Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (1701)

Kidz at Sea welcomes new talent to boat building class

SINT MAARTEN (SOUTH REWARD) - With the generous financial support of Samenwerkende Fondsen, the Kidz at Sea Foundation recently welcomed new students in the boat building class of the Build Your Future project.

As an introduction to the marine sector on Sint Maarten, this project enables students of the Milton Peters College in the ages between 14 and 18 years to join a special boat building class for several months and take sailing lessons in their spare time.

The current boat building team consists of the following students: Rayzjeldrick Karel, Jason Gumbs, Natercia Eleonora, Owean Brown, Nyssa Williams and Kyshani Hyman.

After some hiccups after the hurricane, the current team is looking forward to finish the boat and get it out on the water before the end of summer:

Rayzeldrick Karel (17) ‘we would like to fix up the boat now and then sail it later!”

Jason Gumbs (17) ‘I’m happy to work on the construction of this boat, I’m learning a lot in the process, but I can’t wait till the boat is finished and get it in the water!’.

The boat that is being build is a Didi 26 designed by Dudley Dix, it is affectionately referred to as Hull #2 at the moment and will become the sister ship of Purple Heart, the previous sloop built by MPC Vocational students. When put to sea, this world-class racing designed vessel sails with 6 crew.

Through the Build Your Future project and other activities, the Kidz at Sea Foundation is dedicated to providing young persons access to career opportunities in the marine sector of St. Maarten.

The project is specifically geared towards developing life skills to help youngsters succeed, both on and off the water. Skills such as teamwork, communication, accountability and problem solving are at core of the project.


Rabbe Financial Services Expert and Benjamin Financial Compliance Unit to speak at 4th AML Forum

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The 4th Dutch Caribbean AML (Anti-Money Laundering) & Gaming Regulation Forum regional-international conference will kick-off on Tuesday at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino and Spa at Maho. The Forum is from June 4 – 7.

Speakers from all kinds of professions are lined up to speak at the 4th Dutch Caribbean AML (Anti-Money Laundering) & Gaming Regulation Forum including Lisa Rabbe, Tech and Financial Services Policy and Regulation Expert, and Derek J. Benjamin, Senior Financial Analyst and head of the Financial Compliance Unit of Antigua & Barbuda.

Minister of Tourism & Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson said on Sunday that the country will be in the spotlight this week as it hosts the 4th Dutch Caribbean AML & Gaming Regulation Forum.

“We are proud to welcome more than 100 participants to the 4th Dutch Caribbean AML & Gaming Forum this. AML is a key issue to ensure the continued functioning of the global financial system including that of Sint Maarten.

“Our Parliament just recently passed very important legislation to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. Sint Maarten as a country is taking the necessary steps to guarantee its national economic development in compliance with international standards as brought forward by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force.

“There will be much discussion and deliberations over the next four days regarding global regulatory standards and strategies to reduce the risk of criminal activity and increase compliance & transparency. By working together, we learn from each other best practices which in turn strengthens our national economic and financial security,” Hon. Minister Stuart Johnson said on Sunday.

Lisa Rabbe is a globally recognized expert on Tech and Financial Services Policy and Regulation and is the Founder and CEO of Stratosphere Advisors LLC, a political risk and public policy consultancy, and of Stratosphere Analytics LLC, a regulatory analytics start-up.

The Stratosphere group of companies assess political, policy and regulatory changes and identify opportunities and risks for clients. Lisa is a senior advisor to Visionary Future, which advises clients on the application of Blockchain, Data Analytics and Machine Learning to financial, investment and other industry sectors.

Prior to this, Rabbe was Managing Director and Head of Public Policy for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region for Credit Suisse and Managing Director and Head of Government Affairs EMEA region for Goldman Sachs International, leading government and regulatory strategy and relationships for both banks.

Rabbe also advised their corporate and investor clients around the world. Ms Rabbe is an instructor on the Oxford Saïd Business School’s Future of Finance (FinTech) Course. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Oxford MSc in Law & Finance and has been a member of the Advisory Board of the European Corporate Governance Institute since 2012.

Derek J. Benjamin is the Senior Financial Analyst and head of the Financial Compliance Unit (FCU) at the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP), Antigua.

Benjamin joined the ONDCP in 2006, first working as a financial analyst in the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) before moving to the FCU in 2012. With over 20 years’ experience working in the domestic banking sector, he has pursued formal training and is certified in the areas of Risk Management, Anti-Money Laundering, Counter Terrorism Financing, Cyber Crime Detection and AML/CFT Compliance.

