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Schippers under fire for plan to let police grab medical DNA records

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Privacy campaigners have attacked departing health minister Edith Schippers for reviving a plan to use DNA samples taken by medical staff in criminal investigations.

Schippers has launched an internet consultation into the plan, which would give police and prosecutors access to the DNA databases kept by hospitals. Campaign group Privacy Barometer said the plan violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that people must be informed when their personal data is being used as part of a criminal inquiry.

Privacy Barometer said the move amounted to creating a national DNA database by the back door, since nearly everybody gives a DNA sample at some point in the form of a blood sample or urine test, or when tissue is removed during an operation.

‘This draft bill gives the police and justice administration the authority to use details from the healthcare sector in their investigations,’ Privacy Barometer wrote in a letter to the minister. ‘These powers are unjustified and unwanted. They will damage people’s trust in the healthcare sector and access to healthcare. This will have a negative effect on medical and scientific research.’

Doctors’ federation KNMG said the proposal would compromise the principle of patient confidentiality. ‘Until now the courts have invoked ‘very exceptional circumstances’ mainly in cases where the suspect was a medical professional,’ the organisation said in a statement.

Biobanken Nederland, which stores DNA material collected for medical research, said universities, doctors and researchers all agreed that ‘judicial authorities should not have access to tissue stored for medical research or healthcare, either now or in the future’.

Schippers tried to introduce a similar law during the first Rutte government in 2011, but withdrew it when the cabinet lost its mandate the following year. She said then that she did not wish to push through laws that affected people’s fundamental rights during a caretaker administration.

Schippers, who is chairing the current coalition talks, has already said she will step down as health minister when the new government takes office. (DutchNews)

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Mobile phone firms to ask clients about earnings for new phone deals

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – People who ‘buy’ a telephone as part of a mobile phone subscription may now be asked by their phone firm to provide information about their earnings and living expenses because of new rules on credit.

Since January, phone ‘debts’ of more than €250 have been added to listing at the Dutch credit registration agency BKR. In phase two of the switch from May 1, phone firms are now responsible for checking that clients can meet the payments.

The change comes because the financial services sector regulator AFM has decided to treat the part of a phone subscription which covers the phone itself as a debt, if higher than €250. Since December 1, all credit greater than €250 which has been used for more than one month has been included in the register.

This includes shop cards and credit cards, as well as short overdrafts. Banks and other cred providers use the BKR to check if clients are financially able to take on major commitments such as a large mortgage or other loan. (DutchNews)

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Vanished American teen travels to Schiphol ‘for love.’ Police manhunt underway

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police said on Friday they had received 25 tips about the missing American teenager who flew to Amsterdam on April 1 and has since vanished.

‘We have no idea where she is and the investigation is in full swing,’ a police spokeswoman told broadcaster NOS. The FBI and Interpol are involved in the hunt for the 16-year-old.

Maggie Lee left her home in Springfield Tennessee with her passport and is now known to have boarded a plane for the Netherlands. The Dutch police website says she is half Korean, half white and suffers from acne.

She may also be going by the name Sandra Lee. Her mother Sabrina, who is now in the Netherlands, says the girl may have fallen in love, possibly with someone in The Hague whom she met via Facebook.

According to local broadcaster Omroep West, she had been involved in an online chat with someone from The Hague shortly before leaving. The girl also tried to fly to the Netherlands in February but was stopped by police at Nashville airport.

 ‘I think she is in love and that she believes if she is here, she will be in a sort of paradise where you don’t have to go to school,’ Sabrina Lee told Omroep West. After the February escapade, ‘I told her how dangerous doing something like this to chat to someone of Facebook and what can happen.

And I thought she understood me,’ Sabrina said. It is unclear how a 16-year-old American girl was able to enter the Netherlands without any flags being raised. (DutchNews)

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Far-right website lists ‘Dutch Jews’ and ‘enemies of the people’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Jewish information centre CIDI is demanding a list of Jewish Dutch people be taken off an extreme right-wing website immediately.

