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Terror in Europe

Belgium, Finding The Proper Way To Soldier On

Many locals are trying to maintain a so-called "belgitude" after last week's deadly terror. But the city's vulnerability is on full display.

At the Maelbeek metro station, a tribute for the victims of the Brussels terrorist attacks.
At the Maelbeek metro station, a tribute for the victims of the Brussels terrorist attacks.
Stefan Hertmans*

-Essay-

BRUSSELS — It's strange to watch how much international solidarity a country is met with when tragedy strikes, even if the beleaguered country has been criticized and held responsible for the very forces that have caused the hardship. Brave little Belgium is back on the world's radar, it seems.

The international support represents a sort of vindication. There's little blame still being directed toward Belgium — its government, its leadership — now that we see the cynical ways that senseless violence destroys any democratic debate. Meanwhile, we repeat like a mantra our mea culpa concerning failed integration of even second-generation immigrants, and it's still not enough. But there are young creative people who are setting an example in the troubled neighborhood of Molenbeek about how to live together peacefully despite cultural differences.

There are circles in Brussels where idealism and a strong will to overcome these differences reign. There's a lot of positive energy in this country. But there are also people here who are capable of committing the cruelest of crimes. And that's the true "clash," in which open minds meet closed ones.

Some of us are left speechless. Others play the "I-told-you-so" game. The problem is that there's no escaping terror as long as hatred is still being fostered by macho politicians, barbaric international wars, aerial bombardment, border conflicts, religious extremism and an overdose of adrenalin. In the name of pain, we need to realize that our characteristic vulnerability is based on moral values: those of a complex, open society.

Receiving international respect and solidarity is ultimately small comfort, and Brussels finds itself collectively perplexed. It's a city that has always embraced non-conformity, one that has worn its cultural diversity proudly like a flag, but now it's paying the price for it. After the attacks, a Facebook image made the rounds showing a hand made out of French fries and giving the middle finger. This typical "belgitude," the capacity of locals to offer unique expressions with some degree of humor, can be a blessing, but there is ultimately nothing to laugh about right now.

Just the other day I'd sent a text message to my son, who attends university in Brussels: Don't take the subway, I wrote. Shortly afterward, the nightmare of the attacks struck. This country must stand strong. This strange, unique and wounded city must soldier on. No matter what. But there is profound sadness in the conclusion that openness can turn against itself, confirmed by the gutlessness of the enemies of our democracy.

*Stefan Hertmansis a novelist who lives near Brussels.

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Green Or Gone

Tracking The Asian Fishing "Armada" That Sucks Up Tons Of Seafood Off Argentina's Coast

A brightly-lit flotilla of fishing ships has reappeared in international waters off the southern coast of Argentina as it has annually in recent years for an "industrial harvest" of thousands of tons of fish and shellfish.

Photo of dozens of crab traps

An estimated 500 boats gather annually off the coast of Patagonia

Claudio Andrade

BUENOS AIRES — The 'floating city' of industrial fishing boats has returned, lighting up a long stretch of the South Pacific.

Recently visible off the coast of southern Argentina, aerial photographs showed the well-lit armada of some 500 vessels, parked 201 miles offshore from Comodoro Rivadavia in the province of Chubut. The fleet had arrived for its vast seasonal haul of sea 'products,' confirming its annual return to harvest squid, cod and shellfish on a scale that activists have called an environmental blitzkrieg.

In principle the ships are fishing just outside Argentina's exclusive Economic Zone, though it's widely known that this kind of apparent "industrial harvest" does not respect the territorial line, entering Argentine waters for one reason or another.

For some years now, activists and organizations like Greenpeace have repeatedly denounced industrial-style fishing as exhausting marine resources worldwide and badly affecting regional fauna, even if the fishing outfits technically manage to evade any crackdown by staying in or near international waters.

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