear test catches the illness at an early stage.”

Full plate
The AD also informs us that we can soon expect to be ‘fined’ 10 euro cents if we fail to finish our meals when dining out in restaurants. The tiny amount can buy a whole day’s food for someone in Sierra Leone. The charity, Rotterdam Helps the World, reckons about 15,000 restaurants will join the scheme.

“…buy a whole day’s food for someone in Sierra Leone…”

It is hoped 5000 euros will be raised every month. One of the organisations which will get the cash is the Sunday Foundation and a spokesman fills us in:

“You can do a lot of good with that amount. But the campaign will also get people who eat out to think about the Third World. In the Netherlands, it’s normal to have a full plate in front of you, but that’s not the case everywhere.”


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