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Soualiga Newsday Features (1116)

The Netherlands imported more gas than it produced in 2017

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands imported more gas than it produced in 2017 for the first time, the national statistics office CBS said on Thursday.

The rise in imports came as domestic production was reduced, due largely to earthquake-related problems in northern Groningen province. Production from Dutch fields will be sharply reduced from this year onward until the Dutch gas tap is turned off completely in 2030 because of the earthquake damage.

As a result, the Netherlands increased imports of gas, mostly from Norway where imports reached 743 petajoule last year. Imports from Britain and Germany (which includes Russian-sourced gas) were also up sharply over the past five years.

Traditionally the Netherlands was a net exporter of gas and between 2000 and 2013 it exported twice as much gas as it imported.  But imports began to rise in 2013.

Total Dutch energy consumption reached 3,150 petajoule in 2017, roughly the same as in the previous year, the CBS said. (DutchNews)

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Unemployment falls again, dips under 4% for first time in 10 years

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The official Dutch unemployment rate fell again to 3.9% in March, down from 4.1% in February, the national statistics agency CBS said on Thursday.

This is the lowest figure in over 10 years, the CBS said. Social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees said the challenge now is ‘to ensure that people who are still looking for a job find one that suits them’.

In particular, the construction industry and healthcare sector need more properly trained staff, the minister said.

The new figures mean that 8.7 million people in the Netherlands have a job of at least 12 hours a week. A further 4.2 million people do not work, most of whom are not looking for a job at present.

The CBS also says that the gap between the male and female unemployment rate is shrinking. In March 3.8% of men and 4.1% of women were without a job. (DutchNews)

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‘Model old people’s home’ abused elderly inhabitants: Trouw

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Inhabitants of a nursing home in Rotterdam featured in a television series on care for the elderly, have been abused by staff and fellow inhabitants in the last year, Trouw has found.

Based on statements from a whistle blower and other documents, the paper says several people living in the Leeuwenhoek home, which looks after dementia patients, were verbally and physically abused.

The home is part of the care group Humanitas which reported one instance of abuse to the health inspectorate last year. What happened specifically cannot be disclosed for privacy reasons but a forensic doctor was called and police involvement was considered, the paper says.

The home was blacklisted by the inspectorate in 2016 but was given a clean bill of health last year. But according to the whistle blower, the abuse continued, and took place away from the cameras.

Trouw’s anonymous source also contacted two geriatric psychologists who, based on documents and photos, judged the treatment meted out to the inhabitants to be ‘inhuman’ and ‘something we have not come across before’.

The paper was told that other external care specialists, such as psychiatrists, doctors and physiotherapists had written to the management of the care home threatening to stop working there because they could not guarantee the safety of their clients.

Family

Family members, who talk of bruises and staff shouting at their elderly relatives, told the paper that complaints about staff behaviour were ignored.

Gijsbert van Herk, chairman of the board at Humanitas, told the paper he ‘recognised’ part of the accusations but that the problem is being ‘magnified’ because the number of abuse cases is ‘super few’.

Multicultural

According to Van Herk, staff behaviour is a reflection of where the home is situated: in a multi-cultural part of Rotterdam.

‘It’s no excuse’, the paper quotes him as saying, ‘but here things happen which would not take place in, say, a care home in the countryside. There are 160 different cultures coming together in this one home.

‘If you look at the level of care at the Leeuwenhoek from the point of view of a care professional from Maastricht, well, yes, it would not be acceptable. But looking at it from an Antillean standpoint, you wonder what’s the problem?’, he told the paper. (DutchNews)

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Magnetic fields possibly linked to childhood leukemia: Dutch health council

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Children living in the vicinity of overhead power lines may have a greater chance of contracting leukemia, a report by the national health council said on Wednesday.

One case every two years could possibly be linked to the effects of the magnetic fields surrounding the power lines, the council said. While a causal relation with magnetic fields has not been proven, ‘there are indications for such a relationship’, the council said.

The report is an update of earlier research by the advisory body and was commissioned by the infrastructure ministry. Apart from cancer in children, the council will also look into the data available on cancer and diseases of the central nervous system in adults.

Some 135 children are diagnosed with leukemia each year in the Netherlands. According to the council’s data analysis, there are indications that children who live near overhead power lines are twice as likely to fall victim to the disease.

The council also analysed the data on other types of cancer in children and found a possible link between brain tumours and the strength of magnetic fields. However, again the higher instances could be down to coincidence, the council said. Both the distance from and the strength of magnetic fields were looked at.

Danger zone

Although hard and fast evidence for a link with the effects of magnetic fields is lacking and coincidence or other factors may play a role, the council says it cannot be ruled out. Current government policy is not to build homes too close to the power lines and offer compensation to people who already own a home in a presumed danger zone so they can move.

The council now recommends an extension of the present preventative policy to include underground cables. Magnetic fields from these cables are not stopped by the soil or building materials.

‘We already have a preventative policy in place on overhead power lines. If the government wants to be consistent it will also have to find ways of protecting people from exposure to magnetic fields from other sources of the electricity network, such as underground cables and transformer stations,’ spokesman Eert Schoten told broadcaster NOS. (DutchNews)

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One in three Dutch children rarely or never play outside

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of children in the Netherlands who play outside every day has slumped from 20% to 14% since 2013, according to research by children’s play charity Jantje Beton.

Three in 10 children rarely or never go outside to play, compared with two in 10 five years ago, the research shows.

‘This research shows the enormous changes between the generations,’ spokeswoman Pauline van der Loo told broadcaster NOS.

While 70% of the current generation of children’s grandparents played more outside than at home, today just 10% of Dutch children are more likely to be outside than play indoors, Van der Loo said.

One in three children told the researchers they would like to play outside more often but blamed boring playgrounds, hobbies and school for not having enough time. The school playground, woods and gardens are their favourite places to play.

‘Children today have more choice but we forget that they say themselves that playing outside makes them happy,’ Van der Loo said. ‘It is also healthy and good for their social skills.’

Warnings

At the end of last year, ophthalmic opticians warned that Dutch children have an increased risk of becoming short-sighted because they spend more time on computer screens and less time playing outdoors.

Research by the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam also showed that 2.4% of six-year-olds are short sighted. They were also more likely to have a shortage of vitamin D, to be overweight and not to play outside. (DutchNews)

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Too many solar farms threaten to overwhelm regional networks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Regional grid operators Tennet and Enexis say their networks lack the capacity to process the electricity generated by an increasing number of solar farms in Groningen and the north of Drenthe, broadcaster NOS reports.

‘We can just about manage the present situation but if applications to build more solar farms are granted we simply don’t have the capacity to transport the energy,’ Enexis spokesperson Loek de Lange told the broadcaster.

The triangle Stadskanaal-Musselkanaal-Gasselte is where the problem is at its most acute. The area, which is popular among project developers because land relatively cheap, already has a number of solar farms and more have been given permits.

According to the grid operators, government rules are not specific about where to put solar farms. ‘We don’t know in advance if a solar farm will be built but we are obliged to connect it to the network,’ De Lange is quoted as saying.

But solar farm owners are running a risk as well. When the network reaches maximum capacity the electricity generated by the solar farms cannot be offloaded to the network. And that means they won’t make money, NOS states.

One solution is to increase capacity but that will take years, the grid operators say. (DutchNews)

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Micro-apartments movement big hit in Netherlands, and not just for students

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Project developers are rolling out complexes of micro-apartments in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and even Leidsche Rijn near Utrecht in an effort to head off the shortage of homes for newcomers on the housing market, the Telegraaf said on Monday.

Micro-apartments usually measure between 29m2 and 32m2, or the size of a large master bedroom in a more traditional home. Nevertheless, all are equipped with a kitchen, toilet and shower and come complete with shared facilities such as a launderette, cafe and even guest accommodation.

