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Dutch News
On yer bike! Free public transport for kids idea derailed by cycling advocates 1/26/2020

Plans to give primary school children free bus and tram travel on Wednesday afternoons and weekends have been scrapped after Amsterdam councillors said they would rather promote cycling. A council meeting on Thursday voted to divert money earmarked for the plan into helping families buy bicycles, reports AT5. Jan-Bert Vroege, a D66 liberal democrat councillor, proposed the motion, arguing that many Amsterdammers never cycle, especially if their parents are not cyclists either. He noted that there was broad support from different parties for his argument. The original idea was part of a set of city proposals last year aimed towards making the Dutch capital car-free to ‘make more space for cyclists, pedestrians and playing children.’ Free bus and tram transport on school-free times, the city hoped, would encourage more people to make use of the city’s ‘valuable public transport network.’ According to AT5, however, many people doubted whether such a measure would reduce cars in the city, pointing out that it would have little effect on traffic related to school drop-offs and pick-ups. But others, such as SP councillor Erik Flentge, doubted whether stopping the free public transport would have much effect on ‘strengthening cycling culture’, adding that this would be hard to measure in any case. Seven parties voted against the proposal.

Maastricht University thought to have paid up to €300,000 to cyber-hackers

Maastricht University is thought to have paid between €200,000 and €300,000 as a ransom to cyber hackers, reports the Volkskrant. It is thought the university felt forced to make a payment because its back-up system was hijacked with Clop ransomware alongside the main system, the paper claims. Before the Christmas break, hackers broke into the computer system and only gave staff the key to get back in after being paid, according to university news website Observant. The Volkskrant now claims that the back-up was available on university servers and contained personal details from students and staff from years back. The hackers reportedly also blocked financial information, the e-mail system and intranet access on December 23 2019. A spokesman for the University told DutchNews.nl that the institute ‘cannot confirm any element of the article in the Volkskrant.’ He said the university has organised a symposium to discuss what happened on February 5 and present the results of the investigation into the cyber attack then. ‘Until that moment we will not comment on speculations in the media,’ he said. According to its earlier press releases, the univeristy took other systems offline, reported the attack to the police and set up a helpline. It has now installed Carbon Black protection software.

Jehovah’s Witness abuse victims unhappy at lack of care, report shows

A report by Utrecht University researchers into sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness community in the Netherlands has found that most victims are unhappy at the way their complaints have been dealt with by the church. The researchers received 751 reports of abuse, ranging from incest to rape, of which 292 were made by the victims themselves. Just 25% of victims said they were satisfied at the way their complaints against the community had been handled and only 27% of cases were ever passed on to the police or other officials. Most of the reports related to abuse in the past, with just 32 covering the past 10 years. The Dutch branch went to court to try to stop the publication of the report but judges on Thursday ruled that it could be published in the public interest. The researchers were commissioned to write a report on behalf of the justice ministry, following claims that sexual abuse claims are hushed up and that victims received no help. After the first revelations were published by Trouw in 2017, hundreds of people came forward to report their own abuse stories. Justice minister Sander Dekker earlier called for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to set up their own independent inquiry, but the church declined. He then commissioned his own report, the first investigation of its kind ever undertaken into a religious community in the Netherlands. Action The minister has now criticised the board’s reaction, saying sect officials still deny that they need to take action. The board was shown the main conclusions last December. ‘Rather than being open and acknowledging what has happened, the community tried to stop publication,’ Dekker said in a briefing to MPs. ‘The fact that so many vulnerable victims feel they are alone, and could not find their way to official help, affects me deeply.’ The board is still resisting pressure to set up an independent hotline, Dekker said. ‘I now want to have a last, urgent meeting with the board to call on them to take over the report’s conclusions,’ he said. In their conclusions, the Utrecht researchers have also urged parliament to draft new legislation which would require religious communities to inform the police when they are told about cases of abuse. Dekker did not mention this option in his briefing.

Amsterdam part of talks on fast rail route to Stockholm: LC

Amsterdam and four other European cities are looking into the option of establishing a fast train link between the Dutch capital and Stockholm, the Leeuwarder Courant newspaper said on Friday. Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki have all put the railway plan in their political agendas for the coming period, the paper said, and the five cities will meet in Hamburg in May to discuss the idea. They have also approached a lobby company based in Brussels to promote the scheme within the EU, particularly with the aim of generating funding. The EU is keen to expand and improve Europe’s international rail network to ensure that trains become a viable alternative to air travel. Currently a trip to Stockholm by train from Amsterdam would take at least 22 hours and involve four changes. Dutch railway company NS sold 13% more tickets for international trains this year, taking four million passengers to a foreign destination. The NS and Austrian rail company OBB are also planning to bring back the night train service from Amsterdam to Munich, Innsbruck and Vienna next winter. A spokesman for the NS told DutchNews.nl that the journey between Amsterdam and Stockholm will be speeded up considerably in 2028 when the fast link between Hamburg and Copenhagen opens. ‘We are also looking at the options when it comes to links to northern Europe,’ he said. ‘Support from the different regions involved can give a real positive boost.’ DutchNews.nl has asked Amsterdam city council to comment on the report.

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