Hospital stops drug trials for pregnant women after 11 babies die

Amsterdam's UMC teaching hospital has halted trials of a drug to help pregnant women whose babies are not growing well in the womb after finding a possible link with lung problems and neonatal death, according to news show Hart van Nederland. The research was being carried out at hospitals across the country and involved giving women with a poorly-performing placenta the drug siddenafil, which is better known as viagra. Hart van Nederland has a copy of the letter sent to women who were taking part. Chief researcher Wessel Ganzevoort told RTL Nieuws that more babies than expected were born with lung problems. In addition, 11 babies with the lung problem died shortly after birth, he said. In total, 93 women were given the drug and 17 babies developed lung problems, 11 of which have since died. However, of the 90 women in a control group, who took a placebo, just three developed the same lung issues and none died, RTL Nieuws said. In addition, 19 babies which were born prematurely died in the trial group, compared with nine in the control group, Hart van Nederland said. The researchers have now pulled the plug on the trials and alerted health service inspectors. According to Hart van Nederland, research in other countries indicated that viagra would improve the functioning of the placenta and boost the growth of the baby.  More >

Police looking for Dutch teen find body

Police in Italy hunting for missing Dutch youth Koen van Keulen say they have found a body near the campsite where he is staying. The body is now confirmed to be that of the 17-year-old, who vanished on Thursday night, police told broadcaster NOS. The body was found in a ditch on the other side of the crash barrier which runs along the road, NOS said. According to one theory, the youth may have jumped over the crash barrier and have fallen into the ditch after starting his walk back to the campsite. Around 200 people joined in the search for the teenager who went missing on holiday at Lake Garda. He had not been seen since boarding a bus in the early hours of Friday near the campsite at the Italian resort where he was staying with family and friends. He was coming back from a festival with his brother and a group of friends, but was not with them when they got out at Pacengo Eurocamping at about 2am. The bus driver is reported to have said he saw a youth in a blue T-shirt get out at the following stop, about 3km down the road. Italian police said on Monday they had traced a girl who was thought to have been with Koen, but it was a case of mistaken identity.  More >

Deliveroo riders are self employed: court

A courier for food delivery firm Deliveroo has lost his case to be treated as a member of staff rather than as self-employed. Judges in Amsterdam said on Monday morning that student Sytse Ferwerda should be considered to be self-employed because the agreement Ferwerda signed with Deliveroo is a freelance contract. In addition, the way in which the work is organised is not in line with being an employee, the court said. However, the court said, Dutch employment is not geared up to include working relationships emerging in the platform economy. 'When contracts such as those used by platforms like Deliveroo are considered to be undesirable, then parliament should take steps,' the court said in its ruling. Unions, delivery staff and some politicians say food delivery firms like Deliveroo are getting round labour laws by treating courier as self-employed. Ferwerda, who crowdfunded his legal costs and was supported by the Dutch labour party, said he will now decide whether or not to appeal against the decision. Deliveroo said in a statement that the company it is in talks with politicians about how the law can be adapted to deal with the platform economy. Other court case A second law case against Deliveroo in the Netherlands is also pending. The FNV trade union federation said in June it would take the British company to court for paying its delivery staff as if they are self-employed. Since February, Deliveroo’s 1,750 delivery workers in the Netherlands have become freelancers which, the company says, means they will be able to keep more of their earnings. According to Business Insider, Deliveroo in the UK is calling for a 'charter' that would give it more clarity about the rights it could offer contractors without risking their employment status. Last month a group of 50 riders in the UK  won a settlement from Deliveroo after they claimed they were unlawfully denied minimum wage and paid holiday.  More >

National heatwave plan activated

The national heatwave plan has been activated as forecasters expect temperatures to soar past 35 degrees in some parts of the Netherlands this week. The community healthcare watchdog RIVM has asked people to check on vulnerable neighbours such as the elderly, chronically obese and those with underlying health problems during the hot weather. The plan also includes advice to stay hydrated, wear light clothing, eat light meals and spend no longer than 15 minutes in the sun during the hottest part of the day, from 11am to 5pm. The heatwave plan is triggered whenever daytime temperatures are forecast to be consistently above 27C. The meteorological office KNMI expects the temperature at De Bilt weather station to reach 31C or 32C for the rest of the week, while some eastern parts could get above 35C. Night will bring little respite, with temperatures staying above 20C, and the lack of rainfall has prompted many municipalities to restrict water use. A heatwave is declared if the temperature rises above 25C on five consecutive days, including three days of more than 30C. While most of the country continues to be affected by drought, some highly local areas experienced heavy downpours and flooding at the weekend. In Alteveer, near Hoogeveen, Drenthe, a short sharp shower briefly left streets underwater, while an accident on the A50 near Apeldoorn was blamed on the wet surface. Ze zeiden: “Grootste droogte in 100 jaar”. Ondertussen, in #Hoogeveen. — Adam Bazuin 👨🏻‍💻 (@adambazuin) July 21, 2018   More >

