Some chewing gum and a packet of baby killers please

Cigarettes kill. But so do lots of things. What is a shareholder to do? asks economist Mathijs Bouman. I only had a couple of items in my shopping basket which entitled me to pay at the service desk. As my shopping was being scanned I gazed at the display of cigarettes against the wall. There was none of the brightly coloured packaging as in the days when I too thought smoking was cool. In its place had come grisly pictures of trench mouth, puss-oozing abscesses and murky pupils. I even spotted the occasional dead baby. If this stuff is so dangerous why is this shop selling it? I thought. Bankers who sell dodgy financial products are hounded unto the third generation by supervisors shouting ‘consumer interest’ but a supermarket can sell a packet of baby killers with impunity. Why? I admit I’m not the first person to ask the question. In 2016 the Dutch doctors’ organisation KNMG lobbied for a ban on the sale of cigarettes in supermarkets, as well as petrol stations, bookshops and chemists. Smokers would be limited to specialised tobacco shops. In the event politicians said 'no' but the last cabinet did promise a ban on displaying smokes. From 2020 cigarettes will be hidden behind closed doors. Some supermarkets are already doing this. But keeping the stuff out of sight is an entirely different thing from banning its sale altogether. Shouldn’t the big supermarkets themselves simply decide to stop selling cigarettes for the common good? I have my doubts. Before you know it they will feel compelled to ban fatty crisps, salty liquorice of freshly brewed Indian Pale Ale, which, taken in sufficient quantities, will kill you too. Isn’t it up to the consumer to decide how unhealthy he or she wants to be? As I was trying to find my way out of my quandary, behavioural scientist Robert Dur showed me a recent article by Nobel prize winner Oliver Hart (Harvard) and Luigi Zingales (Chigago) questioning Milton Friedman’s 50-year-old adage that the public interest must not stand in the way of maximum profits. The politicians can take care of the public interest and ethics is a matter for the individual, Friedman said. Society would be better off if companies do what their shareholders want them to do, i.e. make money. Hart and Zingales agree that companies must keep their shareholders’ interests in mind but think that these interests cover more than just money. A shareholder is only human after all. He has his own ethics and social interests. It follows that if shareholders of a supermarket are more interested in living babies than dead ones the sale of cigarettes must stop pronto.  Companies should not go for maximum market value but maximum shareholder welfare, they say. Pension fund ABP recently announced it would no longer invest in tobacco companies. I wonder if its portfolio still contains supermarket shares. This article appeared earlier in the Financieele Dagblad.  More >

Podcast: The Ophefgeddon Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Ophefgeddon Edition – Week 20 The podcast returns after a two-week break with a round-up of the minor outrages that have been swirling round social media, from the French family who cheated death at a safari park to Hema's protracted protractors and Thierry Baudet's unsettling ode to a baguette. Elsewhere, find out why Mark Rutte had some unlikely guests on his flight back from the Caribbean, how Amsterdam is planning to turn back the tourist tide and why universities are concerned about the growth of English-language classes. And in sport, we catch up with Tom Dumoulin's bid for a second Giro title and attempt to untangle the Byzantine permutations of the end-of-season Eredivisie play-offs.  Top story Rutte visits Sint-Maarten to discuss hurricane funding, comes back with iguanas News Blunder meant police ignored tip-off about man who stabbed three in The Hague Universities call for cap on English-language tuition First 'new' Rembrandt discovered for 44 years Amsterdam takes steps to...  More >

The Dutch are being converted to rugby

The Dutch are being converted to rugby, on the pitch, beach and in prison The season is winding down, but Dutch rugby is making great strides, winning both players and fans. So forget the hockey sticks and the ice-skates, it’s time to grab your boots and turn your focus towards the Dutch rugby pitches, says Rachel Kilbee. This weekend sees the last rugby matches played in the national championships just before the local players should be taking their foot off the gas for a short summer break. But in reality, the Dutch players don’t have too much time to rest with new rugby challenges lining up in the Netherlands. On the professional field it has been confirmed that Brazil will visit Amsterdam on 16th June in an exciting game against the Dutch, a result which if positive, will raise the Rugby NL team to 26th in the IRB ranking. ‘It’s been a long season for us, but since hearing the news last week, we’re making a game plan and we want to win. It will mean more funding and more sponsorship for us,’ says team captain, Dirk Danen. With...  More >

