Opinion

Occupying the one percent

By Maayan Arad

AMSTERDAM – After over a month of “Occupy” demonstrations in over 900 cities worldwide, the demands and direction of the protestors are still somehow vague and unclear. But does that really matter? No. The demonstrations bring people together, let them express their disagreement with an unjust system and give them hope for the future. The success of the movement, however, depends on the message it brings to the world and the way the demonstrators present the issues to a wider audience.

The original demonstrations began in Zuccoti Park on Wall Street by Canadian activists ‘Adbusters’. Within less than a month similar Occupy protests emerged in over 82 countries. The protests are believed to have been inspired by prior events in the Arab nations and the mass demonstrations in Spain. The Netherlands has recently joined the march with similar protests in The Hague, Nijmegen and the biggest so far at the Beursplein in Amsterdam.

The Occupy Amsterdam demonstration began on October 15 and was originally planned to take place on that day only, but it continued as many protesters decided to camp on the site. The demands of the protestors are similar to those voiced in other countries. The main issues are the downsides of capitalism and globalization, such as the unequal distribution of wealth. Also, the power and role of institutions functioning within a capitalist system, such as banks and political entities that are claimed to act with greed and do not consider the larger implications to the world, as well as some environmental issues such as nuclear power and waste and weapon manifuctioring.

Although some critics have called the protestors’ naïve, loud and even extreme, it does not take away from the fact that the world we live in is not sustainable and that inequality is growing. The famous slogan of the movement “we are the 99%”, reflects the protestors overwhelming feeling of standing in front of the 1% that has so much influence on their lives, on our lives.

Even though the main issues are still in negotiation within the leaderless movement, the vagueness of their agenda creates an interesting atmosphere. Rather than focusing on a single, political goal, the participants gather to share common values of love, sharing, and hope for a better world. They have decided to stop watching the world go by and surrender to an unjust corporate system and to start bringing out a positive message of a world with more social, and economical equality, more transparency in politics, and more awareness for social and environmental issues among the wide-public. The fast spread of the movement in the world is proof of the effectiveness of the vague agenda – All over the world people have concerns and want a better future for their children.

A problem and a danger with such protests is that sometimes, extreme and loud people get more attention than others and a misleading image of the situation might be portrayed to the public. There is no doubt in my opinion that some radical changes must be made in the world but the radical views getting a stage in Occupy protests do not always attract the best type of attention from the media, from politicians and all the people that should be considering the fact that our reality in the world is not always as it seems.

To gain momentum and really promote a change, the movement must show people that they should care, to show them they should step out of their air-conditioned office compartment or downtown tin slum and voice a concern about the world and society in which they live.

AUC’s manner of prioritizing; trees over students

By Hallie Engel

AMSTERDAM – At school this week, I noticed a flyer concerning the aims of candidates running for AUC’s student council, mocking the school’s “no printing” policy. At the bottom of the flyer were the words “this poster does not exist,” a cutting remark indeed. Though the idea of a paper-free school may be environmentally friendly, it is not student friendly, and needs to be overturned.

Reading articles on a laptop is just not the same as having them printed out in front of you, ready to be highlighted and covered in notes. Not only is reading pages upon pages on a computer a tedious process, it keeps students locked to their screens when discussing articles in class. It also makes their transport difficult, as taking a reading along to the library or cafeteria means hauling a computer.

The reluctance, or downright refusal, of teachers to recognize the policy also brings challenges. Some professors still expect students to bring printed reading assignments to class, despite the high price of ink cartridges or the regular use of a print shop, which can add up to a considerable cost. Many universities simply charge students a modest fee at the beginning of the semester for a packet of all reading assignments, making them easy and convenient to access, mark and transport as desired. Also, such a packet can be used in the event of an open notes test, unlike those found on a computer.

This policy must end. It seems to have been enacted with an admirable concern for the environment, but no thought as to the realities of schoolwork and the needs of students. Keeping it in place seems nothing more than an act of stubbornness and a refusal to change something that is failing everyone.