More abattoir's fined for faeces on meat

Fines for unhygienic practices in slaughter houses, such as faecal matter on carcasses and equipment, have doubled to 49 compared to last year, RTL Nieuws reported at the weekend. Health and safety organisation NVWA published a report on its website which signals the increase in fines but said there is no risk to public health. RTL Nieuws requested more information and found the number of fines had risen significantly, from 39 in the previous two years to 49 in the last year. ‘Slaughter houses have evidently not made hygiene a priority. They will have to try harder,’ NVWA chief inspector Jan Meijer told RTL. Slaughterhouse trade organisation COV says the findings ‘merit attention’ but that in the light of 17 million processed animals the fines only represent a limited number of infractions. However, RTL writes, the norm for infractions is zero and the real number of instances is much higher because fines are preceded by a warning. NWVA random checks also showed that 1 in 11 carcasses had manure smears up, from 1 in 14 in previous years. Meat processors lack experience to cut the meat away from the intestines, slaughterhouse workers told RTL. Nicks to the intestines lead to faecal matter ending up in the carcasses. The speed of the assembly line makes things worse and although workers can stop the line to cut away the contaminated pieces, few do. ‘If you do that you will have a problem. The contaminated meat is usually rinsed off or scraped off which means the bacteria are spread all over the carcass,’ one worker said. The COV denies that workers have too little time to remove the intestines. They are also allowed to stop the line to cut off contaminated meat, it stated.  More >

Long lunar eclipse on Friday

Stargazers in the Netherlands will be treated to a total eclipse of the sun on Friday evening, and the weather forecast makes it likely the 'blood moon' will be clearly visible as the sky darkens. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly behind the earth and into its shadow. This can only happen with the sun, earth and moon are aligned, with the earth in between. The total eclipse will begin at 9.30 pm when the moon rises and will reach its peak at around 10.20pm. The eclipse will end at 11.14, making it the longest eclipse of the moon this century. Special events are being organised all over the country, including Amsterdam, near Hilversum, in Dwingeloo and on Texel so people can watch the eclipse with experts. The next total eclipse of the moon will be on January 21 next year in the early hours of the morning.   More >

Call for deposits on plastic and cans

Local councils have urged the government to introduce a deposit system for plastic bottles and cans this year to tackle the problem of litter. So far 328 out of 380 municipalities have joined a campaign by the Statiegeld Alliantie to extend the deposit system that currently applies to small glass bottles. They say the move would reduce waste in the streets and its impact on urban wildlife. The cabinet has said it has no plans to change the deposit system before 2021 and wants to see if the drinks industry can come up with alternative solutions first. D66 councillor Jan Lems, from Almere, which recently signed up to the Statiegeld Alliantie campaign, said the delay was the result of lobbying by the industry against what it sees as a restrictive surcharge. 'Dutch people have had enough of all the plastic packaging in supermarkets and litter,' said Lems. 'Increasing amounts of rubbish are being dumped by the roadside on the way to school.' A spokesman for environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven said it would take at least two years to prepare the necessary legislation. 'In the meantime that gives the business sector an opportunity to take steps to reduce litter,' he said. 'If that fails, we will bring in deposits.'  More >

2 Dutch arrested in UK for cocaine smuggle

Two Dutchmen have been arrested in England after customs officials discovered a massive haul of cocaine hidden on their yacht. The boat was intercepted nearly 200 kilometres off the coast of Cornwall last week in an operation involving British, Portuguese, French, Spanish and Dutch officials, Britain's national crime agency NCA said in a statement. The cocaine was hidden in bales wrapped in plastic in a compartment at the rear of the boat, officials said. So far, some two tonnes of cocaine has been recovered from the boat. The two crew members, Maarten Pieterse, aged 59 and Emile Schoemaker, aged 44, appeared in court in Bristol on Saturday for a remand hearing. Both were remanded in custody until their next court appearance on August 20. NCA regional head Andy Quinn said the find is one of the largest hauls of class A drugs ever made in the UK, and has a potential street value of hundreds of millions of euros. 'The criminal trade in drugs is driven by financial gain and the loss of the profit that would have been made from this seizure will be a major hit to the international criminal networks involved,' he said.  More >

