June 18, 2015

Government subsidies for psychics training under fire

Filed under: General,Weird by Orangemaster @ 10:25 am


Back in 2011 the Dutch government already fought over subsidizing astrologers for job seekers, and now companies offering to train ‘psychics’ are under scrutiny.

The contested training is geared towards ‘spiritual consultants’ and ‘hypnotists’, and has been approved for years, a training that particularly attracts the jobless aged 50 and over. Considering the discrimination faced by that age group as being expensive to hire, I’m not too surprised. A dozen people have taken the almost 1000 euro course. They learn about tarot cards, angel cards and reincarnations, the latter could be why the religious political SGP party was the one to complain about these courses recently.

After successfully completing the course, people can start up their own call line and make 0,29 euro a minute predicting the future, helping with relationship and financial problems.

(Link: nieuws.tpo.nl)

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June 8, 2015

Google, KLM and government favourites with Dutch students

Filed under: Aviation,Food & Drink,General,IT,Technology by Branko Collin @ 10:09 pm

klm-plane-steven-straitonSwedish marketing agency Universum has been polling Dutch students on who they want to work for after graduation.

A whopping 12,000 students from 32 universities and polytechnics were asked about their career preferences. Major Dutch companies such as Philips, Shell, KLM, Heineken and Endemol were named, but large American companies such as Google and Apple also made their appearance.

Both law and arts & humanities students named the national government as their preferred employer, followed by Google for the former and KLM for the latter. Business students like KLM and Google the best, engineering and physics students prefer Google, followed by Philips.

Compared to last year, TNO, Coca-Cola, IKEA and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek failed to make the top 5 in any of the categories.

(Link: ANS, photo by Steven Straiton, some rights reserved)

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September 22, 2014

Dutch state lottery open to abuse; state tipped off lottery about investigation

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 7:57 pm

[Photo of children wearing inflatable crowns]The Greek firm that runs the lottery for Staatsloterij (the Dutch state lottery) is susceptible to fraud, Volkskrant writes.

Several former employees of the company, called Intralot, told the newspaper last Saturday that they are capable of removing lottery numbers from the draw. Since this would happen after Staatsloterij has sold the tickets, this doesn’t change the amount of money that can be won, but it does change the chances each player has of winning. As long as the same percentage of winners is distributed equally across regions, ages, and so on as the percentage of players, Staatsloterij has no way of knowing if tickets have been doctored and if so, which ones.

Gambling is strictly regulated in the Netherlands, a monopoly kept by the government under the guise of protecting citizens from addiction.

An investigation has been started into the vulnerability by the Dutch gambling authority. Due to an unfortunate accident the Ministry of Finance tipped off Staatsloterij before the investigation started, Volkskrant adds in a second article. As the Dutch saying goes, ‘where people work hard, people make mistakes’. Other examples of instances where the government made mistakes are the two black boxes that disappeared from the site of the Bijlmer disaster and the lost film of the Srebrenica massacre. Do you know of any other country where the government works this hard?

(Photo of young children wearing colourful inflatable Staatsloterij crowns by Orangemaster)

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November 3, 2012

DigiNotar hacker came in through front door

Filed under: IT by Branko Collin @ 4:28 pm

In 2011 Dutch web certificate company DigiNotar was compromised completely by an Iranian hacker, and a report released this week details how it was done.

The report, written by security auditors Fox-IT and published by the state last Monday, shows that the hacker managed to get access to Diginotar’s public website, which had already been hacked in 2009. In fact, the defacements from that year were still online when the hack was discovered in August 2011, security.nl reported at the time.

According to Webwereld, Fox-IT’s report reads like a how-to for pwning a badly secured system. The hacker installed a shell on the web server, which must have been easy to do, as the still online defacements showed the way. DigiNotar had a firewall between its public network (which it called the Demilitarised Zone) and its segmented internal network, but it also had a long list of exceptions in the firewall. The certificate servers were also attached to the office network of DigiNotar, so that the hacker could use the standard MS Windows Remote Desktop tool to create false certificates.

