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Soualiga Newsday Features (1293)

Hot weather brings surprise guests, dolphins spotted in the North Sea

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The recent spate of unusually hot water has brought some unexpected guests to the North Sea. A Dutch fisherman spotted a group of about ten dolphins in waters between the Netherlands and the coast of England and filmed the group.

The animals have been feeding in the area for weeks near a big sandbank where there is plenty of food.

According to Jessica Meerbeek of SOS Dolfijn the animals are definitely dolphins, ‘What we don’t know is the exact species. We think they may be bottlenose dolphins or perhaps white-beaked dolphins. They are definitely not porpoise,’ she told broadcaster NOS.

Experts say the hot weather has made food in the North Sea more plentiful and that has attracted the dolphins. (DutchNews)

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Flu epidemic cuts population growth, net immigration unchanged

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The population of the Netherlands increased by 32,000 in the first half of 2018, the national statistics office CBS reported on Tuesday.

The figure is down on the 35,000 increase in the year-earlier period. The CBS said slowdown in population growth is due to the fact that more people died in the first six months of 2018 than in the first half of 2017.

More specifically, more seniors died as a result of the flu epidemic in the first three months of the year, the CBS said. In the first half of 2018, 82,000 babies were born, while 81,000 people died.

In the 2017 period, births were at the same level but registered deaths were only 78,000. Roughly 100,000 immigrants were registered in the first half of 2018, 2017 and 2016 while the number of people leaving the Netherlands was about 69,000, giving a net rise of 31,000. The population of the Netherlands totaled 17.2 million at end-June 2018. (DutchNews)

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Markets authority approves 14% price rise in the cost of a stamp

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch postal service PostNL has been given the green light to increase prices by up to 14.2% next year by the consumer and markets authority ACM.

That means the price of a stamp for the Netherlands could go up from 83 cents to 94 cents and a small parcel will be almost a euro more expensive. PostNL will publish its new fees later in the year.

The ACM is charged with approving price rises to make sure that consumers do not pay too much but that PostNL covers its costs. PostNL usually puts up its fees slightly below the maximum approved by the ACM. (DutchNews)

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1,000 feral cats shot in the Netherlands, as more provinces consider a cull

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 1,000 feral cats have been shot in just 3.5 years in the provinces of Friesland and Utrecht, where culling is allowed, the NRC reported on Monday.

According to research conducted by the University of Wageningen, the Netherlands is home to between 135,000 and 1.2 million feral cats. The animals eat rodents, birds and insects and pose a threat to endangered species, scientists say.

Friesland and Utrecht are currently the only two provinces in the Netherlands to allow the cull of cats that have become wild. According to a spokesman for the Utrecht provincial authorities, the aim of the cull is to prevent the animals from disturbing the ‘ecological balance’.

The Frysian provincial authorities are mainly worried about the meadow birds, such as godwits and lapwings. Killing cats is ‘extremely unfortunate’ but ‘it’s much more unfortunate that our meadow birds are being eaten,’ said provincial councillor Johannes Kramer.

Structural problem

According to bird protection organisation Vogelbescherming, feral cats are a threat to birds but shooting them is not a structural solution as it doesn’t prevent more cats from becoming feral.

Every holiday season cats are turned out or dumped and efforts to force owners to mark their animals with microchips have so far come to nothing. Groningen provincial authorities will vote on a cull ‘when necessary’ in December but want to focus on prevention as well. Zeeland, too, is considering a cull, the NRC said.

Noord-Brabant, Flevoland, Noord- and Zuid-Holland abolished the hunt of feral cats in 2016. In Brabant some 2,853 cats were killed between 2012 and 2016. The provinces now favour a TNR – Trap, Neuter and Return – approach although that too is contentious.

Infertile

According to a spokesman for the Limburg provincial authorities, which did not adopt TNR, ‘the chances that sufficient animals would be made infertile so as to lower the population are slim’.

Cat hunter Jan Pieter Spierenburg doubts the method will help because it does not stop the animals from hunting. The article in the NRC has prompted the Partij voor de Dieren, PVV and SP to ask agriculture minister Carola Schouten for a complete ban on culling feral cats. (DutchNews)

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Growers sound the alarm over small potatoes, chips are set to shrink

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Potato growers have written to agriculture minister Carola Schouten urging her to relax the rules on watering their crops, even in areas where there is a ban.

The continuing drought threatens to slash the size of this year’s potato crop, and this means French fries are likely to be smaller and more expensive this autumn and winter, the Telegraaf reported.

‘I will begin harvesting my early crops next week,’ Zeeland potato farmer Adrie Amperse told the paper. He delivers potatoes to the French fry’s industry and says this year’s crop is likely to be 40% smaller than in the average year.

The smaller harvest and rising prices will not benefit some farmers because they are on fixed price contracts, the potato grower’s organisation NAV says. In addition, insurance policies against crop failures are too expensive for many farmers, the NAV says.

