Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

Map of Belgian village of Erquelinnes where a local farmer extended his country's territory 2.20 metres by moving an ancient stone marking the border with France. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 05 May 2021

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

  • Group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side
  • In Belgian village of Erquelinnes, the mayor appeared keen to avoid an international incident

BRUSSELS: A Belgian farmer unwittingly extended his country’s territory by moving an ancient stone marking the border with France that was on his land.
A group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side.
The discovery of the stone, now sitting 2.20 meters (7.2 feet) away from where it was placed in accordance with a border agreement two centuries ago, has caused a flap in a normally sleepy rural area.
“If it belongs to us, it belongs to us. We don’t want to be robbed of 2 meters,” a resident of the French village of Bousignies-sur-Roc told RTL Info.
On the other side, in the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, mayor David Lavaux appeared keen to avoid an international incident.
“The land was sold and I think the person who bought it changed the borders the way he wanted,” he said. “But this isn’t just a private border, it’s a border between countries and you can’t just at will move boundary markers that have been there for a long time.”


‘Tinder Swindler’ victim continues to look for love on dating show

Updated 28 November 2022

‘Tinder Swindler’ victim continues to look for love on dating show

  • Hayut told Newsbeat that he denies the accusations shown in the Netflix documentary

LONDON: If you watched “The Tindler Swindler,” Netflix’s hit documentary about fraudster Simon Leviev, whose real name is Shimon Hayut, then you will definitely recognize Cecilie Fjellhoy.  

Fjellhoy was one of the women whom Hayut duped out of thousands of pounds by posing as a wealthy heir.  

Five years on, Fjellhoy, 33, is ready to find love again and is appearing on “Celebs Go Dating,” a show where a cast of stars — often from reality shows like “Love Island” and “The Only Way is Essex” — go on dates with non-celebrities. 

Speaking at the series launch, Fjellhoy said to BBC’S Newsbeat: “I don’t feel like a celeb. I don’t want people to think that I look at myself like a celeb, but I really appreciate that my face is actually known around the world. I am blessed that I’m able to do ‘Celebs Go Dating’ and show a different side to me.”

Fjellhoy seems optimistic about dating after her debacle. She explains she finds dating “fun” and will “continue to have with it.”  

She is even back on Tinder. “I never looked at Tinder as the one to be blamed for what happened to me because I met him in real life,” she said, “but I think I went a bit too quick back on the apps.” 

Following the release of “The Tinder Swindler,” Fjellhoy received an outpouring of sympathetic reactions from viewers. However, she was also at the receiving hand of misogynistic comments from people who labeled her as a “gold digger” and deserving of the unfortunate events that befell her.  

Fjellhoy said she is expecting a backlash to her dating show appearance, saying, “Trolling always happens. I’ve learnt not to read (the comments).”

She believes, however, that is important to shine a light on such comments, explaining that they can be “dangerous.”

“It’s fun to laugh about it, but it can be dangerous in the long run,” she said.  

Fjellhoy has been campaigning for more awareness on romance fraud and is calling for training for police and healthcare professionals so that victims can feel better supported. She also wants to help remove some of the stigma surrounding scams so people can feel less ashamed about seeking help if they do fall prey to fraudsters.  

Speaking on Hayut’s release, Fjellhoy said it is “disheartening” and that her goal was to “keep people protected from people like him.” 

In 2019, Hayut was convicted of four charges of fraud, not relating to Fjellhoy’s allegations, and was sentenced to a total of 15 months in prison. He was released after serving only five. Previously in Denmark, in 2015, he was sentenced for defrauding three women. 

Hayut told Newsbeat that he denies the accusations shown in the Netflix documentary. 

Fjellhoy said she unexpectedly ran into Hayut at a beach club in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he currently resides.   

She said she waved at him and continued on. “I am not scared of him. He cannot hurt me anymore,” she said. 

Hayut claims he reported her Tel Aviv visit to the Israeli police and accused her of harassment.  

Fjellhoy says she still receives messages from people, young and old, sharing their own stories of romance fraud. Her advice to them is to speak out if they believe they are being scammed, to reach out to family and friends and to recount their experiences. She also advises them to contact the banks as “they’re not your enemy.” 

She said: “The thing with fraud (is that) you don’t realize red flags when they’re happening. That’s why it’s dangerous. When you realize you’ve been defrauded, go to the police, go to the bank.”

