Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ Category

Netherlands is closing eight prisons because of a lack of criminals, the Dutch justice ministry has announced, reports Huffington Post.

Declining crime rates in the Netherlands mean that although the country has the capacity for 14,000 prisoners, there are only 12,000 detainees.

The decrease is expected to continue, the ministry said, with Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak saying that natural redundancy and other measures should counter any forced lay-offs.

A report last year on prison overcrowding said that surging populations undermined the rehabilitation of prisoners and risked increasing reoffending in the future.

The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA), which represents more than 60 organisations, called for the government to urgently limit “the unnecessary use of prison, ensuring it is reserved for serious, persistent and violent offenders for whom no alternative sanction is appropriate”.

It came after Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said the rising pressure on prisons from budget cuts and increasing numbers cannot go on indefinitely.

http://www.thedailystar.net/world/netherlands-close-8-prisons-lack-criminals-97480

By James Gorman

If an exercise wheel sits in a forest, will mice run on it?

Every once in a while, science asks a simple question and gets a straightforward answer.

In this case, yes, they will. And not only mice, but also rats, shrews, frogs and slugs.

True, the frogs did not exactly run, and the slugs probably ended up on the wheel by accident, but the mice clearly enjoyed it. That, scientists said, means that wheel-running is not a neurotic behavior found only in caged mice.

They like the wheel.

Two researchers in the Netherlands did an experiment that it seems nobody had tried before. They placed exercise wheels outdoors in a yard and in an area of dunes, and monitored the wheels with motion detectors and automatic cameras.

They were inspired by questions from animal welfare committees at universities about whether mice were really enjoying wheel-running, an activity used in all sorts of studies, or were instead like bears pacing in a cage, stressed and neurotic. Would they run on a wheel if they were free?

Now there is no doubt. Mice came to the wheels like human beings to a health club holding a spring membership sale. They made the wheels spin. They hopped on, hopped off and hopped back on.

“When I saw the first mice, I was extremely happy,” said Johanna H. Meijer at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “I had to laugh about the results, but at the same time, I take it very seriously. It’s funny, and it’s important at the same time.”

Dr. Meijer’s day job is as a “brain electrophysiologist” studying biological rhythms in mice. She relished the chance to get out of the laboratory and study wild animals, and in a way that no one else had.

She said Konrad Lorenz, the great-grandfather of animal behavior studies, once mentioned in a letter that some of his caged rats had escaped and then returned to his garden to use running wheels placed there.

But, Dr. Meijer said, the Lorenz observation “was one sentence.”

For the experiment, the wheels were enclosed so that small animals could come and go but so that larger animals could not knock them over. Dr. Meijer set up motion sensors and automatic video cameras. Several years and 12,000 snippets of video later, she and Yuri Robbers, also a Leiden researcher, reported the results. They were released in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Gene D. Block, chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, was not involved with the paper but knows Dr. Meijer and had seen the wheel set up in her garden. He said the study made it clear that wheel-running is “some type of rewarding behavior” and “probably not driven by stress or anxiety.”

Mice accounted for 88 percent of the wheel-running events, and spent one minute to 18 on the wheel. The other animals each accounted for less than 1 percent. Frogs, though there were very few, were seen to get on the wheel, get off and get back on.

Russell Foster, a circadian rhythm researcher at Oxford University, said he read the paper and sent it out to other scientists on behalf of the Proceedings and was delighted when peer reviews from other scientists were positive.

Marc Bekoff, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado who is active in the animal welfare movement, said in an email that he thought the paper did show that wheel-running could be a “voluntary activity,” but that mice in labs may be doing more of it because of the stress of confinement.

“Wild bears will often pace back and forth,” he wrote, “but in captivity, the rate of doing it seems to be greatly heightened.”

As to why the mice, frogs or perhaps even slugs run, or move, on the wheel, Dr. Meijer said she thought that “there is an intrinsic motivation for animals, or should I say organisms, to be active.”

Huda Akil, co-director of the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan, who has studied reward systems, said: “It’s not a surprise. All you have to do is watch a bunch of little kids in a playground or a park. They run and run and run.”

Dr. Akil said that in humans, running activates reward pathways in the brain, although she pointed out that there are innate differences in temperament in all sorts of animals, including humans. Rats that do not like to run can be bred. And plenty of people do all they can to avoid jogging, cycling and elliptical machines.

Presumably, the same is true of wild mice. While some were setting the wheel on fire with their exertions, others, out of camera range, may have been sprawled out on the mouse equivalent of a lounge chair, shaking their whiskers in dismay and disbelief.

