Euthanasia: Natacha Tells her Story

Her father François Bogaert, decided in Belgium to speed up his death, after knowing he suffered from an incurable illness.

She tells flashes of her life with a composed posture. The memories made her relive once more the final scene of her father's existence François Bogaert—a Belgian who discovered Cuba in the early 80’s —and who decided to undergo euthanasia * out of his own will after learning he suffered from a progressive supranuclear palsy, best known as PSP * *.

Much time has passed and though people say time heals all wounds of the soul, I feel his daughter Natacha can’t get rid of those painful moments when next to her kin (mother, brother, husband, sister-in-law) she said good-bye to the man who taught her to love this island of the Caribbean.

He had made his mind after knowing that —gradually, due to the illness—he would lose skills important to the human beings, such as seeing, walking, tasting, with great possibilities of suffering Alzheimer.

At first we thought he had Parkinson disease, although his hands were steady —Natacha explained—. He didn't want to go to the doctor’s, he said he was alright. In

The spring of 2014, while he was driving, the car died on him and he hit the curbs.

“He drove since he was 18 years old, he was a good driver, and that called my attention. My mother said it was his sight, but I thought it was associated to a neurological difficulty. Then we convinced him to seek professional help with a doctor.

“In May 2015 he came to Cuba; he knew it would be his last trip to the country he fell in love with. Back then I don’t think he had thought about the euthanasia, but at the airport we had to ask for a wheelchair to carry him because he could not walk well, neither move his eyes, he had to turn his head to look, and he lost balance and had frequent mood changes. He either laughed or cried a lot.”

A few months later, over a telephone call, Natacha’s mother told her of her

father's decision: he would undergo euthanasia; it was the only path to avoid so much personal and family suffering. That determination made Natacha planned a trip to Belgium accompanied by her husband and her two children.

The news—obviously—put her very sentimental. “I cried a lot, but I understood. If in the end the illness will leave him deaf, blind, unable to walk, suffering from Alzheimer, being a vegetable, why cling to life?

“He didn't want to be a burden for his family and he was aware that everything would fall on my mom’s shoulders—who also has her own share of sufferings common of her age—. He had difficulties to keep his balance, he fell frequently, and she wasn’t strong enough to help him.”

The moment arrived!

On November 2, 2015 the euthanasia became effective. Three doctors had already certified that the illness was incurable and François wrote his consent.

Then the family arranged everything. That night, before the family doctor arrived, he asked his children to turn on the television to watch his customary series, as if he could watch it the next day. Around eight o'clock the door bell rang. The time has come!

“My dad started to cry when he had the doctor in front of him, then the doctor told him: `It’s not mandatory you know, if you want you can say no`. To what he answered that he kept his intentions.

“In full capacity of his mind he organized the funeral ceremony. He said farewell to his friends and acquaintances, and he asked not to invite those who didn't give him the last good-bye.”

Only her wife, her husband and her sister-in-law stayed in the room when the doctor injected him. The family suffering had reached its top. Then came the due paperwork, the mortuary, the cremation, the toast (it’s customary in Belgium).


Natacha has lived many years in Cuba. Her children are Cuban and in this land she has found happiness and love. To her father, precisely, she owes all that. François Bogaert arrived in Cuba in the early 80’s being part of a solidarity brigade.

The two-month stay in the international camp Julio Antonio Mella, located in the municipality of Caimito, south of Havana, ever since he was fascinated by this people and its citizens.

That great love was passed to his children, therefore a few years later Natacha (with 14 years) and her baby brother (with 12) visited Cuba for the first time.

Hence the ties between her and her father are deep. Natacha always pleased him, for that reason for many years she sent him the Cuban newspaper. It was a way for him to keep the ties and stay updated on what happened here in Cuba. François died as he wanted, in his home, next to his family, after saying farewell to everyone, also his friends, and close relatives.

In the final ceremony—on his own request—three songs he loved were played. One of them, the last one, was Girón: La Victoria interpreted by the singer and songwriter Sarah González. Somehow, the Belgian had also won and had cheated death.

* The Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.

* * Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is a degenerative disease involving the gradual deterioration and death of specific volumes of the brain. Males and females are affected approximately equally and there is no racial, geographical or occupational predilection. Approximately 6 people per 100,000 population have PSP. It has been described as a tauopathy.

Brussels installs memorial to mark attack anniversary

A Belgian artist is installing a metal sculpture shaped like rising waves near the seat of the European Union to honor the victims of the militant attacks on Brussels a year ago that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds.

On March 22, 2016, three Islamic State suicide bombers targeted Brussels airport and a metro train in the capital, the deadliest such attack in Belgian history. It followed coordinated attacks on Paris four months earlier that killed 130 people and sent shockwaves across Europe and beyond.