Eindhoven to host expat fair and festival

The ‘I am not a Tourist’ expat fair and festival return to Eindhoven Want to learn Dutch? Find a house? Experience Dutch culture, find a job, make connections, or solve immigration and tax issues? Or do you just want to have a fun day out? It’s all possible at the 'I am not a Tourist' Expat Fair & Festival which takes place on Sunday June 10 in Eindhoven. Check out an impression of the day here and get your free ticket now online! If you’re not yet familiar with it, Expatica’s 'I am not a Tourist' Expat Fair is the biggest expat-oriented event in the Netherlands. And this year, for the third time, it’s coming to Eindhoven! 'I am not a tourist' Expat Fair Eindhoven, organised with the Holland Expat Center South, is a prime opportunity for the international community in the south of the Netherlands to get the low-down on life in the ‘low countries’. On June 10 the historical VDMA area in Eindhoven’s city centre will see 50 specialist exhibitors and more than 1,500 internationals come together to exchange information, find opportunities,...  More >

‘An expat feels like an outsider and I don’t feel like one. I feel like I’m home’

‘An expat feels like an outsider and I don’t feel like one. I feel like I’m home’ American national Jessica Taylor Piotrowski is an associate professor at the University of Amsterdam. Happily settled here for six years with her husband John, she’s had little sleep in recent days. As spokeswoman for the United Expats of the Netherlands movement, she is busy campaigning against plans stop the 30% ruling tax break for current beneficiaries and hopes their petition will hit 25,000 by the time they present it to MPs later this month. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved here for work, of course. There was a position that opened at the University of Amsterdam focusing on children and the media; I did my PhD studies in communication science, with a focus on children and media. And the funny part was that, when that position came out, I must’ve had 10 different people send it to me. And I kept saying: ‘I’m not going to move to Europe, I live in Philadelphia!’ Eventually I applied and next thing you know we accepted a position here. It was definitely fate. I...  More >

How to buy a house in The Hague

From the sea front to suburbs, here’s how to buy a house in The Hague As the cost of rental housing continues to rise, buying your own home has become a very real alternative for expats – and no-where more so than in The Hague. The Hague is a welcoming city with a wide variety of places to live, from the rolling dunes in Kijkduin to the canals and gracious mansions of the city centre. You can live in an 18th century town house or a modern home in one of the many suburbs, a high-rise flat near the main railway station or close to the sea in Scheveningen. The first thing you need to do is decide where you would like to live, says Bernadette Willems, of estate agency BW Housing. ‘If your children go to an international school, you will want to be near them,’ she points out. ‘Otherwise, the Statenkwartier, Belgisch Park, Benoordenhout, Archipel and Duinoord are currently among the most popular areas. Price, of course is key and The Hague has homes for every budget. For example, a smart, four bedroom home on a new development near Kijkduin...  More >

Holleeder trial is hottest ticket in town

The hottest ticket in Amsterdam is a seat at the Holleeder trial This week hearings resume in the trial of Willem Holleeder, accused of ordering six gangland killings. His sister Astrid is a key witness for the prosecution. The hottest ticket in Amsterdam right now is not for the Rijksmuseum or some Dutch dj, but a battened-down brick courthouse on an industrial estate on the city's western fringe. On a damp, cold morning in mid-March dozens of silhouettes were discernible in the gloom, dancing on their feet to keep warm, in a queue that stretched back towards a bed centre, a car parts dealer and a drive-through KFC. They had set out in the early hours from Brabant or Rotterdam, camped out on the doorstep, taken days off work, skipped school and college to catch a glimpse of the Netherlands' most infamous gangster through a bulletproof-glass screen. Willem Holleeder, 59, is the central figure in the finale of a real-life family saga of revenge and betrayal. He has rarely been out of the news since his gang kidnapped Alfred Heineken, the...  More >