Man in court for stabbings in The Hague

A gavel in a courtroom. A man who stabbed three people in The Hague before being shot by police is refusing to let investigators examine his mobile phone as they try to establish a motive for the attacks. Malek F. made his first appearance in court on Monday morning at the high-security compound at Schiphol airport. Prosecutors said they had not ruled out a terrorist motive because F., from Syria, shouted 'Allahu Akbar' as he carried out the attacks on May 5. The 31-year-old has had a history of disturbed mental health since he arrived in the Netherlands as a Palestinian refugee from Syria. In court prosecutors said he had denied being in a psychotic state at the time of the attack. F. also wrote Facebook posts saying that 'unbelievers should go to hell' and 'that he would like to see them suffer with Allah's help, now and in the afterlife.' Prosecutors said his behaviour changed markedly in December, when he started praying more often and altered his appearance. F. sat calmly and attentively throughout Monday's hearing, AD reported. His lawyer, Job Knoester, accused police during the hearing of using excessive force against his client. 'There is no way they needed to fire three shots,' he said. The Telegraaf reported that he had been involved in an incident in February where he threw furniture and possessions out of the window of his flat in the centre of The Hague. His family have said they intend to file a complaint against healthcare institution Parnassia for failing to act on earlier signs that he was in poor mental health. After the incident in February he was taken into secure accommodation but later allowed to return unaccompanied to his flat. The court was also told that one of F.'s victims was struggling to retain the will to live, despite having two children. The three victims, a 21-year-old man from Zoetmeer and two residents of The Hague aged 41 and 35, were all treated in hospital for their injuries.  More >

The art of travel: north-south metro line

With the help of a ‘flash mob’ choir, dozens of chess tables and thousands of Amsterdammers, the North-South tube line opened on Saturday. It was also the launch of Amsterdam’s newest public museum, according to Véronique Baar, who has curated a €5.5m project to commission and install eight artworks in the new stations. From a hidden toilet duck in the platform mural of Station Noord to a mosaic crocodile on the subterranean walls of Station Rokin, the artwork is literally built in to the project. The art budget – provided by Amsterdam municipal council – represents 0.18% of the total metro line’s cost, said Baar, and the project is intended to appeal to all. Museum ‘In this museum there will be 14 million travellers a year, which is quite a good set of visitors!’ she said at a press launch on Saturday. ‘The route itself follows the historic infrastructure of the Amstel, the river that was once here. We also wanted to have art in natural measure with the city. So we asked all the artists to look above ground to all the elements they could find there, and translate that into an art piece under the ground. ‘In that way, you have as a traveller a sense of identification with where you are and what is going on upstairs.’ The station that gathered the most reaction from crowds of people taking advantage of the chance to explore the nine-year-late metro line (and a free ride) was Station Rokin. Crocodile Here, a mural of marble and natural stones in the walls alongside the platform, by artists Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel, is based upon 700,000 artefacts discovered at the site, the former river bed of the Amstel. These ranged, said Baar, from pipes thrown overboard as ships departed and jugs from the sugar trade to a crocodile jaw – although the mural, ‘The crocodile, the melodica, the pike fish, the high heel pump...’, has added a few whimsical extras. Alongside the escalators on the north and south side are glass cases containing thousands of the objects themselves on display. Station Noord, meanwhile, has murals on the platform stones themselves representing the lives of migratory birds plus a few others. Artist Harmen Liemburg didn’t just include geese and water birds – there’s also a Twitter bird tweeting, a toilet duck and a rubber duck. Weather In Centraal Station, meanwhile, a massive screen above the platforms by David Claerbout is actually a slow-moving animation of a man in the Dutch countryside, with a background based on the actual weather forecast for 24 hours ahead. At Station Vijzelgracht, imaginary tube lines come together to form the face and story of Dutch singer Ramses Shaffy, while at Europaplein, photos inlaid in the glass walls tell the story of a romantic encounter – with a more sinister backstory based on the Greek myth of the rape of Europa. Not everything is complete: the lighting isn’t quite right on the Sipping Colors mural by Amalia Pica in Station De Pijp, but Baar pointed out that the metro didn’t need any more delays. People will be able to find out more about each art piece with a book to be published in October. ‘All the artworks are completely different: we worked with walls, with the floor, with mixed screens,’ says Baar. ‘We have a wide range of artists and art pieces for a very broad public. It’s really art for everyone.’    More >

Healthy blueberries soar in popularity

The sale of blueberries has soared 8% in the first six months of this year and rose no less than 250% between 2013 and last year, the national statistics office CBS said on Monday. The amount of agricultural land devoted to growing the berry has risen to 970 hectares, excluding green house production, the CBS said. Blueberries are now the third most cultivated fruit sort in the Netherlands, behind apples and pears. The rise is partly due to the 'healthy image' that the berry has, the CBS said. Imports have also risen, reaching 9.8 million kilos last year, three times the 2013 total. More than 50% of imported berries come from Spain and Portugal.   More >