The sculpture by Jean-Henri Compere is called "Wounded But Still Standing in Front of the Inconceivable" and is constructed from two 20-metre (66 feet) long horizontal surfaces rising skywards.

"Well, it means we've been wounded down to the ground, but we have to stand up and say 'no' to those acts that are not believable, that are not bearable," Compere told Reuters at the memorial site.

Compere said the sculpture could also symbolize two plane wings, or a subway train.

"It's a piece that should stay in the city," he said. "I want that the sculpture lives with the city, that it takes on its sheen, that it gets through the years, because time helps us build ourselves back up."

The memorial will be unveiled on March 22, exactly one year after the attacks.

"I like the fact that it's supposed to visualize the strength of the city and the resilience of the city," said U.S. citizen Evan Lamps, 31, who works in Brussels.

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Moscow summons Belgian ambassador, presents data on F-16s bombing of Syrian civilians

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it has presented Alex Van Meeuwen, Belgium’s ambassador in Moscow, with evidence proving the involvement of Belgian Air Force jets in a recent airstrike on a Syrian village that killed four civilians.

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Van Meeuwen on Friday.

“During the conversation with Van Meeuwen, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov said that Moscow was puzzled by Belgium’s ongoing denial of the fact that the Belgian Air Force carried out an airstrike that killed civilians on the outskirts of Aleppo on October 18 of this year,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The Belgian diplomat [Van Meeuwen] was presented with evidence showing involvement of the Belgian Air Force in the airstrike on the village of Hassadjek. It was also mentioned that detailed info on the technical aspects of the flight of the two F-16 jets had been given to Belgium’s military attaché in Moscow by the Russian Ministry of Defense.”

"This [Friday] afternoon, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense handed over to the Defense Attaché of the Belgian Embassy in Moscow the alleged evidence designed to show that F-16 jets of the Belgian Air Force are responsible for the airstrike near Aleppo in the early hours of October 18, which resulted in several deaths among civilians. This alleged evidence is a map with the route of the flight allegedly made by Belgian aircraft," a communique posted on the Belgian Ministry of Defense website said.

"The numbers of the identification friend-or-foe system, which are marked on the map and which, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, are assigned to the Belgian aircraft, are incorrect and in no way are the numbers of the Belgian Air Force aircraft," the document says.

Brussels is using “worthless excuses” in an attempt to divert public attention from the airstrike on the Syrian village, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.

"Attempts by the Belgian Defense Minister [Steven Vandeput] to divert public attention from the tragedy, using obviously worthless excuses, causes profound confusion. It speaks of either Mr Vandeput’s misunderstanding of the document provided by Russia, or the desire of the US Armed Forces Central Command, responsible for providing targeting data to aircraft of the international coalition in Syria, to evade responsibility for the death of six Syrian civilians, killed in the airstrike,” Konashenkov told journalists.

Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Didier Vanderhasselt told Interfax on Friday the ministry is not yet aware of the content of its ambassador’s conversation with Russia’s deputy foreign minister, and is waiting for the results of the meeting. “We maintain dialogue with the Russian side, we need to know exactly what was said at this meeting,” he added.

"We are also surprised by the fact that we have not been provided with the data before," Vanderhasselt is cited as saying by Interfax. "Our military gave all the explanations to the military attaché of the Russian Embassy in Belgium yesterday [Thursday] morning," he added.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday that Brussels’ obstinate denial of involvement shows that Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput is either “deliberately deceiving people in Belgium and around the world, or his subordinates and the Americans are lying to the leadership of Belgium.”

The airstrike on the village of Hassadjek in Syria’s Aleppo province reportedly killed six civilians on Tuesday.

According to Konashenkov, the two Belgian F-16s were immediately identified by Russian and Syrian air defense radar and all of their movements were tracked.

“Every aircraft type has a unique identifiable signature,” he noted.

The warplanes, which had flown in from the Muwaffaq Salti Airbase in Jordan, delivered their night strike on the village at 00:35 GMT, about two hours after takeoff, leaving six civilians dead and four injured, the general said. Russia tracked the flight of the two planes from Jordan to Iraq and Syria, as well as their meeting with a US KC-135 tanker, which refueled them over the Deir ez-Zor area, Konashenkov said, adding that the US-led coalition hadn’t informed Russia about the Belgian flights.

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Radar data proves Belgian F-16s attacked village near Aleppo, killing 6 - Russia

Russia insists two Belgium warplanes flying from an Air Force base in Jordan attacked a village in Syria, citing radar data. Belgium denies conducting any airstrikes.

Brussels’ continued denial of the jets movements in the area is Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput “deliberately deceiving people in Belgium and elsewhere in the world, or his subordinates and the Americans are lying to the leadership of Belgium,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said.