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FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels

Updated 28 November 2022

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels

  • As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong FIFA World Cup, even its camels are working overtime

MESAIEED, Qatar: Shaheen stretched out on the sand and closed his eyes, but there was little time to rest for the camel. World Cup fans coming in droves to the desert outside Doha were ready for their perfect Instagram moment: riding a camel on the rolling dunes.
As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong World Cup, even its camels are working overtime. Visitors in numbers the tiny emirate has never before seen are rushing to finish a bucket list of Gulf tourist experiences between games: ride on a camel’s back, take pictures with falcons and wander through the alleyways of traditional markets.
On a recent Friday afternoon, hundreds of visitors in football uniforms or draped in flags waited for their turn to mount the humpbacked animals. Camels that did not rise were forced up by their handlers. When one camel let out a loud grunt, a woman from Australia shrieked, “it sounds like they’re being violated!” Nearby, a group of men from Mexico dressed in white Qatari thobes and headdresses took selfies.
“It’s really an amazing feeling because you feel so tall,” 28-year-old Juan Gaul said after his ride. The Argentine fan was visiting Qatar for a week from Australia.
Cashing in on the opportunity are the animals’ handlers who, thanks to the World Cup, are making several times more than they normally would.
“There’s a lot of money coming in,” said Ali Jaber Al-Ali, a 49-year-old Bedouin camel herder from Sudan. “Thank god, but it’s a lot of pressure.”
Al-Ali came to Qatar 15 years ago but has worked with camels since he was a child. On an average weekday before the World Cup, Al-Ali said his company would offer around 20 rides per day and 50 on weekends. Since the World Cup started, Al-Ali and the men he works with are providing 500 rides in the morning and another 500 in the evening. The company went from having 15 camels to 60, he said.
“Tour guides want to move things fast,” Al-Ali said, “so they add pressure on us.”
As crowds formed around them, many camels sat statue-like with cloth muzzles covering their mouths and bright saddles on their bodies. The smell of dung filled the air.
Like other Gulf cultures, camels once provided Qataris a vital form of transport and helped in the exploration and development of trade routes. Today, the ungulates figure into cultural pastimes: camel racing is a popular sport that takes place on old-school tracks outside the city.
Al-Ali said he knows when an animal is tired — usually if it refuses to get up or sits back down after rising to its feet. He can identify each camel by its facial features.
“I am a Bedouin. I come from a family of Bedouins who care for camels. I grew up loving them,” Al-Ali said.
But the sudden rise in tourists means there’s less time to rest between rides, he said. A short ride lasts just 10 minutes while longer ones run 20 to 30 minutes long.
Normally, Al-Ali said a camel can rest after five rides. “Now, people are saying we can’t wait ... because they have other plans they need to go to in the middle of the desert,” he said.
Since the World Cup started, the animals are taken for 15 to 20 — sometimes even 40 rides — without a break.
His day starts around 4:30 a.m., when he feeds the animals and gets them ready for customers. Some tourists have been arriving at dawn, Al-Ali said, hoping to get the perfect sunrise shot, “so we have to work with them and take photos for them.”
From midday until 2 p.m., both handlers and camels rest, he said. “Then we start getting ready for the afternoon battle.”
But not every visitor has been taken by the experience.
Pablo Corigliano, a 47-year-old real estate agent from Buenos Aires, said he was hoping for something more authentic. The excursions start on a stretch of desert by the side of a highway, not far from the industrial city of Mesaieed and its vast oil refineries.
“I was expecting something more wild,” said Corigliano. “I thought I would be crossing the desert, but when I arrived, I saw a typical tourist point.”
Soon after, Corigliano and a group of friends looked for a dune buggy to race into the desert.


Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

Updated 25 November 2022

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

  • The unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals
  • They point visitors in the right direction on their search for public

DOHA: The World Cup 2010 in South Africa had Shakira. The 1998 tournament in France had Ricky Martin.
For many fans, the unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals, better known as Last Mile Marshals.
Seated all over Doha on high chairs more commonly used by lifeguards at swimming pools, these migrant workers have become a staple of the Middle East’s first World Cup.
They point visitors flooding into this Arabian Peninsula nation in the right direction on their search for public transportation. It’s an important crowd control measure as some 1.2 million fans are expected to inundate Qatar, a country home to 3 million people.
The vast majority of the marshals come from Kenya and Ghana. They say they responded to job ads in August and September, ahead of the World Cup.
After a monotonous start, some marshals now sing or chant their instructions to fans. Bullhorns they carry blast out the recorded message again, and again, and again.


