April 4, 2014

Netherlands ordered to retro-actively pay pregnant freelancers

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 1:27 pm

pregnant-frank-de-kleineThe Dutch state owes 20,000 women who were self-employed and pregnant between 2004 and 2008 maternity leave benefits. NRC wrote yesterday that the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has ordered so.

The committee was the last court of appeals for the Clara Wichmann legal fund, having first been denied by all Dutch courts including the Supreme Court. Like most countries in the world, the Netherlands has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women which includes an article on the right to paid maternity leave.

The Clara Wichmann fund tries to improve the position of women in society through test cases. According to Volkskrant, until 2004 the self-employed had obligatory insurance against income loss because of pregnancy and illness and since 2008 the unemployment office pays out so-called ZEZ benefits (Zwanger En Zelfstandig, meaning ‘pregnant and self-employed’).

(Photo by Frank de Kleine, some rights reserved)

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March 23, 2014

Nina Hoekman, draughts champion despite cancer

Filed under: Health,Sports by Branko Collin @ 1:52 pm

draughts-florian-schroiffLast week Nina Hoekman became a record-equalling 11-time Dutch draughts champion.

The former number two of the world had to have all her moves physically performed by an official as 17 cancer tumors in her brain had made it difficult for her to move. The cancer was discovered in 2011 and the then-44-year-old Hoekman (born Nina Jankovskaja in Ukraine) was told she had six months to live. She survived those odds and in 2012 she won the rapid draughts tournament in Lille, France, in between radiation therapy sessions.

Another tumor was discovered last September and Hoekman was told she had two weeks to live. Doctors suggested she stop her treatment. Hoekman told Volkskrant yesterday: “Even if chemotherapy is only one percent effective, if it gives me a spark of hope, then who should deny me that therapy? I got the feeling that the doctors were pushing me to the exit. I had to accept death, that is what they told me. But I am a champion, I have competed for the world title several times, I never give up.”

At one point during the championship in Zoutelande, Zeeland, Hoekman got nauseous and dizzy, which cost her a point. In the final round against real estate agent Jacqueline Schouten she needed to score a point more than the number two of the competition, Vitalia Doumesh. The latter drew and Schouten lost, earning Hoekman an eleventh Dutch title. With that title she equalled the record of Karen van Lith.

(Photo by Florian Schroiff, some rights reserved)

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February 23, 2014

Quack causes ‘run’ on coffee grinders in bible belt

Filed under: Health,Religion by Branko Collin @ 2:35 pm

coffee-grinder-suzette-pauwelsAfter getting the local press to write about him, Ton van Wingerden, 74, managed to cause a run on coffee grinders at the local Blokker (household goods shop) in Goeree-Overflakkee. An employee told Hart van Nederland they’re “selling six coffee grinders a week, which is a lot for such a device.”

Van Wingerden’s miracle cure is the powder of ground oyster shells. It’s not quite clear from the original article what the powder is supposed to heal, as with all alternative medicine it appears to heal everything the sufferer believes it will heal. Also unclear is why the national press is picking up on this now considering the original story ran last spring. Other methods for crushing oyster shells as reported to Van Wingerden were walking over them in clogs, squashing them between the jaws of a vise or wrapping them in a tea cloth and then hitting them with a hammer.

Goerree-Overflakee is one of the staunchest Christian bulwarks in the Dutch bible belt and is the southernmost part of the province of South Holland. It also borders on Lake Grevelingen where oysters are cultivated.

(Photo by Suzette Pauwels, some rights reserved)

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February 7, 2014

Banning weed smoking legal despite weed being illegal

Filed under: General,Health by Orangemaster @ 2:27 pm

In 2011 Amsterdam challenged and eventually won in high court the right to designate certain areas as as non-pot smoking zones. Rotterdam recently challenged the law as well and has also won its case. If smoking pot in these areas is deemed unsafe, then it becomes a matter of public order and can be legally enforced, as long as the cities take this up in their local public ordinance.

The reason why this wasn’t cut and dry was that the Opium Law governing soft drugs basically states that marijuana is illegal, again something many people still don’t know because the law is willfully ignored. And since marijuana is illegal you can’t forbid it again, as that would be crazy talk.

However, due to the oddness of the Dutch situation both cities now have a workaround. Stopping people from smoking altogether is often enough, but in many places people are allowed to smoke outside, regardless of how funny their cigarette smells.

(Link:, Photo of No-blow (and no drinking) sign by Erik Joling, some rights reserved)

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January 20, 2014

Dutch have best food in the world, Oxfam says

Filed under: Food & Drink,Health by Branko Collin @ 9:34 am

bitterballen-wikipedia-user-takeaway-pdIf you want to taste the best food in the world, look no further than the Netherlands, a new report claims.

There is a snag (isn’t there always?). The report was written by international aid organisation and poverty fighters Oxfam and they did not look at how good our restaurants are, nor did they look at what our dishes taste. As an organisation that tries to combat hunger among other things, their goal was to determine in which country (from a list of 125) citizens had the best access to “plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable” food.

The core questions Oxfam looked at were whether people had enough to eat, food was affordable, diets were diverse, people had access to both clean and safe water and how unhealthy people ate.

Dutchnews writes: “European countries occupy the entire top 20 bar one – Australia ties in 8th place—while the US, Japan, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada all fall outside. African countries occupy all the bottom 30 places in the table except for four—Laos, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.”