An airstrike on the village of Hassadjek in Aleppo province reportedly killed six civilians on Tuesday. Russia has now reiterated its accusations against Belgium, saying data from Russian and Syrian radar stations confirm it.

“Detailed information about the operation of the Belgian F-16s in Syrian sky will be delivered to the Belgian side through diplomatic and military channels,” Konashenkov said.

The two Belgian F-16 jets accused of the attack flew from the Muwaffaq Salti Airbase in Jordan, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that they were immediately identified.

“Every aircraft type has a unique identifiable signature,” he said.

The Belgian warplanes delivered their night strike at the village at 00:35 GMT, about two hours after take-off, the general said. The attack left six civilians killed and four others injured. Russia tracked the flight of the two planes from Jordan to Iraq and Syria, as well as their encounter with a US KC-135 tanker, which refueled them over the Deir ez-Zor area, Konashenkov said.

Another refueling happened almost an hour after the village attack, he said. The Belgian planes continued patrolling around the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria and then flew towards Iraq, leaving Syrian airspace at 04:25 GMT, he added.

The US-led coalition never informed Russia of the Belgian sorties, Konashenkov said, which goes against the usual practice.

“I’d like to stress that this was not the first time when the international coalition conducted airstrikes against civilian targets and later denied responsibility for them,” he said. “Coalition warplanes have hit weddings, funerals, hospitals, police stations, humanitarian convoys and even Syrian troops fighting Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] terrorists.”

All the movements were detected by the Russian and Syrian air defense radars.

“Russia has effective air defense measures capable of round-the-clock monitoring of the sky above almost all of Syria. In addition to ours, the airspace is also controlled by Syrian air defenses, which have been restored during the past year,” Konashenkov said.

Radar data proves Belgian F16s attacked village near #Aleppo

Responding to the new accusations, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel reiterated the denial of his country’s involvement in the bombing.

“Judging by the information from the Defense Ministry, we have nothing to do with it. Of course the parliament will be informed of the role played by our military in the region in the hours or days to come,” he said before an EU summit in Brussels.

Belgium earlier denied Russia’s accusations, saying none of its six warplanes contributing to the US-led coalition had flown over the region. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to Brussels to voice its protest.

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‘Attacking terrorists in Aleppo is only way to protect civilians’ – Assad

Syrian government forces must clear Aleppo of Islamist militants still controlling the eastern part of the embattled city as this is the only way to protect civilians there, President Bashar Assad has said.

"How can you protect them [civilians] while they are under the control of terrorists? They've been killed by them, and they've been controlled fully by the terrorists,” Assad told Swiss broadcaster SRF in a 20-minute “censorship-free” interview on Tuesday. 

“Is it our role to sit aside and watch if that's how we can protect the Syrian people? We need to attack the terrorists. That's self-evident," the Syrian leader said, responding to a question from SRF reporter Sandro Brotz, who confronted him with the widely-shared photo of an ash-covered child allegedly pulled from the rubble in Aleppo.

The interview came as Syrian government forces attempt to retake eastern Aleppo, currently held by Al-Nusra Front militants. Up to 250,000 civilians are believed to be in the area, without access to food, water and sanitation, while aid agencies warn of a looming humanitarian disaster.

Assad added that the government’s steps to liberate the city from Islamists falls completely within Syrian law.

“That's our mission, according to the constitution, according to the law, that we have to protect people, that we have to get rid of those terrorists from Aleppo. This is where we can protect the civilians," he said.

Earlier, Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said that the ‘moderate’ opposition forces fighting alongside Al-Nusra Front in eastern Aleppo must distance themselves from the Islamists. If they can do that, Al-Nusra militants will then be offered an opportunity to retreat from the city or face defeat.

Aleppo, once a large city with booming businesses and tourism, is now among the worst-hit places in war-torn Syria. Supported by Russian aircraft, government forces liberated western Aleppo earlier this year, but the battle for this important city is far from over.

Whereas some Western countries publicly accuse Damascus and Moscow of ‘war crimes’ in Aleppo, the Syrian government suspects that Islamists have deliberately banned civilians from leaving the eastern part of the city, effectively using them as human shields.

In the city’s western half, the situation is no better. People living close to the frontline are under indiscriminate rocket and mortar fire, with shells severely injuring children and adults.

Earlier this month, RT visited several Aleppo hospitals which remain overcrowded but lack medical personnel and adequate medicine. Some locals, including children, have lost their arms and legs in the shelling or have had them amputated, while efficient painkillers are not available to everyone.

@RT_America Covert strikes on Assad back on US table to prevent ‘fall of Aleppo’ – report

On Tuesday, the Russian and Syrian Air Forces said they will cease operations for 48 hours to let civilians pass through the division line safely, and also pave the way for aid deliveries. This did not change the situation on the ground much, however, RT’s Murad Gazdiev reported from Aleppo hours after the statement was made.