The website Altrechts.com includes a list of ‘Jews and part-Jews’ and a page which ‘attempts to quantify the influence of Jews in the Netherlands and Belgium. CIDI says the website is extremely worrying.

 ‘We don’t have to explain what violent anti-semites can do with such a list,’ the organisation says on its website. It is unclear who is behind the website which is registered via a Panama server with identity protection. The website, which was offline on Friday afternoon because of a system overload, describes Jews as ‘alien organisms’.

Another website section lists ‘enemies of the people’ which it describes as ‘Marxists, feminists and homosexuals’. The list also claims to include the names of people who signed a petition calling for the abolition of Zwarte Piet.

Internet discrimination hotline MIND told the NRC it has received several complaints about the website and that the public prosecution department is also investigating. (DutchNews)

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King’s Night passes off peacefully and the rain stayed away

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Hundreds of thousands of people kicked off the King’s Day celebrations at concerts and festivals all over the country.

Despite repeated warnings of bad weather, there was little rain and the evening passed off peacefully in most places. In The Hague, some 200,000 people turned out for the annual The Life I Live festival.

There were just six arrests, ‘which is normal for an average weekend,’ a police spokesman told broadcaster RTL. In Utrecht, the market free-for-all traditionally carries on all night. The city was extremely busy but ‘everyone had a good time,’ a police spokesman said. Amplified music is banned in Utrecht until 11am on King’s Day itself.

In Amsterdam, city centre streets were crowded even though there were no large outside events. ‘There were a few incidents and more arrests than on a normal Saturday night but nothing to worry about,’ a police spokesman said. (DutchNews)

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Dutch king speaks about life, death and happiness in open tv interview

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 4.3 million people watched Wednesday night’s televised interview with king Willem-Alexander in which he talked about his life, the death of his brother Friso and the MH17 disaster.

The interview, filmed at the king’s home in Wassenaar, was broadcast on both NPO1 and commercial channel RTL4. The aim of the interview with presenter Wilfried de Jong was to show the king as a man not a head of state, broadcaster NOS said. The result was described by royalty watchers as ‘relaxed and open’.

Teenager

In the interview, Willem-Alexander said as a teenager and student he had long had his doubts about the monarchy. ‘I had not accepted, internalised the fact that I would take over this job from my mother,’ he said.

‘I wanted to get to know myself better. You have to know yourself through and through. This is something I am continually impressing on [crown princess] Amalia.’ The king said he told his daughters to learn their boundaries.

‘Cross them, make mistakes – as much as possible out of the public eye. That’s what I did, a lot. Parties… all that and more… it is the right thing to do, as long as you don’t do it in the public domain.

The king said he had benefited from security officials who did not tell his parents what he was up to. He has made the same deal with his daughters’ security staff. ‘It is about the safety of my children, not whether or not we know what they are up to and if that is wrong or right,’ he said. ‘Otherwise you can never develop.’

Depression

During the interview, based around videos of the past, the king said he had rarely been allowed to watch television until he reached the age of 14. He also said that he had gone away to school in Wales in the 1980s to escape changes on the home front. His father prince Claus was suffering from depression and his mother had just taken over the throne.

It was a difficult time to be a teenager, he said. The king spoke about the death of his brother Friso in 2013 after a skiing accident. ‘You only realise what you have lost when it is no longer there,’ he said.

‘He lived in London with Mabel and the children but he was a person to have in the background… if you no longer have that, you miss it. You also sees what happens to a mother who loses a child.

They lose part of themselves.’ The sorrow of losing Friso helped him understand the sorrow of the relatives of those killed in the MH17 disaster, he said. ‘Of course you understand it,’ the king said. ‘Your world collapses. And that happened to us as well.’

Immigration

The interview skirted round the issue of politics but the king did say that he could understand the current debate on immigration.