The third trial for a AUC´s student bar could be a charm this time

By Hallie Engel

AMSTERDAM – At a recent meeting of the Amsterdam University College student body, grievances were aired en masse and others shared their suggestions for the betterment of the school. Among them was call for a student bar to promote unity and provide students with a place to socialize. It sounded like a great idea.

And it was great when we had student bars in the past. However, on two separate occasions, the abominable behavior of certain AUC students resulted in the entire school’s expulsion from both establishments. In the first incident, students stole bottles of wine from a small bar near the Waterlooplein, located in a charming building that was over 300 years old. The second incident put the first to shame, when several students incited a rampage that resulted in costly structural damage to The Polder, a bar and restaurant near the student dormitories.

These episodes damaged the school’s reputation and cost well-behaved students a place to enjoy themselves in the company of friends. Both incidents were also highly unnecessary; at no time was there ever a need to steal or destroy. This pointless, wanton destruction was sickening and furthermore, embarrassing.

Students at AUC who want a bar to call their own, need to take responsibility for their actions and make those unaware of the fact that their behavior is unwelcome and will not be tolerated. As a group, we need to clean up our act and make sure we’re worthy of the perks of student life, or there will certainly be a price to pay.

Holland in Euro 2012 – 5 Steps to Glory

By  Piotr Wójciak

AMSTERDAM – With European Championship in Poland and Ukraine fast approaching, AmsterdamToday takes a look at the 5 greatest concerns for the Dutch national team ahead of the next year’s tournament.

Holland, currently lying second in the FIFA World Ranking, will inevitably find themselves among the favourites for silverware. With a group of extremely talented players, a coach proven on international stage and recent World Cup success in memory, the Dutch supporters have every right to look into the future with optimism. However, the road to Euro 2012 victory is still long and winding. Having comfortably secured spot in the competition, The Dutch can now start preparing for the challenge. Here are some of the most important puzzle pieces that will have to come together, should the coach Bert Van Marwijk and his assistants build a winning ‘Oranje’ team for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

1.      Avoid Injuries

Injuries have traditionally been the biggest concern for this generation of Dutch players. Being some of the most injury prone men in the business, the ‘Oranje’ leaders will have to count on good physiological preparation and a little bit luck during months preceding Euro 2012. The focus of attention will typically be Arjen Robben, whose medical history is by all means alarming. Having barely recovered in time for the last year’s World Cup, Bayern Munich winger undergoes physio treatment with a staggering frequency. However, Robben is not the only potential absentee ahead of the tournament, with Sneijder, Van Persie and Van Der Vaart all involved in serious injury dramas over the past few years. If chances of conquering Europe are to stay alive, the core players of the Dutch team have to be fully fit.

2.      Fix Defensive Leakage

With an incredible attacking potential secured, Van Marwijk’s biggest dilemma has to do with apparent defensive shortcomings. Just a glance at the first-team line-up proves the theory that the Dutch team remains unbalanced between formations. In the last qualification game against Sweden (2-3), Holland’s worst defensive nightmares featured, with lack of discipline, chaos and aerial frailty all included. Compared to the 2010 World Cup, Van Marwijk has lost another valuable man, as Van Bronckhorst retired from football. Even though Mathijsen, Heitinga, Pieters and Van Der Wiel are no top-class professionals, they proved to be reliable, even under pressure. Undoubtedly, all of them have to be at their best if Holland is to boast with a rock-solid defence.

3.      Balance the Tactics

Before Van Marwijk and his assistants took the Dutch team all the way to the World Cup final in South Africa, they caused a bit of national unrest first. Used to joyful, offensive football, Holland’s supporters found it hard to recognize their national team under the ex-Feyenoord coach at first. In what had its fairly astonishing finale in the Cape Town showdown against Spain, the Dutch demonstrated a rather calculating, containing and brutal tactical approach. Despite the relative success, Van Marwijk has to realize that with so much offensive options, his ultra-defensive style may misfire. And surely nobody wants to go through a similar ordeal as the one from the World Cup final again.

