All 18 entries tagged News

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October 10, 2007

Kiefer Sutherland behind bars, in real life

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7037022.stm

Under a deal with prosecutors, the star will serve the sentence during breaks in filming for his hit TV drama, 24.

Fair enough, but:

Sutherland also received a six-month driving ban, and was ordered to attend alcohol education classes for 18 months and weekly alcohol therapy sessions for six months.

Can you imagine Jack Bauer without the aid of a beast of a car?


December 06, 2006

My first publication

Right. So it’s got nothing to do with maths. And it’s not under my real name. But something I wrote got published in yesterday’s Guardian. Hurrah!

A few weeks ago, the Guardian invited readers to join in on its new Arts blog to discuss the world’s must see works of art. In between all the pretentious comments on the elitist/racist (read Western art biased) nature of the original list, there was room for constructive discussion.

So I thought of which works of art have made an impact on me, and then I remembered the piece that makes discussions about composition fun: Rubens’ Descent from the Cross. I wrote about the original (see below [1]):

Possibly not his best, but still magnificent and in its original setting. The weight of the task at hand fills the entire picture.

Rubens Real

This actually made Jason laugh, as I made it sound the painting was a bit rubbish. What I didn’t write was the fun you can have playing with this picture. If you can find diagonals in a composition, they’re probably there for a good reason! See what happens when you flip the image:

Rubens Mirror

You’ve just created Ascent of the Cross!

1 Original picture taken from exittoart


November 29, 2006

Unreported Holland, Part III

Follow-up to Unreported Holland, Part II from [TBA]

Now, before I do some work, let me bring you the last bit of disturbing news coming from the Netherlands. Trust me, it’s a big one. Well, at least in the Netherlands people believe so.

Two reporters held hostage by justice department

Basically, the two men reported about leaks within the AIVD – General National Security Service, the Dutch SIS – and that top secret documents were obtained by criminal organisations. At the moment, there’s a case against an former AIVD employee, accused of leaking such documents, and the reporters have been asked to reveal their source.

In general, in the EU, reporters are allowed to keep their sources secret, but may be asked to reveal them in court cases. This all depends on the judge’s discretion, and is the nasty shady area in anything legal. In this case, the source “could possibly” help the defendant, and no one wants to imprison an innocent man. But is this slight possibility of freedom more important than the journalists’ (and the source’s) rights and credibility?

Today, reports come from the former Dutch colony of Indonesia, where journalists are shocked of this turn of events. It wasn’t until recently that the Indonesian secret service had so much power that the local journalists were afraid to report anything but the weather. And now the Netherlands, beacon of democracy, are resorting to measures not dissimilar to those well known to the Indonesians.

Freedom, democracy, national security, credibility. Take your pick.


Unreported Holland, Part II

Follow-up to Unreported Holland, Part I from [TBA]

See, I thought the Dutch general elections would be newsworthy, but again, only one report in the Guardian, and it was about a Greenpeace activist disturbing the current PM’s final election speech. Great. Again, the BBC hardly did better shining a light on Dutch politics, mainly saying there would be tough coalition talks.

First of all, let me cheer you up and refer to my earlier posts: the little party I voted for, which was projected to lose four seats and end up with two, managed to lose only three seats so finish at three. Hurrah! The interesting bit comes next: the first three people on the party’s list were held by men. With only two seats projected there was bound to be someone with lots of favouring votes. And indeed, one member managed to obtain more than 30.000 personal votes, bringing her far above the personal quotum of about 16.300.

Basically, the quotum for a party to obtain a seat in parliament was about 65.000 this year. For a single person within a party to claim a seat, this quotum is 25% of that, so about 16.300. Most party members accumulating so many votes are already on a position on the list where they’ll end up in parliament, just because their party gains enough seats. In the case of this smaller party, only 3 seats were obtained, and the lucky lady who was originally placed 6th gained the 2nd number of seats in the party, winning her a seat in parliament.

The results

And here’s a little puzzle for you: how do you create a majority of 76 with the following election results?

