NAM must compensate quake-hit Groningen home owners, says court

Arrest made in Maastricht suitcase murder

Gas extraction company NAM must compensate home owners in Groningen for the loss of value to their homes because of the earthquakes, whether or not they are up for sale, a court in Assen ruled on Wednesday.The court said NAM, a 50:50 joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil, is responsible for the earthquakes and is therefore liable for the damage. The quakes are caused by the ground settling after the gas has been extracted.Local home owners, united in the WAG foundation, say 100,000 homes have been hit by the quake risk and are now worth over €1bn less than they should be. The foundation represents 12 housing corporations and some 900 private owners.[banner]NAM does pay compensation for visible earthquake damage and accepts house prices have gone down because of the quake risk. However, the company has refused until now to compensation home owners for intangible damage ahead of a sale.ValuesThe court said the actual drop in values would need to be established at separate hearings and that it estimated property prices have fallen by several percentage points. WAG puts the drop at between 5% and 25%.‘This is fantastic news,’ WAG’s lawyer Pieter Huitema told news agency ANP. ‘This is a major support to people living in the quake region.’NAM can appeal against the ruling at the High Court in The Hague and the company said it is now considering what steps to take next.  More >

Anti-smoking club targets cafe smoke rooms

Arrest made in Maastricht suitcase murder Anti-smoking organisation Clean Air Nederland said on Wednesday it is going to court to force the Dutch state to impose a total ban on smoking in cafes, bars and clubs.Currently cafes can allow smoking if they have a suitable sealed off area. However, Clean Air says this goes against the letter of the law and contradicts all the agreements the Netherlands has made.‘It is now time that the health and welfare of all cafe and restaurant guests is taken seriously,’ Tom Voeten, chairman of Clean Air Nederland told broadcaster RTL news.‘The concentration of cancer causing substances is unacceptably high in almost all smoking areas,' he said. 'Every year, 3,000 non-smokers die because of being unwitting passive smokers.’OutdoorsMeanwhile, news magazine Elsevier says the ban on smoking in cafes and bars is unlikely to be extended to outdoor terraces in the near future.A cafe owner in Tilburg has recently created a smoke-free zone on part of his terrace and hopes it will act as an inspiration to others.According to Elsevier, even though a majority of the population supports a ban on smoking outside cafes, most political parties are not in favour, or think it premature.The ruling VVD says the move would cause too many problems for owners, particularly those who have been hit hard by the ban on indoor smoking. Most other parties say they consider the issue one for cafe and bar owners themselves to decide.  More >

Arrest made in Maastricht suitcase murder

Arrest made in Maastricht suitcase murder A man has been arrested in southern Germany in connection with the murder of a woman whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase in the Maas river last Friday.The man, who is 53 and comes from Aachen, is the dead woman’s partner, police said in a statement.The case was the subject of a Dutch television crime show on Tuesday night, which generated several dozen tips. The man was arrested later that evening by Aachen police, who had set up a team to investigate the murder on Sunday, the police statement said.Two eyewitnesses saw a man throwing a large suitcase into the river last Tuesday night.[banner]  More >

Master's degrees tougher to get into

Arrest made in Maastricht suitcase murder An increasing number of Dutch universities are rejecting prospective master’s degree students who don’t average scores of at least seven in their bachelor’s degree subjects, the Volkskrant says on Wednesdy.Rotterdam School of Management, for example, has introduced a minimum bachelor pass rate for all subjects, the paper says.Students who wish to study politics at a higher level need an average score of seven in their bachelor degree papers, to write a motivational letter and to pass a test in English to win a place. The same applies to politics in Leiden and is being introduced for archaeology master's degrees.[banner]The universities are able to introduce tougher entrance requirements because they no longer have to automatically admit students for master’s degrees at the same faculty where they studied for their bachelor's.Education minister Jet Bussemaker hopes this will lead to the ‘right student being at the right place’ and reduce the drop-out rate.Standards‘We attract good students from all over the world,’ a spokesman for Erasmus University told the paper.‘They [foreign students] need to have an average grade of seven or pass the entrance test,' the spokesman said. 'We are now applying this to our own students. We are hoping to improve the quality of education further.’‘Some of our bachelor's students are not good enough for our master's,' he told the paper. 'The bachelor-master system does not mean that everyone will meet the standards to take a master’s degree. We have to get used to that here in the Netherlands and it is completely normal abroad.’  More >

Last Gelderland otter killed by a car

Arrest made in Maastricht suitcase murder What is thought to be the last of 12 otters released in Gelderland in 2002 has been run over by a car, local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland said on Wednesday.The dead female was found last week on the highway between Duiven and Zevenaar, researcher Freek Niewold from the Niewold Wildlife Infocentre said.Of the 12 otters released into the IJssel river near Doesburg in 2002, at least six have been run over and the others have never been seen again and may have drowned in traps, Niewold said.[banner]The otter run over last week may have been forced onto the road because the wildlife tunnel under the motorway had been closed off to create a trap for muskrats, Niewold said. He wants this practice to be banned.CarsMinisters pledged earlier this year to take steps to improve the protection of the Netherlands tiny otter population after it emerged 31 were killed by cars in 2014.The otter was officially declared extinct in the Netherlands in 1988. They were reintroduced from Lithuania and other eastern European countries between 2002 and 2008 in the north of the country and have since been spotted in the central belt.Researchers at Wageningen University said last year the current population is around 140 but that there are signs of interbreeding and new blood is needed to freshen the genetic balance.While the impact of inbreeding in otters remains unclear, in other animal populations it has led to a loss of fertility and resistance to disease.  More >