Classier protest than whipped cream pies


First – the fries

Anti-austerity protesters got close enough to Belgium’s prime minister on Monday to splatter him with a helping of the national dish – fries and mayo.

Pictures from the business event in Namur showed Charles Michel, 39, smiling as a woman squirted sauce over his suit. His spokesman said he would not press charges, and declined comment on the breach of security around the premier of a country that has been a major recruiting hub for jihadists fighting in Syria.


Then – the mayo

Best fries in the world, so they say.

I have to say the best ever I’ve had were from a truck near Upton Park on the way to a West Ham football match.

Best in Santa Fe IMHO? Second Street Brewery.

Belgium’s parliament legalizes child euthanasia


Decision made after long, difficult debate – no matter what anti-choice moralists say

Parliament in Belgium has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit, by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions.

When, as expected, the bill is signed by the king, Belgium will become the first country in the world to remove any age limit on the practice.

It may be requested by terminally ill children who are in great pain and who have no treatment available.

Opponents argue children cannot make such a difficult decision. Which presumes opponents have the right to make the decision today – for the children.

In the Netherlands, Belgium’s northern neighbour, euthanasia is legal for children over the age of 12, if there is parental consent.

Under the Dutch conditions, a patient’s request for euthanasia can be fulfilled by a doctor if the request is “voluntary and well-considered” and the patient is suffering unbearably, with no prospect of improvement…

Supporters of the legislation argue that in practice the law will affect an extremely small number of children, who would probably be in their teens…

The law states a child will have to be terminally ill, face “unbearable physical suffering” and make repeated requests to die – before euthanasia is considered.

Parents, doctors and psychiatrists would have to agree before a decision is made

Church leaders argued the law is immoral…

Some paediatricians have warned vulnerable children could be put at risk and have questioned whether a child can really be expected to make such a difficult choice.

But opinion polls have suggested broad support in Belgium for the changes.

Not an easy debate. No more or less than the discussion between doctors, psychiatrists, parents and children facing the question. In a very small number of cases where even the possibility for such a decision is lawfully allowed.

None of which seems to matter to the Christian moralists who have no inhibition about lying about the debate which took place. No matter to the moralists of any philosophic conviction who depict the debate as a conspiracy to murder hundreds and thousands of inconvenient children. They deserve to be shamed for the liars they are.

Once again the leadership of movements against choice care no more for truth than they do for individual liberty.

UN tries to reopen inquiry into Dag Hammarskjold’s death — the NSA refuses to cooperate


2nd Secretary-General of the UN, Nobel Peace Prize in 1961

A commission looking into the death of former United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has recommended that the UN reopen its investigation.

Mr Hammarskjold’s plane was travelling to Congo on a peace mission in 1961 when it crashed in Zambia.

A UN investigation in 1962 failed to find the cause of the mysterious crash.

The commission said there were significant new findings, and that the US National Security Agency might hold crucial evidence…

It said Mr Hammarskjold had given “unparalleled service to the UN and paid the ultimate price”, and that it was “among those most concerned in arriving at the whole truth”.

The Swedish-born diplomat’s plane crashed on 18 September in a forest near Ndola in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia…All but one of the passengers and crew on the flight were killed.

Mr Hammarskjold was trying to negotiate a peace agreement between Congo’s Soviet-backed government and Moise Tshombe, who had declared independence for its mineral-rich province of Katanga…The UN secretary general was going to Ndola to meet Mr Tshombe, who was backed by former colonial power Belgium and some Western mining interests…

The Hammarskjold Commission report, written by four international lawyers, said there was “significant new evidence”…It said the claim of an aerial attack, which might have caused the descent of the plane by direct damage or by harassment, was capable of being proved or disproved.

The report said that given the NSA’s worldwide monitoring activities at that time, “it is highly likely” that the radio traffic on 18-19 September 1961 was recorded by the NSA and possibly also by the CIA…The report said: “Authenticated recordings of any such cockpit narrative or radio messages, if located, would furnish potentially conclusive evidence of what happened to the DC6.”

The Commission said it had made Freedom of Information Act requests to the National Security Archive, which were rejected on national security grounds

Once again, Uncle Sugar decides that only a release of information decided in the first place by anonymous bureaucrats in their hidey-holes need be answered. No matter that Dag Hammarskjold was a diplomat of international repute. No matter that his death was “an event of global significance which deserves the attention both of history and of justice”.

The White House, NSA, CIA rally round their own personal flag and decide that history needn’t receive an update. Especially one that admits to our snooping for decades.

A manmade island for pumped storage of wind energy

Perhaps it’s not surprising that people from countries with experience holding back the sea see the potential of building an artificial island to store wind energy.

Belgian cabinet member, Johan Vande Lanotte, has introduced a planning proposal for a man-made atoll placed in the North Sea to store energy.

