Wanted: a Dutch town or city to host this year's televised Sinterklaas arrival

Trump book writer Michael Wolff to be interviewed on College Tour tv show

Public broadcasting company NTR has written to the Dutch society of mayors urging one town or city to come forward to host this year's Sinterklaas season kick-off, RTL Nieuws has reported. The arrival of Sinterklaas is always broadcast live on television but in the past few years has been beset by protests about the presence of Sinterklaas' blackface assistants known as Zwarte Piet. The letter was sent to mayors on March 7. 'While we can wait until a local authority does come forward, given the amount of preparation needed, it would be risky to do so,' NTR editor in chief Aje Boschehuizen wrote. 'Of course, we don't want a 66-year-old Dutch national television tradition to end this way, which is why I am asking you to help us.' The appeal for help has now resulted in a number of places coming forward as potential hosts and talks are now underway, according to the Telegraaf. Last year's arrival in the Friesland town of Dokkum was marred when pro-Piet supporters blocked a motorway to stop protesters from holding a demonstration.  More >

No vote has narrow lead in referendum

Trump book writer Michael Wolff to be interviewed on College Tour tv show Holding the referendum on giving sweeping new powers to the security services at the same time as the local council elections boosted turnout considerably, according to preliminary figures from news agency ANP. With over 80% of the referendum votes now counted, 48.9% have voted against the new legislation and 47.2% in favour. Almost 4% of the voting forms had been left blank. Only Dutch nationals could take part in the vote. ANP says 53% of voters took part in the referendum in the 335 areas where new local councils were being elected but only 30.5% in areas without council elections. For the referendum to have any weight, at least 30% of the electorate have to take part. The final result in the referendum is still too close to call, but it is also clear that the no vote is much larger in areas where there were no local council elections, such as Groningen and Leeuwarden, ANP said. There was also a no vote in Utrecht, Amstelveen, Delft, Haarlem, The Hague, Eindhoven and Nijmegen but a narrow majority in favour of the new law in most smaller towns and cities. The Amsterdam vote has not yet been finalised. The government has abolished the legislation which allows referendums to be held if enough people sign a petition in favour. However, home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren has said that she will carefully consider the result of the 'dragnet law' vote. Check out how your town voted   More >

ING repairs system, rebooks funds

Trump book writer Michael Wolff to be interviewed on College Tour tv show ING said late on Wednesday it had found the cause of the malfunction in its payments system which caused three million direct debit payments to be booked twice. 'We have taken measures to be certain this never occurs again,' an ING spokesman told news agency ANP. Customers who went into the red because of the incident will not be charged interest and those still experiencing problems because of the double payment are advised to contact the bank directly, ING said.  More >

Van Leeuwenhoek microscope mystery solved

Mystery of Van Leeuwenhoek’s microscope lens is partly solved One of the mysteries of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s revolutionary microscopes has been revealed after 300 years, broadcaster NOS reported on Wednesday. Van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), a pioneer in the field of microbiology and a supremely gifted craftsman, made lenses that magnified 60 to 260 times, a giant leap compared to the microscopes of his day which did not magnify more than 30 times. The amateur scientist was notoriously jealous of his microscopes and went to some length to shield them from prying eyes. In 1711 he told a group of German nobles his lenses were the result of an advanced way of blowing glass. Some 300 years later modern science tells a different story. The Rijksmuseum Boerhaave owns four microscopes made by Van Leeuwenhoek but has always been reluctant to take them apart. ‘Van Leeuwenhoek secured his lenses between two metal plates which he fastened with nails. To take something so rare and of such historical value apart has never been an option,’ Tiemen Cocquyt, curator at the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in Leiden, told the broadcaster. New technology Thanks to a new technology developed by Delft University of Technology, the microscopes can remain intact. Scientists were able to use a series of 2D images to build up a 3D image of the inside of the instrument showing that the lenses were not blown glass but ground, like the other lenses of Van Leeuwenhoek’s time. Eight Dutch scientists who changed the world ‘It turns out there was no exotic production method,' NOS quotes Cocyuyt as saying. 'Van Leeuwenhoek was simply extremely good at grinding these tiny lenses.' But not all the mystery surrounding the microscopes has been cleared up. ‘How he managed to grind his lenses so expertly is still a matter for conjecture,’ Cocquyt told NOS. ‘He probably used increasingly finer sand but even so his lenses are perfect and as good as is theoretically possible.’ The scientists are still in the process of investigating if the type of glass used by Van Leeuwenhoek is in any way special, NOS writes.  More >

ING makes three million pin payments twice

Trump book writer Michael Wolff to be interviewed on College Tour tv show What it calls a 'technical error' has led ING bank to carry out three million banking transactions twice, the bank confirmed on Wednesday. In particular, the problem affected people who made payments by direct debit (pin) cards on March 19, the bank said. The double payment of a specific batch of transactions is now being reversed but customers may have to wait some time for their refund. Customers who are experiencing problems because of the double payment are being urged to contact the bank directly.   More >