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Dutch News
Nature thinks it is spring, and that cold you''ve got could be hay fever 2/23/2014

The warm winter is confusing nature, with plants shooting up and getting ready to flower at least a month too early, the Volkskrant reports on Thursday.‘The bulbs are three or four weeks early, but the hortensias are already in leaf and that really should not be happening,’ garden expert Ben van Oijen told the newspaper.‘I’ve seen roses in bud. We’re having to mow the grass. In fact the grass has stayed green all winter. It is extreme,’ Van Oijen said. Records This winter is likely to be the third warmest on record. Wageningen University biologist Arnold van Vliet, told Nos the situation is extremely special.‘I’ve had reports that the ground creeper Glechoma hederacea is already in bloom. Fifty years ago, the first flowers were reported on April 16,'' he said. Insects and birds are also getting ready for spring. Early butterflies have been spotted and the birds are singing in search of a mate. ‘Last week I saw a coot on a nest,’ said Van Vliet. ‘It was quite ready.’The black Alder tree is already in full bloom in the south of the country and pollen scores are mounting. People who suffer from allergies may think they have a cold but in fact they have early hay fever, Van Vliet said.

MPs vote in favour of disabled job and welfare reforms

MPs on Thursday evening voted in favour of new legislation which abolishes sheltered work schemes for the disabled and introduces extra health checks for the young disabled. The plan was supported by the D66 liberal democrats and two minor parties who negotiated changes in the legislation in return for their support in the senate. For example, youngsters claiming Wajong disability benefit who are found to be capable of working after all will not be transferred to the welfare system as originally planned. Instead their Wajong benefits will be cut slightly to encourage them to find a job. Some 237,000 people claim wajong benefits, meaning they were diagnosed as unfit for work before their 18th birthday. Welfare The legislation also includes tougher rules for people claiming welfare benefits. Claimants will be required by law to give something back to society in return for the cash, including voluntary work such as serving coffee in a nursing home. In addition, people who share a house will be subject to new rules based on the principle of shared expenses. This means, for example, a mother and son on welfare benefits will no longer be entitled to two single people’s money. Instead they will get a reduced payment in line with couples.

Sharp rise in teenagers treated for computer game addiction
There has been a sharp rise in the number of youngsters being treated for gaming addiction, Nos television said on Sunday. In 2011, 256 youngsters were treated for their addiction to playing computer games but that had risen to 426 last year, Nos said. Nos bases its claims on figures from eight addiction clinics nationwide. Some of the gamers seeking treatment are as young as 10 or 11 and are becoming more extreme in their obsession, Jan Willem Poot of the Yes We Can Clinic group told the broadcaster. ‘Some of them are gaming 18 hours a day. They don’t go to school, use a lot of drugs and are neglecting themselves.’Boys Research by Erasmus University teaching hospital in 2011 suggested some 1.5% of teenaged boys aged 13 to 16 are addicted to online games. Horst Streck, chairman of the sector group Dutch Games Association said that while every addict is one too many, designers to have an ethical responsibility. ‘There is nothing wrong with most games but in some, like World of Warcaft, where there is great social pressure to keep playing, boundaries can be broken,’ he said. The industry, government, addiction clinics and health services need to work together to combat the problem, he said.

Local elections: Amsterdam revises minority vote collection plan
Amsterdam city council has pulled back on plans to spend €400,000 on encouraging people from ethnic minorities to vote after protests from some parties that the campaign would favour the ruling PvdA. The money will instead be used for a city-wide campaign to emphasise the importance of voting involving banners on trams and waste collection vehicles. It will also include what the Parool calls ''joke stunts'' such as a free massage for the first five people to vote.The city has over 600,000 potential voters and last time round turnout was 51.4%. Polling stations in the capital will also be located in the Rijksmuseum and in the aquarium at Artis zoo.Amsterdam''s borough council for Zuid is planning to spend €60,000 to encourage expats and youngsters to vote, local broadcaster AT5 reports.This will include using the city''s official expat centre, mailings to expat clubs, housing agencies and consulates, the borough council document shows.

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