CDA (Christian Democrats, right of center, conservative) 41 (-3)
PvdA (Social Democrats, left of center, mildly progressive) 33 (-9)
VVD (Liberal Democrats, right wing, mildly progressive) 22 (-6)
SP (Socialists, left wing, mildly progressive) 25 (+16)
Groen Links (Green Socialists, left wing, progressive) 7 (-1)
D66 (Democrats, left wing, extremely progressive) 3 (-3)
CU (Christian Union, left of center, mildly conservative) 6 (+3)
SGP (Reformed Party, right of center, extremely conservative) 2 (0)
PVV (Freedom Party, right wing, conservative) 9 (+9)
PvdD (Animal Rights, left wing, mildly progressive) 2 (+2)

I could probably make a nice table, but don’t have that much spare time. At the moment, most signs indicate a CDA-PvdA-SP (99) coalition, but no one can find a subject on which both CDA and SP agree… Another option might be CDA-PvdA-CU (80), but does that really reflect the public opinion?


Unreported Holland, Part I

Why is it when there’s a sparrow causing havoc in some entertainment show in Holland, I can read all about it on the BBC front page, and the story lingers for days, whereas when substantial attacks on democracy occur in the same country, I have to resort to the Dutch newspapers? Since no one else does, I thought I’d bring you Unreported Holland.

The first story to bring to your attention, has actually been mentioned briefly in the media, mainly because it concerns recent developments in the UK. The Guardian even managed to make it front page news (at least on their website). Supposedly, the Dutch were going to ban the burqa from the streets. Surprisingly, this article only lingered for a few hours.

To be fair, the article was stirring with insufficient information. The parliament had merely accepted a proposal that allowed looking into such a ban. The Guardian failed to mention that at the time, within a week general elections were to be held, and a left-wing majority opposing such ban was bound to be formed as a result. On top of that, the news did reappear once more, when The Economist outrightly denounced the mere thought of banning religious clothing, wondering where the Dutch justice department had not been reading allowing the green light for this process.

One further comment. The following letter was placed after the original article in the Guardian:

Naima Bouteldja is unhappy with Dutch law banning the veil because she believes Muslim women are being asked to submit not to the law of the land but to a dominant way of life. But the dominant way of life in any country is what that country’s laws do or should reflect. No sensible western woman would walk along the streets of a Saudi city wearing a miniskirt. Saying that she worships the beauty of the human body would not save her from condemnation there, and rightly so.

I wonder if the writer realizes that he has just put Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands on the same line. Most Dutch people – even these days – would consider their country tolerant, and would probably see that as the dominant way of life. A way of life, where we don’t tell people what they cannot do. Now let’s hope the predictions are true and this proposal ends up in the bin as soon as the new government is formed.


June 29, 2006

Re:Touche

Follow-up to Touche from [TBA]

BBC News Article

Poor Harry Potter Balkenende, his second term seemed to fare so much better than his first. Or I could replace first and second by second and third, seeing that his first attempt actually stalled after the LPF fell apart in discontent.

No, after a record–breaking period of forming a new government two years ago, he still managed to get some bad seed in his council. Verdonk's self–glorifying behaviour and lack of humility didn't go well with the D66 members, who decided to leave the government and their positions in the cabinet.

Where Balkenende's first term was troubled by the near–political–legend Pim Fortuyn's legacy, this term ends with a row over another high–flying politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Guess I should sort out how to vote from the UK. Again.


May 16, 2006

Touche

Follow-up to The day democracy died from [TBA]

BBC News

For anyone who's fed up with Blair and Brown politics, go orange! At the moment, the Dutch political climate is set alight with debates concerning Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who gained asylum years ago and is now a prominent member of the Dutch parliament. Turned out she lied about her background when applying for asylum in the 90s.

As a result, the Dutch minister of integration and immigration [not exactly immigration, but can't think of a better word]. Decided to publicly annull Hirsi Ali's citizenship and give her a deadline by which she has to leave the country. Hirsi Ali is now planning to leave for the United States, of all places, after summer recess.

Anyway – haven't read that BBC News site yet, but it will probably explain more of what's going on. For now, I'll leave you with a letter from Dutch celebs [don't you just love them?] to the country's equivalent of The Sun [slightly less slantering, but with a strong right-wing flavour] showing their outrage of the procedure. Apologies for a sometimes rubbish translation. The letter was filled with Dutch idioms that have no equivalent in the English language.

We are ashamed of our country!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali will lose the Dutch citizenship and might even become stateless. How courageous! How courageous it is to treat the Number One Target of radical–islamic terrorists in this country as an unwanted person and to practically deport her.

