Amsterdam: an end to the red light district?
It may not spell the immediate demise of the louche British stag weekend in Amsterdam, but the Dutch capital has decided to crack down on the brothels and cannabis shops of its infamous red light district.
A ten-year scheme, known as Project 1012 for the city postcode containing the red light district, kicked off in 2008 with the aim of making substantial cuts to the number of window brothels and drugs shops. But it's only now that the city is beginning to see some tangible results.
200 of a total of 480 window brothels are slated to go. The city has managed to close down half of these; a zoning and compulsory purchase plan will be drawn up to tackle the next 100. Of the 76 cannabis shops in the area (usually known as "coffeeshops"), 26 will close their doors.
There is a feeling in Amsterdam that the City Council is finally determined to get to grips with a burgeoning sex, drugs and money laundering industry in the red light district increasingly controlled by eastern European mafias, particularly from Bulgaria and the Ukraine.
With the encouragement of the authorities, in recent months reputable entrepreneurs have started to invest in the area. Warmoesstraat, traditionally a sleazy district, now boasts a deli, florist and baker.
Meanwhile, ordinary Amsterdammers have been shocked by an upsurge in cases of human trafficking of girls for the sex industry. There is a strong sense in the city the exploitative reality of the red light district has little to do with traditional Dutch tolerance.
"There had been warning signs starting in the 1990s that organised crime was basically using the area as its living room," says Lodewijk Asscher, deputy mayor of Amsterdam and the head of Project 1012.
"Amsterdam has always been a free and tolerant city, but we want to place more emphasis on museums and culture. We want to attract more families and encourage visitors to spend an extra night here."
The vast majority of tourists spend no more than two nights in the city. Many stag parties – known locally as "vertical" tourists – contribute little to the city's formal economy.
In the very heart of medieval Amsterdam, the red light district also feels like a missed opportunity. Its canals, particularly the parallel Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Achterburgwal, are flanked by some beautiful seventeenth-century townhouses. And in spite of the sex and drugs industry, they have not suffered from rampant commercialism to the same degree as nearby Damrak which – with its amusement arcades, fast food joints and exchange booths – presents a poor first impression to a visitor stepping off a train at Centraal Station.
A good example of change in the red light district is the square around the thirteenth-century Oude Kerk, the city's oldest church, which was the venue for The International Organ Festival that finished in September.
The Oude Kerk is ringed by brothel windows and a cannabis shop and, since April, a new and surprising arrival: the 106-cover Anna restaurant (www.restaurantanna.nl/en), which serves dishes such as truffle risotto and sautéed monkfish in a sleek, minimalist setting.
Its owner, local entrepreneur and former DJ Michiel Kleiss says that he likes the "edge" of the red light district but feels the area "could do with a better mix".
"Gentrifying the red light district is not the intention," says Kleiss. "But things have got out of hand. The British should be welcome here in the neighbourhood to have a drink, but stag parties are not only tacky and sometimes overwhelming, they are also a waste of a great medieval city."
Driving and Flying with Portable Electronic Devices
This week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for a nationwide ban on the use of portable electronic devices while driving.
NTSB members say the action is necessary to combat a growing threat posed by distracted drivers.
While distracted driving has been a problem "since the Model T," in the words of NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman, authorities say it has become ubiquitous with the explosion in the number of portable smart phones.
Meanwhile, portable electronic devices are being put into airplane cockpits to help eliminate paper.
The FAA and American Airlines announced earlier this week that AA will be the first major airline to switch to a paperless cockpit. If you have a bumpy flight next time you fly AA, it might be because your pilot is playing Angry Birds (and using the same flight arc as the bird).
iPads in cockpits is growing quite popular among pilots and airlines.
Presumably, the cockpit crews will continuously use their portable electronic devices even as flight attendants instruct passengers to turn them off and put them away.
It seems the feds are sending mixed signals regarding portable electronic devices.
Hillary Clinton's "Gay Rights" Speech And American Hypocrisy
On December 6th, in a speech in Geneva marking international human rights day, Secretary of State Clinton called for all nations to embrace the goals of LGBT activism, declaring that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” and that, “It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished.”
Unfortunately, her speech, which was hailed by gay activists worldwide, was an exercise in hypocrisy, not to mention an insult to several billion people worldwide.
She rightly stated that, “It is [a] violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.” But this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Mrs. Clinton had the audacity to compare religious or cultural objections to homosexual practice to “the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation,” as if the religious and moral objection to men having sex with men is somehow equivalent to the Muslim practice of honor killings or the Hindu practice of burning widows.