He is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Prevention Specialist (CAMS and CAMLFC) and a certified Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Financial Examiner having served as a member of the CFATF 3rd Round Mutual Evaluation team to Belize.

Benjamin is also a member of the CFATF Risk, Trends and Methods Group (CRTMG) and the point of contact member of Antigua’s National Money Laundering & Financing of Terrorism Risk Assessment Coordinating Group.

The Government of Sint Maarten via the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunications (TEATT) and GovRisk, a UK-based Training & Consultancy specialising in Financial Crime Prevention and Anti-Corruption, are the organizers of the Forum this week which will promote compliance, Anti-Money Laundering, New technologies and Exploring the Future of Business Risk.

This regional event will bring together this week over a four-day period key stakeholders such as: Banks - Compliance Officers & Internal Risk Managers; Central Banks, Regulatory & Supervisory Bodies; Financial Intelligence Units, Treasury & Revenue, Law Enforcement; Casinos, Lotteries, Slot & Arcade Operators; Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) such as: Law Firms, Auditors & Accountants, Insurance Firms, Real Estate Agents, Car Dealers, Jewellers, Credit Unions & Charities.


Derek Benjamin





Philipsburg & Simpson Bay Police Stations Storm-ready

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Following the completion of the first phase of works at the Philipsburg and Simpson Bay police stations, both are now better able to withstand any major storms as the buildings have been deemed ‘water and wind tight’.

This is the consensus of the small group of representatives that participated in the official walkthrough and handover on Wednesday, May 29th.   The project , which falls under the Emergency Recovery Project 1 of the Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund, comprises of repairs including window repairs, doors, shutters and roof sealing to improve working conditions at the police headquarters.

Claret Connor, Director of the National Recovery Program Bureau, the Trust Fund’s implementation unit explained that “The completion of phase one precedes the launching of a second phase which will involve permanent internal and roof renovations. The process to finalize the beginning of this second phase with stakholders is underway and we are diligently working on starting as soon as possible.”

During the walkthrough the water-proofed roof was inspected, shutters were tested and doors and windows were opened and closed to ensure that the competed works were of a good quality. Minor issues were noted and are scheduled to be finalized within short.   “Although there is still more work to be done, we are now better prepared for the upcoming hurricane season.” Ms. Clenda Pecht, head of the Operations Unit of the St. Maarten Police (KPSM) observed. “Even the physical appearance of the stations is more suitable for our officers to carry out their day-to-day functions”.

Represented at the walkthrough were the works contractors Aluminum Systems NV, the supervisor contractor Independent Consulatant Engineers (ICE), Ministry VROMI as the government entity responsible for public buildings, KPSM and the National Recovery Program Bureau. The Sint Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund The Fund is financed by the Netherlands, managed by the World Bank and implemented by the Government of Sint Maarten.

B 190529 Police Walk Through explain ICE

The supervising and works contractor discuss completed works.






Home-grown medicial marijuana ‘should be tax deductible’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A woman who suffers from a serious form of the inflammatory bowel disease Crohn should be able to deduct the cost of the cannabis she grows to relieve her symptoms from tax, the advocate general said on Friday.

Official medicinal cannabis failed to have the desired impact on her health, prompting the women to grow her own, on medical advice. But the tax office ruled she could not deduct the cost from tax, because the cannabis had not been provided by a doctor or a licenced pharmacist.

Although a lower court found in her favour, the ruling was overturned on appeal, hence the second appeal to the Supreme Court. The advocate general said in his recommendations that specific health costs can be deducted from tax even if they were not ‘regular medicines prescribed by a doctor’.

The advice of the advocate general is not binding but generally accepted by the Supreme Court. No date has yet been set for its ruling.



Pension reform talks may restart, minister stresses need for progress

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has told MPs that he wants to resume talks with unions and employers on reforming the Dutch pension system.

The talks collapsed in November after the unions walked out, saying the cabinet was not prepared to do enough to meet their demands on the state pension age. ‘The need to make new agreements about our pensions system remains as big as ever,’ Koolmees said in the briefing.

He also said the cabinet ‘sees room to be less stringent about the link between the state pension age and life expectancy’ – which has been one of the main stumbling blocks.

Public transport workers held a nationwide strike on Tuesday in support of their campaign for a slowdown in the retirement age increase.

The government’s insistence that the state retirement age go up to 67 and beyond in line with life expectancy has divided the negotiators, with unions saying there needs to be more room for some workers to retire up to five years earlier.

