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Belgium: when the Hippocratic Oath fails

When my Mom recently needed emergency surgery to save her eye, she was racketeered by her physician to upgrade to a more expensive single-person room. The time-sensitive procedure would not be carried out, if she refused. You see, in Belgium MD’s are allowed to charge an elevated fee when a patient is staying in a private room. My parents alerted the media, resulting in a small media storm. Mom’s story was a headline on national TV news and in newspapers De Morgen, Gazet van Antwerpen, HLN and Het Nieuwsblad. My question is: whatever happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

mama-demorgen

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Mediahuis technical difficulties remain unresolved (Update: offline again)

*Update 23/10: all Mediahuis websites have returned to normal*

*Update 24/10: websites offline again*

*Update 24/10: downtime claimed by hackers*

Over twelve hours have passed since the websites of Belgian publisher Mediahuis went down and the issues haven’t been resolved yet. A report by Flemish national TV pointed towards a hardware problem, but was later edited to remove any mention of the hardware infrastructure supplier. The limited functionality that has been restored, seems nothing more than a WordPress installation that has been hastily set up, which is confirmed by the source code (illustration included, some specifics edited out). As the absence of a back-up procedure, emergency location and recovery plan is highly unlikely, I suspect something rather serious is going on. We wish all people involved the best of luck, and courage in these undoubtedly challenging and stressful times.

standaard-wordpress

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Mediahuis-websites offline (again!)

*Update 24/10 16.12: websites offline again*

*Update 24/10 16.30: downtime claimed by hackers*

Looks like Belgian publisher Mediahuis is having some serious server-issues. All of its websites, which include newspapers De Standaard, Het Nieuwsblad, and Het Belang Van Limburg, all are offline. No morning newspaper, than? (verified using currentlydown.com)

mediahuis

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Belgium: Paul Magnette has earned my respect

Minister President Paul Magnette of the Belgian region Wallonia is acting like a good housefather and I respect him for it. Under immense international pressure and with Europe staring him down, he is taking a stand and refusing to sign the CETA free-trade agreement between Europe and Canada. Why? The man did his homework and found the agreement to be vague when decision power of national courts is concerned, when governments are sued by foreign investors. Basically, he wants to ensure that multinationals, which increasing have more power than nations, can’t just have free blows at European countries and indicates that he needs more time to study the current draft. What any other leader should have done, quoi. Paul, we might be part of different and often opposing communities within the same nation, but I would consider giving you my vote, if I could. Stand your ground, man. No use in having regional votes, if regions aren’t allowed to say ‘no’.

http://www.politico.eu/article/meet-monsieur-paul-magnette-the-man-killing-ceta-deal-trade-agreement/

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Absurdist Belgium: ‘Balanced’ Flemish budget

The Flemish region of Belgium has just proudly announced that its budget for the coming year will be balanced. A commendable achievement in the current economic climate one might think. Well, kinda. To get their checks and balances in order, the Flemish government has had to keep one of the largest investments out of the books. The Oosterweel connection is a project that plans to complete the highway around the city of Antwerp, turning it into a completed ring road. The investment will require a yearly investment of about half a billion Euro for the years to come. It’s exclusion from the budget is justified by the fact that it will generate a return on in investment, once finished. We would hope so, but isn’t making projections for future income and expenses part of the budgeting exercise, M. Bourgeois? Budgeting is not a PR opportunity. Well it shouldn’t be, at least.

geertbourgeois-web

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Playlist: Belpop

This time, a playlist that doesn’t tell the story of a subculture but rather that of a geographical area: my home country of Belgium. This is a collection of records that have an international appeal, but have slipped into relative obscurity. It’s a trip starting in the clubs, moving past trip-hop, visiting rock venues and ending up in a tropical ska atmosphere. Isn’t Belgium wonderfully diverse? Full track listing if you continue reading.

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Belgian schools need private areas for self-multilation

Today’s quote comes from Nadine Callens, a Belgian youth support professional. ‘To avoid self-mutilation from spreading, schools need private areas to practise self-harm’. Following the same line of reasoning schools also need designated areas for smoking, bullying, shoplifting and drinking. In her leaflet ‘Automutilation … unpleasant and other reactions‘, she also clearly states that ‘these [self-harming] youngsters really do need help most of the time‘. You’ll be relieved to know that she also wrote a book on the subject.  #problemsolved

http://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20160914_02468290

 

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Belgian railway authority does not waste a good crisis

The Belgian railway authority (NMBS) is not one to waste a good crisis. Following a recent change in policy, railway personnel gets their holiday entitlement cut for every minute they are late due to train delays. Before you label this as appalling, consider how cunning that plan really is: *#sarcastic mode on*

  • Reduced holiday entitlement, means increased labour/employee at the same cost. This improves the budget.
  • Reduced incentive for employees to use public transportation. This frees up capacity for paying commuters and lowers the chance of trains at full capacity, which also reduces tardiness
  • Increased peer pressure from colleagues for timely trains, and against railway strikes

… and you thought these things were not completely thought through 🙂

http://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20160906_02455950

 

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Belgium: scandalous pricing of electricity

While doing market research on fuel prices, I’ve come across a table by the Flemish Regulatory Body for the Electricity and Gas Market (VREG) that illustrates just how scandalous the pricing strategy of electricity is in Flanders (Belgium). The graph shows how the price per kWh for electricity has evolved over the past year. The three lines differentiate between large consumption (green), medium consumption (blue) and low consumption (orange). Low consumers have always paid more than medium and high consumers, but between February and March this difference has been inflated to more than double the amount of medium users. Single people who consume less than 600 kWh pay almost triple the rate of large families consuming 3900 kWh. This implies while cutting down on your energy consumption there is a point where your rate doubles, effectively nullifying your efforts and where higher consumption would be cheaper. One could argue this is because the fixed-cost usage of the power grid, but the VREG will raise those as well. This just proves that any environmental consideration in Flemish policy making is an illusion. #shameful

*update: I have reveived a response from the VREG, that adds valid arguments to this discussion (available if you continue reading). However, the response does not take away the argument that small consumers have seen a considerable hike in price/kWh. I am considering having an interview with them, after careful further research*

belgium-electricity-2016

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