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623 - Fear of a Belgian Planet
It's a good season for subterfuge. While the rest of the world is watching Syria - or, more precisely, the omnishambles following Obama's "red line" in the Syrian sand - Europe has quietly, but quite drastically been taken over by Belgium.
This map, published 9 September 2013, shows a continent henceforth dominated by a country formerly ridiculed as one of its smallest, most-invaded states .
Belgium has nibbled at the Netherlands and France, but wolfed down most of Germany and Poland (which seem to have merged with each other and Denmark, by the way), eaten away at Switzerland and Italy, devoured all of Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary and consumed most of former Yugoslavia.
Arlon, Belgium's southernmost provincial capital, is no longer wedged between Luxembourg and France, but is just settling in to its new surroundings  in Macedonia, near Bulgaria and Greece.
The Battle of the Bulge, which famously took place just north of Arlon, would now be fought on lands formerly known as Transylvania. Strangely, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have not been absorbed by the Belgian superstate, but pushed further to the east, between what looks like Ukraine or Belarus and what might be Moldova.
Perhaps we should have seen the Belgian colossus coming. After all, the sprout-eaters  had already positioned one of theirs to be President of Europe. Unassuming like most of his countrymen , Herman Van Rompuy had quietly been preparing the Belgianisation  of Europe ever since his appointment to the presidency of the European Council  in 2009.
So what will happen next? After the triumphant Belgians have recovered from partying like its mille neuf-cent nonante-neuf , they will wake up in a country that is even more central and essential  to Europe. With the rest of the European Union effectively Belgian satellite states , it will be fairly easy to use Brussels - conveniently already the capital of both Belgium and Europe - to Belgianise the rest of the Union.
Here's the plan:
And that's just for starters. The main course:
Two official languages added to every country unlucky enough to have only one. A thirteenth month of wages added to everybody's pay packet. A Day of the Belgian Monarchy added to each country's holiday calendar. In exchange, the new crowned Belgian king Philippe I  would require the allegiance of his new subjects. If they object, word is he'll just throw in another holiday.
Not bad for a country that has been given up for dead more times than Nelson Mandela. Founded in the early 19th century after kicking out the French, then the Dutch, Belgium has proved more cohesive than many outside observers had predicted. But with the economic crisis exacerbating the strife between Flemings and Walloons, that split along linguistic lines might still happen.
Yet another save for Belgium might come in the unlikely guise of its national football  team. Most sports commentators agree that the current crop of players for the Belgian national team is of exceptional quality, and many even predict a fabulous run for the Red Devils in next year's World Cup in Brazil.
That would certainly rekindle the fading embers of Belgian nationalism. In fact, this map of Greater Belgium was meant to illustrate national pride at defeating Scotland 0-2 in Edinburgh the day before. Imagine how big Belgium would be if, perchance, it were to win the World Cup next year…
 Full disclosure: the author is a citizen (though not a resident) of Europe's new superpower.↩
 The phrase used by British newspapers in the autumn of 1914 to describe neutral Belgium's principled but hopeless resistance against the German invasion.↩
 As in Brussels sprouts. Food-mad Belgians probably deserve a gastronomical nickname, but 'chocolate-munchers' just doesn't have the necessary put-down factor.↩
 Can you name five famous Belgians? Fictional ones like Tintin, Hercule Poirot and Leopold II don't count. Of course you can't. But it's not that there aren't any. It's just that you've never heard of them. Here's a Top 10 from the page famousbelgians.net - apparently, there are so many Famous Belgians they had to build a website to contain them all.↩
 The European Council consists of all EU heads of state or government, with its members presiding in rotation until they elected Van Rompuy (then prime minister of Belgium) to be its first permanent president. He was re-elected for a second and final two-and-a-half year term, which will expire on 30 November 2014.↩
 That's 1999 in Belgian French, which makes more sense than the French French version: mille neuf-cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf. To give every official language in Belgium its due, in Dutch it would be negentien negenennegentig, while the German-speaking Belgians would party like it's neunzehnhundertneunundneunzig.↩
 Better in French: incontournable, literally 'impossible to bypass'. An elemental word in Belgian political discourse, and soon across Europe.↩
 Some would say: Replace Belgium with Germany, and you have a good description of the EU's current balance of power.↩
 A kiosk selling Belgian fries (erroneously called French fries in the English-speaking world) and related condiments and snacks. Frietkot or frituur are the preferred terms in Dutch, friture or friterie in French.↩
 But only in months with an -r-, i.e. September to April.↩
 One of the few people in the world whose name is multilingual. He is known as Philippe in the French-speaking south of Belgium, and Filip in the Dutch-speaking north. And the German-speakers? In a great example of a classic Belgian compromise, they can choose between both.↩
 The proper name for soccer.↩
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.