Crocodiles threaten and dioxin is in animal feed. Ivory Coast’s ‘president’ features together with a Dutch U-turn. The elderly should be fitted with chips, Copts fear attacks and fireworks make too big a bang. It's all in the Dutch dailies.
Crocodile water and dioxin animal feed
Today’s front pages offer a look at the varied concerns of people in the Netherlands or at least of their media. It’s one of those days when no one story dominates the front pages and instead each paper leads with something quite different.
As if to indicate there’s no big news around, de Volkskrant uses up half its front page on a photograph of German tourists on the roof of their car which has got stuck halfway while crossing a swollen creek in Australia. They could almost be picnicking, they look so calm and nicely turned out but, the paper says, the water is full of man-eating crocodiles.
Underneath, the left-of-centre daily reports that an unnamed Dutch firm was part of the supply chain for German animal feed which probably contained dioxin. Eggs contaminated with the carcinogenic substance have been found in three regions in Germany. About 1,000 German farms have been closed down in an attempt to stop the chemical getting into the food chain.
It looks bad for the Dutch company, which supplied delicious-sounding ‘technical fat’ for the German animal feed. It in turn had received the fat from a German supplier, but this firm says it sold the fat as “not fit for use in foodstuffs or animal feed”.
Although de Volkskrant points out that the Dutch company has not yet been accused of passing off the fat off as something else, it goes on to mention a major dioxin scandal which hit Belgium in the 1990s. Then, Dutch suppliers had knowingly sold low-quality ‘technical fat’ as high-quality animal fat.
Gbagbo and a Dutch U-turn
A massive portrait of Ivory Coast’s President Laurent Gbagbo stares out from the front page of today’s nrc.next. “The whole world conspiring against him” is the headline of a piece which reports how the international community is doing all it can to get him to stand down.
Underneath, the paper’s domestic lead is less immediately dramatic. Health Minister Edith Schippers wants to call a three-year halt to the free-market within the Dutch health system. But, the daily points out to its highly-qualified young readership, this is a massive U-turn, given that the free market is the holy grail of her conservative VVD party.
The aim of what she calls her “temporary measure” is to rein in the ever increasing costs of the health system which are burgeoning at a rate of four percent per year. She wants not only to limit the earnings of medical specialists, but also to curb the total allowances for treatment at hospitals and private clinics.
The move, reckons nrc.next, may force many smaller private clinics to close down. They have mushroomed since the health market was liberalised in 2005. A spokesman for the sector fumes: “She taking away the newly won freedom from hospitals, specialists and private clinics and is going to pay fixed amounts... This is quite simply a Stalinist measure”.
Chips to trace confused elderly people
“Fit the old out with a chip” calls the AD’s headline today. Both the police and the Alzheimer Nederland group want microchips to be fitted to the bra straps or trouser belts of elderly people who are suffering from dementia so that they can quickly be found if they wander off and get lost. The tabloid points out a system using chips which can be easily traced is already up and running in some Scandinavian countries and that Belgium plans to introduce it soon.
At the moment, the police are often called out to find confused elderly people who have left their homes and got lost. “They quickly become a top priority, especially at times like this, when it’s cold out,” a missing persons officer tells AD. “That often means using a helicopter or dogs - a costly exercise.”
Attack on Dutch Coptic Christians feared
“Copts fear attack in the Netherlands” warns Protestant daily Trouw on its front page. After the recent attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria, it says, Egyptian Coptic Christians in the Netherlands have been threatened on extremist Islamic websites. Chillingly, the paper publishes a photograph showing the bomb-making instructions on one site.
There are three Coptic churches in the Netherlands, and they are all said to be on an Islamic hit-list. Muslim extremists are said to be angry at the alleged refusal of the Egyptian Coptic community to allow two women to convert to Islam. The National Counter-terrorism Coordinator is reported to consider the Dutch threat important. “We take what happened in Egypt very seriously,” a spokesman tells Trouw.
A firework or a bomb?
Today’s De Telegraaf also features homemade bombs in its top slot today. These, however, are not what it calls the “death and destruction explosives made by terrorists” but homemade fireworks designed to make as loud a bang as possible. But, it warns its mass readership, the illegal bangers are becoming more and more like the terrorists’ bombs.
Fireworks are a Dutch tradition at New Year. But, unlike in other countries, where major public firework shows are organised, it is individuals who set off the fireworks in the Netherlands. The authorities, says De Telegraaf, can do nothing about Dutch websites which show how to make “firework bombs”. It then goes on to list the two Dutch youngsters killed by such devices while celebrating on New Year’s Eve.