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Tag Archives: Belgium

The spat between Spotify and Apple is going to be the focus on a new investigation from the EU, according to a report from the FT.

The paper reported today that the European Commission (EC), the EU’s regulatory body, plans to launch a competition inquiry around Spotify’s claim that the iPhone-maker uses its position as the gatekeeper of the App Store to “deliberately disadvantage other app developers.”

In a complaint filed to the EC in March, Spotify said Apple has “tilted the playing field” by operating iOS, the platform, and the App Store for distribution, as well as its own Spotify rival, Apple Music.

In particular, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has said that Apple “locks” developers and their platform, which includes a 30 percent cut of in-app spending. Ek also claimed Apple Music has unfair advantages over rivals like Spotify, while he expressed concern that Apple controls communication between users and app publishers, “including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit consumers.”

Spotify’s announcement was unprecedented — Ek claimed many other developers feel the same way, but do not want to upset Apple by speaking up. The EU is sure to tap into that silent base if the investigation does indeed go ahead as the FT claims.

Apple bit back at Spotify’s claims, but its response was more a rebuttal — or alternative angle — on those complaints. Apple did not directly address any of the demands that Spotify put forward, and those include alternative payment options (as offered in the Google Play store) and equal treatment for Apple apps and those from third-parties like Spotify.

The EU is gaining a reputation as a tough opponent that’s reining in U.S. tech giants.

Aside from its GDPR initiative, it has a history of taking action on apparent monopolies in tech.

Google fined €1.49 billion ($1.67 billion) in March of this year over antitrust violations in search ad brokering, for example. Google was fined a record $5 billion last year over Android abuses and there have been calls to look into breaking the search company up. Inevitably, Facebook has come under the spotlight for a series of privacy concerns, particularly around elections.

Pressure from the EU has already led to the social network introduce clear terms and conditions around its use of data for advertising, while it may also change its rules limiting overseas ad spending around EU elections following concern from Brussels.

Despite what some in the U.S. may think, the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has said publicly that she is against breaking companies up. Instead, Vestager has pledged to regulate data access.

“To break up a company, to break up private property would be very far-reaching and you would need to have a very strong case that it would produce better results for consumers in the marketplace than what you could do with more mainstream tools. We’re dealing with private property. Businesses that are built and invested in and become successful because of their innovation,” she said in an interview at SXSW earlier this year.

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Scientists have registered a constellation shaped like a lightning bolt in honour of David Bowie and his out-of-this-world talent

David Bowie has been given his own constellation, consisting of seven stars that shine in the shape of the lightning bolt.

Belgian astronomers announced the registration of the constellation, which appropriately sits in the vicinity of Mars, following the artists death last week.

It is a fitting homage to Bowie, who used the universe as a key inspiration throughout his career. Bowie first found success with the single Space Oddity and later crafted the persona Ziggy Stardust, an extra-terrestrial rockstar. His hits also included Starman and Life on Mars.

He appeared on the cover of the 1973 album Aladdin Sane with a red and blue lightning bolt painted on one side of his face.

Belgian radio station Studio Brussel and the MIRA public observatory teamed up to register the constellation, but finding the right place for the legendary rock star in the heavens was a complicated task.

Philippe Mollet from the MIRA Observatory said in a statement: it was not easy to determine the appropriate stars.

Studio Brussels asked us to give Bowie a unique place in the galaxy, he said.

Referring to his various albums, we chose seven stars Sigma Librae, Spica, Alpha Virginis, Zeta Centauri, SAA 204 132, and the Beta Sigma Octantis Trianguli Australis in the vicinity of Mars.


The Aladdin Sane cover. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The constellation is a copy of the iconic Bowie lightning and was recorded at the exact time of his death.

The creation of the constellation is part of the Stardust for Bowie tribute project, where fans can use Google Sky to add their favorite Bowie songs with a short note to a virtual version of the constellation.

Bowie died on 10 January aged 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer.

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Centenary of Passchendaele battle, synonymous with the horrors of the first world war, marked by 54,000 blood-red poppies falling from the Menin Gate

As the sun went down on Ypres on Sunday, the shale grey stone floor of the old Belgian towns Menin Gate, the worlds first memorial to those who fell but who were never found during the first world war, was slowly covered by more than 54,000 blood-red poppies falling from its high arch. There was a paper flower for each name engraved upon the vast gate.

A crowd numbering in the thousands, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Theresa May and the King and Queen of Belgium, Philippe and Mathilde, watched as the poppies drifted down in the still evening air. The young voices of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, standing below the gates 14-metre-high ceiling, sang the Ypres hymn: O valiant hearts who to your glory came, / Through dust of conflict and through battle flame; / Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved; / Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Poppies are released from the Menin Gate at the end of the wreath laying ceremony during commemorations marking the centenary of Passchendale. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

More than 800,000 soldiers on both sides of the war died in the blood and mud of the Ypres salient between 1914 and 1918. Many marched on the so-called Menin road, on which the gate built in 1927 now stands, from Ypres town to the front lines. Still today, the remains of dozens of men are found every year in Flanders fields, identified initially by the colouring and markings of the boots in which they died.