The idea is to place the island a few kilometers off shore near a wind farm, according to Vande Lanotte’s office. When the wind farm produces excess energy for the local electricity grid, such as off-peak times in the overnight hours, the island will store the energy and release it later during peak times.

It would use the oldest and most cost-effective bulk energy storage there is: pumped hydro. During off-peak times, power from the turbines would pump water up 15 meters to a reservoir. To generate electricity during peak times, the water is released to turn a generator, according to a representative.

The Belgian government doesn’t propose building the facility itself and would rely on private industry instead. But there is sufficient interest in energy storage that it should be part of planning exercises and weighed against other activities in the North Sea, the representative said. It would be placed three kilometers offshore and be 2.4 kilometers wide, according to a drawing provided by Vande Lanotte’s office.

The plan underscores some of the challenges associated with energy storage for the electricity grid. Pumped hydro, which contributes a significant portion of energy supply in certain countries, is by far the cheapest form of multi-hour energy storage. It costs about $100 per kilowatt-hour, a fraction of batteries, flywheels, and other methods, according to the Electricity Storage Association. And grid storage is a considered critical to using intermittent solar and wind power more widely.

Most New Englanders – especially anyone who spent time in New Hampshire – are already familiar with pumped storage. There are facilities decades old still providing affordable electricity 24/7.

Deaf twin brothers helped to die together after losing sight

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Marc and Eddy Verbessem

Identical Belgian twin brothers, born deaf, becoming blind and unable to bear not being able to see and hear each other, had their wish to die granted in a case testing the boundaries of legal euthanasia.

Doctors gave the 45-year-old twins lethal injections after they had had a cup of coffee together and said goodbye to each other, a spokesman at the UZ Brussel hospital said on Monday.

“It’s not simply that they were deaf and blind that they were granted the right to euthanasia. It is that they could no longer bear being unable to hear or see the other,” he said.

Belgium is one of few countries where euthanasia is legal.

A patient must be an adult, capable of making a judgment, and the wish to die must be voluntary, overwhelming and repeated. The patient must also be suffering persistent and unbearable mental or physical pain beyond medical help.

In addition, the condition must be serious and incurable, and have been brought on by illness or injury.

“Unbearable suffering can be mental as well as physical,” the hospital spokesman said. “The brothers were inseparable. They lived together and had the same job.”

He said the brothers died on December 14 and that their family supported their wishes.

Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 and the number of cases has risen every year since…The Netherlands and Luxembourg have both decriminalized euthanasia. Switzerland allows assisted suicide if the person concerned takes an active role.

Sensible, compassionate system of law, allowing individuals an informed choice of life or death. Light-years ahead of nations still relying on papier mache morality writ into a book in the 14th Century.

Floating rocks in South Pacific cover area larger than Belgium

Pumice, the lightweight stone used to smooth skin, is usually found in beauty salons, but on Thursday sailors from New Zealand’s Royal Navy found nearly 10,000 square miles of the lava rock bobbing on the surface of the South Pacific Ocean…

Described by one sailor who witnessed it as “the weirdest thing I’ve seen in 18 years at sea,” the sea of white rock was initially spotted by air and then relayed to a ship for further investigation, according to a statement released by the New Zealand Royal Navy.

“The lookout reported a shadow on the ocean ahead of us, so I ordered the ship’s spotlight to be trained on the area … as far ahead as I could observe was a raft of pumice moving up and down with the swell,” Lt. Tim Oscar said…

“As we moved through the raft of pumice we used the spotlights to try and find the edge — but it extended as far as we could see,” Oscar said after the encounter…

“The rock looked to be sitting two feet above the surface of the waves, and lit up a brilliant white color in the spotlight. It looked exactly like the edge of an ice shelf,” Oscar said, according to the statement…

Volcanologist Helen Bostock told New Zealand Royal Navy officials the rock came from an underwater volcanic eruption, and now scientists will work to determine which volcano was responsible.

They could have scooped up enough to sell for landscaping back home – to pay for their travels.

The other side of our valley has working pumice mines that go back to the time of the Spanish colonial invaders – in the 17th Century. Trucks loaded with pumice for landscapes and gardens as far away as Florida leave the mines every day.

Pic of the Day


Does Europe have too many people paid as political and financial journalists?

Journalists in the main media hall at the European Union summit in Brussels, October 27, 2011.

There are plenty of times everyone feels the European Parliament is roughly akin to a Roman circus. They’re not feeding xhristians to lions or staging phony sea battles in their shiny coliseum – but, the attention paid to the smoke and mirrors that passes for planning, that imitates serious well-thought-out legislation, is as much of a joke as the content of that legislation itself.

Peering in at row after row of people paid to report on these events as a serious record of history somehow reminds me of the scribes covering Roman holidays before the obligatory crucifixions.