Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか?
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Google's Super-Efficient Belgium Data Center Operates at 95 Degrees F

Google's Super-Efficient Belgium Data Center Operates at 95 Degrees F | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Google's St. Ghislain, Belgium data center has made news before for running without the use of any chillers, the biggest energy-hogs in a data center. The data center uses fresh air cooling for its server areas and, up until recently, was allowing them to run at temperatures up to 80 degrees F, sending traffic to other facilities to be processed when it got too hot, but now the tech giant is pushing the boundaries of how efficient a chiller-free data center can be by running the servers at temperatures up to 95 degrees.

Most data centers are kept at temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees because it's believed that the equipment won't operate as well in higher temperatures, but it turns out that's a bit of a myth, and an energy-intensive one at that. Keeping server rooms cool with the equipment constantly cranking out heat requires a lot of electricity and it's been calculated that data center operators can save 4 percent in energy costs for every upward degree. Here's a video from Google explaining the benefits when they were running at 80 degrees.

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Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか?
Such a small & minor country but... マイナーな小国、しかし・・
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Belgium among world’s least religious countries

Belgium among world’s least religious countries | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Belgium is one of the least religious countries in the world, according to a recent study published by market research firm WIN/Gallup International. The study surveyed 63,898 people in 65 countries and found that 44% of Belgians consider themselves to be religious, while 30% say they are not religious and 18% are atheist.

The results show that Belgium is in line with the rest of Western Europe, where 43% of the population are religious, 37% not religious and 14% atheist. The least religious country in Europe is Sweden, with only 19% believers and about 78% non-believers or atheists. The Czech Republic follows closely behind, with only 23% of its population following a religion, as does the Netherlands, with 26%. In France, 40% consider themselves religious.

According to the study, 63% of the world population is religious, a number which continues to grow. One in five worldwide are non-believers, and 11% are atheist. The most religious regions are Africa (86%) and the Middle East and North Africa (82%). Thailand (94%) is the most religious country in the world, while China’s population includes 61% convinced atheists.

WIN/Gallup also examined the relationship between gender, age, income, education and religion, and found that people with a higher income tend to be less religious, while 70% of people with a low or average income are more religious. The group of convinced atheists surveyed generally have an above-average income.
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Underwear Museum finds new home in Rue de Flandre

Underwear Museum finds new home in Rue de Flandre | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
The Underwear Museum in Brussels will soon be partly housed at the restaurant Chez Claude in Rue de Flandre. "The collection of my good friend Jan Bucquoy fits perfectly into the redesign of my business," says owner Claude Remy, according to Brusselnieuws.It was announced in late December last year that the museum would have to move location from café De Dolle Mol in the Marolles district after the lease was up. Since then, owner Jan Bucquoy had been looking for a new location, which he has now found at Chez Claude (pictured).Remy is reportedly happy to take over part of the collection. "Jan and I quickly agreed that part of his collection would be on display here within the next couple of weeks,” and it would, perhaps, include a pair of underwear from Remy. "I'm going to hang my underpants with a portrait of King Baudouin."In addition to taking over part of the Underwear Museum, Chez Claude will also extend its opening hours to include lunch, and provide the option to just come in for a drink, check out the vinyl collection or catch a concert.
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Brussels has more practising Muslims than Catholics, study shows

Brussels has more practising Muslims than Catholics, study shows | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Brussels is increasingly diverse when it comes to religious beliefs and practices, according to a poll by Ipsos-Orela, commissioned by Le Soir and RTBF. One in four Brussels residents is Muslim, 40% are Catholic and 30% are non-believers, the study shows. In the group of practising believers, there are more than half as many Muslims as Catholics, writes Brusselnieuws.The study reveals that 23% of Brussels residents are Muslim, and most of them are also practising (19% say they practise their faith in an active way, while only 4% are “passively religious”).While 40% of those surveyed are Catholic, only 12% are practising. The study also reveals that 30% of the Brussels population is atheist, agnostic or indifferent, and that young people tend to be less religiously inclined than older people.The results show that the proportion of Muslims and non-believers in Brussels is higher than in other parts of Belgium, where the number of practicing Catholics is significantly higher.
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Belgian households are the wealthiest in Europe, study shows

Belgian households are the wealthiest in Europe, study shows | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
With an average net worth of €450,000, Belgian households are among the wealthiest in Europe, according to a study by ING. The study shows that Belgian families have increased their wealth by 17% since 2007, write various Belgian media.

For the study, ING researched the total added value of all assets per household, including property, bank account balances and investments such as pension savings and life insurance. After deducting any outstanding loans or debts, the researchers came up with an average net worth of about €450,000 per Belgian family.

The results show that Belgium is far wealthier than other countries in Europe, which have an average household worth of €255,000. Remarkably, the buying power of Belgian families has increased signicantly since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2007, by as much as 17%, the study reveals. The numbers have nearly doubled from what they were in 2000 (when the average Belgian household was worth €250,000).

According to Julien Manceaux, senior economist at ING, the results have everything to do with the strength of the Belgian housing market. "Rising real estate prices have steadily pushed our net worth higher. We did not have a housing crisis like they experienced in Spain. And our stock market recovered faster than in the rest of Europe. In some countries, the net wealth per family didn't start to go up again until the end of 2013, two years later than in Belgium."
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How headless corpse prompted land exchange between Belgians and Dutch

How headless corpse prompted land exchange between Belgians and Dutch | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Belgium agrees to hand over splendid stretch of land to their Dutch neighbours... all because of a headless corpse and a body of waterThe parcel of land juts into the Meuse River which divides the two nationsRiver meandering has turned area into a peninsula linked only to HollandIssue was brought into focus when a headless body was found on the landDutch authorities said it was on Belgian territory, but Belgian police had difficulty accessing the land 


PUBLISHED: 16:15 GMT, 30 December 2015 | UPDATED: 20:06 GMT, 30 December 2015

Belgium has agreed to hand over a picturesque stretch of land to their Dutch neighbours - all because of a headless corpse and a body of water.

