Dalai Lama, visiting the Netherlands, gets tough with abusers

The Dalai Lama is meeting victims of sexual abuse by Buddhist teachers during his visit to the Netherlands, broadcaster NOS reports. The meeting comes in response to a request by twelve of the victims, three of whom are Dutch. They will be presenting written witness statements and are also going to hand over a petition asking for the abuse to be given wider attention in Buddhist circles. It is the first time the spiritual leader talks to victims of sexual abuse by teachers, NOS said. The Dalai Lama was ‘saddened’ by the reports and ‘has always condemned such irresponsible and unethical behaviour’, according to an email written by the Dalai Lama's secretary Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa to the Dutch victims. Students should ‘name and shame’ teachers who persist, the secretary wrote. Accusations of abuse by Buddhist teachers have not always handled in the same way, NOS states. ‘If we are feeling uneasy in the presence of a teacher it is best to distance oneself. Rather than talk to other students sharply or divisively it is best to softly move away’, NOS quotes the secretary’s earlier advice.  More >

Villa murder suspects could be innocent

Statue of justice. Nine men who served five to 12 years in prison for a 1998 robbery which ended in murder may be victims of the biggest miscarriage of justice ever to take place in the Netherlands, the NRC reports. The case, known as the Arnhem villa murder, revolves around the robbery of a 63 year-old woman in her home in Arnhem. She was shot through the head and killed and her 33-year-old friend was wounded and survived. The robbers got away with a couple of bank cards, some money and a bracelet. Nine men, eight of whom were of Turkish decent, were arrested for the crime. Their convictions are now deemed to have been ‘potentially unsafe’ according to a report  sent to the public prosecutor’s office by Acas, a panel of independent legal experts. The panel said video footage of the interrogation of the men was ‘worrying’ and showed the suspects were put under undue pressure. In some cases, 'words were put into their mouths' even though they spoke little Dutch. In addition, forensic investigation into fingerprints and blood could not be linked to the suspects, and that is now to be re-tested, the paper said. If the investigation into dna evidence turns out to be unrelated to the men, a request to review the case will be filed at the High Court. Meanwhile the men have completed their prison terms. One man committed suicide in his cell, leaving a note saying ‘I am innocent’, the NRC reported.  More >

NL could face sea level rise of 2m in 2100

A new report by independent water research institute Deltaris is warning that sea levels are rising more quickly than previously foreseen and measures must be taken. According to the researchers sea levels could rise by as much as one to two meters in 2100 if the earth’s temperature goes up by two degrees. If that figure is doubled, the North Sea could rise by three meters, and by eight meters in another century. ‘We may need up to twenty times the amount of sand we are using now, which is 12 million cubic meters,’ Deltares researcher Marjolijn Haasnoot told broadcaster NOS. Haasnoot said the storm surge barriers will need to be closed more often and maintenance work will have to take place earlier. ‘The question is not by how much sea levels will rise but how much time we have to prepare,’Haasnoot said. The Netherlands has a plan in place to cope with the effects of climate change called the Delta programme and every year on budget day Delta commissioner Wim Kuijken sends MPs a report of what needs to be done . This year the recommendations include a national programme to combat soil subsidence, building guidelines to protect buildings from extreme weather and more research into water and climate. 2050 The effects of a possible acceleration of rising sea levels will be felt from 2050 at its earliest, researchers said, and the livability of the delta will be guaranteed until that time. After that, NOS writes, uncertainties abound. Much will depend on limiting CO2 emissions worldwide, as laid down in the Paris climate accord, and the melting of the ice in the Antarctic. Earlier research by weather bureau KNMI predicted no more than a one meter rise in sea levels this century but the Greenland ice sheet and Antarctic will possibly melt at a faster rate. ‘We need to defend the coast in case sea levels rise but the main thing is to keep global warming down to under 2% and then this low-lying country can defend itself in a controlled manner,’ Kuijken told NOS.  More >

Green light for nature reserve deer cull

Flevoland provincial council's executive board has given the final go ahead for a mass cull of deer in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve between Almere and Lelystad. A committee set up to look into the future of the reserve said earlier this year the animal population should be reduced drastically and that the wetland part of the reserve should be expanded. Now provincial officials have agreed to press ahead with the cull, which will start at the end of next month. The aim is to reduce the population of deer to 490. At the last count in spring there were 1,470 deer on the reserve. A large number of the ponies which live on the reserve will be moved to new locations, and some will be taken abroad, but the details are still being worked out. More than half the 5,230 deer, ponies and cattle living on the reserve near Almere died last winter – most of which were shot by forestry commission staff because they were starving. Large mammals were introduced in the reserve in the 1980s and 1990s in what has proved to be a controversial move. Reserve wardens hoped that the deer and ponies would eat young shoots, keeping the area open so it will attract geese and other wetland birds. In the original plan, the reserve was to be linked to the Veluwe region, but that was scrapped as part of budget cuts. The province has been in charge of the reserve since 2016 and a majority of provincial councillors want to open the area up to tourism.  More >