10 things about Dutch windmills

It’s windmill weekend: 10 things you should know about Dutch windmills This Saturday and Sunday (May 12 and 13) have been designated National Mill Day when some 900 windmills all over the country open their doors to the public. To get you in the mood, here are some facts and figures about the Netherlands’ most enduring industrial monuments. The oldest windmill The oldest remaining mill in the Netherlands is the Zeddam tower mill in the province of Gelderland. It is one of four remaining mills of its type. Built before 1451, it belonged to the ducal Van den Bergh family. Local farmers had no choice but to bring their grain to the mill, hence the name ‘dwangmolen’, or forced mill. During World War II, the mill was used by friend and foe alike: the Wehrmacht used it as a look-out post but it also sheltered local people who needed a safe house. Canadian soldiers left a radio transmitter in the attic which can still be seen today. The highest mill Molen de Noord in Schiedam is the highest classic windmill in the world. It stretches 33.3 metres...  More >

Off for a run? Don’t forget your eye mask

Off for a run? Don’t forget your rubber gloves and eye mask! With summer on its way, the streets of the Netherlands have reawakened with the sight of dusted-off trainers and lycra-clad runners but, as Rachel Kilbee has been finding out, there are some new necessities for the everyday runner to consider before lacing-up. By Rachel Kilbee Plogging - No, it’s not a typo — it’s definitely ‘Plogging' and it’s the latest craze that is spreading it’s environmental arms across over 40 countries, with the Netherlands taking up the baton with fervour. ‘Find a group of people to do it with. The more of you there are, the more fun you will have, you’ll clean up a bigger area and feel more productive pushing each other,’ says Erik Ahlström, founder of Plogga in Sweden where it all began. So what exactly does Erik want us to do? ‘It’s a treasure hunt!’ he said. The concept is simple — you run around your local area, collecting rubbish in a bag as you go. It’s cardio exercise with an added bonus of complimentary squats...  More >

Rabbi Lody van de Kamp: ‘I won't be used

Rabbi Lody van de Kamp: ‘I refuse to let myself be used to exclude other groups’ Attacks on a Jewish restaurant in Amsterdam, political parties signing a ‘Jewish Pact’ to protect the Jewish community, and a new report with shocking findings about increasing antisemitism in the Netherlands - amid all of the noise and hysteria, rabbi Lody van de Kamp has a different way of dealing with hate and discrimination. Laura Vrijsen went to meet him. Lody Van de Kamp (69) is an Orthodox Jewish rabbi living in Amsterdam. Being the son of two Holocaust survivors, he is very much aware of the dangers of discrimination and the exclusion of certain groups in society. He wrote several books about the Holocaust, and he regularly visits schools to teach children about World War II. More than this, the rabbi is involved in many projects aiming at building bridges between people from different backgrounds. He has particularly good connections within the Muslim community, and whenever he senses discrimination towards them, he is the first one to show his support. I...  More >

Podcast: The Shortbread and Chill Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Shortbread and Chill Edition – Week 18 It's an especially taxing edition of the podcast this week as we ask if the government has left expats high and dry with its changes to the 30% rule. Elsewhere, the Prime Minister fires a warning shot over the EU's plans to raise its budget after Brexit, passengers at Schiphol are stranded by a power cut, FC Twente crash out of the Eredivisie, Max Verstappen crashes out of another Grand Prix and an eight-year-old girl has an uplifting experience while waiting to cross a bridge. Top story Rutte calls EU plans to expand budget and scrap rebates 'unacceptable' News Dutch scientists create embryos without fertilisation Flights delayed and cancelled at Schiphol after power failure Websites selling fake goods taken offline Eight-year-old girl left dangling in mid-air from bridge barrier (NOS, Dutch) Sport Red Bull boss orders Verstappen and Ricciardo to apologise to team for crash FC Twente relegated after 34 years following 5-0 thrashing by Vitesse Ophef...  More >