Thanks to Dr. Nakamura for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/21/science/study-shows-that-mice-run-for-fun-not-just-for-lab-work.html?emc=eta1

happyoldman

Ninety-somethings seem to be getting smarter. Today’s oldest people are surviving longer, and thankfully appear to have sharper minds than the people reaching their 90s 10 years ago.

Kaare Christensen, head of the Danish Aging Research Center at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, and colleagues found Danish people born in 1915 were about a third more likely to live to their 90s than those born in 1905, and were smarter too.

During research, which spanned 12 years and involved more than 5000 people, the team gave nonagenarians born in 1905 and 1915 a standard test called a “mini-mental state examination”, and cognitive tests designed to pick up age-related changes. Not only did those born in 1915 do better at both sets of tests, more of them also scored top marks in the mini-mental state exam.

It’s a landmark study, says Marcel Olde Rikkert, head of the Alzheimer’s centre at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands. It is scientifically rigorous, it invited all over 90-year-olds in Denmark to participate, and it also overturns our ingrained views of old age, he says.

“The outcome underlines that ageing is malleable,” Olde Rikkert says, adding that cognitive function can actually be a lot better than people would assume until a very high age.

“It’s motivating that people, their lifestyles, and their environments can contribute a lot to the way they age,” he says, though he cautions that not everything is in our own hands and help is still needed for those with dementia or those who do experience cognitive decline as they age.

Improved education played a part in the changes, says Christensen. But the study does not disentangle the individual effects of the numerous things that could be responsible for the improvements. “The 1915 cohort had a number of factors on their side – they experienced better living and working conditions, they had radio, TV and newspapers earlier in their lives than those born 10 years before,” he says.

Tellingly, there was no difference in the physical test results between the two groups. The authors say this “suggests changes in the intellectual environment rather than in the physical environment are the basis for the improvement”.

Journal reference: The Lancet, DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60777-1

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23864-people-in-their-90s-are-getting-smarter.html?cmpid=RSS|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL|online-news#.UeE-56UTPfY

last-supper-mosaic

A newly deciphered Egyptian text, dating back almost 1,200 years, tells part of the crucifixion story of Jesus with apocryphal plot twists, some of which have never been seen before.

Written in the Coptic language, the ancient text tells of Pontius Pilate, the judge who authorized Jesus’ crucifixion, having dinner with Jesus before his crucifixion and offering to sacrifice his own son in the place of Jesus. It also explains why Judas used a kiss, specifically, to betray Jesus — because Jesus had the ability to change shape, according to the text — and it puts the day of the arrest of Jesus on Tuesday evening rather than Thursday evening, something that contravenes the Easter timeline.

The discovery of the text doesn’t mean these events happened, but rather that some people living at the time appear to have believed in them, said Roelof van den Broek, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who published the translation in the book “Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem on the Life and the Passion of Christ”(Brill, 2013).

Copies of the text are found in two manuscripts, one in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City and the other at the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Most of the translation comes from the New York text, because the relevant text in the Pennsylvania manuscript is mostly illegible.

Pontius Pilate has dinner with Jesus

While apocryphal stories about Pilate are known from ancient times, van den Broek wrote in an email to LiveScience that he has never seen this one before, with Pilate offering to sacrifice his own son in the place of Jesus.

“Without further ado, Pilate prepared a table and he ate with Jesus on the fifth day of the week. And Jesus blessed Pilate and his whole house,” reads part of the text in translation. Pilate later tells Jesus, “well then, behold, the night has come, rise and withdraw, and when the morning comes and they accuse me because of you, I shall give them the only son I have so that they can kill him in your place.”

In the text, Jesus comforts him, saying, “Oh Pilate, you have been deemed worthy of a great grace because you have shown a good disposition to me.” Jesus also showed Pilate that he can escape if he chose to. “Pilate, then, looked at Jesus and, behold, he became incorporeal: He did not see him for a long time …” the text read.

Pilate and his wife both have visions that night that show an eagle (representing Jesus) being killed.

In the Coptic and Ethiopian churches, Pilate is regarded as a saint, which explains the sympathetic portrayal in the text, van den Broek writes.

The reason for Judas using a kiss

In the canonical bible the apostle Judas betrays Jesus in exchange for money by using a kiss to identify him leading to Jesus’ arrest. This apocryphal tale explains that the reason Judas used a kiss, specifically, is because Jesus had the ability to change shape.

“Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man …” This leads Judas to suggest using a kiss as a means to identify him. If Judas had given the arresters a description of Jesus he could have changed shape. By kissing Jesus Judas tells the people exactly who he is.

This understanding of Judas’ kiss goes way back. “This explanation of Judas’ kiss is first found in Origen [a theologian who lived A.D. 185-254],” van den Broek writes. In his work, Contra Celsum the ancient writerOrigen, stated that “to those who saw him [Jesus] he did not appear alike to all.”