It wants the government to scrap taxes on insurance policies. A spokesman for the agriculture ministry said it would be mid-August before the department would be able to answer the farmers. (DutchNews)

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More people sign up to train to be teachers, 30% rise in part-time students

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – There has been a sharp rise in the number of people signing up to attend teacher training college (pabo) so they can work in Dutch primary schools, including a 30% increase in the number of people deciding to take a part-time course.

In particular, the number of students taking a fast-track part-time course has doubled to 350 for the coming academic year, the NRC reported on Friday. For the regular, full-time course, applications are up 11% at 7,864.

‘There are always people who consciously decide to become teachers,’ Henk Verheijde, of teacher training college lobby group Lobo, told the paper. ‘They are not after money but want to contribute something to society.’

Primary school teacher training numbers halved between 2006 and 2015 and have been rising since 2016. The NRC said the new pay deal for primary school teachers had not had an impact on the figures because they date from mid-June, just after the new deal had been agreed. (DutchNews)

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Home nursing organisations warn about severe staff shortages

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – One third of home nursing organisations questioned by broadcaster NOS say that they do not have enough staff to fill their rosters over the summer and thousands of full-time jobs are still vacant.

In total, NOS questioned 63 home nursing companies with over 281,000 clients between them. The staff shortages are so acute that some companies are increasing the pay for temporary staff by two euros an hour, if they commit to the entire two-month summer period, the broadcaster said.

In total, the 63 organisations are short of 1,500 full-time home nurses. Priority is being given to patients who are terminally ill, have just been discharged from hospital or who need acute nursing care, sector umbrella group Actiz said.

‘This means some people will have to wait longer than normal for help and support,’ chairwoman Jacqueline Joppe told NOS. (DutchNews)

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Its official, 2018 overtakes 1976 as the driest on record

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Despite some rain in Brabant on Wednesday morning, this July 25 is now officially the driest on record. The rain shortage adds up to an average of 261 mm, compared with 257 mm on July 25, 1976, according to weather forecasters at website Weeronline.

But it depends on what happens next month whether or not 2018 goes down in the record books as the driest since records began in 1901, the weather forecasters say. By the end of August 1976, the shortage of rain water had risen to 363 mm.

Although there maybe some rain late on Friday and on Saturday, the warm and sunny weather will continue well into August. The KNMI weather bureau, which has issued a code orange weather warning for the entire country apart from the Wadden Islands, says there is a good chance the hot, dry weather will continue until at least August 8, although there may be isolated thunderstorms.

This week, Thursday and Friday are both expected to be extremely warm, with temperatures of up to 35 degrees in built-up areas. At night the temperature will dip to no lower than 20 degrees.

On Monday, the public health body RIVM said it was implementing a national heat plan which advises people how to cope with the heat. To officially count as a heatwave, the temperature must top 25 degrees for five consecutive days at the Bilt weather station near Hilversum, three of which must be over 30 degrees.

According to the AD, falling water levels have also led to more sightings of rats, as they move out of the waste water systems in search of food. (DutchNews)

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Fruit wholesaler staff find 700 kilos of cocaine in banana boxes

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Workers at a fruit and vegetable wholesaler in Uitgeest have found 700 kilos of what is thought to be cocaine hidden in a number of boxes of bananas.

They alerted the police who placed armed guards outside the company while the drug was being removed, the Telegraaf reported. The haul is the second major cocaine find to be made public this month.

On July 6, officials found 1,125 kilos of cocaine hidden among a consignment of frozen fish from Ecuador. This weekend, seven people from the Netherlands, Albania and the US were arrested in connection with that find. (DutchNews)

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Ice cube makers keep a cool head as heatwave sparks a run

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Supermarkets are regularly running out of both ice cubes and crushed ice, forcing people wanting cooler drinks to order directly from the manufacturers themselves, according to the Telegraaf.

Ice cube manufacturers such as Marco Vurens of IJsblokjes.nl are working flat out to meet the country’s almost insatiable thirst for cool drinks. Vurens, who has been in the ice business for 25 years and produces 800,000 ice cubes a day, told the paper this summer has been exceptional.

‘We had warm weather in May and it has continued. I’ve never seen this before,’ he said. ‘The bars and cafés have contracted their supplies and rarely run out. Private people buy from us.

Supplies of ice cubes are running low.’ Ice cubes are in demand not only at festivals, but at garden and student parties which are exploding in numbers due to the heat. ‘Crushed ice is in this year.

There are so many more outdoor events than usual,’ said the owner of IJsblokjes ’t Gooi. When the mercury hits 22C the Dutch move outdoors. And they are demanding more ice in their drinks. Clever café owners benefit from this too. Margins increase as ice takes up more room in a glass, the Telegraaf said. (DutchNews)

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