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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’.


Lower emission cows

This is the latest innovation we’ve come up with, to save the environment. Methane packs for cows. Yes, really.



BBC: straight white men are out

The BBC has set targets for its 2020 workforce. According to this article, these are as follows:

  • 50% women
  • 15% black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds
  • 8% disabled people
  • 8% lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons

I’m completely in favor of equal opportunities. But that doesn’t leave much room for straight Caucasian men without a disability, now does it? 🙂



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.



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



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 🙂