4.      Van der Vaart, Sneijder or both?

The popular opinion among Dutch football experts is that the two creative midfielders have difficulties playing along each other for the national team. With Sneijder playing a pivotal role in Van Marwijk’s jigsaw, it was Van der Vaart who traditionally paid the price for his incompatibility with Inter’s number ‘10’. ‘Oranje’s’ head coach was however often criticized for his lack of master plan and the omission of the Tottenham star. As long as the team keeps on winning, Van Marwijk’s decision concerning the duo will remain undisputed. Should Holland underperform during Euro 2012, the clash between Van der Vaart and Sneijder will be one of the first reasons for criticism.

5.      Defensive Midfielders

The gaping hole in between formations could be Van Marwijk’s biggest concern when it comes to setting tactical approach for Euro 2012. The coach will be hoping to rid the canyon-like abyss between defence and offense with the use of trusted anchormen. In the usual line-up this role is assigned to experienced trio – Van Bommel, Strootman and De Jong. Their linking duties will therefore be crucial for the flow of the Dutch game. Considering the importance of ball possession and exchange of passes in the middle of the field for the ‘Oranje’ team, the defensive midfielders are the liability here. Especially taking into account the quick temper and over-the-top aggression of the above-mentioned gentlemen.

Despite being one of the most impressive sides in European football today, the Dutch team still have plenty to think about ahead of the next year’s tournament. With the competition arguably in their best form in years, Bert Van Marwijk and company will have to produce a memorable series of performances in order to climb to the top.

Polish ‘hooligans’ not welcome in Enschede

By Christiaan Frankin

AMSTERDAM – Supporters of Polish Wisla Krakow were banned from the city center of Enschede in advance of their team’s Europa League match against FC Twente on Thursday.

The municipality of Enschede, local police, and FC Twente agreed on this measure to prevent confrontations between the opposing teams’ supporters

Local service industry members have lauded the decision. The Wisla Krakow supporters have been described as “fascist rioters who did not come here to have a friendly party” by spokesman Ronald Scholten.

According to Scholten, these supporters are aiming to make a name for themselves as diehard fighters, in advance of the 2012 European Championship

Fortunately, no incidents occurred on the day of the match.

Not all previous encounters between football teams have been this successful however.

Just last year, after the Champions League match against Tottenham, there were confrontations between supporters and police forces around the stadium.

This incident was still rather minor compared to the violence that has accompanied the rivalry between Ajax and Feyenoord, culminating in the battle of Beverwijk in 1997, which led to the death of an Ajax supporter.

Outside of the Netherlands, incidents of football-related violence have even been on a greater scale; English clubs were banned from European football for 5 years after the 1985 European Cup final at the Heysel Stadium, when 39 Juventus fans were killed, and another 600 were injured.

Such incidents raise the question of why some football supporters feel the urge to fight and destroy everything around them, every time their team plays?

While plenty of bones are broken and tendons and muscles are torn in actual football games every year, such injuries are rarely intentional, and the offending players are often punished with suspensions or fines. Football should not be a violent sport.

The world football organization FIFA has campaigned for respect and uniting people through football for several years now.

Yet, hooliganism is one of the main issues facing football today.

With crowds at stadiums often counting tens of thousands of supporters, the manpower required to ensure the safety of the fans, the players, and the police themselves is significant, and extremely costly.

As a result of recent budget cuts, football teams are now obliged to pay for the required police forces and security measures around the stadium on match days. As a result, hooligan fans are directly costing their clubs millions of Euros every year.

It is difficult to argue any rational reasons for the violent behaviour shown by football hooligans, so perhaps the irrational ones should be considered.

Football is a sport of passion, and can invoke strong emotions, including those of anger. Especially when one’s team is on the losing end or consistently disadvantaged by the referee.

Still, this cannot be an excuse to break through fences to assault people, simply because they’re wearing a different colored shirt.

Perhaps it is not football that entices these people to violence, instead, they utilize football as a means to express their pre-existing aggression.

Whatever the reason may be, hooliganism will not end any time soon, and until then, clubs, municipalities, and police will have to work together to prevent tragedies such as that of the 1985 European Cup final; if that means blocking a city centre, so be it.

Dutch immigration policy needs a serious rethink
By Piotr Wójciak

AMSTERDAM – Last week, Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers officially announced he would review the case of an 18-year old Angolan immigrant, whose deportation was confirmed by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service earlier this year. Leers’ statement is a direct response to a growing public discontent caused by the immigration department’s decision.

