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Dutch terror threat unchanged, NCTV warns about women returnees

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The threat of terrorist attacks by people who have never travelled to IS territory is as great as the threat from jihadists who have returned to the Netherlands, according to the Dutch counter terrorism unit’s latest assessment.

The NCTV says IS is using the network of the Dutch nationals who joined the terrorist group to inspire the sympathisers who remained behind. This, the agency says, is particularly worrying because inspiring people in Europe to carry out attacks could be an alternative to organising jihadist cells from Syria and Iraq.

‘The Netherlands is named in IS propaganda as a legitimate target,’ NCTV chief Dick Schoof said. ‘Various Dutch or Dutch-speaking jihadis have threatened violence against the Netherlands in 2017,’ referring to the apparent threat to attack this summer’s women’s European football championships.

Nevertheless, the threat level in the Netherlands remains at four out of five, or substantial, the NCTV says. The NCTV says there are still around 135 Dutch nationals in IS territory, a number of whom are currently in refugee camps in Iraq and Syria.

The agency expects that women with their children will attempt to return to the Netherlands in the coming period. ‘These women will probably adopt the role of victim in order to reduce government attention for the risks’, says the NCTV.

However, since the summer IS has explicitly called on women to join the actual fighting and they too pose a serious risk, the NCTV said. The Dutch government has a policy of not providing any help to people wishing to return to the Netherlands from jihadi-controlled territory.

The Netherlands has so far avoided terrorist attacks such as those carried out in France, London and Belgium.

Far right

The new report also comments on the rise in violent threats from far right terrorist within Europe. While there are no signs of a similar rise in the Netherlands, the polarized climate in the Netherlands ‘could feed radicalisation and in some cases, lower the threshold for violence,’ the NCTV said. ‘This goes for all ideologies.’ (DutchNews)

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One in 10 primary school children sent home due to staff shortages

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – One in 10 primary school children was sent home last year because no substitute teacher could be found, while three quarters were taught by substitute staff at some point, the Algemeen Dagblad reports.

The figures are based on a survey among over 1,000 parents carried out by the Vervangingsfonds, a replacement fund into which schools pay a premium to finance substitute staff.

The survey also showed that two thirds of parents think children should never be sent home when there is no teacher present. However, a shortage of primary school teachers and changes to the employment law, is making it difficult for schools to find replacement staff, the paper writes.

Disruption

Parents say they are worried about disruption to their children’s education when replacement teachers are called in because they have different ways of teaching and are not always familiar with the methods used.

Some 75% of pupils were taught by substitute teachers last year while one in 10 were sent home for one or more days.  The Vervangingsfonds finds the figures ‘alarming’ while parent’s organisation Ouders & Onderwijs thinks sending children home is ‘undesirable’.

‘What are parents to do with their child when it is sent home? Schools don’t think about a plan B,’ advisor Dorine Wiersma told the paper. (DutchNews)

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Rotterdam nursing home assistant arrested for allegedly murdering patient

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 21-year-old nursing home assistant from Rotterdam is under investigation for murdering one patient and attempting to kill two others, the public prosecution department said on Monday.

The male suspect is thought to have killed a female patient at a nursing home in the district of Binnenmaas, south of the port city, the department said. The investigation began earlier this month after a woman at the nursing home became unexpectedly unwell.

She was taken to hospital, where medical staff said they suspected she had been given an dose of insulin. Nursing home officials then called in the police. Investigators also found two other suspicious incidents involving the suspect.

In one case, at the same nursing home in Binnenmaas, a nursing home resident died. In the other case, in Rotterdam, a female patient also became unwell. The man worked at a number of care institutions in the region, the department said in a statement.

The investigation is still ongoing and the man was remanded in custody on Monday. (DutchNews)

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Timmermans urges ‘brave’ victims of sexual abuse to keep up pressure

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – European commissioner Frans Timmermans has called on victims of historic sexual abuse to come forward in the wake of the #MeToo campaign.

Timmermans, who told the NRC newspaper in 2002 that he had been abused as a teenager by an American priest, said victims had been ‘very brave’ to come forward against alleged serial abusers such as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

‘It’s something that you carry with you all your life,’ he told Italian newspaper La Stampa. Last month the commission announced it was launching an investigation into whether EU member states were doing enough to enforce the laws on sexual intimidation.

Since the Weinstein scandal broke accusations have emerged of a culture of harassment in centres of power, including the European Parliament. (DutchNews)

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Many Dutch children still don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables: report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Although Dutch children are eating more fruit and vegetables than they used to five years ago, many still don’t eat the recommended amount, according to a new report by the food advisory centre Voedingscentrum, CBS and the public health institute RIVM.

The research, which is carried out every year, shows that the under fours eat more fruit and veg than older children, particularly those aged nine to 12. Almost two in five children eat enough fruit while just over two in five eat enough vegetables to meet official targets.

Just over half eat the recommended amount of fish. The most recent Voedingscentrum guidelines state that the under fours should eat 150 grammes of fruit a day, 50 to 100 grammes of vegetables and fish once a week. Children aged four to 9 should eat double the amount of vegetables.

The report also found that children from families with well-educated parents are more likely to eat a healthy diet than those from low-skilled households. (DutchNews)

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Loosdrecht road racer jailed for four years for role in fatal crash

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A father and son who took part in an impromptu road race through a Dutch village which left a 19-year-old woman dead have been found guilty of causing her death by reckless driving by judges in Utrecht.