The instructions spark laughter among fans who often join in with the chants.
“Which way?” the fans chant.
“This way,” ushers respond, pointing a giant foam finger toward a station on Doha’s new massive underground metro built for the tournament.
The exchange then finds its rhythm and turns into almost a song: “Metro, metro, metro, this way, this way, this way.”
Abubakar Abbas of Kenya says it all started as a way of easing boredom during his first days of work.
“The fans were just passing by without any engagement,” Abbas said from his high chair outside the Souq Waqif metro station, “So I decided to come up with an idea where I can engage the fans and be interesting at the same time. That’s how I came up with the idea and thank God it is trending now.”
Qatar’s World Cup has already produced memorable moments on the pitch, including Argentina’s surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia and Germany’s loss to Japan.
Outside the stadiums, the marshals trance-like chant is stuck in people’s head.
“Even when I sleep at night, I hear ‘metro, metro, metro’ ringing in my head,” he said.


Joe Biden becomes first sitting US president to reach 80 years old

Updated 21 November 2022

Joe Biden becomes first sitting US president to reach 80 years old

  • His latest medical checkup showed he was fit to serve as president, but the rigors of his office also have made their mark on Biden, who walks now with a stiffer gait and suffers moments of confusion

WASHINGTON: For the first time in history, a sitting president turned 80 years old in the White House on Sunday but did not celebrate in any public way.
It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that First Lady Jill Biden posted an affectionate message, with two photos of the couple dancing in tuxedos and gala attire.
“There’s no one else I’d rather dance with than you. Happy Birthday Joe! I love you,” Jill Biden tweeted.
It was the sole mention from the White House of the birthday, and with no public event scheduled no indication emerged of how, or even if, the president would celebrate his birthday.
Just a day earlier, the Biden family hosted a large-scale fete at the White House — the wedding of Biden’s granddaughter Naomi, which was closed to the press.

 

Biden does have an important matter to discuss with his family in the coming days — whether he will seek re-election in 2024.
He said at a press conference November 9 that he “intends” to run, and said he and his wife will “sneak away” for a week at some point between Thanksgiving and Christmas to decide with his family.
He promised to make his decision public in early 2023.
Various recent polls say a majority of Americans do not want Biden to run again.
While influential figures who are over 70 or even 75 years old are ample in the American political landscape, the midterm elections have brought some initial generational change in the Democratic Party.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, 82, announced her decision Thursday not to run for a new term as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Biden underwent a thorough medical checkup about a year ago, and the results concluded that he was “a healthy, vigorous” man who is fit to serve as president.
But the rigors of the Oval Office also have made their mark on Biden, who walks now with a stiffer gait and suffers moments of confusion.
 


Children in Syria’s Idlib hold their own World Cup

Updated 19 November 2022

Children in Syria’s Idlib hold their own World Cup

  • The excited children took part in the opening ceremony at the municipal stadium in Idlib
  • Children aged 10 to 14 have been training for months to take part in the "camps World Cup"

IDLIB, Syria: More than 300 children in rebel-held northwest Syria kicked off their own football World Cup on Saturday, with organizers hoping to shine a light on communities battered by 11 years of war.
The excited children took part in the opening ceremony at the municipal stadium in Idlib, some wearing the jerseys of this year’s World Cup teams, an AFP photographer said.
Their 32 squads correspond to the nations that have qualified for the World Cup, which starts Sunday in Qatar, and their competition opened with a match between the host country and Ecuador, reflecting the official schedule.
“I represent Spain and I hope we win the cup,” gushed 12-year-old Bassel Sheikho, who works in a garage.
While children from camps for displaced people in Idlib and surrounding areas make up 25 of the teams, the other seven are composed of children who work in industrial zones in the region.
Syria’s war has killed around half a million people and displaced millions more since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced.
Children aged 10 to 14 have been training for months to take part in the “camps World Cup,” said Ibrahim Sarmini from the NGO Violet, which organized the tournament.
He said the event aims to encourage children to participate in sports, and to “focus international attention on displaced youth and those who work,” who are among those most exposed to sometimes deadly risks.
The last pocket of armed opposition to President Bashar Assad’s regime includes large swathes of Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.
The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) militant group, led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, is dominant in the area but other rebel groups are also active.
The “camps World Cup” matches will continue throughout the official tournament period, and the final will be organized in a camp in Idlib.
Sarmini noted that winter was set to begin in full force, with rains expected to once again bring misery to the ramshackle, poverty-stricken camps.
“I hope the whole world will turn their attention to the displaced and will support them so they can return to their homes as soon as possible,” he said.