However, his willingness to reconsider the controversial verdict is merely a first step on the way to solve the issue.

Mauro Manuel came to Holland over 9 years ago as an unaccompanied asylum seeker (AMA). He was adopted by a foster family and has since then fully integrated into the Dutch society, successfully pursuing educational career. Nearly a decade later, an ICT student finds himself trapped in the bureaucratic maze. Even if granted a permission to stay in the Netherlands, Mauro will still face years of formal procedures before given full citizenship. In practice, his rights as a temporary resident in Holland will be largely limited.

The decision of the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service sparked a heated public debate about the current shape of the immigration policy. In a television series, Waving Goodbye to the Netherlands, the Dutch public broadcaster VARA shows stories of other refugees seeking for asylum on the territory of the Netherlands. One of them, Tobias Kovi (not his real name) from Togo, describes his nine-years struggle with the Dutch immigration system. Promising artist, fluent in Dutch and 3 other languages, a cum laude graduate and a holder of a master degree in Fine Arts, had to face a deportation scare despite his long-term commitment to Holland. “It takes so long. People’s lives are on hold for as long as ten years. Your life, your personal development and your future are blocked.” Kovi said on the show. Although the Togolese was finally granted a Dutch passport, he warns: “Mauro has to prove he has no economic or legal connection with Angola”.

In his initial statement Leers rejected the possibility of granting a residence permit to Manuel. The sudden change of stance is a consequence of a discussion that took part in the government last week. The majority of MPs, including those from the ruling coalition party CDA , expressed their belief that immigrant youths should be allowed to stay. What is more, according to an official document released by the Interior Ministry, the decision about deportation is not applicable to all AMAs cases. Those individuals who have spent more than 3 years on the territory of the Netherlands and have no links to their own country are allowed to remain in Holland.

All this can be considered good news for the Angolan teenager and a number of other AMAs in Holland. Although his fate is not known yet, cases like his prove that the debate about the Dutch immigration system is still important and unfinished.

A logical reaction to the story of Kovi or Manuel is that of a shock. It is hard to imagine more legitimate candidates for residence permit than the young, ambitious people who have spent their entire lives in Holland and – most probably – barely even remember their homeland. Yet, the almost unimaginable perspective of losing what they consider to be their home looms on many AMAs in Holland everyday. It is highly possible that without the media intervention, the MPs would have never gotten to know Manuel’s story. He would have then been sent back to the country he has almost nothing to do with. This idea alone seems frightening.

But even more alarming is the fact that this is happening in Holland, the supposed land of freedom and arguably the most tolerant country in the history. If we overlook the bureaucratic machine overtaking the common sense of the policy makers, we will inevitably destroy our democracy. Manuel’s case shows how little it takes to do so.The Unknown Street Artist

By Gabrielle Davelaar

AMSTERDAM – Every city has its own street art: from a simple tag to a
genuinely breathtaking piece of art. Nevertheless, the name behind
these artworks remains unknown. Being curious to what kind of street
art can be found in Amsterdam, I toured the city to find our very own
Banksy’s.

The street art tour started with an accidental find of a most
beautiful artwork next to the Flevopark swimming pool, where I tried
to mix in with the underground scenes of graffiti. One thing was made
clear: Anonymity is a necessity in the life of a street artist.

A piece can be recognized by the artist’s tag and style, but unlike an
artist such as Herman Brood, we don’t know much more about them than
their signature, and for good reason. In legal terms, street art is
considered vandalism since the artist uses public space as their
canvas.

Amsterdam street art appears not to be as politically oriented as in
many other urban cities such as the wall of Israel, or places such as
Berlin or the UK. The most politically oriented street art in
Amsterdam can be found in the Spuistraat, where illegal housing is
using street art as a statement.

Most often, however, Amsterdam street art is done in deserted places,
such as construction sites, subways, as well as along the train tracks
between Amsterdam Central and Sloterdijk. One of these places is at
the Bilderdijkkade where an old factory used to be. The remaining
walls are now filled with major works of arti which are particularly
colourful pieces, clearly displaying the different techniques between
the different pieces.