St. Cyril impersonation

The text is written in the name of St. Cyril of Jerusalem who lived during the fourth century. In the story Cyril tells the Easter story as part of a homily (a type of sermon). A number of texts in ancient times claim to be homilies by St. Cyril and they were probably not given by the saint in real life, van den Broek explained in his book.

Near the beginning of the text, Cyril, or the person writing in his name, claims that a book has been found in Jerusalem showing the writings of the apostles on the life and crucifixion of Jesus. “Listen to me, oh my honored children, and let me tell you something of what we found written in the house of Mary …” reads part of the text.

Again, it’s unlikely that such a book was found in real life. Van den Broek said that a claim like this would have been used by the writer “to enhance the credibility of the peculiar views and uncanonical facts he is about to present by ascribing them to an apostolic source,” adding that examples of this plot device can be found “frequently” in Coptic literature.

Arrest on Tuesday

Van den Broek says that he is surprised that the writer of the text moved the date of Jesus’ Last Supper, with the apostles, and arrest to Tuesday. In fact, in this text, Jesus’ actual Last Supper appears to be with Pontius Pilate. In between his arrest and supper with Pilate, he is brought before Caiaphas and Herod.

In the canonical texts, the last supper and arrest of Jesus happens on Thursday evening and present-day Christians mark this event with Maundy Thursday services. It “remains remarkable that Pseudo-Cyril relates the story of Jesus’ arrest on Tuesday evening as if the canonical story about his arrest on Thursday evening (which was commemorated each year in the services of Holy Week) did not exist!” writes van den Broek in the email.

A gift to a monastery … and then to New York
About 1,200 years ago the New York text was in the library of the Monastery of St. Michael in the Egyptian desert near present-day al-Hamuli in the western part of the Faiyum. The text says, in translation, that it was a gift from “archpriest Father Paul,” who, “has provided for this book by his own labors.”

The monastery appears to have ceased operations around the early 10th century, and the text was rediscovered in the spring of 1910. In December 1911, it was purchased, along with other texts, by American financier J.P. Morgan. His collections would later be given to the public and are part of the present-day Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. The manuscript is currently displayed as part of the museum’s exhibition “Treasures from the Vault” running through May 5.

Who believed it?

Van den Broek writes in the email that “in Egypt, the Bible had already become canonized in the fourth/fifth century, but apocryphal stories and books remained popular among the Egyptian Christians, especially among monks.”

Whereas the people of the monastery would have believed the newly translated text, “in particular the more simple monks,” he’s not convinced that the writer of the text believed everything he was writing down, van den Broek said.

“I find it difficult to believe that he really did, but some details, for instance the meal with Jesus, he may have believed to have really happened,” van den Broek writes. “The people of that time, even if they were well-educated, did not have a critical historical attitude. Miracles were quite possible, and why should an old story not be true?”

http://www.livescience.com/27840-shape-shifting-jesus-ancient-text.html


Not content with merely sympathising with women in labour, two male Dutch TV hosts have experienced the agony for themselves.

Dennis Storm and Valerio Zeno allowed nurses to strap electrode emitting machines to their abdomens for their show Guinea Pigs, aired earlier this week.

The shocks cause stomach cramps which simulate the excruciating contractions felt during childbirth.

“Do you think the pain will make us scream,” Zeno asked one of the nurses before the shocks began.

“Yes, it definitely will,” the nurse replied.

Sure enough, the pair were soon groaning and screaming and curling up into the fetal position from the pain.

Storm and Zeno endured two hours of the shocks before calling it a day and comparing the experience to torture.

This isn’t the first time a man has “gone into labour’ for the sake of a TV show.

In 2009, Dr Andrew Rochford put himself through a similarly agonising process for the Nine Network’s What’s Good For You.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/entertainment/2013/01/19/15/02/male-tv-hosts-experience-agony-of-labour

The PAL-V ONE, which looks like a cross between a three-wheeler and a helicopter, uses a rear-mounted propeller to take off and a free-spinning rotor on top for lift. Made by PAL-V in the Netherlands, it needs about 200 meters to take off and costs nearly $300,000.

r-THE-SEXXXTON-large570

The erotic activities of a mother and daughter in Tampa, Fla., who have become an on-screen pornography duo, are pushing the boundaries of propriety and sparking a debate among some experts, even in an industry known for its taboos.

For the last year, Jessica, 56, and her 22-year-old daughter, Monica — known as the Sexxxtons — have been filming sex scenes with each other and non-related partners for their self-titled website. The duo, who like many in pornography do not use their last names, say that even though they will have sex with another person at the same time, they are not interacting with each other.

Their definition of sex may be strictly semantics to the average person, but it also may have legal merit, according to Randy Reep, a Florida-based criminal defense attorney who said that Florida law defines incest, in part, as penetration by one family member to another.

In addition, the right to make pornography is, for the most part, covered by the First Amendment, but the Sexxxtons still might face risks.  “Being involved in pornography in the South carries certain risks,” Reep told HuffPost.  “It’s not as liberal as in California.”

But the letter of the law and the spirir of the law can be two different things, and expert psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman believes the Sexxxtons are guilty of “emotional incest.”

 “Even if they’re not having sex with each other, it has to be titillating to one or both of them, so it crosses the line since sexual arousal comes into the mix.”

Monica defends their work and says it was her idea to start the website.  “I enjoy the sex and I enjoy being with my mom,” she told The Huffington Post.  “During the scenes, I think about how we’re going to be filthy rich.”

Donna Mae Depola, a child sex abuse activist, however, believes that the Sexxxtons’ activities are potentially damaging even if they are consensual.

Depola’s book “The Twelve Tins” documents her reaction to discovering films that her dad made while having sex with her between ages 5 and 12.

“This might be even worse than my situation,” she told HuffPost. “I had no choice, but this mother is an adult and she is a mother and a mother is suppose to protect her daughter. Whether it was the daughter’s idea or not, someday this mother will regret this decision and the daughter will have such resentment that her mother agreed to her daughter’s request, that this appears to have long lasting damage.”

Depola insisted she is not judging them.

“I have no right to do that,” she said. “All I am saying is you can’t justify this behavior to anyone with half a brain. The mom has to stand up and face the truth: A mother does not have sex in the same bed that the daughter is in. Just plain and simple.”

Even though the Sexxxtons claim this is just business, New York-based therapist Silvia M. Dutchevici also believes there could be lasting damage.

“Psychologically, there will be scars for both women,” Dutchevici said. “One cannot perform sexual acts in front of one’s parent (or caretaker) without shame or guilt surfacing. Also, if there is a history of sexual abuse, these “scenes” will trigger some of the trauma.”

Porn actress and Huffington Post blogger Amber Peach has done her share of kinky sex scenes, but the Sexxxtons’ work is too much for her.

“I don’t care if they don’t touch each other or not, it’s got to be hurting something mentally. Some things are secret and most [adult] industry people understand that I think. This really has just left me speechless,” she told HuffPost by email. “I have a great relationship with my parents, and am very open with them, but shooting with them has and will never cross my mind.”

Incest has been called the universal taboo, but there are some sex experts who don’t believe the Sexxxtons are guilty of it — or that it is potentially damaging. 

Veronica Monet, a certified sexologist and anger management specialist, believes the Sexxxtons have handled their situation about as well as it can be.

“At first blush, it sounds like an incestuous enterprise but upon closer examination, I have to admit that both Monica and Jessica appear to enjoy a congenial, egalitarian and respectful relationship,” she told HuffPost. “I find their refusal to be shamed for their adult consensual choice, courageous and admirable. To their credit, they have maintained the sexual boundaries which would preclude this as being an overtly incestuous endeavor.”

Cora Emens, a Netherlands-based sex coach, said that their Jessica and Monica’s personal decisions are no one’s business, but that a mother and daughter sex scene is better in some ways than the typical girl-girl interaction.

“I’d rather see a mother and daughter interact in a sex scene than two women who are strangers and fighting for the attention of the camera,” she told HuffPost. “Whatever gets you off. Porn is all fantasy and let us all at least be free in our fantasy world. Whatever that world may be.”

Although the Sexxxtons’ story sparked controversy, research suggests that long-term porn success may not be in the cards, according to Nicole Prause, an assistant researcher at UCLA in the Department of Psychiatry who studies sexual arousal in response to porn.

“Research shows sexual acts between any parent and child leads most people to report feeling high levels of disgust, especially women, so the strong reaction to their films is unlikely to be seen as more acceptable over time,” she said. “Some researchers have suggested that erotic images online are so sexually compelling because of the novelty they provide. Since these type of interactions are so rare, and even rarely portrayed, I would expect many people who use erotic images on the internet to find them sexually arousing.”

For her part, Monica sees porn as an easy, fun way to make money, but she does have some fantasies she’d like to fulfill with her mom.

“We’ve never come across a father-son porn duo in real life,” she told HuffPost. “We tried to film a scene that was like that, but the guy they cast as the ‘Dad’ looked too much like the ‘Cockroach’ guy from that movie, ‘Men In Black’.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/07/the-sexxxtons-mother-daughter-porn-duo_n_2258245.html?utm_hp_ref=weird-news