Experts believe that the Dutch pension system – a combination of a state pension (AOW) and corporate pension schemes – needs to be reformed because the aging population is putting more pressure on the current pension system and pension funds are having to pay out to more people for longer.

Both the unions and employers have welcomed Koolmees’ olive branch. A union spokesman said he expects the talks to resume after the weekend break.



National Address by the Prime Minister: 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – On Friday, May 31, on the even of the start of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin issued a national address with respect to national preparations for the season as can be found below.

“To the people of Sint Maarten and guests visiting our shores, today June 1st marks the official start of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season. As I address you today, I take this opportunity to remind you that it only takes one severe hurricane to disrupt our lives and our economy. Together as a united country, we must do all that we can to be fully prepared for any disaster.

At the beginning of every season, every household and business, needs to prepare for the Hurricane season, this is an individual and collective responsibility.

“Being prepared requires preparation, thus with this address, I hope to encourage, each of you to take the necessary individual responsibility to prepare your family and by extension your neighborhood, which will then lead to the entire country being PREPARED!

“As Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs, I am ultimately responsible for Disaster Management on the island, a responsibility that I take seriously. In the months leading up to the start of the Hurricane Season, this Government through the efforts of the Emergency Support Function Groups and Stakeholders that form the Emergency Operation Center, are busy preparing the for any possible threat or strike that may hit this Country. We may never be 100% fully ready to face a major hurricane such as Irma but I wish to reassure the people of Sint Maarten that the Civil Servants and public employees that make up the ESF groups are committed to doing all that is possible with the resources available to face any calamity that may come our way.

“We cannot for a split second become complacent in our preparations for Hurricane season as Hurricane Irma taught us on September 6th, 2017. For many the memories are still vivid and the experiences are still tough to cope with.

“Although we have come far in terms of recovery, there are still visible scars throughout our community that reminds us that the end of the road to recovery is still ahead of us. Together with the Netherlands and the World Bank, the recovery projects are being proposed and executed. In our recent discussions held just a few weeks ago, all parties have agreed for the need to accelerate efforts, and as such, I look forward on seeing tangible results within the near future.

“As it relates to specific Trust Fund projects that may be affected by the Hurricane Season, just recently in the month of May the roof repair program was launched by the National Recovery Program Bureau bringing a sense of optimism for those in our community that were without a suitable overhead protection for just over one year and half. Door to door, social screening of the private homes of 135 households has been completed and technical assessments to determine the repair needs of these homes are about to start followed by construction.

“I am also elated to report that the Sint Maarten Housing Development Foundation (SMHDF) is close to completing 109 social home repairs. While 160 units that have been repaired already are being reviewed to assess eligibility for retroactive financing.

“Many of you may be asking; what is the Government doing? Currently, there are a number of activities and initiatives related to Hurricane Preparedness being executed by our disaster management system the Emergency Operation Center (EOC). Each Emergency Support Function (ESF) Group in the EOC is busy amending their Disaster Plans to reflect best practices from the many trainings and lessons learnt from the experiences of Hurricane Irma and Maria.

“For the second year, the Trust Fund has financed Sint Maarten’s insurance premium against tropical cyclones, earthquakes, and excess rainfall under the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF).

  1. Discussions are ongoing with Aruba and Curacao to determine the processes that will ensure the delivery of support. Whether it maybe military, governmental, medical or civilian we will be able to count on external support.
  2. UNICEF in collaboration with the court of guardianship has hosted its second Child Protection in Emergencies workshop. It is important for parents to be prepared before a disaster just in case the decision is made to evacuate or relocate children to another country. Proper procedures must be followed to ensure the safety and security of our children.  
  3. On June 22nd the second Hurricane EXPO is being organized to raise the awareness of the public to be properly prepared in the event of a disaster specifically a Hurricane. This year the plans include a series of 3 to 4 info sessions that will target the district communities giving persons the opportunity to ask questions to ESF groups NGO’s and key stakeholders on information provided during the session.
  4. The annual HUREX or Hurricane Exercise Drill will take place this year at the end of June where all the members of the EOC will test their readiness and capacities as response organizations.
  5. Following the HUREX, the EOC will once again get together on July 5th in an internal setting as previously done at the Disaster Preparedness Conference. The theme of this year’s Disaster Conference will be “Communication is Critical” with the emphasis on internal and external communication. The launching of a Disaster Emergency App will take place during the Disaster Preparedness Conference. On this app, persons will be able to receive pertinent information, warnings and alerts as it relates to Disasters on Sint Maarten.
  1. The annual Hurricane Clean-up by the Ministry of VROMI will take place within the neighborhoods and districts at the end of June or early July. Persons will be asked to put out their “bulky waste” such refrigerators, stoves, mattresses and heavy shrubbery. The pickup schedule will be published for each district at the start of cleanup campaign.