‘We live in difficult times,’ he said. ‘We have all sorts of problems that could not be spoken about in the past. I understand that this makes people uneasy. The world has changed. Discussion is good. I understand the fear and anger, but it is a halfway house. It can never be the final destination.’

Queen Maxima, he said, is ‘my everything. My good fortune at home, my children, I owe everything to her. She is critical but very caring and forgiving if I am occasionally sulky.’ At the age of 50, the king said, he was happy in his skin. ‘You don’t need to feel sorry for me,’ he told De Jong. ‘I have a very interesting life. I’m happy with my role, I have more self-confidence and that allows me to be myself.’ (DutchNews)

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Dutch must improve investment climate, trade board says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – If the Netherlands is to continue to grow as an international trading country, then it must have the best fiscal investment climate in Europe, according to a report by the semi-governmental Dutch Trade & Investment Board (DTIB).

The DTIB report also said that talented students, start-ups, entrepreneurs, skilled labourers and scientists should be encouraged to remain in the Netherlands, the Telegraaf reported on Wednesday.

‘Now that competition between countries is increasing again, it is necessary to strive for the best fiscal conditions in Europe,’ said DTIB chairman Chris Buijink who also heads the Dutch bankers association.

The report, which was presented to caretaker junior trade minister Lilianne Ploumen and acting economic affairs minister Henk Kamp on Wednesday, singled out research & development centres as an example of a sector which would make the country more attractive.

The report said the fact that the Netherlands was now effectively exporting R&D was ‘an alarming development’. It said more money should be invested in international innovative partnerships.

The government, business community and institutes of higher learning must work together to develop a coordinated approach to exports in new growth markets such as Asia and Latin America, the report argues, adding that the Netherlands brand helps sell the country. (DutchNews)

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Dutch tattoo artist recognised in king’s birthday honours list

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher is among the 2,819 people given decorations in King Willem-Alexander’s traditional birthday honours list.

The awards committee said Schiffmacher is being recognized for his contribution to winning acceptance for tattoo culture in large parts of society and for working to improve hygiene and safety standards.

TV presenter Astrid Joosten, who has been on television for almost 35 years, was also among the recipients of an award. Not only are her programmes informative and educational, but Joosten also works hard for good causes, said Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan, who presented her award.

Most of the awards went, as usual, to ordinary people in recognition of their contribution to society. One of the oldest recipients this year is 99-year-old Mrs De Groot from Sliedrecht who has volunteered for the Salvation Army since 1936.

Most people were made members of the Order of Oranje-Nassau – which has six levels. That honour was introduced in 1892 for foreigners and the ‘lower classes’. The first Dutch honour was introduced by king Willem 1 in 1815. (DutchNews)

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Dutch town considers giving birthday ear plugs to all 16-year-olds

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Local officials in the Arnhem commuter town of Westervoort will today vote on whether or not to present all 16-year-olds with a set of earplugs to protect their hearing.

The gift will cost the council around €1,500 a year, according to alderman Arthur Boone, who is in charge of health.

Some 175 youngsters turn 16 every year in Westervoort, which has a population of some 15,000. ‘€1,500 is a lot cheaper than the potential consequences of damage to hearing,’ Boone, who himself has hearing loss in one ear, said.

The council is also considering handing out ear plugs at concerts and festivals. According to research by hearing charity Hoorstichting, one in five youngsters suffers from some form of hearing damage due to loud music. (DutchNews)

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Two men shot dead in gangland killing in Zoetermeer

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two men have been shot dead on an industrial estate in the east of Zoetermeer in what appears to be a gangland killing, police said on Tuesday.

According to the Telegraaf, eyewitnesses saw a BMW pull up at speed at around 11am on Tuesday morning. One man in a balaclava jumped out and opened fire on the two victims who were sitting in a car near to a car paint shop and a boxing school.

After the shooting, the BMW drove off. The car was later found burnt out a few streets away. Nothing has yet been said about the identity of the victims but police have said they do not know if there is a connection to an armed robbery in Zoetermeer earlier in the day. (DutchNews)

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