IC Netherlands, for example, has just delivered two enormous complexes for students and starters in Amsterdam: Little Manhattan and De Spartaan which have more than 1,200 micro-apartments.

The company has just started work on Don Bosco in Amsterdam-West which will have 429 units for young professionals. Cobana with 385 micro-apartments is underway in Rotterdam.

Could a custom made tiny house could be your affordable new home?

De Lofts, now being built in Amsterdam’s Amstelkwartier, will have 212 living units of just 32 m2, but more than 1,000 signed up when the project went public.  And some 10,000 people expressed interest when property developer Change announced its second micro-apartment complex with 596 units in Amsterdam-Zuidoost.

While Change develops projects for the social rental market most micro-apartments are rented out for above the €710 rent-controlled threshold. IC’s micro-homes, for example, cost €885 a month, including service costs, heating and internet.

Last year there was a major row in Amsterdam when it emerged a private developer was renting out a complex of 120 apartments of some 30 m2 in Noord for €1,250 each. The city council had originally approved the development for student accommodation. (DutchNews)

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Wageningen University to develop Chinese agriculture and food research centre

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Wageningen University is to to head the development of a new food and agriculture research centre east of Beijing, the Financieele Dagblad said on Monday.

Wageningen’s chancellor Arthur Mol, who was part of the recent Dutch trade mission to China, told the paper the university was not investing any money in the €1bn project, but it would supply a great deal of knowledge.

The research centre will house academic institutions and the business community who will work together to make Chinese agriculture more productive and to tackle environmental issues. The aim is to create China’s leading R&D centre in the field of agriculture and food.

Mol said Dutch companies are also welcome to play a role in developments. The mayor of Beijing will come to Wageningen in October to discuss further details.

In January Groningen University dropped plans to open a campus in Yantai, China, citing a lack of support for the plan. Some staff and students were worried about the academic independence of the Chinese campus.

Wageningen has close ties with a number of Chinese institutions and already has an office in Beijing. The University is also involved in a joint venture with China to improve standards in the dairy industry.

Chinese students, both MSc and PhD, make up 10% of the Wageningen students population and the trend is set to continue, the university says on its website. (DutchNews)

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Most discrimination complaints made by pregnant women: human rights commission

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch human rights commission College voor de Rechten van de Mens received a record number of complaints about discrimination last year – a total of 4,259.

This is up one third on 2016, the organisation said.

Some 35% of last year’s complaints were made by women who claimed they were being discriminated against because they were pregnant. The second biggest category was related to people with physical or mental disability.

Racial discrimination, which accounted for 26% of complaints in 2016, accounted for 16% of the total in 2017. Almost three quarters of the total complaints related to discrimination at work.

The commission made 161 actual rulings last year, of which almost half found that discrimination was an issue. The commission’s rulings are not binding in law. (DutchNews)

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More people infected with Lyme’s disease as tick population grows

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of people in the Netherlands with Lyme’s disease continues to rise and the infection total has quadrupled over the past 20 years, the public health council RIVM said on Monday.

In total, 27,000 were diagnosed with Lyme’s last year, a rise of 2,000 on 2014 when the RIVM last reported on the prevalence of the tick-borne disease.

The figures were released on Monday at the start of a week-long campaign to warn people of the dangers presented by ticks. Every year, 1.3 million people are bitten by ticks while walking in woods or the dune area or even in their own garden. Left untreated, Lyme can affect the joints, heart and central nervous system.

The RIVM and other bodies researching ticks shave set up special monitor in an effort to better understand the Dutch tick population. People can use the monitor to check their symptoms and see where most infected ticks have been found.

In order to avoid being bitten, the RIVM recommends people check their skin and clothing well if they have been in the countryside. People are also advised to wear long sleeves and tuck their trousers into their socks. (DutchNews)

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