Are Dutch coffee shops under threat? Marines bemoan the lack of tough guys. Health gap between the lower and higher educated widens. Pioneering Dutch national football coach bows out. And Catholic Church hit by stork abuse row.
Court ruling to herald cannabis clampdown?
Many of today’s papers cover the verdict of a high-profile court case with major implications for the liberal Dutch policy on soft drugs. As de Volkskrant reports, the case centres on Checkpoint, once the biggest coffee shop selling soft drugs in the Netherlands before it was closed down by police for having illegal amounts of soft drugs on the premises. The owner and 15 workers and suppliers have been found guilty of forming a criminal organisation involved in the large-scale purchasing, transport and export of cannabis. But the sentences they were given were relatively mild, since the court found that the government had done nothing to stop the organisation - “in fact they encouraged it to grow”.
De Telegraaf argues that the case “shows just what a dramatic state our so-called policy of tolerance is in”. It points out that the local authorities helped Checkpoint “to grow into a mega coffee shop employing no less than 100 staff, twice as many as the local Hema department store!” It continues: “The local council even put up signs to show drugs tourists where to go and encouraged the unemployed to take a job with this hash gang.” The paper concludes: “Tolerance was stretched so far that it effectively became aiding and abetting.”
De Volkskrant warns that “the sentence heralds open hunting season on large-scale coffee shops” and talks to a national spokesman for coffee shops who calls the ruling “a slap in the face” and “a very dangerous verdict”. But De Telegraaf is rubbing its hands with glee: “Now all we have to do is wait for the nationwide launch of this new approach so that we can rid ourselves of this out-of-control coffee-shop culture once and for all.”
Where have all the real men gone?
Real men are in short supply these days if the Dutch Marine Corps is to be believed. Today's AD reports that "it's becoming harder and harder for the elite corps to find genuine tough guys", with half of the trainee marines dropping out before they complete training. Standards are slipping too, according to those who have made the grade: "You only have to do 20 press-ups as part of your physical endurance exam these days. There was a time when it was 50. No wonder you see more and more scrawny guys around here." They chuckle at the expense of one dropout who left because “he didn’t like being yelled at”.
Those who don't like being screamed at and "miss home and miss their girlfriend" simply aren't made of the right stuff apparently. As the headline of the article insists "A true marine doesn't phone home". The paper wheels out the inevitable veteran with his "in my day" reminiscences. "What a bunch of softies! In my day you weren't allowed home for the first month of training ... it's a lack of backbone, if you ask me." But the younger marines are just as unforgiving: "Of course they yell at you. It toughens you up." So if you can do 20 press-ups, don’t mind being bawled at and have no desire to call your girlfriend, why not join the Marines?
Widening health gap between the higher and lower educated
Trouw reveals that the lifestyle of the lower educated in the Netherlands is so unhealthy that a special prevention programme is needed. That’s according to the findings of a report by the Dutch national institute for public health, RIVM: “There’s a worrying difference between the lower educated and the higher educated in the Netherlands which is not decreasing despite all kinds of measures.” The report states that the lower educated generally have a life expectancy that is 6 or 7 years shorter than the higher educated. Smoking, drinking and obesity are the main culprits.
The news isn’t all bad, however. In nrc.next, the institute also predicts that Dutch men and women will live an average of 6 years longer over the next 40 years. This rise is mainly due to advances in health care. The paper salutes cardiologists as “the champions of a longer life” and points out that this is “the first time in history that medicine has had such a notable effect on our life expectancy”. But this too has its downside: longer lives mean greater demands on an already overburdened health care sector. The institute insists its report is “apolitical” but also insists that it’s up to the government to address these problems. “Our document contains things that all parties can put to good use in the upcoming election campaigns.”
Pioneering Dutch national coach bows out
Several of today’s papers pay tribute to Vera Pauw, the coach of the Dutch women’s football team, who has announced her resignation. De Volkskrant observes that “the Netherlands is losing one of its most notable national coaches. Unique, revolutionary, professional and perhaps a little too forceful on occasion.” It lists a number of her achievements: the first woman to qualify as a professional football coach, and the woman who led the Dutch national women’s team to their first international tournament – the European Championships – where they reached the semi finals and won coveted financial support from the National Olympic Committee, allowing them to devote more time to their sport.
Ironically, this success seems to have spelled her downfall. The ascendancy of women’s football meant that the executives have moved in to shape the future of the sport and de Volkskrant notes that “Pauw was too committed to be relegated to the role of national coach and nothing else … For the marketing execs, women’s football has become a product … But for Pauw, it was her life’s work.” The Netherlands is now keen to host the women’s European Championships in 2013, and the paper comments “it’s sad that if they do come it will be without the national coach who put women’s football in the Netherlands firmly on the map.”
Catholic Church rocked by stork abuse scandal
As if the Catholic Church didn’t have enough bad publicity to cope with of late, AD reports that the church in Lekdorp Everdingen has riled the locals by attempting to banish the community’s much-loved storks to the other end of town. Gone is the cartwheel on the roof of the presbytery that the birds used to call home. “They’ve pulled the plug on a wonderful piece of folklore,” complains one resident.
The church elders don’t want their recently restored church – a protected building – to be befouled by the storks. “If we’d left them there, all that money would have been spent for nothing,” they explain. But mother nature moves in mysterious ways: the birds are back, nesting on the presbytery chimney. A local ornithologist warns: “Storks can’t be controlled just like that. They always return to the same nest to breed.” So it’s not only chickens that come home to roost …