Der Spiegel thinks the top ranking for the Netherlands is hilarious: “specialities like bitterballen, fried breadcrumbed balls containing a ragout, will excite neither gourmets nor advocates of healthy living.” (Bitterballen are small, round krokets that are served as bar snacks, usually with mustard.)

See also:

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Takeaway, some rights reserved)

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December 29, 2013

Peter van der Helm wants your tattoo when you are dead

Filed under: Art,Health by Branko Collin @ 12:55 pm

poster-harbour-amsterdam-facemeplsA tattoo artist from Amsterdam is offering a service of preserving your tattoos after you die, Mirror reports:

Tattoo shop owner Peter van der Helm says around 30 clients have already agreed to donate their skin to his company, the “Walls and Skin” tattoo parlour, after they die and have each paid a few hundred euro to have their inked designs made immortal.

After their deaths, a pathologist will remove the tattoo to freeze or package in it formaldehyde – ideally within 48 hours – before it is sent to a lab for a procedure to extract water and replace it with silicone.

Van der Helm told Parool that he got the idea because of Johnny Depp who is supposed to have said that his body should go to a museum after his death. The tattoo artist says “I am so going to get into trouble with this. I’ve practically talked to everybody these past months, the Netherlands Forensic Institute, lawyers, the health department, but nobody gave me a straight answer [about the legality of preserving tattoos].”

To take your order the Walls and Skin parlour requires a hand written letter in which you state you want your tattoo to be preserved by them and displayed in future expositions.

(Photo by FaceMePLS, some rights reserved)

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November 7, 2013

Depressed or not? It depends what you read

Filed under: Health by Orangemaster @ 5:26 pm

In 2011, we were still wondering whether the Dutch population was happy or not. On the list of world’s happiest countries in 2012 and 2013 (PDF) the Netherlands was fourth. However, researchers at University of Queensland in Australia have recently mapped the rates of depression around the world, and some results are surprising:

“The burden is highest in Afghanistan and in Middle Eastern and North African countries, as well as in Eritrea, Rwanda, Botswana, Gabon, Croatia, the Netherlands (!) and Honduras.”

I didn’t add the exclamation mark. Apparently, there are no obvious reasons why the Dutch population is depressed, only guesses: the weather (what about Belgium, the UK, etc.), going through a crisis (stress), not admitting you’re actually depressed (shame) and my personal favourite, readily available antidepressants to anybody feeling a bit blue. If 16% of the Dutch population is depressed and possibly on drugs to ‘feel’ happy, then yes, that’s depression, not happiness.

And actually since all of this is opinion and the research was not a survey of how people feel, the exclamation mark seems warranted.

(Photo of wilted tulip by Graham Keen, some rights reserved)

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October 20, 2013

Dokter Corrie teaches fifth graders about sex on TV

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 12:24 pm

Dr. Corrie is a fictional character who talks on public TV to 10- and 11-year-olds about topics such as how to French kiss, what it’s like to be in love, what to do when you’ve got an unwanted erection, and so on.

She uses a lot of humour and I think this is why a group of ‘concerned parents’ has started a website called Stop Dokter Corrie!—the show normalizes sexuality and there are people who don’t want that. The action committee believes it’s not the government’s task to raise children. The group claims it is not tied to any religion, so it must be especially painful for them that only Christian media seem to be spreading their message.

All episodes have a famous Dutch person talking about some early experience with love or sex. Dokter Corrie is played by comedian Martine Sandifort.

An example of an episode that the group objects to is the one about kissing. The broadcaster’s description says “it is important that you only start with kissing when you are ready. Don’t do it just because somebody else wants you to.” Children seem to like the show.

(Photo: screenshot of the show from YouTube)

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September 29, 2013

If you see this ad, the model has died

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 2:53 pm

Two years ago the Dutch ALS Foundation (ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in North America) started a bold advertising campaign to call attention to the disease.

The campaign consists of portraits of ALS sufferers on posters and in videos. New ads are released only after the model has died. The caption printed on the posters, “ik ben inmiddels overleden”, means “by now I have died”.

In 2010 the foundation made portraits of 9 patients which it expects to distribute in the next few years. It generally takes 3 to 5 years from the onset of the first ALS symptoms to the death of a patient. In 2011 the campaign kicked off after two patients had died, a woman called Conny Deenik and former hockey player and Olympian Theodoor Doyer (photo).

There is no cure for ALS. The disease causes nerves to die, after which the respiratory system breaks down.

(Photo and story: Adformatie / Stichting ALS Nederland)

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September 11, 2013

People posing as doctors and doctors commit major fraud

Filed under: General,Health by Orangemaster @ 9:45 am

People posing as doctors and people who have set up fictitious health care institutions have been defrauding Dutch health care insurers out of millions of euros by submitting false invoices for services never rendered.

The fraud is apparently childishly easy to commit using the personal codes of practicing physicians that have been ‘lending out’ the right to use their code to crooks for a piece of the action. However, the whole practice was uncovered when a woman in Rotterdam defrauding the system got caught using the code of a doctor who just happened to be in jail at the time. Some crooks have gone so far as to use the codes of doctors who are retired and even deceased.

According to just one health insurer who claims to have hundreds of these cases, this could be the biggest form of fraud in the entire country. The company responsible for handing out the codes does not do any checking after it a code has been given, making it easy to defraud health care institutions who are in fact responsible for reporting any fraudulent use of the codes.

It’s one thing for crooks to piggyback on the personal codes of doctors, which makes us point fingers at the total lack of security related to these codes, but it makes me really uncomfortable to know that doctors are actually joining in to this fraud to make some quick cash.


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