40 projects for community service trial

Some 40 trial projects for the government's plans to encourage school pupils and young adults to take part in a community work experience programme were presented to the press on Monday. The activities on offer for the trial period range from helping at sports clubs to the sea rescue service and working in healthcare jobs, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday. The scheme to encourage pupils to spend several weeks doing socially useful work is part of the government’s coalition agreement and was included at the behest of the two Christian parties – the CDA and ChristenUnie. In April it emerged that so few secondary school pupils are interested in taking part in the 'youth community service’ scheme that the implementation was postponed. It will now not start formally until 2020, the Volkskrant said. Participants will get a 'modest' payment and will have an advantage in applying for government jobs. The government has had several attempts to introduce some form of community service for youngsters. The last, in which secondary school pupils were required to do 30 hours of socially useful work, was introduced in 2011 and scrapped in 2015.  More >

Mark Rutte is best and worst minister

A majority of Dutch voters have no confidence in the current coalition government and prime minister Mark Rutte tops the list of both best and worst ministers, according to the traditional budget day poll carried out by IPSOS for broadcaster NOS. Some 54% say they have no faith in the government in general, but that figure rises to 70% in the north, where unemployment and subsidence caused by gas extraction remain major issues. When asked why they have no confidence in the government, 31% cited its income policy, 22% the scandals which have surrounded ministers and 19% the controversial decision to scrap the tax on dividends. Healthcare remains the most important issue on the agenda, followed by care of the elderly and immigration. Last year 25% said they considered immigration to be a key issue, but that has now risen to 31%. The poll also looked at the government's plans to stop the use of natural gas in private homes by 2030 and ban the sale of petrol and diesel-driven cars that same year. Around one third were in favour, one third opposed and one third neutral on the plans, Ipsos found. However, 'as soon as people have pick up the bill, their enthusiasm fades,' researcher Sjoerd van Heck said. Ministers The performance of politicans also came on board. Prime minister Mark Rutte tops the list of best minister with 10% support, followed by his two deputies - farm minister Carola Schouten and health minister Hugo de Jonge. Over half of those polled said they did not have an opinion about the best performer. But Rutte also tops the list of worst minister with 34% of the vote. He is joined by foreign affairs minister Stef Blok (27%) and economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes at the bottom of that ranking. The poll also showed that just 21% support the concept of a Nexit, or the Netherlands following Britain and leaving the European Union.  More >

Farmer dismisses balloon claims as hot air

A farmer has hit back at claims he blocked a group of balloonists from leaving his property during a row over the cost of landing in his field. 'I'm being portrayed as a criminal who held people hostage,' Joost Vughts told Omroep Brabant. 'How do they get it into their heads? It's complete rubbish.' The stand-off began on Sunday morning when the balloon with 19 people on board touched down in Bokhoven, near Den Bosch, at around 8am. 'We landed in the middle of a meadow with nothing but mown grass,' said a woman named as Lynne, who organised the trip from Tilburg as a 50th birthday present for her aunt. 'But by the time we got there the farmers were standing waiting for the ground crew. They were calling us all kinds of names from the off. The crew members too. They were being difficult and threatening.' The confrontation ended with the pilot calling police and claiming Vughts was preventing him from leaving his field. At around 10am the balloonists were allowed to leave. 'No excuses' Vughts admitted there had been harsh words between him and the balloonists, but denied the accusations of hostage taking. He claimed the dispute began when a bus drove up to his property to pick up the passengers. 'When I asked what they were doing, I got an arrogant reply about the pilot knowing what he was doing. No excuses or anything. 'After the drought I'd just sown new grass. It's still very fragile and they walked straight through it. Are we supposed to just put up with that? How is that normal?' Vughts's stance was backed by the Farmers' and Gardeners' Association (LTO), which called for a review of the compensation system for balloon landings. At present farmers are entitled to a payment of €35 for every balloon that lands on their property, but in return balloons have an absolute right to land anywhere. Alfred Jansen, of the LTO, said the payment should be raised to €100 per balloon plus €10 per passenger. 'The number of passengers, and thereby the weight, is increasing,' he said. 'The damage to the land and crops is greater as a result. Moreover livestock suffers stress from low flying or landing balloons.'    More >