Of the three major battles in Ypres, however, it is the third and final, whose centenary will pass in the early hours of Monday, that bears the greatest infamy. I died in hell they called it Passchendaele, the soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon wrote of the carnage that raged from 31 July until 10 November 1917. Perhaps the first world war battle that is today most sharp in the collective British consciousness is the Somme, but at the time it was this battle, and this place, that was synonymous with the hopelessness and horror of what was playing out on foreign fields.

So it is, in this centenary period, that among the many battles and places, Passchendaele, and Ypres, have followed Gallipoli and the Somme, in being conferred by the British government with what is likely to be a last great act of remembrance, certainly in the presence of the sons and daughters, nieces and nephews of those who fought.

In his speech, Prince William echoed the words of Winston Churchill, who in 1919 said of Ypres: A more sacred place for the British does not exist in the world. William added: During the first world war Britain and Belgium stood shoulder to shoulder. One hundred years on, we still stand together, gathering as so many do every night, in remembrance of that sacrifice.

(LtoR) Queen Mathilde of Belgium, King Philippe of Belgium and West-Flanders province governor Carl Decaluw. Photograph: Nicolas Maeterlinck/AFP/Getty Images

One of the direct descendants who gathered in Ypres, Mike Copland, 70 whose father, Bill, signed up when he was 15, fought, survived, and went on to be a commando at the age of 40 in the second world war said he dearly hoped the names of Ypres and Passchendaele would continue to mean something to the next generation. It is not about glorifying it, he said, standing next to his son Chris, 43, and grandson William, 7. But there are too many people who look blank at you when you mention these names. It should trigger something. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Copland said he feared that those lessons were being lost. We have had 70 years without major war, he said. I just hope we remember that we need to work together in Europe. My father never spoke about it. He died at the age of 80 in 1979. I dont think he ever came here, not with us, anyway. Its important we are here.

Sunday evenings ceremony, attended by 19 representatives of nations that shed blood on the salient, including Australia, Canada, India and South Africa, had started with the traditional heralding of the Last Post. In a gesture repeated every evening since 1928, bar a period of occupation during the second world war, the local buglers sounded their lament to those who were lost. In a sign of todays troubled times, snipers could be seen, however, sat on top of the gate watching down.

Following Williams words, King Philippe, addressed the crowds to reflect on the sacrifices made and the significance of Ypres Ieper to the Belgians, and Wipers to the British and Commonwealth soldiers before a reading from Benoit Mottrie, the chairman of the Last Post association, the group of volunteers keeping the ritual going.

As the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Irish Regiment, led by Pipe Major, Nicholas Colwell, played, wreaths were then laid side by side by King Philippe and William, followed by Theresa May and the Belgian defence minister, Steven Vandeput. A tribute on the prime ministers read: With profound gratitude and respect, we remember the service of those who served on the Ypres salient.

Stretcher bearers struggle in mud up to their knees to carry a wounded man to safety near Boesinghe during the third battle of Ypres. Photograph: IWM/Getty Images/IWM via Getty Images

Later in the evening, under clouds tinted red by the last of the sun, the British and Belgian royals joined 6,000 or more in the market square for a spectacular show broadcast live on BBC.

Dame Helen Mirren started with a reading of In Flanders Fields, by the Canadian poet Lt Col John McCrae, who served as a surgeon during the second battle of Ypres. She continued to narrate through the evening as images of those who fought were projected across the clock tower of the Cloth hall, standing high behind the stage. Among those, Harry Patch, known as the Last Tommy, who died in 2009, aged 111, spoke down from the tower to the crowds. Passchendaele when I knew it was flat, he said in a recording. Everything was blown to pieces. Patch told of finding a Cornishman on the battlefields ripped to shreds by shrapnel who begged to be shot. Thirty seconds later, without a pistol being drawn, the man died. The man had said one word, said Patch: Mother.

The experience of civilians in the war was movingly illustrated by the reading by Christophe Haddad from the the diary of Pastor Van Wallenghem who saved the people of Dikkebus when it became part of the frontline. The journalist and broadcaster, Ian Hislop, who co-wrote the Wipers Times screenplay and stage production, told the story of the satirical newspaper, which was founded in Ypres itself in 1916, close to Market Square. That was followed by a specially written War Horse story, with a focus on Passchendaele, performed by its author, Michael Morpurgo.

But it was the testimony of the dead that particularly held the audience. One private, Jack Dillon, told those in the market square of the sweet smell of death. Ypress notoriety, after all, was in great measure built not only on the ferocity of the fighting, and a victory won at great cost, but by the conditions in which it was fought. Unprecedented rain and the churning of the clay fields had turned the mud to sludge so deep that men and horses drowned. There were more than 320,000 allied casualties. German losses are estimated to have been between 260,000 and 400,000. The final act on Ypress stage was the playing of the Pipers Lament. It was a piece of music simply entitled The Bloody Fields of Flanders.

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