News in Brief
Thieves last week stole a bicycle belonging to the new bishop of Antwerp. Johan Bonny had received the brand-new bicycle as a gift from his family on being made bishop. He was previously rector of the Belgian college in Rome, where he rode a Vespa.
A pharmacist from Middelkerke is under psychiatric supervision in the Sint-Jozef Hospital in Ostend after giving poisoned cheese to her husband and two sons, aged 14 and 12. The woman later repented and drove the victims to the hospital. The woman is said to be depressed.
The longest poem in the world was last week officially unveiled in Antwerp. The work by city poet Joke van Leeuwen, titled Eleven hundred and forty-four metre poem, is displayed on the tiled walls of the Sint-Anna pedestrian tunnel on the left bank of the Scheldt. It measures, as the title says, 1,144 metres.
The first signs of a new plague of the oak processionary caterpillar have been spotted in Limburg province. The caterpillar has hairs which, when they come into contact with the human skin, can cause irritation, and which when inhaled cause symptoms of asthma. In previous years the army has been employed to eradicate the caterpillars, which are still in the larval stage and represent no immediate danger. Last year the provincial government spent €25,000 on a product to remove the pests.
Police and firefighters rushed to answer an alarm in a church in Oordegem in East Flanders last week, interrupting a funeral service. The cause of the alarm was found to be an automatic smoke detector, which had been set off by a censer hung in the vestry while it was still smoking.
A group representing the parents of road accident victims has come out in support of a campaign alerting people to the dangers of MP3 players in traffic. A series of radio ads, launched last week on Studio Brussel, is designed to show how players can be a danger for cyclists and pedestrians. A week earlier, mobility minister Etienne Schouppe called for an investigation into the dangers of MP3 players from the Institute for Road Safety.
Flanders now has its own dating website for cheating adulterers, with the opening of Second Love, based on a Dutch model. The site advertises itself as “a dating site for men and women who are looking for an exciting affair or an adventure.” The site’s founder, Erik Drost, says: “How far people are willing to go, from flirting online to real-life dates, is a matter for our members themselves”. Full membership costs €69.95 a month.
Child Focus, the charity for missing and exploited children, has replaced its emergency number with the new EU-wide emergency phone number 116.000, which is already in operation in seven countries. The previous number, 110, remains operational for a period.
Last year government inspectors filed 110 complaints against fitness clubs, according to enterprise minister Vincent Van Quickenborne in answer to a parliamentary question. The offences concerned discrimination in accepting clients, difficulties in allowing the cancellation of contracts, and contracts that were automatically extended without the explicit agreement of the customer.
Crime rose in Antwerp last year for the sixth year in a row, with the number of burglaries particularly worrying, police said. The total number of crimes reported went up by 4%, but armed robberies fell 5%, and thefts from cars was down a massive 32%. Bag-snatchings however were up by 28%, and thefts involving violence rose 12%. Burglaries fell, but only by 2%, despite the introduction of various preventive measures. Antwerp mayor Patrick Janssens called the figures “disturbingly high”.
About 30 member of the militant Flemish group Taal Aktie Komitee (TAK) were detained by police when they scaled the lion at Waterloo to hang banners. The group were marking out the language barrier in the municipalities around Brussels, and had already demonstrated in Overijse, Genval and Sint-Genesius Rode, where they blocked traffic, before moving on to Waterloo. They climbed the lion with the intention of hanging a protest banner, but the demonstration was broken up by the police.