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Public prosecutor pins evidence hopes on IS payroll information

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch public prosecution department has payroll lists with the names of people who worked for IS, including jihadis who have returned to the Netherlands, the AD said on Friday. 

The department is using the lists, which cover the period 2016 to June 2017, in court cases against Dutch jihadis, the paper said. The documents come from the FBI. Dutch jihadis face jail on their return for being members of a terrorist organisation but actual evidence is hard to come by. 

Many claim to have worked as cooks or nurses, rather than to have taken part in actual fighting. One Dutch national whose name is said to appear on the lists is Maseh N, who returned from Syria at the end of last year. 

The department hopes to use this as evidence that N did work for IS, the AD said. He has told officials that he wanted to return to the Netherlands as soon as he got there in 2015 and claims to have been jailed after refusing to fight. 

He was caught crossing into Turkey from Syria in October last year and has been in custody since then. The Dutch security service estimates 310 Dutch nationals have gone to IS territory since 310, of whom around one third were female.  

Around 140 are still said to be there, 55 have returned and 80 have been killed. Some 35 are said to be in prison or refugee camps. In addition, 175 minors with a claim on Dutch nationality are in the region, most of whom were born there.  (DutchNews)

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Nurse charged with four murders via insulin injections

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A nurse from Rotterdam appeared in court in Rotterdam on Friday charged with four murders and seven attempted murders carried out by injecting elderly patients with insulin. 

Rahiied A, 22, was earlier charged with murdering six patients and attempting to kill six more after prosecutors investigated 15 suspicious deaths of patients at nursing homes. 

A worked at the homes as a trainee or locum nurse between January 2016 and November 2017. The public prosecution department said in a short website statement on Friday that 11 of the 15 cases have now been included in the charge sheet but did not disclose why two murder charges have since been dropped. 

The case came to light at the end of 2017 after a female resident in one of the care homes became seriously ill and was taken to hospital, where doctors found a high quantity of insulin in her blood. 

A is also accused of stealing medicines and medical documents and falsifying his ‘declaration of good behaviour’ (Verklaring Omtrent Gedrag), which is a prerequisite for jobs that involve working with vulnerable people.(DutchNews)

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Amsterdam’s population poised to beat 60-year-old record

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The population of Amsterdam is set to hit 873,000 at some point this year, finally topping the old record of 872,000 which dates back to 1959. 

But it will still take until 2032 for the city’s population to top the magic one million barrier, Amsterdam’s statistics department OIS said on Thursday. The growth is due to people moving to the city rather than the arrival of more children, OIS said. 

The birth rate in the capital is just 1.4, well below the national average of 1.7. More Dutch nationals left the city than moved in and the growth is down to the arrival of foreign workers. 

In total, 38,000 new immigrants set up home in Amsterdam last year, more than replacing the 25,000 who left. Of them, most came from Britain, the US, India and Germany.  

This, OIS said, means the city is becoming more international and better educated. People on low incomes remain in the city because of the supply of social housing but lower middle-class families are being forced out because they cannot afford to rent or buy a home, the organization said.  (DutchNews)

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Game over: The biggest Dutch toy shop group goes bust

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Toy shop chain and Dutch market leader Intertoys has gone bust, three weeks after being given court protection from its creditors. 

The company has 286 of its own stores, with 3,200 members of staff.  A further 100 stores are run by franchisees, which are not affected by the bankruptcy. The Dutch shops are remaining open while the curators investigate the possibility of a restart or partial sale. 

Talks are already ‘at an advanced stage’ with a potential buyer for the Belgian arm, which operates under the name Bart Smit Speelgoedpaleizen. The Blokker group sold its Dutch toy store chain to British investment house Alteri Investors in October 2017. 

Financial details were not disclosed at the time. Intertoys, the biggest Dutch toy group by far, has faced increasing competition from webshops as well as the likes of Blokker and Action. 

‘The far-reaching step reflects continuing pressure on the entire retail sector,’ Alteri said in a statement. Increasing online sales have reduced toy store sales by 50% in ten years. 

Also, specialist stores like Intertoys have faced increasing competition from discounters outside the traditional toy market.(DutchNews)

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Thousands of drivers fined for driving under influence of drugs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 2,000 people have been threatened with losing their driving licences since saliva tests for drugs were introduced in mid 2017, the AD said on Thursday. 

Most drivers who fail the on-the-spot test are fined €850, have to hand in their licence, and pay a further €1,200 for a follow-up investigation to find out if their drugs use poses a danger to other road users. 

If they don’t pay, their licence is automatically destroyed. In the first six months of the saliva test, 538 people were referred for further investigation and last year over 1,500. 

There are, as yet, no figures for how many actually did lose their licence, the AD said. The saliva test indicates that the person has been taking drugs, but a lab test is needed to establish exactly what. There is no ‘safe’ limit in law, unlike with alcohol. 

Research last year showed most had taken cannabis but a number were also driving after taking amphetamines and cocaine. Almost half those stopped had more than one drug in their system, including alcohol. (DutchNews)

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Police called out 90,000 times to deal with mental health problems

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The police were called out 90,000 times last year to deal with people causing disruption due to mental health issues, double the 2010 total, the NRC said on Thursday. 