“If you ask, how can you prepare and be resilient? Everyone, in his or her respective households needs to know how to be storm-ready. Every business owner/manager should also have a process for his or her employees about being storm-ready, and the month of June is a good time to do so.

“I urge you NOT to wait until a hurricane is knocking at our door. Do NOT wait for the last moment to run to the store to buy batteries, canned goods, diapers, essential toiletries etc. Do so well before the peak of the hurricane season because, it is beneficial to you and your family that you prepare early!

“We have had the experience for many years now, of what needs to be done to prepare for the annual hurricane season. There is information that is readily available from many credible sources. The key is to take action and not to wait until the last minute. As a community, we need to take every precautionary measure to minimize the impact of damage and destruction that storms or hurricanes wreak.

“Having said that, a very important part of this process, is for the key stakeholders in our community for example NGO’s and Community Councils, to have their own plans ready to be implemented when the time comes. As citizens, it is your responsibility to connect with community leaders in your neighborhoods to be informed of plans that may affect you during an emergency.

“With everyone taking their responsibility serious, the damage across the country can be mitigated and limited, leading to a speedier recovery and reopening of the country and return to normalcy.

“Review and restock your disaster supply kit with food, medications, drinking water, an emergency cash fund and other essentials; secure and safe guard your homes and places of business; trim overhanging trees near buildings; check leaking roofs; install storm shutters; review the structure of your roof and strengthen it; repair windows and doors if necessary.

“If you live along the beach or in flood prone areas make plans to move before the storm hits to stay with family, friends or make alternative housing arrangements. Make plans for elderly family members who live alone as well as those family members who are physically challenged. Please do not forget your pets. Remember, preparing early is the key!

“I would also like to inform you that the relevant authorities are busy with the review and preparation of the proposed shelters. Therefore, within short, the shelter list for 2019 will be published for your awareness.

“I am aware that many persons are working diligently with the goal of having their homes and businesses completed before the peak months of the hurricane season arrives in August, September and October. Please work prudently with a plan and you will be able to complete your goals and objectives without putting your neighbors and fellow citizens at risk.

“There are also several non-Governmental and Governmental programs as mentioned before in the sector of home & roof repairs for private homes, seniors and other vulnerable groups within our communities. We are all working with the same goals in mind to complete these works before the peak of the season.

“The rebuilding efforts are ongoing and if any severe weather is imminent, please take the necessary precautions as advised for construction sites. The removal of cranes, loose lying lumber and debris should be your first priority, as we know flying debris during a hurricane causes unnecessary damage to surrounding properties.

“In closing, I want to ask you the public to do your part and seek out the relevant information for your immediate family and community. This information should cover your personal emergency planning that takes into account the wellbeing of your children, pets, household emergency supplies, all insurances, safeguarding of important travel and identification documents and access to official communication sources.

“Persons are also reminded to be vigilant and act responsibly by avoiding the spread of information that does not originate from official government sources.

“As a community, let us come together and collectively prepare Sint Maarten for this season. I call on Civic organizations, community councils and other non-governmental organizations, to continue to contribute in preparing our community to be storm-ready. A collective effort will make a huge difference!

“Remember it only takes one, let’s us be prepared.”


Nature Foundation Records Presence of Box Jellyfish in local waters after individuals Stung

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has taken note of reports that two individuals were stung by sea wasps or box-jellyfish over the last few days. Usually this time of year there may be a natural increase of the species in local waters.

“The box jellyfish, Cubazoa, is a species that can be fairly common this time of year. Unfortunately, two individuals were stung over the past few days and there was a need to receive medical treatment. Fortunately, the victims are doing well and are recovering. Box jellyfish can have potent venom, but the really dangerous species are not found in the Caribbean Sea. But we do get species that can cause pain and discomfort and can be especially dangerous for those allergic to the venom. We therefore have some suggestions to the public on precautions they should take,’ commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

Most jellyfish stings are painful, but not dangerous. But for people with jellyfish allergies, individuals with compromised immune systems, the very old, or the very young, a sting can be dangerous.

