Two Van Gogh paintings, stolen 14 years ago, are found by Italian police

Two Van Gogh paintings, stolen 14 years ago, are found by Italian police

Two paintings by Van Gogh which were stolen from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh museum 14 years ago have been found in Italy, the museum said on Friday. View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882), and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuene (1884) were taken from the museum in 2002 when thieves broke in through the roof. The museum’s conservator has concluded that the paintings are the real thing, the museum said. They are in reasonable condition although both are missing their frames and have some damage. The paintings were discovered during a long investigation into organised crime being undertaken by the Italian public prosecution department. More details will be made public at a news conference later on Friday.  Years ago ‘They were stolen so many years ago and you just don’t dare assume they will come back,’ Van Gogh museum director Axel Rüger said in a statement. ‘We don’t know when they will be returned to Amsterdam but I am sure we can count on the support of the Italian authorities.’ The two paintings are of great historical importance, the museum says. The seascape is the only painting in its collection from Van Gogh’s period in The Hague. The painting of the church was made for his mother and shows the church where his father was a pastor. The paintings were stolen from the museum in 2002 when thieves entered from the roof, using a ladder to get past the security guards and cameras. Even though the alarm went off, the thieves escaped. Two suspects were arrested in 2004 and later convicted, but the paintings were never found.  More >

Koenders: Russia should accept MH17 report

Eight arrests at Ajax-Standard Luik football match Russian ambassador Alexander Sjoelgin was summoned to a meeting by foreign minister Bert Koenders on Friday to object to Russian criticism of an international criminal investigation into the downing of the MH17, reports ANP. On Wednesday, to a heavy Russian media presence, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) presented its conclusions into how the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 passengers and crew died, two-thirds of them Dutch citizens. The JIT concluded that the Boeing 777-300 was shot down by a BUK missile, transported to and from Russia, and fired from a wheat field south of the town of Snizhne, in separatist-controlled territory. Russia: 'bias' At the time, there was heavy fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists, and the plane had diverted from its normal course due to a thunderstorm. But Russia’s foreign ministry claimed that the report was ‘proof of bias and political motivation’, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying it was ‘preliminary’ so proved nothing. The Russian defence ministry denied sending any rocket launchers across the border. The JIT said it had 100 named suspects and is confident it will succeed in finding the culprit, but did not name any individuals or government as responsible. Koenders: unacceptable But a statement from Koenders, reported by ANP on Friday, said he told the Russian ambassador in The Hague that such criticism is unacceptable. ‘Instead of blackening the study and sowing seeds of doubt, Russia should – given the convincing evidence – respect the presented results,’ he said in the statement. He protested that the Russian reaction put ‘the professionalism, integrity and independence of the Dutch public prosecution service in doubt’. Dutch media reported that this action by the foreign minister is unusual, as – although secret documents recently revealed that pro-Russia separatists were suspected by the government from day one – The Netherlands has been cautious about public comment.  More >