Mohammed B.'s letter was addressed to Ayaan [Mohammed B. murdered Theo van Gogh 1,5 years ago, see trackback]

How courageous it is to persecute her with hyperformalistic jurisdiction, she, the MP who is cuffed by permanent threats, the symbol of intimidated freedom of expression.

How courageous it is, in a liberal, progressive country such as the Netherlands, to hunt her down, a brave advocate of women's and LBGT's rights, as if she's an animal.

How courageous it is, in the complex and often tragic history behind common asylum abuse, not to focus on the sometimes extremely criminal cases that enter the Netherlands (from Afghan … to Liberian child murderers), but instead to focus on that single Dutch asylum seeker who is praised around the world for her contributions to the debate on religion and politics.
How courageous it is to take advantage of the lies of a heroin, purely for political bravura.

How courageous it is to chase away a true Dutch Heroin, whom we have so few of already.

The Netherlands would fare well with less polarisation, but expelling Ayaan is polarisation to the extreme. The Netherlands shouldn't become a country of fear, a country for the faint–hearted people who will only sleep peacefully once Hirsi Ali has been removed. That cannot happen.

Ayaan deserves honorary Dutch citizenship. Beatrix, do your job!

Beatrix being Queen of the Netherlands

[End of letter]

Sadly, most Dutch people disagree. Turns out they don't want people who lie to enter their country. No matter what they're lying for. Now, where did I read the rules of gaining British citizenship?

Link to Dutch letter.


March 23, 2006

Killing in the name

Some people are driving too fast. Some people can't help but think they know what's best for their country. Some people can't help but think they know what's best for other countries.

Holland is a perfect example of what happens when there is no governing moral standard. The Dutch have decriminalized most drugs and people smoke dope openly in venues set aside for the practice. Prostitutes display their wares like mannequins in department store windows. And now we have at least one hospital murdering already born babies because someone has decreed them unworthy of life. Read here

Let's have a look.

The Dutch have decriminalized most drugs
Oh dear! Drugs… Let's assume you don't mean medicine, but the kind of stuff you don't get from a drugstore. You probably don't mean alcohol or tobacco either. Fact: so called coffeeshops are allowed to sell 5 grams of cannabis [weed, dope, grass] and as a result the posession of such a small quantity is tolerated.
Actually, of most drugs, only cannabis is tolerated, and in very small quantities. Turns out that coffeeshops are prevalent in Amsterdam [mostly occupied by tourists, though] which makes people believe you can smoke all the dope you want. But no.

Prostitutes display their wares like mannequins
Not sure what you've seen, and what you were looking for in the red light district. Yes, that says district – there are zones where prostitution is allowed, making up a wopping 0,00001% of the city centre [figure subject to author's abuse of mathematics] and there's no other reason to be in those zones but to have a look at those mannequins.
Also, none of them display their wares, for what would be the use to show what you've got when people can just stand outside looking at you without having to pay? So much for a job. It's just women with strong make up on in bathing suits, smoking a cigarette is optional.

Hospital murdering already born babies
This is what it's all about. Italian minister Carlo Giovanardi is convinced the Dutch are culling all the handicapped, blind, and ugly babies to make way for pretty ubermenschen. Fox News [why am I taking this seriously?] columnist Cal Thomas believes "Dutch parliament passed a law allowing doctors to actively kill patients they deemed terminally ill".
Fact: doctors are allowed to assist patients in euthanasia. This is in accordance with a patient's right to die. It involves lots of forms to fill out, by the patient as well.
Fact: in the law, minors from the age of 12 can request euthanasia. 12–16 year olds need their parents' consent. 16–17 year olds need to involve their parents in the decision process.

The current controversy doesn't speak about minors under 12, but focusses on newborns. Eduard Verhagen from the University of Groningen started the whole thing suggesting a protocol for termination of life for newborns. While looking for more information, I came across Verhagen's latest article [abstract]:

In the Netherlands, as in many other European countries, the majority of deaths in newborns are preceded by end-of-life decisions. In most cases, these decisions concern the withholding or withdrawing of treatment. Drugs with a potential life-shortening effect are often prescribed in the terminal phase of treatment of newborns to alleviate their suffering. The use of lethal drugs in order to deliberately end the life of newborns with a very poor prognosis and intractable severe suffering has been reported by Dutch paediatricians. Recently published data about end-of-life decisions in newborns in Flanders have shown that paediatricians in Flanders also consider the deliberate ending of life in newborns and young infants to be an acceptable option in exceptional circumstances. Real insight into the existing practice remains limited because the deliberate ending of life legally qualifies as murder in both countries. Few cases are reported because of the physician's fear of prosecution. Physicians in Flanders and in the Netherlands have pleaded for a different system of control of the deliberate ending of life in newborns. The Dutch government has recently announced the instalment of a multidisciplinary committee of experts to whom all cases must be reported. The advice of the committee to the prosecuting authorities will be crucial. It is expected that this change will increase the willingness to report cases.

