Monday, December 8, 2008

Amsterdam to close many brothels, marijuana cafes

Amsterdam has unveiled plans to close brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafes in its ancient city centre as part of a major effort to drive organised crime out of the tourist haven.

The city is targeting businesses that "generate criminality," including gambling parlours, and the so-called "coffee shops" where marijuana is sold openly. Also targeted are peep shows, massage parlours and souvenir shops used by drug dealers for money-laundering.
"I think that the new reality will be more in line with our image as a tolerant and crazy place, rather than a free zone for criminals," Lodewijk Asscher, a city council member and one of the main proponents of the plan, said Saturday.

The news comes just one day after Amsterdam's mayor said he would search for loopholes in new rules laid down by the national government that would close marijuana cafes near schools citywide. The measures announced Saturday would affect about 36 coffee shops in thecentre itself – a little less than 20 percent of the city total.
Asscher underlined that the city centre will remain true to its freewheeling reputation. "It'll be a place with 200 windows (for prostitutes) and 30 coffee shops, which you can't find anywhere else in the world – very exciting, but also with cultural attractions," he said. "And you won't have to be embarrassed to say you came."

Under the plan announced Saturday, Amsterdam will spend 30 million to 40 million euros to bring hotels, restaurants, art galleries and boutiques to the centre. It will also build new underground parking areas.

Amsterdam already had plans to close many brothels and some coffee shops, but plans announced Saturday go further.
Asscher said the city would reshape the area, using zoning rules, buying out businesses and offering assistance to upgrade stores. The city has shut brothels and sex clubs in the past by relying on a law allowing the closure of businesses with bookkeeping irregularities.

Prostitution will be allowed only in two areas in the district – notably De Wallen ("The Walls"), a web of streets and alleys around the city's medieval retaining dam walls. The area has been a centre of prostitution since before the city's golden shipping age in the 1600s.

Prostitution was legalised in the Netherlands in 2000, formalising a long-standing tolerance policy. Marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but prosecutors won't press charges for possession of small amounts. Coffee shops are able to sell it openly.

Memili Rüstüoglu

Memili Rüstüoglu, Istanbul, contestant at the World Beard and Moustache Championships.

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Holland Politically Incorrect Christmas

Santa's Little (Slave) Helper

Few European Christmas traditions elicit as many diverse and divergent opinions as Black Pete of the Netherlands. Santa's former slave may have been whitewashed in recent years, but many still view him as a racist caricature from the country's colonial past.

Myths about Santa's sinister helpers are as widespread in Europe as Grimm's Fairy Tales. In parts of Germany, Knecht Ruprecht brings terror into the hearts of naughty children when the gift-giving season arrives. In Austria it's Krampus, the horned devil who torments adolescents with asocial tendencies. In France, Pere Foutard does the proverbial whipping. Kids in America are threatened with coal in their stockings if they act up, but in European folklore, they are beaten with switches or stuffed in sacks. Brutal stuff. But in no country is the tale of Santa's diabolical sidekick as bizarre as in the Netherlands, home to Zwarte Piet ("Black Pete").
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Day Opening - December 8

Happy Bayram!!!