ZP against UN child rights: ombudsman

Eight arrests at Ajax-Standard Luik football match Zwarte Piet in his current form contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) because he can contribute to ‘bullying, exclusion or discrimination’, according to a report from the Dutch children’s ombudsman. Margrite Kalverboer calls for the figure of Santa’s helper to change, removing ‘discriminatory and stereotypical features’ so he can become a figure that reflects the joy of the Dutch festival celebrating St Nicholas's birthday. Each year, Sinterklaas has an official arrival in the Netherlands by boat, and tours the country accompanied by Zwarte Pieten (‘black Pete’) figures: blacked-up men and women with frizzy, black wigs, red lips and sometimes gold earrings, who give out sweets. Controversy Since the arrest of campaigner Quinsy Gario in 2011 for wearing a T-shirt saying ‘Zwarte Piet is Racisme’ at Sinterklaas's arrival, the figure has become steadily more controversial. Last year, a UN committee said it reflected negative stereotypes, adding that ‘a deeply rooted cultural tradition does not justify discriminatory practices.’ Now the children’s ombudsman has investigated 20 reports of discrimination relating to the figure of Zwarte Piet, interviewing young people from 10 to 16 who say racial discrimination worsens around Sinterklaas. ‘Children experience the combination of a number of typical characteristics and behaviours of Zwarte Piet as negative and discriminatory against people with dark skin,’ the report says. ‘The children’s ombudsman finds on the basis of these discussions that children are being bullied or discriminated against with reference to Zwarte Piet.’ Kalverboer told NOS broadcaster that parents, schools, youth organisations and media must reshape the figure to ensure ‘children of all skin colours have fun at this festival.’ ZP 'lesser figure' ‘We see that children can feel discriminated against through the current form of Zwarte Piet so it is a breach of their right to be treated equally,’ she said. ‘It's not up to me to say how Piet should look, but children say they don’t like the frizzy hair, earrings, thick, red lips, or that Sinterklaas is the boss and Zwarte Piet is lesser, as they see it.’ She added that fierce campaigning on both sides, for and against Zwarte Piet, is not welcomed. ‘Children say this debate has become dominated by adults,’ she said. The mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, has pledged to make the figure more modern, and earlier this year, two actors from Sinterklaasjournaal television show resigned, with ‘head Piet’ Erik van Muiswinkel saying NTR broadcaster must ‘listen to calls for another kind of Piet’. Presenter-turned-political candidate Sylvana Simons also told she believes the debate is linked to a lack of public recognition of the Netherlands’ role in the slave trade, while in ‘the United States, there is a conscious awareness of what slavery was and why [blacking-up] is not appropriate.’ Defenders But there are many equally vociferous defenders of the figure, and Facebook pages calling for Zwarte Piet have hundreds of thousands of ‘likes’. Deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher told that it is not up to the government to change the figure or make any kind of ‘Piet law’ and VVD MP Michiel van Veen added he was ‘sad’ about the ombudsman’s comments, saying: ‘Children have never thought about these issues. I really don’t believe it.’  More >

Airbnb bans 'anti-Israeli' Amsterdam host

Eight arrests at Ajax-Standard Luik football match Airbnb has banned an Amsterdam owner from its rental site as she reportedly did not want to welcome Israelis, according to The Algemeiner Jewish newspaper in America. The rental broker removed a host two hours after hearing a report that she rejected four Israeli tourists saying: ‘I support the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement and will therefore not accept guests of Israeli citizenship until there has been a significant change in the question of Palestine. 'So unless you are well documented activists who work for a peaceful solution to the problem (for whom I will be very happy to make an exception) you will have to look elsewhere.’ Airbnb confirmed the action to, saying: 'Discrimination like this has no place on the Airbnb platform and our policies prohibit hosts from declining a guest because of who they are, where they come from, how they worship or whom they love. We acted to permanently ban this host from our community approximately two hours after we learned of this incident.' A spokesman added that all Airbnb users will be asked to agree to its community commitment to treat all community members 'without judgment or bias'   The paper says that an Israeli posted the email from the host on his Facebook page, saying: ‘Four university students were simply looking to rent an apartment in Amsterdam, and this is the response we got.’ Dutch law prohibits discrimination on racial grounds. The Algemeiner could not reach the former host for comment and was unable to find the source of the Facebook post.  More >

On yer bike! - comfort wins over speed

Eight arrests at Ajax-Standard Luik football match Cyclists choose the most comfortable route over the quickest one, according to a study by Royal HaskoningDHV engineers and Eindhoven University of Technology. The Parool reports that cyclists choose their path dependent on the quality of the road surface and extent of hills, rather than going for the shortest distance. They would rather cycle for four more minutes than tackle a steep bridge or bumpy road, the study says. This flies in the face of conventional traffic modelling (and the recommended route from Google Maps) which assume bikes will always take the quickest path. The research found that segregated bike lanes were considered particularly important for electric bike users and older cyclists.   More >