Any signs of shock or an allergic reaction warrant prompt emergency care. Warning signs include: difficulty breathing; dizziness; a rapidly spreading rash; nausea; changes in consciousness.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek emergency medical treatment immediately. People with other allergies, particularly to insect stings, may be more vulnerable to an allergic reaction to jellyfish.

Jellyfish stings that are accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, breathing problems, or loss of consciousness, will require immediate medical attention. Immediate medical attention should also be sought if: there have been reports of highly venomous jellyfish in the area; the jellyfish was very large; there are numerous tentacles at the site of the sting, as this means more venom might have been delivered; the sting was to the eye or mouth; there are signs of a severe reaction, such as difficulty breathing, a rapid heart rate, loss of consciousness, or muscle spasms; a rash appears on any area of the body, even if it is not near the location of the sting.

The following steps should be followed, as quickly as possible, following the sting: Thoroughly rinse the affected area with vinegar.

Remove the tentacles while still rinsing. The tentacles can keep stinging as long as they are in contact with skin, so wear gloves or put plastic bags on the hands.

Apply a heat pack or immerse the affected area in water of a temperature at least 113 °F for 40 minutes.

If vinegar and hot water are unavailable, carefully remove the tentacles.

After being stung by a jellyfish, stay out of the water for the rest of the day, as saltwater may make the pain worse. More importantly, there are likely other jellyfish in the area.

When a jellyfish tentacle punctures the skin and draws blood, the wound can become infected. People who are not up-to-date on their vaccinations may also need a tetanus shot. It is important to see a doctor within a few hours if there is an open wound.

Some jellyfish stings cause pain and itching for a few days. Some home remedies can help. These include: Hot packs to reduce swelling and inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. A topical antibiotic cream, such as Neosporin to reduce the risk of infection.

If the area becomes very painful, starts swelling, or there are streaks coming out of the wound, there could be an infection. In this case, a person should see a doctor within 24 hours.

A popular myth is that urinating on a jellyfish sting can neutralize the venom. In fact, urine can make the pain worse. In some cases, urine may even make the venom more potent.

Other folk remedies, such as lemon juice and shaving cream, are also ineffective.

The easiest way to avoid jellyfish stings is to stay out of ocean water. Wearing a wetsuit can protect against jellyfish stings. Foot-scuffing in shallow water may scare off jellyfish and some other stinging sea creatures. 

jelly1 ins1 nature 3105





Utrecht hospital won’t comment on possible cervical cancer misdiagnoses

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Utrecht’s UMC teaching hospital is refusing to say if it is looking again at the results of women’s cervical cancer tests after a missed diagnosis in 2011 led to a woman dying of the disease.

A test was not diagnosed according to ‘a professional standard’, an official report into the incident said. This test was the first opportunity to identify a cervical cancer that led to the death of Irishwoman and Dutch resident Adrienne Cullen on New Year’s Eve 2018.

A second biopsy taken at UMC Utrecht in 2011, showing more signs of cancer, was then lost for two years. By the time this biopsy result came to light in 2013, a disease that would have been 90%-95% treatable had become a death sentence.


The teaching hospital has already admitted liability for medical negligence and made a record compensation pay-out of €545,000 to Cullen before she died. It also agreed to let in investigators for a Systematic Incident Reconstruction and Evaluation (SIRE) report, to examine what had gone wrong and suggest changes.

UMC Utrecht said in a statement that it has now organised an annual lecture on ‘open disclosure’ about medical mistakes, improved record-keeping, set up new patient and peer support teams, and is organising a hospital-wide working conference to share experience and ‘prepare operational instructions to reduce the risk of missing results’.

But a spokesman refused to respond to questions about whether samples from other women will be re-analysed as a result of the revelation that Cullen’s ‘first pathology result’ – which DutchNews understands to be a Pap smear – was misdiagnosed by two members of staff.


When the SIRE investigators found this sample from Cullen and had it re-analysed by 11 experts in 2018, all of these diagnosed ‘an abnormality’. ‘The diagnosis is given of abnormal […] cells […] with the recommendation to perform a histological examination,’ reads the report.

‘Based on the results of the reassessment, the report concludes that the diagnosis […] had not been made according to the professional standard.’ The report also says that seven separate shortcomings stopped the care system functioning properly or got in the way of correcting this inaccurate diagnosis.

Adrienne Cullen wrote a book about her experiences with the Dutch health system, ‘Deny, Dismiss, Dehumanise: what happened when I went to hospital’, which was published in English in March and is coming out in Dutch this autumn.

It details UMC Utrecht’s initial refusal to investigate the medical calamity, its attempts to make her sign a gagging clause, and a general attitude that health minister Hugo de Jonge recently described to Cullen’s husband Peter Cluskey as ‘callous’.

‘I would urge UMC Utrecht and its senior management to be as transparent as possible about all aspects of my late wife’s case and the fallout from it,’ Mr Cluskey told DutchNews.

‘If other patients, past or present, need to be contacted as a result of what was learned in the Adrienne Cullen investigation, then the responsible thing is to contact them. The days of this hospital hiding its head in the sand must be over – for the sake of everyone it serves.’

Praise from King

Dutch King Willem-Alexander told Irish journalists earlier this week that he admired Cullen’s courage in campaigning for greater openness in the Dutch health system.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a letter that he had ‘great respect for Adrienne’s tireless efforts to achieve official acknowledgement and increase transparency in cases of medical errors’ and her death was ‘indescribably tragic’.

However, despite acknowledging in a press statement that the SIRE report showed a new diagnostic failure, UMC Utrecht refused to reveal how it would respond because the name of this test was redacted ‘to protect the privacy of Mrs Cullen as well as of our employees’.

‘We are not going to inform third parties about the type of tissue diagnosis that was done and therefore cannot answer this question,’ press spokesman Eric Trinthamer told DutchNews via email.

However, the hospital admits in its press statement that a correct analysis of this first test ‘could have prevented the diagnosis of cancer from being missed’.



Government must come clean about algorithms, says privacy chief

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government must be more transparent about the way algorithms are being used to take decisions affecting its citizens, the head of the Dutch privacy watchdog said on Tuesday evening.

‘The government must be transparent about it and make clear in what way your details are being processed and how these decisions are being made,’ Aleid Wolfsen said.

Broadcaster NOS said earlier on Tuesday that government departments, including the police, tax office and local councils, are using algorithms – basically a set of rules allowing computers to process information – to make predictions.

In particular, Wolfsen said there are fears that algorithms could strengthen discrimination. ‘The prejudices we all have can end up in computer programmes,’ he said.

‘If a decision is taken about you and you don’t know why, you cannot defend yourself against it,’ he said. Student loans body DUO uses algorithms to ‘take correct decisions’ and has also experimented with using them to detect fraud, NOS said.

Den Bosch city council is using them to ‘improve its services’ while the social affairs ministry uses them to make sure its inspectors ‘go about their work with the best possible list of potential law breakers.’

Leiden University researcher Marlies van Eck told NOS she was shocked at how widespread the use of algorithms is. ‘Discrimination is inherent in this technology,’ she said.

For example, if the police stop people from a certain population group more often, for whatever reason, they are more likely to appear in police statistics, and that will affect the algorithm, allowing other potential criminals to escape under the radar.

The police say they use algorithms to identify ‘vulnerable people’ such as the victims of crime or child abuse, teenagers and young adults who risk becoming career criminals and people with mental health issues.

But it remains unclear what information police are using to make their calculations, the broadcaster said.



US company Beyond Meat to open production plant in the Netherlands

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – American meatless food product company Beyond Meat has started a partnership with a Dutch meat processing company to produce its plant-based products in Europe.

Beyond Meat will set up shop in a new manufacturing plant being constructed by Dutch meat company Zandbergen in Zoeterwoude. The agreement will cut transport costs and emissions, while increasing the speed in which Beyond Meat can get products to customers across Europe, the Los Angeles-based company said.

Zandbergen began distributing Beyond Meat’s meat-free burgers and other products throughout Europe last year and the Beyond Burger is currently sold at Albert Heijn supermarkets.

The company, which was founded in 2009 and was listed on the New York stock exchange earlier this month, is also targeting popular burgers chains.

Meat replacements

The market for meat replacements is growing in the Netherlands and earlier this year Brabant-based meat processing giant Vion said it seriously considering moving into the sector.

In December, multinational Unilever took over the Dutch fake meat company The Vegetarian Butcher ‘in response to the growing trend among consumers to increasingly opt for vegetarian and vegan meals’.

Research by news website earlier this year showed the Dutch are eating less meat, with two in five people saying they cut down on steak and burgers last year.

Around one third of the 20,000 people polled said they ate meat every day, while one in 10 is vegetarian and 7% fully vegan. According to data analyst group IRI, meat substitutes are becoming more popular but still only represent a fraction of what is spent on meat.

In the first 11 months of 2018, some €2bn was spent on meat products, compared with €97m on replacements.


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