Just another day at the office for an experienced black hat hacker.

Techworld reports that the DigiNotar hack was mainly used to attack Gmail users in Iran. DigiNotar declared bankruptcy in September 2011. The company’s certificates were heavily relied upon by the Dutch government, but also by Google.

Web certificates are a means to tell your browser that the website you are visiting real is the website it claims to be. This is useful for online banking and so on.

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April 14, 2012

Journalistic portraits of photojournalists

Filed under: Bicycles,Photography by Branko Collin @ 9:26 am

Hebbediekiek is a web site of six photojournalists in The Hague (the seat of government of the Netherlands) that publish action shots taken of their colleagues. It’s basically them zooming out a little so that you don’t just see the ‘actors’ of politics, but also the ‘crew’.

The site drew some national attention when it recorded a photographer tumbling (see screenshot, top right) when he was trying to get a shot of Prime Minister Rutte trying to make his getaway on a bicycle. Krapuul.nl suggests that Rutte is driven by a chauffeured limo to these sort of affairs, and he only bikes the last few hundred metres.

Hebbedekiek—‘hebbe die kiek’ with the spaces in all the right places—means either ‘get that shot’ or ‘gimme that shot’, ‘kiek’ being the Dutch word for ‘snapshot’ and usually used in the diminutive, ‘kiekje’.

(Illustration: screenshot of hebbediekiek.nl. Link tip: Jeroen Mirck.)

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September 15, 2011

2012 government budget hack explained

Filed under: IT by Branko Collin @ 7:24 pm

Ha ha! As Dutch News reports:

The government’s 2012 spending plans have been leaked on the internet, a day ahead of their official publication.

A spokesman for the finance ministry has confirmed the leaked documents are genuine. They were apparently found by hackers on a part of the government website which was not protected by a password.

And here’s how NOS Nieuws explains the hack:

[Somebody] typed in the address of last year’s budget, and changed ‘2010’ in ‘2011’.

The original budget busting tweet can be found here.

Traditionally the yearly budget is presented on Prinsjesdag, Day of the Princelings, after the Queen addresses both houses of parliament in joint session. Reporters who promise to not divulge the contents of the budget get an advance copy—others just wait until the traditional leak. In 2007, the budget was sent to the press in the form of a USB stick.

Dutch News has the low down on the contents of the budget, by the way.

(Photo of marechaussée practicing at the beach for a Prinsjesdag parade by the ever prolific Facemepls, some rights reserved)

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December 15, 2010

Dutch word of 2010 qualifies unusual minority government

Filed under: General,Literature by Orangemaster @ 10:07 am

The Dutch word of the year, according to Dutch dictionary Van Dale (a Dutch-Belgian joint publication), is ‘gedoogregering’, a government (‘-regering’) (albeit it a minority government this time) with silent support (‘gedoog-‘ means ‘tolerated’). The silent support comes from one of the three political parties who agrees to everything the other two parties want in exchange for deals made beforehand in an ‘gedoogakkoord’, or a ‘silent party agreement’. The Dutch have not had a minority government since WWII and is also dealing with a right-wing party that is anything but silent.

The runner-up word of the year is something the English-speaking world may know from Jamaican dancehall music and was described on Dutch telly very politely as ‘an erotic dance’: ‘daggeren’ (‘daggering’). It’s basically pretending to have jack-rabbit like sex on the dance floor (dry humping), usually to the beat of the music. Lucky for us, some white trash reality show apparently features this often.

The number one Dutch word in Belgium also has to do with sex: ‘tentsletje’ (‘tent slut’), a girl that sleeps with lots of different guys (goes from tent to tent) at those big summer festivals.

