Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dutch air pollution among worst in Europe

Air pollution in the Netherlands is much worse than generally believed and the air has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide and ammonia in Europe, according to the Dutch environmental group Stichting Natuur en Mileu.

The organisation bases its claim on a survey commissioned by the European Commission.
Holland also tops the list in terms of the damage caused by pollution to health, to agriculture and to nature, says the group.

The Netherlands will spend ‘just over one euro per citizen’ on combating the effects of environmental damage in the coming years, says the group.

But it pointed out that much more should be spent because in such a densely populated country as the Netherlands (484 people per square kilometre) costs can be kept relatively low. “The advantages of investments are 80 times higher than the costs,” says the environmental organisation.

Coffee shops in the Netherlands

Amsterdam is being forced to close 43 of its 228 cannabis-selling cafes to meet national regulations, Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen announced at the presentation of a memorandum on the city's drugs policy.
The cafes, known as coffee shops, have to be closed down by the end of 2011 because they are less than 250 meters from a secondary school. The city currently has some 228 outlets selling marijuana under licence.

One of those set to vanish from Amsterdam is the famous Bulldog cafe on the city’s Leidseplein which is housed in a former police station and was opened over twenty years ago. It is too close to the city's prestigious Barlaeus high school.

Like the majority of mayors in towns where coffee shops sell cannabis, Cohen is happy with the existing policy on soft drugs but would like to see regulation of the whole cannabis trade. "I want an equal policy for soft drugs and alcohol," Cohen said.

Around 25 percent of tourists coming to Amsterdam visit a cannabis cafe, Cohen said. But these tourists cause much less of a nuisance than foreigners who drink alcohol, according to the mayor.
Cohen says too that the Netherlands should not be afraid of the reaction of other countries to its tolerant policy on soft drugs. Cohen: "Research shows that young people in Amsterdam don't use more soft drugs than their peers in France, which has a repressive drug policy."

Clinton Is Said to Accept Offer of Secretary of State Position

WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, making her the public face to the world for the man who dashed her own hopes for the presidency, confidants of Mrs. Clinton said Friday.

And there is morreee

Where Ska music comes from

Already months ago a friend of mine invited me to a concert of The Slackers. I had no clue of course what kind of band or music this was, but this friend always takes me to concerts and it always proves good value.

“This is brilliant music! One that's definately in my top-ten list,” he assured me. “No way, you’re going to the Slackers?!” Another friend screamed through the phone just before the concert. “They’re one of the best ska bands I know!” This sounds promising, doesn’t it?

And so it was. Ska usually isn't my kind of music, but this band had a good mixture of mellow and up-tempo ska. The sound was excellent since I could hear all the instruments playing, understand the lyrics and the rambling in between. It’s incredible how someone can talk for three minutes with empty words. But the music fulfilled the expectations raised earlier by my friends. It’s that band where young (a ten-year-old) and old (guess seventy five) come together and enjoy it as being one.

While trumpets, trombone and harmonica were blowing through the hall, I recognised more than just some romtidledom in these cheerful tunes. Some roots-reggae and even Frank Sinatra were present. These guys are good! It made me wonder: where does this music come from? So I asked my friend. “No, ska was before reggae, it’s the reggae that came forth from ska. Not otherwise.” He denied the Sinatra-sound, at first. But five minutes later he turned to me and said that indeed this music had the snappy brass band sound from the fifties. “But it must be from around the same period!”

I couldn’t tell and therefore it's worthy to do some investigation. So, after some internet research (I’m sorry, I study in a huge library and didn’t take some books at hand for this) I’m capable of giving a reasonable answer. Ska and reggae go hand in hand. My good friend was right though about reggae sprouting from ska music. It originates from Jamaica and up until ’66 the beats of ska didn't slow down. Influences from soul music from the US, mystic believes from Rastafarism and an extremely hot summer made the ska beats lower its pace and reggae was created.

And even the brass band was mentioned. European soldiers and sailors brought in this type of music. The Jamaican, with their good ears for music, started to use the musical instruments and rhythms so well known from brass music. So no actual Sinatra influences, but definitely the reverberation.

That's two thumbs up. One for the music and one for the good choice.

For those who are interested in more background, have a look at this site. It’s written with a good flow and to the point. Wikipedia tells a bit more about the construction of the music.

Slackers in action. Thanks to rodrigorichter

Day opening - November 22

Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco