A killer gives to charity

I read the following story in a Dutch newspaper:

Two young guys rob a bakery early in the morning. They duct tape the baker and stuff him in a closet where he later dies of suffocation. They leave with a safe containing 750 euros. The guys are arrested. They are convicted . How many years, I don’t know, it wasn’t mentioned in the lead, which I think is bad.

However sad the story, these things happen all over the world all the time.

But there were two things mentioned in the article that made me wonder if this was typically Dutch.

One: From the 750 euro’s booty, one of the suspects gave ‘somewhere around 20 euros’ to charity.

Two: During a police reconstruction of the robbery, one of the suspects refuses to take part. He thinks a doll, representing the baker, looks scary. Suspect: “That was scary, I didn’t feel like taking part.” The article doesn’t mention whether he was forced to take part anyway.

Cool vending machine

This vending machine stands in the lobby of the Clay Hotel in Miami. Every morning I bought a bottle of water from the machine, because it was pretty futuristic. Have a look:

I was thinking what the point was of this mechanism, apart from that it just looks plain cool. My theory: this way your soda has a soft landing and will not explode on opening.

Metal dandruff

Twice in my life I felt dirtier after I took a shower than before.

The first time was on Iceland. The Icelandians, or whatever they are called, are lucky to have hot water spurting from the depths of the earth, for free! And good for the environment. The downside is that the water is full of sulphur that reeks of rotten eggs. So after you take a shower you stink like a skunk. I guess they Icelandians dont notice because everyone reeks. A little bit like two people that had garlic.

The second time was last week in Moscow, when I took a shower after some repairs on the water mains. Normally they do this in the summer, when the hot water is switched off in every apartment in Moscow for two to three weeks.

I only realized how dirty the water was after it left some horrible residue in the bathtub. During the press conference to which I had to run there were pieces of iron falling from my hair. Metal dandruff.

Moscow objects (1)

Great journalism

Two articles caught my attention. One, in the New York Times was a detailed article on migrant workers in Iraq. Most workers come from the Philippines and Southern Asia, and don’t even know where they are heading when they are handled by human traffickers.

The other article appeared in Moscow Times:

Swiss Man Asks Minsk for Asylum, Then Leaves

A Swiss citizen who asked for refugee status in Belarus has returned to Switzerland without explanation after spending 10 days in the country, Belarussian officials said.

The Swiss asylum seeker, 32, entered Belarus on Nov. 28 at a checkpoint on the Poland-Belarus border, saying he wanted to live and work in Belarus, said Vitaly Aksyonov, head of the citizenship and migration department in the Brest region of Belarus.

Aksyonov dealt directly with the request of the Swiss man, whom he declined to identify at the foreigner’s request.

“He filled out an application for refugee status,” Aksyonov said Friday.

Since he had no entry visa, applying for asylum was the only way the Swiss man could be allowed into Belarus, Aksyonov said.

The man cited no political motives for leaving Switzerland. “Nobody oppressed him there,” Aksyonov said.

The Swiss man arrived at the border driving a Lada with a collection of books authored by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in the trunk, Noviye Izvestia reported Friday. He claimed that Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba were the best countries in the world.

While his asylum application was being processed, Belarussian authorities checked the foreigner into a hotel in Brest and allowed him to move around the city of 300,000, which is located near the Polish border, Aksyonov said.

The one condition was that he return to the hotel before 11 p.m. for safety reasons.

“Such a decision was made because it gets dark early in winter, and the man doesn’t know the city and could easily get lost,” Aksyonov said. “We didn’t have the means to provide him with a personal guide to show him around.”

The Belarussian migration service began preparing the Swiss man’s asylum paperwork, but before it could be completed, the would-be refugee suddenly changed his mind and left Belarus on Dec. 7, Aksyonov said.

Belarussian Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Slepchenko and Belarussian Border Guard Service spokesman Yury Kozachenko confirmed the curious case but would not provide further details.

Komsomolskaya Pravda suggested on Friday that the asylum application might have been a scheme dreamed up by the Swiss man to get a free 10-day vacation — a theory Aksyonov dismissed.

“I don’t think so, because he didn’t go anywhere else [in Belarus] except Brest,” Aksyonov said. “He could have bought a [train] ticket for himself and gone anywhere he wanted. He had money with him.”

A Swiss Embassy official in Minsk said by telephone that the embassy was aware of the case from the media but that it could not get involved because the country in which a refugee asks for asylum has no right to disclose information about the applicant. “Especially to the country where he is from,” said the official, Dietrich Dreyer.

Swiss authorities will not investigate the case, Dietrich said. “Switzerland is a free country, and any of its citizens can do whatever he wants,” Dietrich said.

Belarus has been dubbed in the West as Europe’s last dictatorship. In April 2006, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree simplifying the procedure for granting asylum to foreigners.

A migrant worker in Iraq. An asylum seeker in Minsk. These articles change the way I looked at reality. And I think that is the real purpose of journalism. Wish there were more articles like these around.

Why I am writing in English

Maybe it looks pretentious, a Dutch guy writing in English. My English isn’t even that good! But I figured that, since the Dutch understand English, and the English understand well, English, as does half the world population, I might as well write in English.

I like Dutch, I am Dutch. It’s officially the most beautiful language in the world. But this blog will be in English.