There are various reasons for the increase, including cuts in the number of beds in psychiatric institutions, as part of a ‘care in the community approach’, the paper said. 

‘Psychiatric patients are more likely to live among us, but there is not the money to give them the care they need,’ Leeuwarden mayor Ferd Crone told the paper. 

In addition, society has become more complex and the rise in computer use has made it more difficult for people to ask for help or benefits, the paper said. 

According to police spokesman, Henk van Dijk, the nature of the incidents is also becoming increasingly serious. 

The police have now set up special teams to deal with ‘confused behaviour’ and most districts also have purpose-build vehicles to transport people, so they don’t have to be handcuffed in police cars, the paper said. (DutchNews)

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Required to ‘inburger’ abroad? Your two-year-old should start school too, say MPs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The children of parents who were required to pass integration exams before they came to the Netherlands should by law attend pre-school so their Dutch is up to scratch when they start ordinary classes, according to two of the four coalition parties. 

The right-wing VVD and the Christian Democrats say this will ensure the children are not at a disadvantage when they start formal schooling at the age of four. 

‘Too many newcomers end up claiming welfare benefits,’ CDA MP Pieter Heerma said in Tuesday’s Telegraaf, while adding that children from households where Dutch is not the main language start off with a disadvantage. 

‘Pre-school should be a requirement, not an option, VVD MP Bente Bekker said. ‘After all, we expect newcomers to do everything they can to participate.’ The measure can be introduced in 2020, when local authorities again assume responsibility for the integration of new arrivals. 

MPs are due to debate planned changes to the integration (inburgering) system on Wednesday. Basic exams Bente told DutchNews.nl via Twitter that compulsory pre-schooling would only apply to people required to pass basic integration before they come to the Netherlands and not, for example, to American nationals. 

Expats who want their children to go to pre-school because they will go into the Dutch school system and don’t speak Dutch are currently excluded from classes.  (DutchNews)

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Rotary Sunset Paint Peace Murals at Local High Schools

SINT MAARTEN (SOUTH REWARD) - On February 16th, members of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset gathered at the MAC High School and the St. Maarten Vocational Training School (SMVTS) to paint peace murals in efforts to promote peace among the youths. 

One of Rotary’s key area of focus involves promoting peace and the month of February is recognized as Rotary’s Peace and Conflict Resolution month, where Rotary clubs worldwide initiate projects centered around the ideal of Peace. 

Given the recent uproar surrounding at-risk youth in our community involved in criminal acts and violence in the schools, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset felt a sense of urgency to address the issue head on. The motive behind the painting of the peace mural is that it would serve as a daily inspiration to the students, faculty and staff and a reminder on the importance of exhibiting peace.

The peace murals portray a “Peace Dove” along with the quote, “Remember That Peace Starts with You”.  Other inspirational words such as; Respect, Honesty, Love as well as the Rotary International 2018/2019 theme, “Be The Inspiration” were included in the peace mural at the SMVTS. The concept and design of both peace murals was done by member of the club, Rotarian Jade Maccow with the assistance of prospective member Jeffrey Baxter.

“The painting of the peace murals could not have come at a more opportune time. Although we are facing many challenges with our youth, criticizing them is not the solution. As revolutionary leader and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, once said ‘No one is born hating another. People learn how to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.’ Likewise, we need to focus our attention on instilling the right values in our youth, which in my opinion is the only way we can achieve change,” President Jaida Nisbett said. 

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset is committed to positively impacting our youth and intends paint similar peace murals in the other schools on both sides of the island. A heartfelt thank you is extended to the school management for the opportunity to execute our vision of the peace murals.

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St. Martin at Cuba international book fair

SINT MAARTEN/CUBA - St. Martin’s Lasana M. Sekou was among 57 authors, editors, scholars, translators, and publishers from around the world invited to the 28thannual International Book Fair of Havana, Cuba, February 7-19, 2019. 

While in Cuba, Sekou was a panelist on “Literary creation, Editorial management, and Cultural policies in Latin America,” according to Iyaimi Palomares, director of the Cuban publisher Arte y Literatura. 

Topics addressed by the speakers included the interruption of literary production during Uruguay’s last civil-military regime; use of digital technologies for added publishing opportunities in Cuba; and publishing multilingual books in St. Martin to reach wider audiences in the region and beyond. 

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Minimum speeds nationwide key in new mobile internet auction

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government should introduce minimum speeds for mobile internet in rural areas to help maintain the Netherlands’ leading role in the field, according to a new report for the economic affairs ministry. 

The report recommends that minimum mobile speeds are included in the technical specifications when new frequencies are auctioned off later this year. 

‘There are still places in the Netherlands where outdoor mobile coverage is inadequate, such as in areas where it is not profitable for providers,’ junior economic affairs minister Mona Keizer said. 

‘The cabinet wants to solve this in the forthcoming auction. Fast, mobile internet which is available everywhere and for everyone is now seen as a basic need.’ The report compilers recommend a minimum speed of 8 megabit per second by 2022 and 10 megabit per second in 2026. 

The ministry plans to hold the frequency auction by the end of 2019, which means it must publish the terms and conditions by the summer.(DutchNews)

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