RTL reveals new face of Zwarte Piet ahead of Sinterklaas season

RTL reveals new face of Zwarte Piet ahead of Sinterklaas season

Commercial broadcaster RTL is dropping blackface actors from its Sinterklaas programmes this year. Instead Zwarte Piet, the saint's traditional sidekick, will bear black soot marks on his face to show he has climbed down the chimney. The broadcaster said the new look reflected changing times while remaining 'very faithful to the story'. 'It's a Piet who is faithful to Dutch tradition without being offensive,' a spokesman told NPO Radio 1. RTL insisted in a statement that it was not taking sides in the polarised 'Zwarte Piet debate': 'It shouldn't be about who's right, but about understanding each other's point of view.' However, within hours the hashtag #boycotRTL was trending on Twitter as furious traditionalists made their feelings known. Deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher, who has chaired a series of discussions on the issue between supporters and opponents of Zwarte Piet, praised RTL's decision on his own Twitter account, adding the comment: 'Time for change'. Complimenten voor RTL. Tijd voor verandering https://t.co/P3YEmI3XQK — Lodewijk Asscher (@LodewijkA) October 24, 2016 The public service broadcaster NTR, which produces the annual Sinterklaasjournaal for NOS, refused to reveal if it has made similar changes in its pre-recorded episodes. 'Wait for the first episode on November 9,' said a spokeswoman. Several leading actors, including 'head Piet' Eric van Muiswinkel and Dolores Leeuwin, have quit the NTR version of the show this year citing artistic differences.  More >

PvdA leader will be middle-aged white man

Teenager escapes prison after killing secret baby Five candidates have officially thrown their hat into the ring for the job of leading the Labour Party (PvdA) into next March's election. As the deadline for nominations passed at 10am, the front runners looked set to be current leader Diederik Samsom and deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher. Pelle Oosting, a local government official in Deventer, was the last of the five contenders to declare after submitting the 100 signatures required under party rules on Sunday evening. Backbench MP Jacques Monasch and left-winger Gerard Bosman are the other known nominees. Labour won 38 of the 150 seats in the Lower House in the 2012 election, with Samsom taking much of the credit for his strong performances in the televised debates. But since going into coalition with Mark Rutte's VVD its support has collapsed and latest polls put it on course to win around 11 seats. On Monday the PvdA published its draft election manifesto, which includes a plan to raise an extra €1 billion, partly by raising taxes on banks, and proposals to make it harder for companies to run up debts, a move designed to reduce the number of jobs lost through bankruptcy. Women say no The party will publish the final list of candidates on November 7, when the contest officially gets under way. Candidates are not obliged to make their names public before then, but attempts to persuade the party's leading women to join the race appear to have failed. Sources in The Hague quoted by NOS said party chairman Hans Spekman had approached PvdA ministers Liliane Plouman, Sharon Dijksma and Jet Bussemaker, as well as senate group leader Marleen Barth and former MP Myrthe Hilkens, but all declined. Hilkens is no longer a member of the party. Another notable absentee is Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, who ruled himself out of the contest back in May.  More >

Dutch VAT fraud 'funding terrorism'

Teenager escapes prison after killing secret baby Terrorist organisations are being funded by Dutch-based companies through VAT fraud, TV documentary series Zembla has claimed. The programme said it had obtained a list of around 40 individuals and companies in the Netherlands who are being investigated by German prosecutors for tax evasion. The international firms are said to have traded in CO2 emissions certificates without paying VAT in several European countries. The Dutch authorities blocked CO2 fraud in 2009, but that had the side effect of enabling companies based elsewhere to launder billions of euros by routing their deals through the Netherlands. German and Italian prosecutors said there were indications that some of the money had been passed on to terrorist organisations, but gave no specific details. Documents found in a cave in Pakistan that Osama bin Laden used as a hideout led investigators to a criminal network based in Italy that stole €1 billion through VAT fraud on CO2 certificates. Junior finance minister Eric Wiebes told Parliament earlier that he could not rule out the possibility that money raised through VAT fraud was being used to fund terrorism. He said the issue was worrying but added he did not 'have a list' of suspects.  More >

More complaints about airline passengers

Teenager escapes prison after killing secret baby Dutch transport inspectors received as many complaints about plane passengers misbehaving in the first nine months of this year as they did in 2015 in its entirety, the AD said on Monday. In total, inspectors received 723 complaints about aggressive or anti-social passengers. In almost four out of 10 cases, the complaint centred on smoking, bad behaviour was involved in 35% and drink in 27%. Most complaints were made about budget ‘holiday’ flights operated by smaller airlines. ‘These attract a different sort of public to, say, a KLM business flight, a spokesman for the cabin staff union VNC said. The widespread availability of alcohol at airports in also an issue, the paper said.  More >

Reve's De Avonden translated at last

Reve’s classic De Avonden becomes The Evenings The Evenings, staple of every Dutch school syllabus and undisputed classic of Dutch literature, has finally made it into English, almost 70 years after it caused quite a tremor in the sleepy post-war literary world of the Netherlands. Dutch publishers De Bezige Bij tried for years to obtain the rights to translate the novel into English but Reve, who spent five years in England during the 1950s and briefly tried his hand at writing in English, was by all accounts highly critical of translators. Now the honours to publish what the Guardian describes as a 'dark masterpiece' have gone to Pushkin Press which earlier published Dutch children's classic A Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt. The translation is by Sam Garrett, who previously translated Herman Koch's best seller The Dinner. The book describes ten days in the life of 23 year-old Frits Egters, school drop-out turned clerk, whose days are filled with the meaningless grind of office work and whose nights are haunted by strange, unexplained dreams. Frits who lives with his parents, describes those around him with unrelenting precision, obsessively zooming in on physical defects and signs of illness and deterioration. His parents bear the brunt of this as Frits filets his father’s unappealing eating habits and his mother’s attempts at gentility. The Evenings may be dark but it is very funny at the same time. Classic According to Koch, whose work is also published by Pushkin Press, the book has parallels with The Catcher in the Rye and On the Road and could have become as big a classic had it been published in English in the fifties. But the crushing boredom described in the book is also reminiscent of Billy Liar, whose protagonist escapes into Walter Mitty-like fantasies. Neither book ends in 'liberation' for the protagonist: Billy shies away from a more exciting life in the end, and Frits, ultimately understanding, asks God to have mercy on his parents. In 1947, when The Evenings was first published, opinion was divided. Some critics were shocked by what they saw as a book that was ‘depressing’ and ‘devoid of any positive feeling’. Others picked up on the ‘disillusionment’ of a generation come of age during the war. The book was awarded a major literary prize shortly after and has never been out of print since it was published.  More >