“In each of these cases,” she said, “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.” And she said this in our name, as Americans.
.She stated that “opinions [on homosexuality] are still evolving”, just as opinions evolved over time with slavery, and “what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.”
In other words, if you have an issue with the lewd sexual displays at your city’s gay pride parade, or if you’re not comfortable with a man who dresses as a woman using the ladies bathroom, or if you don’t want to see a kid raised by two lesbians and thereby deprived of having a father, or if you believe that God made men to be with women, then you are the moral equivalent of a slave trader or a slave owner.
All this (and more) came from the lips of our Secretary of State at the same time that President Obama issued a memorandum instructing government officials to “ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender persons” around the world. (The president’s memorandum is far-reaching and should be read carefully.)
There was an immediate reaction from African leaders, and the Christian Science Monitor noted that, “The enshrinement of equal rights for homosexuals into US foreign policy activities has drawn quick ire from African nations, with one senior figure saying the notion is ‘abhorrent’ across the continent.”
As expressed by Uganda’s John Nagenda, a senior adviser to the president, “I don’t like her tone, at all. . . I’m amazed she’s not looking to her own country and lecturing them first, before she comes to say these things which she knows are very sensitive issues in so many parts of the world, not least Africa.”
Of course, Mrs. Clinton stated that America still had a way to go on the issue of “gay rights,” but it is sheer arrogance to claim that the religious and moral views of several billion human beings must change. Based on what criteria?
By all means we should champion the equal protection of all human beings, regardless of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. But that is only a small part of our government’s agenda. The greater goal is the complete normalization and even celebration of everything LGBT, with the corollary removal of all opposition, be it in word or deed.
The truth be told, the modern gay rights movement is a fruit of the radical counterculture of the 1960’s, and it is grounded not in the civil rights movement (despite persistent claims to the contrary) but in the sexual revolution, a revolution for which we are still paying the price.
And this leads to a larger question: Who appointed America as the moral leader of the world? Not only are we the world leader in exporting pornography (by a landslide), but as Bill Bennett noted, at the end of the 20th century, America had:
* The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world
* The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world
* The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (by a wide margin)
* The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (also by a wide margin)
* The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world
And we are lecturing the world about morality? We are telling whole nations that their religious, cultural, and moral objections to homosexual practice are no different than the endorsement of widow burning in India or the approval of a Muslim father killing his daughter because he didn’t like the boy she was dating? Seriously?
While our country certainly has been a force for worldwide good in many ways, when it comes to sexual morality we should be hanging our heads in shame, not lecturing others.
Mrs. Clinton’s speech was a source of national embarrassment, not pride.
Purge on Britain's 'elf and safety' Scrooges ruining the spirit of Christmas with false edicts
A purge has been launched by Ministers on the health and safety Scrooges who ruin the spirit of Christmas. They released a list of false ‘Christmas elf and safety’ edicts wrongly used to ban children’s snowball fights and brand Santa’s sleigh as dangerous.
The move was accompanied by a renewed pledge to scrap all pointless safety ‘do’s and don’ts’ and make it easier for unnecessary rulings to be overturned.
Chris Grayling, the Coalition Minister in charge of the red-tape purge, said: ‘Christmas is a time for celebration and fun. ‘We’re determined to stamp out the health and safety kill-joys who try to bring the spirit of Scrooge to Christmas events.’
The ten-point list of ‘ridiculous’ Christmas safety bans, compiled by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), included:
* Children banned by teachers from having snowball fights in case injured pupils seek compensation;
* Homeowners and businessmen being sued for clearing the snow outside their properties by passers-by who had slipped over;
* Carol singers being classed as a health and safety risk;
* Panto performers ordered not to throw sweets into the audience for fear of injuring them;
* Santa’s sleigh outlawed for posing a traffic risk – a Father Christmas was banned from riding his sleigh through Alnwick, Northumberland, after council officials said their insurance would not cover it.
The HSE said it was wrong to use health and safety rules to ban people from putting coins in traditional Christmas puddings.
Mr Grayling, the Work and Pensions Minister, said that in the New Year he would set up a ‘challenge panel’ to help businesses overturn needless rules. He added: ‘We are putting common sense back at the heart of health and safety. ‘Our reforms will root out needless bureaucracy and ensure the health and safety system is fit for purpose.’
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.