(Link: woordvanhetjaar.vandale.nl)

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November 3, 2010

Comics are mostly forbidden in government publications

Filed under: Comics,Photography by Branko Collin @ 9:01 am

According to the 2009 Guidelines for Photography and Illustrations of the Dutch government (PDF, Dutch), the government should not use comics in its publications.

The government wants to communicate in a clear, accessible and unambiguous manner, by introducing a single style guide, and by using only a bare minimum of style elements. This suits the adult image the government wants to project. Within that style there is no room for a wild mixture of symbols, comics and shapes, i.e. frills.


In government publications comics and fantasy characters should not be used.

This style guide is the brain child of Studio Dumbar, the design studio that had already managed to make a name for itself by charging the tax payer 60,000 for telling the government to keep using the same logo. (Not necessarily something I disagree with, sometimes what you have already turns out to work the best.)

The same style guide seems to suggest (in examples rather than words) that you should leave in the watermarks of photo stock agencies.

(Link: Hans Aarsman. Image from the style guide: Rijksoverheid/Photoq.nl/gettyimages—see the top left corner.)


December 16, 2009

Dutch don’t trust government and then some

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 3:30 pm

dutch_flag.jpg Compared to other countries, the Dutch don’t trust institutions like parliament, the government, the media, justice and large companies. Sounds healthy so far. Sijbren Cnossen, guest researcher at the CPB (Dutch stats office), concludes that the Netherlands, with a tax pressure of 39% of its national income, does better than the continental (42%), Mediterranean (37%) and Anglo-Saxon (34%) countries in Europe. “Poverty is lower, the elderly are better off, there is less discrimination, and healthcare and education is high.”

And then there are things the Netherlands is still bad at, which at a glance seems to mostly affect women and children: major child porverty in one parent families with a parent who does not work (educated guess: about 85% are women), high rate of infant mortality (in short: absent gynaecologists), barely any use of childcare for emancipation (code for ‘women’ and the social stigma of ‘dumping’ your kids) and integration (code for ‘female immigrants’), increasing obesity (like many other places), and the low level of spending for research and development (government wants something for nothing).

(Links: crossroadsmag.eu, cpb.nl, Photo by Quistnix, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0)


August 21, 2007

Subsidizing astrologers for job seekers raises eyebrows

Filed under: General,Religion by Branko Collin @ 9:53 am

tarot_card-the_chariot.jpgUnlikely problems will get you unlikely bed fellows: Dutch parliament is divided across traditional ideological lines and across the current government opposition division over astrology and talking to trees. The matter at hand? Whether the unemployed should be subsidized to pay for assistance from astrologers, tarot card dealers, and folks that talk to space aliens. The Christian governing parties CDA and CU, and the socialist opposition party SP think the idea is ludicrous, and feel that UWV, the organization that pays unemployment benefits, should be more careful about which re-integration projects it supports.

UWV denies any allegations of carelessness: of about 40,000 people that make use of the opportunity to have a tailor-made re-integration plan, only a few dozen follow a “spiritual” route to a job. The offices that assist the unemployed work according to a no cure, less pay principle. Daily De Volkskrant reports (Dutch) that there are about 2,000 such agencies. “It’s a new market; anybody can start an agency,” Ryanne Dijkstra tells the paper. Perhaps an idea for the unemployed?

But UWV warns that not every agency will be subsidized; “[An agency] must be registered with the Chamber of Commerce, must employ sufficient personnel to assist all customers, must have complaints and privacy regulations, and must make a personal development plan together with the job seeker,” PR person Anna Beekjes tells Planet.nl (Dutch). “[What’s more], if after two years the project is still unsuccessful, we will only pay the agency 50%.”

According to De Volkskrant, parliamentarian Eddy van Hijum (CDA, Christian centrists) thinks it is good that people are looking for meaning. “But we should not have to subsidize this. These woolly projects are not helping anyone find work.” And so 150 parliamentarians are busy investigating the dealings of “a few dozen” unemployed. Now that’s service! Or pico-management. I always get them mixed up.

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