54-year-old Walter van W, who drove his Porsche into the car driven by Fleur Balkestein, was jailed for four years to be followed by a five year driving ban. His son Casper, 33, was banned from driving for one year and given 100 hours of community service.

The court was told that the father and son had driven at speeds of up to 160 kph along a narrow dyke road in what appeared to be a race. An investigation by the Netherlands Forensic Institute showed the two had driven of speeds of at least 167 kph in area where 50 kph is the maximum.

‘They drove absurdly fast,’ the public prosecution told the court during the trial. Van W’s car smashed into the car driven by the young woman as she turned out of a driveway onto the road in Loosdrecht.

She died of her injuries in hospital two weeks after the crash took place. Walter van W was also found to have twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. The two had been out to dinner together earlier in the evening. ‘Father and son took a risk and as a result, Fleur is dead,’ the court said in its verdict. (DutchNews)

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Police in Tilburg to investigate heavy-handed school pupil arrests

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police in Tilburg are to investigate the arrest of three teenagers at a school in the city where they had been called to break up a crowd of youngsters who had apparently gathered to fight.

Films taken by fellow pupils show one boy being tripped and thrown to the ground by a police officer. In total, three boys, aged 14, 15 and 16 were arrested. Police said at the time they had ignored an order to leave the area.

A group of some 100 youngsters had gathered at the trade school after messages were placed on social media calling on them to come for a mass fight. Several schools are located on the city’s Stappegoorweg.

Police had been called to the school at around 1pm. Police spokeswoman Pierre-Ine Mattheussens told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant: ‘I can imagine it looks a little heavy handed but I understand from colleagues that the atmosphere was very tense and feelings were running high,’ she said.

‘We were there to restore order.’ The school has not yet reacted but broadcaster NOS said people living nearby have complained repeatedly about pupils at the school causing a nuisance. (DutchNews)

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More kids per class: Dutch primary school class sizes keep on growing

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – While primary school classes still average around 23 pupils, there has been a 5%  increase in the number of classes with over 26 children in the past five years, the AD said on Thursday.

In total, some 35% of primary school teachers now have to deal with at least 26 children in class, the paper said, quoting government figures obtained using freedom of information legislation.

‘To say there has been no increase in the average class size is burying your head in the sand,’ said Jan van de Ven, founder of lobby group PO in Actie. ‘Nine years ago, you could count the number of classes with more than 30 children on one hand, but now almost every school has at least one.’

Parents’ organisation Ouders & Onderwijs says it is contacted by parents who are worried about class sizes every week. ‘In short, parents think that classes are too busy and that their child is not getting enough attention,’ director Peter Hulsen told the paper.

Maximum

Socialist party MP Peter Kwint, who last year tried to get a maximum class size of 23 on the statute books, told the AD that classes of 30 pupils mean a lot more work for teachers.

‘Thirty children means 30 meetings with parents, 30 reports to write, 30 tests to mark,’ he said. ‘This illustrates the need to take steps. Primary school teachers are currently campaigning for more pay and for more measures to reduce the pressure of work.

They say that although the new government has allocated extra cash, it does not go far enough. (DutchNews)

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PVV attack home affairs minister over Amsterdam republic comments

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren should be jailed for 30 years for calling on Amsterdam to break away and form a republic if the PVV came to power, party MP Martin Bosma said on Wednesday.

In a 20 minute speech during the debate on the home affairs ministry budget, Bosma referred to comments made by Ollongren when she was deputy mayor of Amsterdam.

‘Time after time, she has called for an independent Amsterdam,’ Bosma said. ‘She is making a fool of democracy.’ D66 supporters, he said, consider PVV voters to be anti-social elements and want nothing to do with them.

In accordance with the law, Bosma said Ollongren should either be jailed for life, or for 30 years for encouraging the capital to go it alone. The PVV has already put forward a motion of no confidence in Ollongren because she is a dual national.

According to the Parool, Ollongren replied by accusing Bosma of spreading fake news. ‘Bosma shows a lot of interest in me personally but not in my portfolio,’ she said. ‘I really can’t take this seriously’. (DutchNews)

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Minister must do his homework on Groningen gas, says top court

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Council of State has given economic affairs minister Erik Wiebes one year to come up with proper arguments to support his decision to cap the extraction of gas from under Groningen province at 21.6 billion cubic metres a year.

The case was brought by a group of Groningen residents and green group Milieudefensie who said safety of locals is more important than providing income for the treasury.

They wanted gas production to be drastically reduced or stopped altogether. Hundreds of homes in the province have been damaged by earthquakes caused by the land settling following gas extraction.

At the beginning of this year, the Council of State ruled that the ministry did not have to further reduce gas volumes pending a new decision on the legitimacy of the protestors’ claim.

Now the Council of State, which is the country’s highest administrative court, has ruled that the original decision to cut production by a limited amount was not properly supported by facts.

‘The minister has so far failed to properly substantiate his previous decision to allow 21.6 billion cubic metres to be extracted per gas year over the next five years,’ the court said in a statement.

The minister should, the court said, have taken the safety of locals more into account when reaching his decision and done more to analyse the potential risks.

Unacceptable

It is ‘unacceptable’ that gas group NAM was given five years to pump up gas from the province without a proper risk analysis, the court said. Wiebes said in a reaction that the court’s ruling was ‘strong’.

‘We have to take a new decision within a year, and we are now getting down to work,’ he said. Milieudefensie said in a website statement that the verdict is a ‘historic victory’ for both Groningen and the climate. The ruling is a sign to the minister that we have to ‘kick our gas habit’, the organisation said. (DutchNews)

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