In today’s papers: an experiment to bring down dental prices has the opposite effect; Joran van der Sloot sends a not so sincere letter of apology to murder victim’s parents; Brother Andreas turns out to be a mass murderer; more research can be binned after professor is exposed for massaging figures; and finally Dutch heed Italian SOS - Save Our Smelly cheese.
Health minister warns dentists to bring down prices
Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers has warned dentists to bring down their prices. Trouw explains that the minister launched an experiment at the beginning of the year to liberalise dentists charges at the recommendation of the dentists themselves.
A study by the Dutch health authority shows that in the first quarter, prices increased by 6.1 percent - and, if you allow for inflation, 9.6 percent. As a result, the three-year experiment could be cut short at the end of the year.
The idea was that market forces would improve quality, bring down prices and allow patients to switch dentists. In reality it is almost impossible to change dentist and prices have gone up. Only the quality has improved. Amazingly, the Society for Dental Health has come up with totally different figures. It says average prices have hardly changed.
De Volkskrant comments dryly, “The minister could have known.”
Joran van der Sloot apologises to Stephany’s parents
Joran van der Sloot is back in the news after writing a letter to the parents of Peruvian woman Stephany Flores apologising for killing her. Van der Sloot was sentenced to 28 years in prison by a court in Lima earlier this year. But how sincere is his letter? De Telegraaf points out that the 24-year-old Dutchman is due to appeal against the long prison sentence next month, hoping to knock a couple of years off his sentence.
Van der Sloot says in the letter, which has been leaked by his reinstated lawyer Maximo Altez, that he was drunk and killed the 21-year-old in a rage, after finding her looking at documents pertaining to the Natalee Holloway case on his laptop. Natalee Holloway disappeared exactly five years earlier on the Caribbean island of Aruba, she has since been declared dead – Joran van der Sloot is still the prime suspect in her murder.
In the letter, Van der Sloot also claims he suffers from psychological problems. He writes: “I ask God every day if Stephany’s parents can forgive me.” If the appeal court rules that the murder was not premeditated, five years could be knocked off Van der Sloot’s sentence. In which case he could be extradited to the United States earlier, where he faces extortion charges. Van der Sloot is accused of demanding 25,000 dollars from Natalee Holloway’s mother in exchange for revealing the whereabouts of her daughter’s body. How compassionate of him!
"Brother of Death" killed dozens of handicapped boys
Brother Andreas is guilty of killing dozens of seriously handicapped boys at a Catholic institution in Limburg, according to an investigation by regional newspapers De Limburger/Limburgs Dagblad. The regional papers call it the biggest scandal ever in a Catholic institution. Trouw writes that it is not clear whether the “brother of death” actively killed the children or let fate take its toll. It is also not known whether he acted out of compassion.
Brother Andreas bore sole responsibility for the care of a group of severely disabled boys in Saint Joseph’s home in the town of Heel. The boys were only capable of eating and sleeping. Between 1952 and 1954, 34 of them died suspiciously. De Limburger reports that the monk’s involvement in the deaths was known back in 1954 because he was promptly transferred to a different institution. The cases came to light during the Deetman Commission investigation, which looked into wide-spread sexual abuse in Catholic institutions in the Netherlands.
Nrc.next reports that the information on the suspicious deaths was reported to the home’s management 20 years ago, after a journalist and a writer came across revealing documents in the archives. In 1990, the two were writing a book on the institution to mark its 80th anniversary. A care home took over responsibility for the disabled children from the monks back in 1969.
The Dutch Public Prosecution Service is due to publish its investigation of the cases at the end of the week. No-one, however, will be brought to justice; the cases are too old to be prosecuted and Brother Andreas died long ago.
Another professor caught massaging data
Another case of "data massage" has been uncovered. De Telegraaf is quick to point out this time it was a Belgian professor who used bogus figures to beef up his research at a Dutch university. Professor Dirk Smeesters, who is affiliated to Rotterdam’s Erasmus University, says he is not the only scientist to manipulate data to suit his findings. Three of the psychologist’s papers have been withdrawn after colleagues smelled a rat.
The Association of Universities expects more cases of scientific fraud to come to light as a Code of Practice was recently made stricter to catch fraudulent researchers. Last year, Diederik Stapel, a psychology professor at Tilburg University, was exposed for manipulating data in 30 studies.
AD writes that we should be grateful to Professor Stapel. As a result of the tighter controls, we now know Smeesters’ claim that "people with messy desks are more efficient workers" is utter nonsense. Darn!
Dutch save Italian earthquake cheese
When an earthquake recently hit northern Italy, the Dutch sprang into action to save the … no, not the Italians nor their cultural heritage… but to save their cheeses! AD reports that over 9,000 people are now helping Italian cheese farmers survive the disaster by buying a piece of parmesan from the stricken area for 25 euros.
Appeal organisers Samuel Sanders and Raymond Janssen travelled to Italy last week to see the disaster with their own eyes. “The devastation is huge,” they said. People are working day and night to move 600,000 40-kilo cheeses which tumbled off their maturing shelves. They have to hurry because young cheese can get mouldy. The farmers welcome the Dutch help, as they can no longer sell their damaged cheeses on the market, but they can sell them via a private initiative like this one.