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Car lease companies’ poor cyber security exposed over 180,000 drivers

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cyber security at some 50 car lease companies operating in the Netherlands was so bad that private details about at least 180,000 company car drivers was easily accessed by an IT firm, the AD said on Monday.

The leak was discovered by Sliedrecht-based Company ESET which was looking for a new company car supplier for staff. ‘It was childishly simple to access all sorts of privacy-sensitive information, such as where you live, the type of car and how much you had driven,’ spokesman Dave Maasland told the paper.

The 52 lease companies that ESET could access all used the same server. In total, the company was able to find out key information about 180,000 to 250,000 company car drivers, Maasland said.

A special anti-car theft unit set up by car insurers told the paper it is shocked by the ‘dismal security’. ‘We know Eastern European gangs have address lists where certain types of car can be found,’ VbV director Wouter Verkerk told the paper.

‘Such leaks of data allow crooks to shop around very easily.’ Nevertheless, the AD said, it is unclear if thieves have made use of security leaks, which have been fixed since they were found last week. (DutchNews)

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First phase of ‘world’s biggest underground bike park’ opens in Utrecht

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Part of the world’s biggest underground bike park opened next to Utrecht’s main railway station early on Monday morning with space for 6,000 bikes.

A further 1,500 places will be added by October and when the second space opens next year, it will have total capacity of 12,500 bikes. That will make the Utrecht project the biggest underground bike park in the world, the city council says.

According to the AD, Tokyo holds the current record with a bike park which has space for 9,400 bikes. In The Hague, a bike park for 8,500 two-wheelers is due to open next spring.

Shortage

Meanwhile, the infrastructure ministry has severely under-estimated the number of bike parking places needed at Dutch railway stations, broadcaster BNR radio said on Monday.

Saskia Kluit of the cyclists’ union Fietsersbond estimates 180,000 places will be needed. ‘We can see already that they are being used increasingly on a daily basis… we need to take steps to solve it,’ she said. National, provincial and local governments must all work together, draw up proper plans and make cash available, Kluit said. (DutchNews)

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Dog bites airline: owner wants damages for 6-hour delay

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – KLM has become the first airline in the world to be sued for a six-hour flight delay. By a dog, that is, the Telegraaf has reported.

An Israeli passenger is claiming €400 compensation for herself and has made a separate €400 claim for her dog Tony for the delay prior to a KLM flight several weeks ago from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam.

The unnamed passenger said technical defects had kept the plane on the ground for six hours prior to departure and that Tony nearly died from exposure to the burning sun.

It was only after an urgent appeal to ground staff by his owner that Tony was moved out of the sun, said Victor Loonstein of airline delay specialists Claim4U of Amsterdam which is handling the case.

He said the dog suffered more than a human passenger. KLM said it would not comment on the case until it was lodged officially. ‘We take every case seriously, even this one,’ a spokesman said. (DutchNews)

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The Dutch strawberry crop is getting bigger, despite fewer farmers

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The season may be almost over, but this year’s strawberry crop may reach a new record as fewer companies grow more of the summer fruit.

The number of people engaged in picking strawberries in the Netherlands has nearly halved in the decade running to 2017, while the area available for growing strawberries decreased by 5% in the same period, according to provisional figures published by the national statistics office CBS on Friday.

Growers are switching from the open ground to growing in greenhouses and inflatable tunnels, requiring fewer pickers, the CBS figures show. At present 76% of the annual strawberry crop is grown in the ground, compared to 85% in 2006.

At the same time, the number of companies engaged in raising strawberries, has almost halved since 2006 to 450. Strawberry production in 2016 was 57.5 million kilos, 47% more than the 39.2 million kilos registered in 2006.

The CBS said the Netherlands is ranked 7th worldwide in terms of production and 11th in terms of size of the strawberry growing area. (DutchNews)

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Mass DNA testing to find killer of boy in 1998 is delayed

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A mass DNA test being organised in a bid to find the killer of an 11-year boy almost 20 years ago is to be delayed until 2018, the public prosecution department said on Thursday.

Officials plan to ask 15,000 men, mainly from Limburg, to take part in the programme on a voluntary basis. The delay has been prompted by the introduction of cheaper and more efficient DNA testing techniques which will be brought in next year, the department said.

Judges have already given the go ahead to the screening, which was announced earlier this year. Officials hope the test will allow them to identify a close relative of the killer of Nicky Verstappen and say it is the ‘last realistic chance’ to find the murderer. (DutchNews)

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Dutch food safety body under fire of mishandling of egg scandal

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch food and product safety board has come under fire from experts, MPs and farmers for the way it is handling the ongoing contaminated egg scandal.

The NVWA first said there was no danger to human health and then issued a warning about certain batches of eggs, only for its deputy director to suggest a day later consumers should avoid eggs altogether until tests for a banned pesticide have been completed.

The NVWA expects to complete tests on eggs from 180 farms which used the contaminated anti-lice pesticide later on Thursday. Three professors have told the Volkskrant that even if eggs containing fipronil have been on the shop shelves for a year there is no serious problem.

‘I believe that the damage will be zero,’ says Martijn Katan, a professor of nutritional theory at the VU University in Amsterdam told the paper. And if the eggs with the suspect codes contain Fipronil, it is still questionable how harmful they are for the consumer, the paper said.

