Belgium exempts gift-bearing St. Nicholas from virus bans

Two police officers walk by a giant statue of Saint Nicolas in front of the town hall of Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, Nov. 13, 2014. (AP Photo)
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Updated 12 November 2020

Belgium exempts gift-bearing St. Nicholas from virus bans

  • Saint won’t have to stay in quarantine when arriving from red-zone Spain where he lives, and will be able to walk the rooftops to drop presents in chimneys
  • For generations, the visit of St. Nicholas at the onset of winter is a highlight for Belgian kids, much like Santa Claus on Dec. 25 is in so many other nations

BUIZINGEN, Belgium: To ensure the merriment of millions of Belgian kids, the government is offering a special exemption from the stringent coronavirus measures to beloved St. Nicholas, who always delivers bountiful presents on the morning of Dec. 6.
In a tongue-in-cheek letter Thursday, the health and interior ministers soothed any worries for children fearing they might go without presents by saying the saint wouldn’t have to stay in quarantine when arriving from red-zone Spain where he lives, and would be able to walk the rooftops to drop presents in chimneys even during curfew.
“Dear Saint, do what you do best: make every child happy. We are counting on you,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden and Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said in the joint letter.
For generations, the visit of St. Nicholas at the onset of winter is a highlight for Belgian kids, much like Santa Claus on Dec. 25 is in so many other nations.
With Belgium one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, the government is enforcing a night curfew, tough quarantine rules and other measures to contain COVID-19. In the past few days, the resurgence of the virus has started to show signs of abating.
Despite the exemptions, the ministers did point out to St. Nicholas to “always respect distancing, wash hands regularly and wear a face mask,” despite his long white beard.
The saint was supposed to get a big official welcome Saturday when his ship arrives in the port of Antwerp, but that event, usually attended by several hundred children, has been banned.
The pandemic has been relatively lenient toward children when it comes to the death toll, but the lives of the very young have been turned upside down by anything from long school closures and sports club bans to advice to stay away from grandparents.
Because of that, the ministers asked St. Nicholas to be lenient, since he usually checks in his vast archives whether children have been naughty or nice before delivering presents.
“Every kid here is a hero,” the ministers pleaded in their letter. “So, for once, you don’t have to check it in your big book.”


TWITTER POLL: Trump did more for Middle East peace than predecessors, poll respondents say

Updated 28 November 2020

TWITTER POLL: Trump did more for Middle East peace than predecessors, poll respondents say

  • Half of respondents say they believe Trump was good for peace in the Middle East
  • Barack Obama received less than 30 percent of the vote

DUBAI: Nearly half of all respondents to an Arab News Twitter poll say they believe Donald Trump has done more for peace in the Middle East than the three presidents who served before him.

The poll, that received 1,189 votes saw Trump receive 49.7 percent of the vote, while Barack Obama scored 27.2 percent.

Bill Clinton received 19.9 percent of the vote while George W Bush got only 3.2 percent.

Trump ran his previous election campaign saying that he would no longer take America into any more wars that did not immediately impact the US – although he did order the assassination of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in January, 2020.

But the outgoing US president has been widely praised for his work in brokering the Abraham Accord that brought the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain.

Meanwhile Barack Obama was criticized for failing to bring troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was also criticized for his decision not to take military action against Syria in 2012 after the regime used chemical weapons against civilian populations.

 

 

In September 1993 Bill Clinton oversaw the signing of the Oslo Accords between Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The deal was hoped would see the Palestinians regain some of the land claimed by the Israelis, and also enabled them to become self-governing.

But the deal was short lived and less than a decade later the new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was refusing to concede any further territory.

In his last year in office Clinton came close to arranging a final peace settlement, but failed, largely Clinton said – because of Arafat’s reluctance.

The President has previously spoken of a telephone conversation he had with Arafat in his last three days in office in which Arafat told him: “You are a great man.”

Clinton said he replied: “ The hell I am. I’m a colossal failure and you made me one.”

Prior to his election after Clinton, George W Bush had voiced his desire to unseat Saddam Hussein as ruler of Iraq.

He followed through on this when he drew up the Axis of Evil – the countries that he deemed were a threat to America following the 9/11 terror attacks that saw two passenger jets flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York, and a third into the Pentagon, killing thousands.

Shortly after the attacks Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and then the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the latter Saddam Hussein was beaten and later captured. He was put on trial and sentenced to death by hanging – Iraq remains in a state of unrest.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of even more troops after two decades of war.

Now take our new poll: