Brit living in Belgium and earning an income from building interfaces. Interestes include science, science fiction, technology, and European news and politics
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How to increase turnout in next European Elections

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How to increase turnout in next European Elections
The European Parliament elections in 2014 showed a low turnout of 42.6%. In six countries it was below 30%. The challenge of stimulating interest in next elections was discussed last week in Brussels at a public-communications conference at the European Committee of the Regions.
In a direct vote on 23-26 May 2019, citizens from 27 EU member states (E27) will elect 705 MEPs to form the new parliament. According to recent opinion polls (Eurobarometers) interest in the European elections has increased by 10 percentage points since April 2018 and is well above the levels five years ago.

YouVoteEU 2019 is an on-line platform which enables voters to cast their own votes on a sample of 25 real decisions in the European Parliament in the last five years and see which members of parliament, national parties and political party groups in the parliament match their own views.

The platform (https://yourvotematters.eu) has been developed with EU funding by a consortium of five European organisations with the aim of enhancing the dialogue between all the actors involved in the next round of elections (politicians, political parties, citizens, organisations and stakeholders).

VoteWatch Europe, a Brussels based think-tank and one of the members of the consortium, told the Brussels Times that since the launch of the platform last September more than 20 000 people have already tried it. The platform has been further developed with more questions since the previous elections when about 1 million people used it.

It is not unusual to receive a match if 85 % or more with MEPs from one or two of the political party groups in the parliament. Overall results until now show that those who have tried the platform voted in line with the MEPs in 16 of the 25 political issues.

On for example one of the key questions - should asylum seekers be redistributed across EU countries on the basis of a quota system - both respondents (77 %) and MEPs (67%) voted in favour. A final decision on this issue has not yet been taken because of opposition by some member states.

On other questions such as whistle-blowing, animal care, and government debt respondents voted for and MEPs against. There is obviously still some way to go for the European Parliament to represent their constituencies and reduce the democratic deficit.

M.Apelblat
The Brussels Times
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expatpaul
1 day ago
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I can never resist a quiz.

My highest match was 68% with the Francophone liberals, which is problematic as I live in Flanders.
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The Art Institute of Chicago Has Put 50,000 High-Res Images from Their Collection Online

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Art Institute Chicago

Art Institute Chicago

Art Institute Chicago

Art Institute Chicago

Art Institute Chicago

Art Institute Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago recently unveiled a new website design. As part of their first design upgrade in 6 years, they have placed more than 52,000 high-resolution images from their collection online, available to all comers without restriction.

Students, educators, and just regular art lovers might be interested to learn that we’ve released thousands of images in the public domain on the new website in an open-access format (52,438 to be exact, and growing regularly). Made available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, these images can be downloaded for free on the artwork pages.

We’ve also enhanced the image viewing capabilities on object pages, which means that you can see much greater detail on objects than before. Check out the paint strokes in Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, the charcoal details on Charles White’s Harvest Talk, or the synaesthetic richness of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Blue and Green Music.

I’ve included a few notable works from their collection above: The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (which you can zoom and pretend you’re Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, Mao by Andy Warhol, and Two Sisters (On the Terrace) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The resolution on the images is high enough to check out the brushstrokes on the paintings. Here’s some detail on the van Gogh:

Art Institute Chicago

I love seeing more museums doing this.

Tags: art   Art Institute of Chicago   museums
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StunGod
5 days ago
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Thanks Art Institute!
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
expatpaul
4 days ago
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Belgium
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cjheinz
5 days ago
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#art

Theresa May hit by colossal metaphor as she suffers car crash in Belgium

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Theresa May has been hit by a gigantic metaphor whilst travelling along what she had been told by advisors would be an easy road through Europe.
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expatpaul
4 days ago
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Belgium
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Ignorance and irresponsibility continue into the final days of the Brexit negotiations

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The revelation that Dominic Raab had not until now “quite understood” the UK’s reliance on the Dover-Calais crossing for goods trade between the UK and the EU has attracted widespread criticism and understandable mockery. It is indeed shocking that the Cabinet Minister in charge of Brexit should only now grasp something so basic to his brief. Yet it is not surprising. It is part of a pattern of ignorance for which there is plenty of evidence – including Raab’s own bemusement (prior to his current role, but after years of campaigning for hard Brexit) that leaving the customs union would increase bureaucracy.

It would be wrong to single out Raab. Scratch the surface of just about any prominent Brexiter and the same kinds of ignorance are revealed. It’s perfectly understandable and reasonable that no one, on any side of the debate, has anything like a comprehensive knowledge of Brexit and its effects – it is just too huge and hydra-headed a phenomenon for that to be possible. But it’s not at all unreasonable to expect politicians – who, after all, have access to numerous resources, including the excellent House of Commons Library briefings – to understand the core, basic issues of what they argue for. Especially when that is so fundamental and total a shift in national history as Brexit.

That they do not have such an understanding has been revealed time and time again. Sometimes it is ludicrous, as with the revelation that convinced Brexiter MP Nadine Dorries was asking as recently as last January what a Customs Union wasand, when it was explained, opined that as it sounded complicated that confirmed that Britain should leave. Or the belief of another Ultra, Andrew Bridgen, that English people are entitled to Irish passports. Or the mistaken claim, made by just about every pro-Brexit MP, but let’s take John Redwood as an example, that the UK currently conducts its non-EU trade on WTO terms. It would be possible to fill a book – and no doubt, one day, someone will – of such nonsenses.

At least Dorries, Bridgen and Redwood have never had any responsibility for delivery (though that isn’t to say that don’t influence it). Unlike David Davis who believed that post-Brexit the UK could negotiate trade deals with individual EU member states. That was a particularly egregious error given that one of the Brexiters’ most fervent complaints is that membership of the EU Common Commercial Policy precludes Britain, as a member state, from doing such deals.

Almost worse than outright ignorance is the lofty deployment – Rees-Mogg is a particular specialist - of supposedly technical arguments, almost invariably on the basis of semi-digested factoids, or half-truths, or selective quotations, or just plain errors. Examples include periodically recurring claims that ‘an EU Report’ has shown how there can be a soft border in Ireland (it’s not an EU Report and it doesn’t show that), or that there is a frictionless border between the USA and Canada, or Switzerland and France (there isn’t, in either case). Again, there's a book to be filled of similar examples.

To repeat, the fault here is not making errors – we all do that, myself certainly included – it is regurgitating them endlessly even when the errors are corrected. It should also be said that there are plenty on the Remain side who are guilty of the same thing, and that it is not confined to Tory politicians (Labour’s repeated claim that a Customs Union with the EU would solve the Irish border issue is an especially gross example, as is Jeremy Corbyn’s mistaken claim that it is impossible to be in the single market if not a member of the EU but that it is possible to ‘retain the benefits’). The difference, though, at least as regards remainers, is that the policy the UK is pursuing is that of the Brexit, so the onus is on Brexiters to get their facts right.

Of course there is nothing new in any of this – many of these points have been made before on this blog, and also by many other people apart from me. But they are worth repeating because we are now hurtling towards what is very possibly going to be the point of no return. It seems increasingly likely that there will be a Withdrawal Agreement within the next few days, and it is going to be put forward by politicians, some or most of whom are ignorant of basic facts, to be voted on by other politicians who are similarly ignorant. Even in these dog days of the negotiations, Brexiter Cabinet ministers – Raab, again, and Liam Fox – are talking of the Northern Ireland backstop as being something which could be time-limitedor unilaterally revocable by the UK, neither of which can, by definition of a backstop, be true.

What is also important – and perhaps crucial to what has unfolded - is that the entire impetus for the Brexit project is predicated not just upon ignorance of, but an absolute refusal to engage with, the complex practicalities of Brexit. After all, it might have been expected that those who have schemed, dreamed and campaigned – sometimes for decades – for Brexit would be falling over themselves in a rapture to have the chance to put it into practice.

Not a bit of it. Those who support Brexit most strongly are far happier standing outside the delivery process rather than taking responsibility for it. That is clear in the way that Boris Johnson prefers to act as if he is still campaigning for Brexit rather than stay in the government delivering it, and why several other Brexiters – perhaps more principled than Johnson, although that is not to put them in a vanishingly small minority – such as Steve Baker prefer the pleasures of purity to the dull compromises of governing. It is most bizarrely evident in David Davis’ criticism today of the Government’s Brexit negotiating strategy: he was responsible for it until last summer.

So we have a strange and, to the best of my knowledge, unprecedented situation. A group of people who are passionate and uncompromising advocates of a fundamental economic and geo-political shift for a nation don’t actually know much about what it means in practice, and have very little interest in delivering it. It is political irresponsibility on a wanton, scandalous scale.

Ironically, though, it is just this ignorance and irresponsibility that Theresa May will gamble on in what I suspect we will see next week: an attempt to play on the fact that her MPs don’t really grasp or care about the detail to get her deal through. If that’s right – and, if so, I’ll write about next week – that will be an even greater irresponsibility, as it will set the stage for years of political infighting, strategic drift and economic decline as the meaning and implications of her deal unfold and unwind.
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expatpaul
5 days ago
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I am sure that many of the people who campaigned most loudly for Brexit had no serious desire to leave the EU. What they wanted was something -- anything -- to blame for Britain's failings.

Instead, they have undermined their own excuses and torched the economy in the process.
Belgium
acdha
5 days ago
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Washington, DC
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New sea research vessel to replace the beloved Belgica

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The Institute of Natural Sciences has ordered up a new sea-going research vessel, which will replace the aged Belgica
New ship, new name
The federal government has announced the purchase of a new ocean-going research vessel to replace the Belgica. The Belgica is 30 years old and has been little used for more than two years now, due to technical problems.

According to Lieven Naudts of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, which manages the country’s research ships, the new vessel will be between 50 and 70 metres long and “three to four times larger in volume” than the Belgica.

This will mean double the lab space, which will be equipped with the most up-to-date technology. The ship will also have a silent motor, which aids the research into sea life. Another crucial task of Belgium’s research vessel is to monitor water quality in the North Sea.

The contract for the construction of the ship has gone to the Spanish shipbuilder Freire Shipyard, according to a design by Rolls Royce Marine AS of Norway. It will cost nearly €54 million and be delivered in late 2020.


Deserved retirement

The Belgica, based in the port of Zeebrugge, has served Belgium well. While the vessel was managed by the Institute of Natural Sciences, it was loaned out to local researchers for marine science projects. In its 30 years, it has sailed to Moroccan, Portuguese, Spanish, French, British and Irish waters.

It is responsible for a wealth of international data regarding fishing techniques, the influence of sand extraction on the sea bed and the effect of wind farms on sea life. It’s international co-operations have led to the discovery of cold water coral mounds south-west of Ireland, for instance, and to mud volcanos off the coast of Morocco.

The vessel will not necessarily carry the name Belgica II: A competition among secondary school students will determine the name of the new vessel. They have until the end of January to create a video of their idea for a name, and then all ideas will be put up to a public vote.

This was also the UK’s idea two years ago, when it opened up the naming of its new research vessel to the public. International headlines were guaranteed when the public chose the name Boaty McBoatface. The UK government ultimately rejected the name in favour of the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

What should happen if Belgie McBelgface is chosen here is anyone’s guess.

Photo: An architecture rendering of Belgium's new research vessel
(c)Belspo


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expatpaul
7 days ago
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"A competition among secondary school students will determine the name of the new vessel."

This is going to end well
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Experience is a candle

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expatpaul
8 days ago
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Belgium
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