The land, the size of about 15 football fields, juts into the Meuse River which divides the two nations near the Belgian city of Vise.

It has become a jurisdictional nightmare over the years with the river meandering to turn the land into a peninsula linked only to the Netherlands - and now Belgium has agreed to a border change.


Over time, the area was rumoured to be increasingly lawless, a haven for drug dealers and illicit sexual activity. 

And three years ago the territorial anomaly was drawn further under the spotlight when passers-by stumbled across a headless body.

They alerted Dutch authorities who promptly informed them that the discovery had been made in Belgian territory.

Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
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Niqab incident results in 18 month jail sentence

Niqab incident results in 18 month jail sentence | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

A court in Brussels has sentenced a 27-year-old woman to 18 months in prison after she resisted arrest when she refused to take off her niqab. The wearing of the Muslim full veil in public is banned in Belgium for security reasons.

The woman was stopped at a bus stop in the Brussels borough of Jette in May 2012 because she was wearing a niqab. When she refused to show her face she was taken to a police station. On the way there she head-butted one of the female police officers. She also acted in an aggressive fashion at the police station. The situation got further out of hand and two women police officers were injured. The woman was then taken to hospital.

The incident triggered riots across Brussels that were partly incited by the now banned Muslim fundamentalist organisation Sharia4Belgium. It also led to a stabbing at the Beekkant metro station.

The court held the woman responsible for the incident and sentenced her to 18 months in jail and a fine of 900 euros.

The woman was also ordered to pay compensation to the police officers. The woman did not appear at her trial. Her arrest has been ordered.

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Why Brussels Is the New Berlin -

Why Brussels Is the New Berlin - | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

For decades, Europe’s buttoned-up political center had a reputation for stodginess and chilliness. No longer: Brussels has quietly emerged as one of the continent’s most exciting creative hubs.

As the battleground for debates over debt limits and currency crises since it became the eurozone’s capital in 1999, Belgium’s largest city is sometimes seen as the checkbook-balancing foil to freewheeling Antwerp 30 miles north. But in recent years, artists, upstart architects, independent hoteliers and fashion designers from across the continent have relocated in such numbers as to spark the inevitable ‘‘new Berlin’’ moniker — and have put down roots in the form of art galleries, concept shops and two lovely boutique hotels.

For these artists and designers, Brussels’ appeal comes down to both the practical — cheap rent — and the attitudinal. ‘‘I love Paris, but life is probably easier in Belgium. People are very open and innovative,’’ says Isabelle Thiltgès, a sculptor who recently returned to her native Brussels from Paris, where she lived for 30 years. ‘‘They’re a bit ahead of the rest of Europe.’’ Another draw is its location, within two hours by train from Paris, London, Cologne and Amsterdam. ‘‘Berlin is an island unto itself, while Brussels’ location makes it an attractive place for artists to take residency and for collectors to pass through on tours of Europe,’’ says Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte, director of Office Baroque, an art gallery that relocated from Antwerp in 2013. ‘‘It’s not as busy as Paris or as international as London, but it has a big, open scene of galleries, artists and curators’’ — so much so that the New York-based Independent art fair is launching a Brussels edition in April 2016. Here, some of our favorite places.


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After privacy ruling, Facebook now requires Belgium users to log in to view pages

After privacy ruling, Facebook now requires Belgium users to log in to view pages | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

In response to a privacy ruling, Belgian Facebook users must now sign in to see any content. The change means that if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can’t view Belgian Facebook pages — including public profiles like those of local businesses.

The decision comes after a November court order saying Facebook has run afoul of European privacy law, which is much more stringent than in the US. Facebook limited access to its website rather than remove a tracking cookie, which can live in the user’s browser for up to two years. In the US, Facebook can place cookies like these without asking for permission, but in Europe, companies must get user permission to plant tracking software. Facebook members have consented to being tracked, and the company says the cookie is for security purposes — preventing the creation of fake accounts, account hijacking, and online theft.

Facebook says its cookie was designed to protect user security

"We had hoped to address the BPC's concerns in a way that allowed us to continue using a security cookie that protected Belgian people from more than 33,000 takeover attempts in the past month," Facebook said in a statement given to the BBC. "We're disappointed we were unable to reach an agreement and now people will be required to log in or register for an account to see publicly available content on Facebook." The company plans on contesting the order, which it should receive later this week, but for now Facebook will no longer install the cookie file for users who are not signed in or do not have accounts.

Facebook and the EU don’t see eye-to-eye on privacy, and this isn’t the only case. In October, an EU ruling invalidated a 15-year-old agreement between European countries and American companies about the transfer of personal information to US data centers. But the big European ruling started as a complaint from an Austrian privacy activist lodged with Ireland's data-protection authority in 2013. Since the Belgian ruling relies on European law — not just Belgian law — other European countries could similarly contest Facebook’s tracking software as well.

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Belgium is a failed state

Belgium is a failed state | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

That the Paris terrorist attacks had strong links to a suburb of Brussels didn’t shock many of us who live in the Belgian capital. Radio stations here in both French and Dutch are full of discussions about Molenbeek that elicit indignation, sorrow, anger, guilt, despair, defiance. But not surprise.

Friday’s attacks in Paris were but the latest in a litany of jihadist incidents over the last two years involving people with ties to Molenbeek, including the 2014 shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January and the failed attack in August on a Thalys train.

The absence of surprise also makes sense because long before the emergence of jihadism, Molenbeek had acquired a reputation for lawlessness. Most people in Brussels have very little understanding of what such jihadism is and how it comes to link Brussels with Paris, Iraq and Syria, but they were already aware that Molenbeek had high levels of petty crime: muggings, drug dealing and burglaries.

It would suit some parts of the Belgian political establishment to keep the current agonizing at the level of Molenbeek — to blame, for example, the reign of Philippe Moureaux, the socialist mayor of Molenbeek from 1993-2012, an interior minister and justice minister in federal governments of the early 1980s. Or to fault certain mosques, as Prime Minister Charles Michel recently did.

But the more painful question that should be asked is: What do Molenbeek’s failures reveal about the deep dysfunction in the Belgian state? That Molenbeek has been allowed to become a breeding-ground for jihadism says some damning things about formal and informal structures in Belgium, and in particular Brussels.

Decades of failed reforms

What is remarkable about Molenbeek is the proximity of the poverty and lawlessness to the center of a European capital city, including the political and cultural institutions of the Brussels, Flemish and national governments. The sociologists tell us that the distribution of wealth in Brussels follows a pattern that is more commonly found in American cities — wealthy suburbs surrounding a hollowed-out center of poverty and blight. The European norm, exemplified by London and Paris, would have the most expensive and chic areas in the center.

Molenbeek fits the American pattern in that it is an area blighted by derelict industrial buildings and is on “the wrong side of the tracks,” which in this case means the wrong side of the canal that splits Brussels into east and west. But those on the other side of the world hearing about Molenbeek for the first time should dismiss all images of the South Bronx of the 1980s.

All of which raises the question of why Molenbeek’s problems have been allowed to persist for so long. This is not a task on the same scale as reviving the South Bronx or redressing the industrial blight of Glasgow. The nearest parallel I can think of is Brixton, a London suburb, three miles south of Westminster. Blighted by wartime bomb damage, then home to large contingents of West Indian immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s, it suffered race riots in the 1980s. But much of Brixton has been turned round, so why not Molenbeek?

The answers are an indictment of the Belgian political establishment and of successive reforms over the past 40 years.

Those failures are perhaps one part politics and government; one part police and justice; one part fiscal and economic. In combination they created the vacuum that is being exploited by jihadi terrorists.

Belgium has the trappings of western political structures, but in practice those structures are flawed and have long been so. The academics Kris Deschouwer and Lieven De Winter gave a succinct, authoritative account of the development of political corruption and clientelism in an essay published back in 1998 as part of the piquantly titled book “Où va la Belgique?” (Whither Belgium?)

Patronage and parochialism

Almost from the beginning, they explain, the state suffered problems of political legitimacy.

Belgium came late, by western European standards, to statehood. As in Italy, another latecomer, there were already existing allegiances to the locality, and although Belgium’s liberal elite threw off Dutch rule in 1830, it could neither uproot nor supplant these attachments to the local community, often intertwined with the Roman Catholic Church. So the formal structure of a Belgian state was erected but framing within it the cultural, social and welfare structures of the Church’s state within a state. That was followed in due course by the development of a socialist/labor movement with its rival structures for mutual assurance, cultural associations, newspapers. Ranged against the Christian Democrats and the socialists were the anti-clerical and middle-class liberals, who constituted the third corner in Belgium’s political triangle. They did not have the same popular support, nor the equivalent social structures....

Molenbeek is, by comparison, tiny. It is one of the most densely populated parts of Brussels, but its population is only 95,000. And it is not that the entire borough is a no-go zone. The lawlessness problems are concentrated in much smaller areas...

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Air quality in Brussels pedestrian zone 'surprisingly good', study shows

Air quality in Brussels pedestrian zone 'surprisingly good', study shows | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

While the air quality in the Royal Park of Brussels - the park between the Belgian Federal Parliament and the Royal Palace - is 'worrying', according to a study conducted by Flemish MP Joris Pochet in collaboration with the University of Antwerp (UA), the pedestrian zone in the city centre scores surprisingly well.

The study, which measured the air quality at 12 different locations throughout the Brussels-Capital Region, revealed that air pollution levels vary greatly across the region, writes Air pollution in Rue de la Loi, for example, was found to about four times higher than that in Watermael-Boitsfort.

Relatively high levels of air pollution were also measured in the Royal Park, in the heart of the city. "Lots of people go jogging in the Royal Park every day,” says Pochet, who wonders if that's such a good idea, considering the high levels of particulate matter measured there.

The new pedestrian zone, in the centre of Brussels since June, scores surprisingly well, the study shows. This confirms that air pollution is strongly linked to car exhaust, and that measurable improvement can be seen in a relatively short amount of time. 

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Molenbeek police raids called off without finding prime suspect

Molenbeek police raids called off without finding prime suspect | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Police carried out a major operation in Molenbeek on Monday morning in an attempt to find Salah Abdeslam, who is the subject of an international manhunt over the Paris terror attacks on Friday.

Belgian police told press assembled at the scene to stop broadcasting live images. Local residents were told to stay inside their homes.

Simon François, a journalist for RTBF, said: "We heard explosions, followed by federal police shouting orders over a megaphone. These instructions were then repeated. A man was ordered to stand at a window with his hands raised."

Sandor Zsiros, EU correspondent at Euronews, tweeted a photo that appeared to show a man being taken away by police following the Molenbeek raid. However, the Belgian federal prosecutor later said that no arrest was made and prime suspect Salah Abdeslam remains at large.

Mohamed Abdeslam, the brother of Salah, has been released without charge along with four others who were arrested at the weekend.

Mohamed's lawyer Nathalie Gallant told La Libre Belgique that her client "was able to prove he had a very solid alibi on Friday evening" - when co-ordinated attacks in the French capital killed 129 people and injured hundreds of others.

"The fact that my client has been freed without any charge proves that he has nothing to do with the Paris attacks," Gallant told the newspaper. "My client wants to return to work and get on with life in peace."

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian man from Molenbeek in Brussels, was named by French and Belgian media as the likely mastermind behind the Paris terror attacks.

RTL said Abaaoud was already wanted by Belgium for his suspected role in a terror plot in the southern Belgian town of Verviers which was stopped by police in January.

De Standaard said Abaaoud, who is of Moroccan descent, is believed to have links with Brahim Abdeslam, who carried out one of the suicide bombings in the French capital.

Abaaoud was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison by a Brussels court in July, in a trial relating to jihadist recruitment of Belgians for fighting in Syria.

Le Nouvel Observateur in France said he had fought for Islamic State in Syria and appeared in a March 2014 video for the militant group. Libération newspaper said Abaaoud is also linked to the thwarted Thalys train attack in August.

Meanwhile, police were called out to a number of security scares in the Belgian capital on Monday, including a bomb alert near the European Commission headquarters and an anthrax scare in Etterbeek which both turned out to be a false alarm.

A suspect package was found on the Rue des Deux Eglises in Saint-Josse, near the European district and the headquarters of the cdH political party.

A security perimeter was set up and a robot mine-clearing device carried out a controlled explosion on a suitcase inside a car with French licence plates. Staff in nearby office blocks were ordered to stay inside.

In Etterbeek, the La Chasse junction was closed by police. Local mayor Vincent de Wolf told RTBF that the incident was an anthrax scare which was a false alarm. A suspect envelope had been found at the local police station.

A bus passenger was treated for shock on Sunday evening when a bullet hit the vehicle, smashing a window on either side. No one was injured in the incident in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert and the bus was only carrying the one passenger.

RTBF also reported that a 19-year-old man was arrested in Brussels on Sunday after walking around the city brandishing a fake gun.

Belgium raised its terror threat level from 2 to 3 on Saturday, but only in relation to large-scale public events such as sports fixtures and concerts.

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Belgium is fourth best country for work-life balance, study shows

Belgium is fourth best country for work-life balance, study shows | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Belgium scores among the top five in a list of countries with the best work-life balance, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Better Life Index is a comparison of well-being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life. Belgium ranks fourth in the list, after Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands.

A relatively short work week and plenty of time for friends and family put Denmark at the top of the 2015 index. The results reveal that only 2% of full-time employees in Denmark work overtime, one of the lowest rates in the OECD where the average is 13%. The Danish state also supports families and single parents with young children, spending 4% of its GDP on families, almost double the OECD average.

In Belgium, only 5% of employees work very long hours, according to the study, and Belgians generally enjoy flexible work schedules and a lot of free time relative to most other OECD countries. 

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Brussels is home to world's second most diverse population (only after Dubai)

Brussels is home to world's second most diverse population (only after Dubai) | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

One-fifth of all migrants live in 20 major cities around the world, and Brussels is one of them. After Dubai, Brussels is the city with the highest percentage of residents born abroad. More than six in ten Brussels residents were not born in Belgium, writes De Tijd based on the World Migration Report 2015.

The report, published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), characterizes Brussels as a city with a highly mobile and international population. Brussels, with 62% foreign-born residents, ranks second only to Dubai, which has 83% foreign-born residents. Toronto (46%), Auckland (39%) and Sydney (39%) complete the top five.

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Belgian photographer wins prestigious image competition

Belgian photographer wins prestigious image competition | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
A photo by Belgian photographer Marijke Thoen was selected by the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP) as the most beautiful birth photograph in the world, writes De Morgen. The annual IAPBP competition celebrates the beauty of birth and the skill of birth photographers around the globe in three categories – labor, delivery and postpartum.The winning image (pictured), captured by the 38-year-old photographer from Ghent during a water birth eight months ago, was crowned the world's most beautiful birth photo by a 20-member jury at the fifth edition of the Birth Photography Competition.While first prize in the competition is €350, Thoen is especially pleased with the recognition, having received compliments from all over the world in languages she can not even identify.Thoen says she had a feeling it would turn out to be an exceptional photo: "The lighting was perfect, the baby's head was facing me and there were not too many hands or arms in the way of my camera," she says in Het Nieuwsblad.
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Belgian café voted world's best pub

Belgian café voted world's best pub | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
The small, folksy café In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst (In the Insurance against Great Thirst), located outside of Brussels in the village of Eizeringen in Lennik, Flemish Brabant, was selected as the best pub and the second best beer destination in the world, according to the leading international beer website RateBeer. On Sunday, the site announced its 2015 RateBeer Best Awards results, a list of the world's top-rated cafés, beers, brewers, beer restaurants, reviewers and retailers.

Seven Belgian addresses were among this year's top 50 beer destinations: In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst (which is only open on Sundays from 10.00-13.30), the Antwerp café Kulminator, beer restaurant De Heeren van Liedekercke, Brussels café Chez Moeder Lambic Fontainas, Cantillon Brewery/Museum, Chez Moeder Lambic Saint-Gilles and 't Brugs Beertje café in Bruges.

In the category Best Beer Restaurant, Nüetnigenough and Le Bier Circus in Brussels were awarded gold medals, as were 3 Fonteinen in Beersel and Bierbrasserie Cambrinus in Bruges.  
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Belgium's Separatists Reawaken as Nationalism Stalks Europe

Belgium's Separatists Reawaken as Nationalism Stalks Europe | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Belgium’s secessionists are back.

No, a split-off by the Dutch-speaking northern half isn’t imminent, and for the time being the European countries at the greatest risk of a breakup are Spain (with a splinter movement in Catalonia) and Great Britain (due to the headstrong Scots).

But the Europe-wide nationalist mood has stirred pro-independence murmurings in Flanders, home to the N-VA party that stalled the setup of a Belgian government for 541 days after the 2010 election. Four years later, the party set aside its separatist leanings and joined the ruling coalition when power beckoned.

The N-VA “cannot deliver radical change inside the Belgian government, so they are restoring their appeal, trying to keep the fire burning,” said Carl Devos, a Ghent University politics professor.

Flanders’s historic grievance is the cost of supporting the south -- Flemish per capita gross domestic product was 36,000 euros ($38,930) in 2013, compared with 26,200 euros in the French-speaking area -- but added fuel is coming from the upsurge in identity politics and anti-foreigner attitudes across Europe.

A call last week by Bart De Wever, head of the N-VA -- the initials stand for New Flemish Alliance -- for fresh proposals on stripping away powers from the national government was primarily a political tactic, in response to a dip in the party’s poll numbers in Flanders. Officials are planning to work on a position paper aimed at further devolution, prepping a campaign platform for the 2019 election.


As Europe was growing together with the euro and open borders, Belgium was drifting apart, cleaved between the wealthier, trade-intensive north and the more rural, industrially outdated French-speaking south, known as Wallonia. Six overhauls of the constitution since 1970 gradually gave the Flemings more control of their affairs.

Now that the European Union’s unifying achievements are under threat, there is even less glue to hold Belgium together. Flemish government chief Geert Bourgeois, one of De Wever’s right-hand men, spoke in a Jan. 16 De Standaard interview of a “two-country country.”

National debt of 106.7 percent of GDP, tied with Cyprus for the fourth-highest in the EU, makes the inner-Belgian feud a constant preoccupation of bond investors. During the 2010-11 impasse, Belgium’s intractable politics combined with the euro crisis to push 10-year borrowing costs up to 5.86 percent. Now Belgium pays 0.98 percent, up from a record low of 0.34 percent in April.


While the status quo will prevail until 2020, “disintegration of the Kingdom of Belgium will remain a possibility over the longer term,” Standard & Poor’s said in reaffirming Belgium’s AA credit rating on Jan. 15.

Flemish nationalists have made a career out of bashing the Walloons and their soulmates in Brussels, the largely French-speaking capital. So there was a bout of inner-Belgian score-settling after the Islamist plotters of the Nov. 13 murders of 130 people in Paris were traced to the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek.

Jan Jambon, an N-VA member who is interior minister in the national government, criticized the “rather lax” policing in Brussels and pointed to Flanders as an example of how to do things properly. Jambon has further cemented his agent provocateur status by consorting with Catalonia’s separatists, who are striving for independence from Spain.

“Catalonia is moving ahead, while on the Flemish side everything has come to a halt,” said Vincent Laborderie, a political scientist at the Catholic University of Louvain. “Flemish activists see what’s going on in Catalonia and are reacting to it.”


The party’s project goes by the name “confederalism.” The most talked-about scenario would hand each region full control of its tax, wage-setting and welfare systems, and replace the national prime minister with a council of regional appointees who rotate the job of representing the country.

Belgium could end up like Switzerland, with consensual (and plodding) decision-making and a shared executive. Or it could become another Bosnia-Herzegovina, its federal council the scene of perpetual strife. More likely, it would be something in-between.

In a yes-or-no vote on Belgium’s continued existence, the French side would have the upper hand since it has enough seats in Parliament to thwart the two-thirds majority needed to rewrite the constitution. The status of Brussels as a buffer zone between north and south is a further complication.

While the Twitter hashtag #FinDeLaBelgique petered out after the 2010-11 governing stalemate, predicting Belgium’s demise remains a popular parlor game. Liesbeth Homans, an N-VA member in the Flemish regional government, gave French speakers a target to shoot at this month when she voiced “hope” that Belgium will cease to be by 2025.

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One in ten Belgians drinks too much alcohol, report shows

One in ten Belgians drinks too much alcohol, report shows | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
One out of every 10 people in Belgium struggles with an alcohol addiction, according to a report by the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE), writes Het Laatste Nieuws. The KCE is urging the various Belgian government parties to reach agreement on an alcohol plan for the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) puts the limit for safe alcohol consumption at 14 drinks per week for women and 21 for men. Those who consume more are not necessarily addicted, says the WHO, but do have an increased risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Excessive alcohol consumption is behind one in seven deaths among men, and one in 13 deaths among women worldwide.

Yet only one in 12 people with an alcohol problem seeks help, according to the KCE report, and that only after an average of 18 years. The KCE is therefore calling on the Belgian goverment to draw up an alcohol plan with an aim to help people recognise a problem sooner and to seek help.  
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Hackers target Belgium's largest digital billboard

Hackers target Belgium's largest digital billboard | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Brussels' iconic digital billboard at Place de Brouckère, Belgium's largest, was hacked for a short time at the weekend, displaying a troll face instead of the usual Coca-Cola logo, reports Brusselnieuws.A film first took over the immense screen, showing an English-speaking duo entering the building and climbing onto the roof where the billboard is located. “We've been preparing something. We're going to try it out right now,” they say in the film.In the following images, a hacker triumphantly looks up at the Coca-Cola billboard, which has been replaced by a large troll face. Finally, the Coca-Cola logo reappears, but with a pair of breasts incorporated into the image.News of the hack immediately went viral on Facebook and Twitter, and the Sudpresse newspapers even made the hackers' film available online.The City of Brussels confirms the incident, and it will file a complaint against unknown persons.
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1 in 4 Belgians wants to take loan for second residence abroad

1 in 4 Belgians wants to take loan for second residence abroad | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
A quarter of Belgians are willing to borrow money from the bank to buy a second home abroad, especially those under the age of 55, writes Money Talk based on a study by real estate agency Hip Estates.Of the 1,000 Belgians surveyed, 31% between the ages of 35 and 54 say they are willing to take out a mortgage for a second home abroad, compared to just 15% of the over-55s.The results are not surprising, says Hip Estates director Leen Vermeulen, who points out that 37.5% of respondents see the purchase of property abroad as a smart investment. According to Vermeulen, buyers wait for the right moment to purchase a second home, such as an inheritance or a promotion at work. "The threshold to buy is often lower than you might think."Only 13% of respondents have been saving for a second home. "But more than half of the respondents (50.8%) foresee a budget of between € 100,000 and € 200,000, which gives them a wide choice of housing," according to Hip Estates.The Spanish property market is benefiting most from the interest in second homes. Since the beginning of 2015, 2,235 Belgians have bought a property in Spain.
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NMBS/SNCB - Shopping Ticket

NMBS/SNCB - Shopping Ticket | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Christmas shopping? That means stunt parking … or taking the train.

Finding a parking spot during the holidays is an absolute nightmare. So leave your car at home and take the train instead. With our shopping ticket you can travel anywhere in Belgium, every weekend of December and every day during the Christmas holidays, for only €11 return.

€ 11 for a same-day return in 2nd classTo any destination in BelgiumEvery weekend of December (from Saturday 05/12/2015) and during the Christmas holidays (from 19/12/2015 until 03/01/2016 included)More comfort: € 16 in 1st class

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Russian police may accompany FC Zenit to match in Belgium — club official

Russian police may accompany FC Zenit to match in Belgium — club official | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Ghent Mayor Daniel Termont said earlier he would ban the Russian club’s fans from attending the match to prevent possible clashes with local Turks amid aggravated relations between Russia and Turkey


MOSCOW, December 2. /TASS/. Two policemen from Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, may accompany local players of FC Zenit to a Champions League match in Belgium, the football club’s deputy security director told TASS on Wednesday.

Some 1,500 Zenit fans are expected to attend the match with KAA Ghent on December 9. The Belgian city has a large Turkish diaspora.

"We are holding talks with the Interior Ministry and would like to bring St. Petersburg policemen to cooperate with local law enforcers," Yuri Fedotov said.

Ghent Mayor Daniel Termont said earlier he would ban the Russian club’s fans from attending the match to prevent possible clashes with local Turks amid aggravated relations between Russia and Turkey. It was decided later, however, to admit Zenit fans to the game after Ghent consulted with football union UEFA and police.

Some 200,000 Turkish migrants currently live in Belgium, 50% of them residing in Ghent and Antwerp.

Relations between Russia and Turkey hit a low after the incident on November 24 when a Turkish F-16 fighter jet brought down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M bomber, which, Ankara alleges, violated the country’s airspace near the Syrian border. The Russian Defense Ministry said the warplane was flying over Syrian territory and had never violated Turkey’s airspace.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Turkey’s attack will have "serious consequences" for Russian-Turkish relations. Putin said Ankara’s attack against the Russian Sukhoi Su-24 plane, which took part in Russia’s antiterrorism operation in Syria and did not present a threat to Turkey, was a "stab in Russia’s back" delivered by terrorists’ accomplices.

Late last month, Putin signed a decree on a provisional ban on employing Turkish citizens in Russia as of January 1, 2016. The same decree suspends visa-free traveling between the two countries and imposes restrictions on the imports of certain commodities from Turkey.

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Brussels lockdown: Has Europe's most wanted man been caught?

Brussels lockdown: Has Europe's most wanted man been caught? | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
The terror suspects were caught by police in a series of daring swoops in Belgium this morning

Six terror suspects have been arrested and one wounded after co-ordinated police raids described as “high voltage” took place across the Belgium capital, Liège and Charleroi.

Residents in properties close to where police swooped were told to stay indoors and away from the windows.

Shots were exchanged between police and suspected Islamists in a night of high tension that was finally brought to an end at around 11pm UK time.

A press conference is being held at 11.30pm UK time giving details on the incident by the Belgian prosecutor.

It is not yet known if Europe's most wanted man Salah Abdesalam was among those arrested.

One of those detained on Rue du Midi, close to the Grand Place, was injured.

Brussels synagogues had been closed for the first time since the Second World War.

Soldiers and armed response police units flooded cordoned-off streets of the Belgian capital as security chiefs warned two IS terrorists were poised to launch a gun and bomb massacre.

Metro stations were closed down, shops shut and residents ordered to stay inside while a manhunt for the thugs went on.

Troops were deployed to guard the Radisson hotel and a police station near the city’s Grande Place.

Photos were also been posted on Twitter of soldiers closing off a hotel and telling guests not to go outside.

Residents were told not to leave their homes or businesses and to keep away from all windows.

Minister of Defence Steven Vandeput told people not to report their locations on social networks as tensions grow.

Belgian police also asked people not to report any police operations.

In a tweet, the force said: "For safety, please observe radio silence on social media about police operations. Thank you."


Guests staying at a Raddison hotel in the Belgian city told how they were warned by soldiers stationed both in and outside the hotel that they should not consider leaving.

The Grand Palace is close to where a large police and army presence is currently situated, amid reports of a major police raid...

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Paris attacks: Is Belgium Europe's favourite gun shop? - BBC News

Paris attacks: Is Belgium Europe's favourite gun shop? - BBC News | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

Recent attacks in Europe indicate that perpetrators are increasingly using firearms.

While previously explosives were the weapon of choice - for instance in the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005 - attackers seem to have changed their tactics and found their way to the illegal gun market.

In several recent attacks, including the attacks in Paris, there was a connection between the guns used and Belgium.

Is Belgium the dream destination for terrorists who want to get their hands on illegal guns?


Of course, Belgium - like other European countries - has a black market for guns.

The presence of illegal weapons is closely connected to serious crime and vice-versa. This means that there is a black market for firearms in all major European cities.

However, Belgium is an important player because of its geographical location and history.

For centuries the country has been a major producer and exporter of firearms. Moreover, until 2006 it had quite liberal domestic gun legislation, making the country a European hot spot for the arms trade, including for people with bad intentions.

Even though Belgian legislation is now stricter and more solid, the country has retained this reputation.

Smuggling from Balkans

It is not a coincidence that some of the people carrying out these attacks have a personal history of criminal violence. Since the black market in guns is closely linked to serious crime networks, previous connections - based on trust - enable them to secretly acquire firearms.

Most of the firearms on the black market are handguns. A handgun is the preferred type of firearm for most criminals since these are easy to hide.

However, in recent years, Belgian police have noticed an increase in the possession and use of military-style weapons such as Kalashnikovs among criminals.

Depending on the type and condition of the weapon and how quickly one wants to get it, prices on the Belgian black market are generally between 1,000 and 2,000 euro (£700-£1,400).

This increase of heavy firearms on the illegal market is mainly linked to smuggling from the Balkans.

After the Balkan wars of the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of military weapons stayed in the hands of citizens.

These weapons have found their way to Western Europe by being smuggled in small quantities, for instance in the boots of cars. Once they cross the EU's external borders, these weapons can easily be transferred from one European country to another within the Schengen zone...


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Brussels gang movie Black takes Belgian cinema where it has never gone before

Brussels gang movie Black takes Belgian cinema where it has never gone before | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
Black, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s electrifying new film, opens with what could be just another Tuesday in Brussels.

Armed with a fist-size rock, a teen rapidly walks up to a car idling in front of a red light. In one sweeping motion, he smashes the window and snatches the driver’s purse from the passenger seat. A civic-duty minded bystander promptly goes in pursuit but is left seething when the boy slips into a public elevator a fraction of a second before its doors close.

And then something odd happens. Rather than stick with the shot of the angry, white man, as most local filmmakers would have, El Arbi and Fallah instead challenge the conventional wisdom of Belgian cinema and follow the teenager down to his Maghreb neighbourhood in what doubles as a mission statement for the film at large.

Based on two novels by the master of young adult fiction, Dirk Bracke, Black unflinchingly, and sometimes crudely, tells a love story between two youths who belong to rival gangs – a story that begins in a police department and ends on the cold, marble floor of a train station.

“A character like Mavela has never had a voice; you’ve never heard a character like Marwan,” says El Arbi, 27, referring to the film’s lead roles. “Moroccans in films were always either terrorists or criminals, or the complete opposite – the only truly stand-up guys.”

Between fiction and reality

To a soundtrack of thumping French rap and an undercurrent of violence, El Arbi and Fallah, who grew up in Antwerp, introduce the viewers to the bleak world of Brussels’ inner-city youth that has never been depicted in local cinema before.

It is the familiar picture that occasionally spills into brief news reports, one in which bored and nihilistic teens careen freely between petty crimes and acts of unspeakable violence. (Stromae, of the melancholy songs about the daily soul-sucking grind, absent fathers and obsessive-compulsive social media disorders, declined to collaborate on the movie’s soundtrack because he felt the film was too harsh).

The lives of the youths at the heart of the film, which opens this Wednesday across Belgium, largely play out in and around metro stations, like Ossegem and Beekkant, which are inconspicuous by day but turn violent at night; the African quarter of Matongé, which courses through Elsene; and the streets of Molenbeek, the heavily Moroccan neighbourhood that has experienced gentrification in fits and starts and where the unemployment rate has for years hovered around 30%.

“The violence they use is so awful and excessive that you can’t keep denying its existence,” says Fallah, 29. “We felt like this story needed to be told. We know this world; we understand some of its psychology.”

Pointing out that many youths with migrant roots grapple with questions of identity in a society that perpetually regards them as foreigners, he adds: “In gangs, these people feel like they’re someone. The toughness you find on the streets there is typical for what is happening in these neighbourhoods.”

Though there have been movies centred on Ghent’s Turkish community (Turquaze, Trouw met mij), aside from Nabil Ben Yadir’s 2009 Les Barons, Fallah and El Arbi are only the second Belgians of Moroccan descent to tell the story of Brussels’ inner-city life. But they forcefully reject the burden of representation and reassert their prerogative as filmmakers to tell of the good, the bad and the ugly.

“It’s not our problem that there never was a Moroccan director before us,” El Arbi says. “It’s not our responsibility to prove anything to the community. Our only duty is to tell a story as coherently as we can to the widest possible audience.”

Still, the pair make no qualms about their desire to put some much-needed colour into the local cinema scene. Following their 2011 breakout short Broeders (Brothers) and last year’s off-the-rails Image, this is the third time the filmmakers have chosen to tell a story partially or wholly set in Brussels’ migrant communities – a term the filmmakers themselves reject, arguing that the idea of a uniform Moroccan community is false.

It’s (not) just cinema

Lofty ambitions aside, Black is a pioneering film in as many aspects as it is a problematic one. Its grim story of a gang war is, after all, a far cry from the lives of most youths of migrant descent in Brussels.

This fact seems to get lost somewhere between the directors’ insistence that they modelled the story after Bracke’s novels – which in turn were inspired by real events – and their relish in telling anecdotes that seemingly bear out the thug-life narrative of the film. (Among other incidents, a fight broke out during a shoot in the Marollen, one crew member was threatened with physical violence during a Matongé shoot, and one of the actors was arrested on charges of what appears to be gang-related activity.)

The movie’s verisimilitude doesn’t help set the record straight either. The filmmakers’ own ethnic backgrounds and their decision to cast unprofessional actors means that this movie gets just about all the little things right – the multilingual reality of Brussels, the simmering racial tensions between Moroccans and blacks, the playful banter between Marwan and Mavela, down to the unofficial uniform of the city’s on-the-dole youths (the hideous cuffed track pants).

Speaking on the day of the film’s preview screening at the Ghent Film Festival, Molenbeek native Aboubakr Bensaihi, who plays Marwan (pictured above, right), at first seems indifferent to the damning portrayal of Belgian youth of Moroccan descent and, for that matter, his own neighbourhood. “This is cinema, so it’s just a story,” he says.

But when pressed, Bensaihi, 19, admits to being irked to see reporters conflate him with the character he portrays in the film. Among other offenses, Marwan shoplifts, smokes weed, gets arrested (twice) and appears to have given up on the idea of going to school.

“They ask me all these questions, but I can see what they’re getting at,” he says. “So I corner them before they can corner me, and I tell them it’s a just character I have to play; that character is not me.”

He also tried to show the reporters how different he is from Marwan “through the way I talk, through my clothes and through the small details, which will hopefully change something in people’s minds”.

“Time to grow up”

Martha Canga Antonio, 20, who gives a breathless performance as Mavela, admits to feeling ambivalent about both the film’s narrative and the one that has come to surround it. In an interview with the Flemish daily De Morgen, she debunked the “Slumdog Millionaire-type story being created around them” and the idea that the actors were all street kids.

“It doubles in meaning because of its portrayal of reality, but it nevertheless remains a film,” she says, referring to the movie’s focus on street gangs. “You want to inform people about the issue because they don’t like to discuss it otherwise. At the same time, you don’t want to focus exclusively on that. It’s a complex feeling.”

It would be wrong, she says, to stop telling these stories with Black. “If we can push ahead and also show other aspects of what it’s like [in inner-city neighbourhoods], I think we’re on the right track.”

Law enforcement officials and researchers have diverging views on the phenomenon of Brussels gangs. According to 2012 figures from the Brussels’ prosecutor office, the capital counts 31 gangs and 566 gang members.

Local criminologists, however, say there simply are no US-style urban gangs in Belgian cities but rather groups of “seldom organised” youths who “only occasionally cluster together and have a varying composition”.

Even though El Arbi and Fallah are writing a new chapter in the history of Belgian cinema by casting a dark-skinned black woman in the lead role and giving all the meaty roles to migrant youths, they also reinforce vicious stereotypes of black men as sexual predators, of young Moroccans as thugs and of Molenbeek as an economic wasteland where hope goes to die.

But the filmmakers are quick to fend off such criticism. El Arbi and Fallah, who love to present themselves as the bad boys of Belgian cinema – be it through liberally dropping the f-bomb or embracing the street culture through their speech and attire – say they are not interested in promoting stereotypes, neither in their films nor in real life.

“We can’t let the cinema and art be suffocated by misplaced political correctness because that doesn’t help,” El Arbi says. “If we don’t tell these stories, no one will. It’s time to grow up. We can talk about these problems, and we don’t need to avoid them. That’s what people of Moroccan descent but also Belgians in general are – masters of avoidance. Fuck avoiding, let’s talk about this.”
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13 wicked ways to spend Halloween in Belgium

13 wicked ways to spend Halloween in Belgium | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |

The clocks have gone back, the dark nights are drawing in and Halloween weekend is among us again. Here are our tips for how to have a ghoulishly good time on (and around) 31 October in Brussels and beyond.

1. Bruxelles Mon Horreur!
On Halloween night the spirits are out and about. This event will take you through the streets of Brussels on their trail, be they ancient and evil; jokers or malicious. You will discover gargoyles and vampires that are part of the Brussels landscape as well as some bloody history involving Vesalius. And of course, along the way you will partake of delicious and Halloween-appropriate dishes. Meet at the main gates to the Royal Park (across from the Royal Palace) at 16.00 on Saturday 31 October. The trail lasts three hours and costs €16.

2. Brux'Hell
Screw up your courage and brave the wilds of northwest Brussels for Brux'Hell at the Jette cultural centre. The third edition of this growing festival, organised by Mister Y, comprises a scary décor, an art show, a horror market, creepy events, concerts and a DJ set and costume competition. Starts 18.30 on 31 October.
Centre Armillaire, 145 boulevard de Smet de Naeyer, Jette

3. Halloween at the movies
The Cinematek is offering four haunted houses for Halloween. First we have the child-friendly Casperat 15.00 and the Spielberg-produced teen movie Monster House at 17.30. Then in the evening there are two adaptations of Henry James's Turn of the Screw: The Innocents at 19.30 and The Others at 21.30.

Meanwhile, Kinepolis cinemas across Belgium are putting on a Halloween Night on Friday 30 October with four spooky screenings in a row from 22.00 until dawn, with tickets at €35. First up is Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension in 3D. Shortly after midnight is Eli Roth's The Green Inferno, about a group of student activists who travel to the Amazon to save the rainforest and fall into the hands of a hostile 
tribe. Next up is The Visit, in which a single mother finds that things in her family's life go very wrong after her two young children visit their grandparents at an old Pennsylvania homestead. Finally at 4.00 in the morning is Tales of Halloween, 10 short films woven together about an American suburb, where ghouls, imps, aliens and axe murderers appear for one night only to terrorise unsuspecting residents.

4. Amusement parks after dark
Walibi is claiming "the biggest Halloween event in Belgium" with a full week of horror-themed activities, eight haunted houses, seven late-night shows to enjoy the park in the dark when it is at its eeriest. Some 175 zombies, monsters, werewolves and vampires will be roaming the park to give you a scare. It all begins with Terror Night on 30 October. Pairi Daiza animal park at Brugelette, near Mons, will be lit up with hundreds of Chinese lanterns and fire-jugglers, eerie music and a chance to visit the reptile cage and come into direct (supervised) contact with snakes and other creepy creatures. It runs until 8 November and is the last chance to enjoy the park before its winter closure. Brupark at Heysel has two afternoons of Halloween activities on Saturday and Sunday from 15.00 to 20.00, with monsters roaming the park and creative workshops for children....


11. Art attacks
The Museum of Fantastic Art in Brussels is organising its annual Halloween festival, the jewel in its crown. Adults can visit the permanent collection of fantastical art full of paintings, sculptures and ingenious installations while the kids solve riddles and go in search of lost skulls. There’s face painting, costumes, afternoon tea and an abundance of pumpkin soup, during a frightening afternoon of family fun. Nothing is what it seems in this charming yet terrifying museum.
27 October-4 November, Museum of Fantastic Art, Brussels

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Brussels Justice Palace among world's most endangered sites

Brussels Justice Palace among world's most endangered sites | Do you know "Belgium"? ベルギーって言う国知ってますか? |
The Justice Palace in Brussels has been included in the 2016 World Monuments Watch, a list of 50 sites in 36 countries that are at risk from the forces of nature and the impact of social, political, and economic change. The World Monuments Fund (WMF) added the building to the list for its poor condition and lack of a master plan. Most of the monuments on the WMF list are located in areas stricken by war, poverty or natural disasters, notes

“The Brussels Palace of Justice is a victim of its enormous size that long caused it to be seen as a folly, and needs a guarantee of its future and a ground-up rehabilitation,” writes WMF on their site.

The Justice Palace has been in poor condition for decades and renovation efforts have been spotty. There have been reports of falling debris in recent years, and it appears that even the scaffolding is due for a renovation. The federal government does not seem to know what to do with the dilapidated monument, writes

"The WMF is an important organisation abroad, and has been around for 50 years. I couldn't think of a better motivation for us to finally address the problem of the courthouse," says Jos Vandenbreeden of the St. Lukas Architecture Archive.
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