“Syrian and Russian jets have been absent from Aleppo skies for many hours now. But there has been no lull in the fighting – fighting continues, shelling continues – of rebel-held areas, of government-held areas. The death toll is climbing every day; it’s big,” he said.

Later on the same day, two Belgian F-16s reportedly delivered an airstrike on the village of Hassadjek in Aleppo province, killing at least six people and injuring four, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

On Wednesday, Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput rejected the claim, saying its fighter jets were not operating in the area.

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Police capture man who held 15 hostage in Belgian supermarket

The armed attacker, who took people hostage in a supermarket in the Forest suburb of Brussels, has given himself up to the police, authorities have confirmed.

Eyewitnesses told local channel VRT that the hostage-taking unfolded at about 7 p.m. local time, in a Carrefour chain store, after what they claimed was a robbery attempt gone wrong. Those who managed to leave the supermarket said the suspect was armed with a knife, and forced shoppers to lie down on the floor.

The area was quickly sealed off, and a special team, supported by a helicopter, was sent to disarm the suspect.

Within minutes, the man, who appeared to have issued no demands, was apprehended.

While there has been no suggestion that the hostage-taking was a terrorist attack, police and residents in the Belgian capital have been on high alert over potential incidents in public places, following a deadly airport and train station bombing in the city in March this year.

At dawn on Tuesday, security forces raided 15 houses across the country, taking four men into custody, who now face charges of abetting radical Islamist organizations.

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Cuban Symphony Orchestra and Belgian Pianist to Perform Mozart

Havana, Oct 12 (Prensa Latina) The National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba and the Belgian pianist, Roberte Mamou, will offer a concert on October 16, during which will perform famous musical pieces by Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the National Symphony Orchestra announced today.

The influence of the genius of Salzburg, author of more than 600 pieces, is perceptible in the five continents, and Cuban musicians pay tribute to him each year by performing a festival that takes place in this capital.

The Festival Mozart-Habana 2016 will take place from October 15 to 23 in several concert halls and will participate musicians from France, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and United States, among others.

The concert will take place at the Covarrubias Hall of the National Theater. Selections of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute will be performed that day with the collaboration of soloists and the chorus of the Lyric Theater of Cuba.

In addition, the orchestra under the conduction of maestro Enrique Pérez Mesa, will play Mozart's brilliant Piano Concerto No.12 in A major, K.414, accompanied by the Belgian pianist Roberte Mamou, who was invited to the event organized by the Mozart Lyceum of Havana.

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Terrorists behind Paris & Brussels attacks got over €50K in welfare - report

At least five terrorists involved in the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks were receiving welfare benefits from the state, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing local authorities.

Belgian financial investigators looking into the terrorist attacks found that Salah Abdeslam, charged with taking part in the Paris assaults, had collected €19,000 ($21,000) in welfare payments, which were stopped just a few weeks before the attacks were carried out in the French capital in November, WSJ reports.  

However, Abdeslam should not have been receiving payments as he partly owned a bar, which he was managing at the time. Belgian officials say this made him ineligible for welfare. 

In total, the authorities say that five terrorists who took part in the Paris and Brussels attacks were able to claim a total of over €50,000 ($56,000).

Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told the Wall Street Journal that something needs to be done to address issues with the welfare system, adding that it is accepted that “the benefits system is vulnerable to abuse for terrorist financing purposes.” 

He said that the authorities could perhaps look at different ways of handing out benefits, such as the use of vouchers. 

“If you’re paying benefit to people in certain parts of Brussels, maybe you need to be a little more observant about who you’re paying to, and what they might be doing with it,” he told the newspaper. 

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has previously encouraged its followers to tap into the European benefits system. In a 2015 booklet, it suggested that “if you can claim extra benefits from a government, then do so.” 

Meanwhile, the Belgian government has identified student-loan fraud and insurance scams as ways that jihadists could raise financial capital in the West. 

Philippe de Koster, director of Belgium’s Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, said that better coordination was needed between security and welfare officers to try and stop those suspected of terrorism from receiving welfare payments. However, the law in Belgium currently only allows benefit payments to be cut once a person is convicted of terrorism. 

De Koster says there is no evidence that the terrorists used this welfare money to finance their attacks, but he does accept that it helped them with their “livelihoods” and “indirect support for their terrorist activities,” the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Checks in Belgium on people receiving benefits have become significantly more stringent since the Brussels attacks in March. A month later, the National Employment Office found that 14 people jailed in Belgium under terrorism charges had been receiving welfare while they were behind bars. 

The Belgian prime minister’s spokesman, Fred Cauderlier, has since confirmed that the law has been changed to make sure that people convicted of terrorist offenses will not receive benefits payments while in jail.

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