The Western world isn't short of public enemies right now. There are, of course, the usual suspects: Putin, Assad, even Mark Zuckerberg seems to have joined the club. But there's another, more discreet nemesis that may loom closer than the rest: acrylamide, a natural chemical that's produced as part of the cooking process for certain foods.
You can find it in coffee (it's produced during the roasting process), French fries and bread. And though the science remains inconclusive, some researchers now consider as a potential carcinogen. Acrylamide is the reason why coffee in California will soon come with a consumer warning about cancer. It's also the reason why fries in Germany — or pommes frites, as they call them — won't be as crunchy anymore.
Yes, starting this week, new European Union legislation comes into force imposing benchmark levels in a bid to reduce the amount of acrylamide in various products, from muesli and biscuits to coffee. For fries, (French and otherwise) that means blanching them before frying, and frying them at lower temperatures.
Bad news for people who like their fries extra-crispy — or even brown, as the German newspaper Die Welt reports. But then again, how exactly do they plan to enforce it?
"They can come and control me," Raimund Ostendorp, a popular German chef who now owns a takeaway in Bochum, in the Ruhr district, told the newspaper. "I'll just keep on making delicious fries. Who are they going to send? The frying squad?"
There are obvious benefits to the fact that politicians are paying more attention to what lands in our plates. But there's always the risk of overdoing it: Too much control, and people may instead decide to rebel, and take things in the opposite direction.
A popular new Instagram account from Switzerland — the land of cheeses and chocolate — may be a case in point. As noted recently in the the Swiss daily Le Temps, the account celebrates an #unhealthylifestyle as a reaction to the "omnipresence of stereotypes online" and "overrepresentation of a lifestyle based on happiness and slenderness."
Sure, it's a bit tongue-in-cheek. But there's also a real message involved, according to Agathe Hauser, the 26-year-old comedian behind the @Swissfatgirls Instagram account. "Let's stop feeling guilty," she told the paper. "Let's enjoy life to the fullest and accept that nobody's perfect."
Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Praying inside a Dutch mosque.
Broken trust in Islamic community
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
- Islam Became A 'Problem' In France When Muslims Became French ... ›
- Interlaken, The New Swiss Mecca For Rich Muslim Tourists ... ›
- Austria, A Laboratory For Hard-Line Policies On Islam - Worldcrunch ›