Another interesting place, in particular through its history, is the
Bunker found in Amsterdam Noord near the IJhallen. The Bunker is the
remainders of a second world war bunker where underground techno
parties used to be held, particularly in winter when the Stubnitz, a
travelling cruise ship would anchor and throw some of the biggest
underground parties of the season. All that is left now is a visual
mishmash of different urban street artists, worth taking a look at.

Since two years projects are organized by the municipality and ASA (
Amsterdam Street Art) to give street art a massive boost and
recognition in Amsterdam. My tour around the street art of Amsterdam
raised certain questions: does street art still have its “criminal”
status as it used to be or did it become an organized legal way of art
with a rough edge, where street art can be done during the day on
legal places, where the street artist is working while people are
walking by with the bags full of groceries. In this case, the unknown
street artist is suddenly not that anonymous anymore.

For the outsiders that like street art, but too lazy to bike through
the whole city or want to see artwork from the other side of the world
go to: http://streetartview.com/ where Google street view is used to
show street art from around the world.

Holland obstructs E.U. consensus on Israel-Palestine conflict.

By Omid Azadi

AMSTERDAM – Last week, Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs and well-known Israel ‘groupie’, Uri Rosenthal, rejected an E.U. consensus report on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, as he found it to be ‘too critical of Israel.’ Holland has received great criticism by fellow E.U. nations for obstructing the accord. The Luxembourgian foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn, responded to the issue by referring to PVV party leader Geert Wilders´ influence in Dutch politics and his close ties to Israel, stating that:  ´We are going to have a problem, if Geert Wilders is directing European foreign politics´.

However, Geert Wilders’ pro-Israel stance is merely a current expression of a long-standing Dutch tradition. By going against the grain and crossing their EU colleagues, Dutch politicians have once again expressed their unconditional loyalty for Israel and the U.S.

For years now, Holland has been functioning as America’s puppet, acquiesced to America’s will, with no regard for the consequences. Holland’s position as America’s lapdog has already entangled it into two unjust wars within the last decade. And since Israel is merely an extension of U.S. policy in the Middle East, Holland must adhere to the Zionist will as well.

Whether it’s adherence to Uncle Sam, xenophobic-fueled fear towards anything Arabic or Islamic or a mixture of the two, it is time for Holland to distance itself from its current absolute pro-Israel policy. It is not serving Holland in its International relations within Europe or the Middle East, and most importantly, Israel must be held responsible for its actions because the Palestinians deserve justice.

Heineken is tastier than Belgian Rivals – or not.

By Marlene Werner

AMSTERDAM  – Here’s to the Dutch and their glorious achievement in beating the Belgians in a quality and flavor testing of national beers conducted and reported by ‘Test-Aankoop’, a Belgian consumer’s organization. What a share of kindness and affection for their national pride!

Heineken eclipsed several known Belgian brands such as Jupiler, Maes and Stella Artois. The Dutch Media, such as NOS nieuws, sprang at these results solemnly declaring, “Heineken is tastier than Belgian Beer!”

They are right about one thing: it’s quite earth shattering news, as no one would have expected these results. The story’s actual newsworthiness – markedly miniscule to start with – is based upon its startling nature, rather than on previously alleged and now confirmed convictions.

Flemish journalist Patrick Van Gompel twittered that “I’d rather have a government than admit that Heineken is drinkable.”

But, wait a minute. Even though the original report does show that Heineken scored better than the previously mentioned Belgian brands – by a conclusive 1-point difference to Jupiler and Maes – a Belgian beer actually emerged victorious.

Bockor Pils scored 82 points compared to 78 for Heineken. It is brewed by a Belgian family-owned brewery in Bellegem.

I say ‘Proost’ to that!

Creativity Amongst Drug Smugglers – 5 most unusual drug trafficking methods of 2011

By Maya Dupont

AMSTERDAM – It seems like nothing will stop drug traffickers from attempting to enter The Netherlands via Schiphol Airport.

Last week, a man was arrested for trying to smuggle 205 packets of cocaine which he had digested before boarding.

