Defence spending to be stepped up, more tanks and F-35 jets

Ministers have pledged to set aside more money for the defence ministry in line with Nato agreements and that means buying more JSF fighter jets and tanks, the AD said on Friday afternoon. The detailed plan to boost spending on the armed forces will be unveiled when government publishes its spring statement next year, the defence ministry said in a statement. Nato has said all its member states should come up with a ‘believable plan’ outlining how they will meet the agreed threshhold of spending 2% of GDP on defence by 2024. Most European countries are far below the threshold – the Netherlands, for example, spends just 1.35% of GDP on defence, the AD said. Defence minister Ank Bijleveld said in an official statement that the plan shows that the cabinet takes the current threats seriously. 'The cabinet is committed to invest in defence,' she said. 'The Netherlands must take steps to remain a trustworthy ally.' The minister told the AD that it is still unclear how much extra money will be allocated to defence. Nor would she comment on how many extra JSFs – or F-35s as they are officially called – would be bought. ‘We will soon have two squadrons and Nato is asking for a third. That is 15 planes,’ she said. The Netherlands is currently committed to buying 37 of the fighter jets.. Broadcaster NOS said the government has five priorities to boost the armed forces. As well as buying more JSFs and tanks, ministers want to strengthen the elite special forces units, and boost cyber and information technology capacity.  More >

Man turns himself in for growing marijuana

A man who turned himself into the police for possessing five marijuana plants has been found guilty of illegally cultivating the plant, but has not been punished by judges in The Hague. René Barendse told RTL Nieuws earlier he uses the plant to help him cope with crippling pains for which doctors can find no cause. It is illegal to cultivate marijuana but officials turn a blind eye to the possession of four plants. At the same time, the police are free to seize and destroy plants if they see fit. Barendse said he wanted to establish legal opinion about the situation and so decided to turn himself in. The court ruled that he had not sufficiently proved that the medicinal cannabis oil he is prescribed did not work. In addition, the fact he could not afford medicinal cannabis was not a mitigating circumstance, the judges said. Barendse was found guilty but was not given any punishment because, the court said, the case was about a question of principle.  More >

Farmed duck is off the menu in 2019

Some ducks Supermarkets Albert Heijn, Aldi and Lidl are banning the sale of industrial barn-raised ducks from next year in the wake of a campaign by animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier. Barn ducks are living under dire circumstances, Wakker Dier says, with 13 ducks squeezed into one square meter, without access to water for swimming and fresh air. They are also forced to stand on iron grid floor which causes serious injury to their feet. ‘We had been contemplating a ban but this campaign has perhaps speeded things up, an Albert Heijn spokesperson told broadcaster NOS. ‘For the sake of animal welfare we have decided to sell only free range duck from next year.’ Lidl is also scrapping industrially-produced duck from the menu. ‘We have been working with our supplier towards better circumstances for farmed ducks and we’re aiming for at least free range,’ NOS quotes a spokesperson as saying. The change will take time which is why Lidl has decided not to sell duck at Easter, NOS said. Wakker Dier said that there is no quality label for duck meat because it is not something that is widely consumed. ‘But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make their lives better and increase public awareness,’ a Wakker Dier spokesperson told the broadcaster.  More >

Four arrested for nude photo blackmail

One man and three women have been arrested for blackmailing at least 10 young women by threatening to place nude photographs of them online, Zeeland police said on Friday. The victims, aged between 18 and 25, come from all over the country and there may be more, the broadcaster said. The investigation began after a young woman from Vlissingen went to the police, saying she was being blackmailed into handing over cash to stop nude photos being placed on the internet. That led police to identify a 23-year-old man in The Hague. He may also face rape charges after attacking one of his victims when she brought him the money. His telephone and laptop led to three other women aged 18 to 26 who may be involved in the blackmailing. Their role in the case is still being investigated. Police spokesman Aris van Herwijnen said the suspect had made contact with the victims via a fake profile on a dating site. Once he had a nude photo he would make contact with the woman via another social media channel, using another fake profile, and start the blackmail process.  More >

Worst slogan prize goes to hairdresser

The prize for the worst, and deeply sexist, slogan of 2018 has been awarded to hipster men’s hairdressing salon Rogier Barbier in Laren for We doen wel vrouwen maar knippen ze niet (We do women but we don’t cut their hair). It’s not the first time a hairdresser has snapped up the prize. Two years ago salon Local Heroes in Utrecht came up with the feeble Zit je haircut, a play on Zit je haar kut (are you having a bad hair day?). Rogier Barbier, which describes itself on line as a 'place where real men get together' will receive a decorative tile with the slogan printed on it to commemorate the effort. The annual bad slogan competition was started seven years ago by communications lecturer Christine Liebrecht and publicist Tefke van Dijk who collect the best, or worst, examples on a blog. Most of the clumsy and cheesy slogans rely on rhyming the slogan with a name and are therefore impossible to translate. Here’s the top five: We doen wel vrouwen maar knippen ze niet (Barbier Rogier, Laren) Ga niet zelf kutte, Bel Ronald Schutte! (Stukadoorsbedrijf Schutte, Dordrecht) (Don't do it yourself, ring Ronald Schutte. Voor ieder reetje een Aarts W.C'tje (Aarts Sanitair Service, Eindhoven) (An Aarts toilet for every backside) Met je fiets in de penarie? Bel dan even met Harie (Fietsenmaker Harrie, Posterholt) (In a mess with your bike? ring Harie) Theo en Peet, voor al u electriciteet (PC van der Peet, Rijswijk)   More >

Correspondent hits US crowdfunding target

Dutch online journalism website De Correspondent has raised $2.5m via crowdfunding to launch a version of their platform in the US. In total, almost 43,000 people have put money into the project to produce an English language version of the site, which promised in depth background articles and no advertising. Prior to the latest crowdfunding campaign, the Correspondent had raised $1.8m to launch its American adventure. That money, the company said in May, would mainly go on setting up a US campaign office, and creating promotional videos and other campaign materials. De Correspondent was launched in September 2013 after raising more than €1 million in a Dutch crowd-funding campaign. The Dutch website has some 60,000 paying members but this is the first year it has made a profit, the NRC reported on Friday. It also attracts considerable sponsorship from Dutch media funds. The company plans to launch its US service in mid 2019, promising at least one major article a day produced by a team of five correspondents.  More >

2018 is already the sunniest on record

With 18 days to go before the end of the year, 2018 has already gone down in the record books as the sunniest on record, weather website Weerplaza said on Thursday. On Thursday morning, the number of sunny hours broke the 2,022 barrier, surpassing the previous record of 2,021 hours, 40 minutes, which was set in 2003. It is only the second time more than 2,000 hours of sunshine have been recorded since records began in 1901. In an average year, the sun shines for 1,600 hours. Weerplaza said one reason for the increase in sunshine is improved air quality. Thirty years ago, for example, the average amount of sunshine was no higher than 1,500 hours. 'It was quite normal for there to be weeks of fog in the spring,' a spokesman said. Friday and Saturday will also be sunny but there may be some snow or sleet on Sunday. Light frosts are on the cards for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, Weerplaza said.  More >