It seems his sole purpose is to surface these cases that currently take place in murky waters. It probably happens in Italy and the USA as well, but this doctor would like to structurize the procedure and make it more humane, and as such needs a legal body to decide on this. For an objective review, go here. Anyone taking this whole nazi comparison seriously, please try and read up on what's happening before making Orwellian statements.


March 07, 2006

Tubthumping

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4780992.stm

\*Carefully steps on thin ice, making sure to have enough time to make statement*

I'm not sure if it's the best idea to blog this during International Women's Week, but the BBC article confused me.

Ensure consent for sex, men told

Okay, that's the title, and until that point it made sense. Then it continues on no matter how drunk the woman is, as a man you must have had consent to have sex with her, otherwise you could later be convicted of rape.
– I assume the terms man and woman can be interchanged in some cases

"Hi, I noticed you around. Can I get you a drink?"
"Oh yes, please, a rum and coke would make my day!"
"Ooh, before you start drinking, can I ask you…"
"Yes?"
"Would you consent in having sexual relations?"
"Ooh sorry, not now. Maybe later. Where's that drink?"

That probably won't work. But once the woman has been drinking, she will be in a state where she'll be less capacitated to make the decision. Then again, even if she consents earlier on, can't she deny it in court? Maybe a written consent – perhaps in electronic form – is the way forward?

I'm well aware of the severity of rape dates and the advantages made of people when they're drunk. But to set in stone such a blurry situation, and to blame the not so drunk person on beforehand sounds a bit too much like a freebee to me.

Isn't the worrying situation that people go out on their own – or without people they can trust – and get absolutely leathered?

*crack*...


February 07, 2006

An overly long comment

Writing about Is this free speech? from Ankit's Reserve of General Mediocrity

Hence I decided on a trackback. Also to apologize in advance for possibly being pedantic. From the start.

The Danish paper MUST apologize

They have. The re-pubishing in other Western media seems to be the bigger problem.

If, however, cartoonists and Editors go out of their way to bait a religious group and then hide behind freedom of speech, then we have entered a wrong alley.

I still disagree. In this case, there was a reason for the cartoons when they were still in context. The main problem I see is that the Danish editors did not know the severity of depicting Muhammad [let alone in a degrading manner] and underestimated the impact of the images. As far as the re-publishing in other Western newspapers is concerned, I think that the ones excluding the prophet [eg. the school kid called Muhammad] shouldn't be a problem – cartoons like that have been printed for a long time and have not been cause for violent reactions as far as I know. The cartoons including the prophet could easily be described rather than printed.

Freedom of speech in my opinion is the freedom to say what you believe, and the freedom to inform [or try to persuade] others of your beliefs. If only the book that inspired the article – quite possibly ridiculing islam and the prophet in a similar way in word – were published, there wouldn't have been a problem. If it would have included the images excluding the prophet, there wouldn't have been a problem. The author would have brought his message across and the audience could have chosen to believe it or not.

The combination of the medium [an image - easily reproducible and anyone who can see it will understand at least some of it] and the message [highly offensive to some] caused this to escalate, and I honestly believe there is no reason to review the laws of free speech.

From the BBC we find Article 10 of the Human Rights Act:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The republishing of the offending images was irresponsible [knowing they had already caused a fuss in Denmark], and in that sense could be prohibited by law [a penalty on intentionally threatening local/national/global security]. I'm no Human Rights expert however, and it will be difficult to curtail such rights without losing the original idea.

just because media in Islamic countries show such flagrant hatred for Jews does not mean we demean and sully the image of their prophet in return.

Depending on your definition of prophet, either the Jews don't have one, or it will be a prophet for Islam as well.

About the cartoons: I thought only the ones describing the reactions to the offending comics were humorous. The others seemed unnecessary, and the bomb-turban actually made me want to look away.


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