According to the military police this is almost a record amount, only surpassed by a staggering 260 packets digested by a Peruvian drug trafficker in the previous year.

The Schiphol Team, a cooperation between the military police and customs, have encountered several other remarkable drug trafficking methods over the past year.

Here is a list of the 5 most unusual drug trafficking methods in The Netherlands of 2011:

1.       The Wheelchair
A formidable amount of cocaine was found in the metal frame of a wheelchair.

2.       The Priest
A “priest” from Bolivia claimed to be carrying 3 bags of “holy sand” under his garment. Under further inspection the “holy sand” was discovered to be cocaine.

3.       The Diaper
A family ready to go on vacation had packed several diapers in their hand luggage. Their 18 month baby was wearing one of these diapers which was found to contain vials of liquid cocaine.

4.       Food & Beverage
Cocaine is not only trafficked by “body packing” but also through means of food and beverages. Some examples include coconuts, wine, hot sauce and cookies.

5.       Digestion
It appears that not only cocaine is trafficked through oral digestion. Yesterday, the Schiphol Team arrested a man who had 87 hash eggs in his stomach. Earlier this year 3 Polish guys were caught smuggling Crystal Meth in the same manner.

Despite the creative efforts of the drug mules, Schiphol recently released a statement the increased security measures over the past 2 years have led to a larger amount of drug busts in comparison to the previous years. I hereby congratulate the Schiphol Team for a job well done.

Cannabis Dealers United

By Maya DupontAMSTERDAM -Dutch lawmakers recently passed a motion dictating that only Dutch citizens should have access to cannabis by implementing a “weed pass”.
Putting into effect such a system could, however, has serious consequences on illegal drugs trade and criminality.
By introducing a pass system, Minister Ivo Opstelten hopes to gain better control over coffeeshops and decrease drug-related tourism.
However, this ban on non-residents buying cannabis will have a detrimental effect on the current cannabis policy since it will increase the number of small time drug dealers.
Consequently cannabis smokers run a higher risk of accessing other more harmful drugs.
In addition to increasing illegal drugstrade, employing the weed pass will also lead to huge economic losses.
According to a government official “drugstourism accounts for approximately 10 million euros,excluding direct trade of cannabis itself.”
Coffeeshop owners are also worried they will no longer be able to sustain themselves with the loss of such a huge number of clientele.
Although the general opinion indicates a negative response to the “weed pass”, the government hopes to actualize the revised cannabis policy nationwide by 2012.
Whether this will in fact be carried out, remains to be seen. Until then, being a Dutch citizen myself, I’ll make sure to study the “do’s” and “dont’s of “How to Become a Cannabis Dealer”.

Oh Oh Cherso, or should I say, Uh Oh Cherso

By Maya Dupont

AMSTERDAM : It appears that after three seasons of booze-induced, sexually-tinted adventures, the Oh Oh Cherso phenomenon has finally reached its breaking point and is coming apart at the seams…and we’re not talking about Barbie’s diminutive bikini or Sterretje’s loose swimming trunks.

A recent press release indicates that reality TV star Sterretje is quite
literally throwing in the towel by quitting the popular Dutch TV show.
“I no longer want to be associated with the backwards neighborhood that I grew up in. I’m tired of people judging me as a troublemaker. I want people to start taking me and the rest of the cast seriously.”

Unfortunately for him, the rest of the cast appears not to share his
vision of sobriety. In fact, the contrary appears true, particularly in
the case of co-star Tijgertje, who has been arrested 5 times solely this
year.

Latest news reports and video footage show Tijgertje to be acting
disrespectfully nonchalant whilst facing her trial in court. Her
sentence is currently still pending.

Sterretje is disappointed with his co-star’s behaviour and believes it
sheds the whole cast in a bad light.

But perhaps Sterretje should have thought twice before joining the Oh Oh Cherso cast when he was in fact betting on a serious career in the Music Industry.

On the bright side, perhaps the ungraceful ending of Oh Oh Cherso will serve as a warning to the young kids idolizing the cast’s irresponsible drinking and sleeping habits.

I wish you all the best Sterretje, or should I say Tony Wycznski?

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