When it come to the maximum permitted dose of toxic substances the norms are cautious to say the least, said Ivonne Rietjens, a toxicologist at Wageningen University.

Parliament

Nevertheless, the confusion sown by the NVWA has led MPs to call for a debate after the summer break.

‘Consumers and producers should be able to trust that what the NVWA says and does is correct,’ VVD parliamentarian Helma Lodders told the paper. The AD points out that the egg scandal is not the first in which the NVWA has blundered in 10 years of cuts, mergers and reorganisations.

The Q-fever epidemic, the salmonella in salmon scandal and the horse meat affair all showed how the supervision of the Dutch food industry is lacking, the paper said. ‘Crisis management is not being properly organised and if they [the NVWA] are not up to it, someone else should be given the job,’ Hennie de Haan of the Dutch poultry farmers’ union told the Telegraaf.

Public interest

‘The NVWA is not on top of things,’ Hugo Bens of farming organisation LTO Nederland said. ‘If they had been quicker to signal that there were problems with Chickfriend, the problem would not have spread as fast as it did.’

Peter van Vollenhoven, the head of the Dutch safety foundation SMV, told the AD that the NVWA is making a mess of things. ‘When it comes to companies, economic interests take priority,’ he said.

‘The NVWA should defend the public interest, food safety. Unfortunately, the food watchdog has become more of an extension of economic policy.’ (DutchNews)

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Dutch court won’t extradite drugs suspects to Belgium, queries prison conditions

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A Dutch court has refused to extradite eight suspects facing drugs charges in Belgium to the Belgian authorities, saying it needed more information about prison conditions there.

The eight are thought to be part of an international gang which has been smuggling drugs into Europe from South America and were arrested in a joint Dutch Belgian operation.

However, judges in Amsterdam said they would not hand over the men to face trial because of concerns about the state of Belgian prisons. The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture said last month that conditions in Belgium’s prisons were the worst it had seen in Europe, particularly in terms of overcrowding.

‘The court must refuse a transfer if there is talk in the requesting country of a fundamental violation of human rights,’ the court said in its ruling. All extraditions to Belgium have now been suspended pending further research.

Last year, the Netherlands also stopped extraditions to Belgium during a prison officers’ strike. (DutchNews)

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The economy is speeding up: more fast-growing firms in NL

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of fast-growing companies in the Netherlands rose to 7,300 last year, with the hospitality and building sectors leading the way, the national statistics office CBS said on Tuesday.

The CBS defines a fast-growing company as one which employs at least 10 people and which expands its workforce by at least 10% over three consecutive years. The 2016 total is the highest since 2010, when the CBS started collecting information about fast-growing firms.

The number of fast-growing restaurants, cafes and other hospitality sector firms rose 25%. In the building sector there were 385 fast-growing firms last year. That is down on 2010’s 410 firms but almost double the 2015 total as the construction sector continues its recovery.

Some 2,000 of the fast-growing Dutch companies are in the business services sector and one in six of the total fast-growing firms boosted their workforce by takeovers. (DutchNews)

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Venezuela: UN rights chief 'deeply concerned' by detention of opposition leaders

SOUTH AMERICA, 1 August 2017 – The top United Nations human rights official today expressed deep concern about the detention of two opposition leaders by Venezuelan authorities after Sunday's elections for a Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolás Maduro.

“I am deeply concerned that opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma have again been taken into custody by Venezuelan authorities after their house arrest was revoked,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a statement issued by his Office (OHCHR).

He urged the Government to immediately release all those being held for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, noting that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers the detention of both Lopez and Ledezma to be arbitrary.

President Maduro has declared victory in Sunday's elections for the new body, which could replace the current National Assembly.

Mr. Zeid also expressed his regret that at least 10 people reportedly died over the weekend amid demonstrations over Sunday's polls, calling for a prompt, effective and independent probe into these deaths.

He urged the authorities “not to make an already extremely volatile situation even worse” through the use of excessive force, including through violent house raids that have occurred in various parts of the country.

“I appeal to all parties to refrain from the use of violence,” he said.

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Islamic schools urge parents to boycott new Amsterdam high school

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Fifteen Islamic primary schools in Amsterdam are urging parents not to send their children to the new Islamic secondary school due to open in the Dutch capital in September.

The organisation says the founders of the new school ‘have totally no experience or affinity with education’ and a spokesman told the NRC the new school board members are ‘cowboys acting against the general interest’.

Last week, the Netherlands’ highest administrative court ordered the education ministry to fund an Islamic high school in Amsterdam, making it the second Islamic high school in the Netherlands.

State-funded faith schools are sanctioned in the Netherlands under freedom of education rules, if they have sufficient pupils and meet the proper standards. Junior education minister Sander Dekker had refused to fund the school because he had doubts that it would contribute to ‘active citizenship and social integration’.

Dekker said he had reached this conclusion after a board member, who has since left, backed IS on social media. Amsterdam’s education alderman Simone Kukenheim has also said she has no faith in the school’s board.

Redouan Boudil, who is director two school groups urging the boycott, told the NRC the new school will damage the image of Islamic education. ‘We have worked so hard to polish up our image, we are not going to let that be ruined by a bunch of idiots,’ he told the paper. (DutchNews)

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