TIME Belgium

This French-Language Scrabble Champ Doesn’t Speak a Word of French

Gareth Cattermole—Getty Images Current World Champion Nigel Richards at the Scrabble Champions Tournament, during the Mind Sports International World Championships on November 19, 2014 in London, England.

But he did spend nine weeks memorizing the French dictionary

Can you spell incroyable?

The winner of the World Championship of French language-Scrabble—held Monday in Louvain, Belgium—reportedly does not speak a word of French.

Nigel Richards, 48, a New Zealander who lives in Kuala Lumpur and represents Malaysia in international Scrabble events, beat French-speaking rival and Gabon native Schelick Ilagou Rekawe twice in Monday’s French-language World Scrabble Championship final, the BBC reports, after spending just nine weeks memorizing the entire French dictionary.

“I think one of the comments was ‘Are you extra-terrestrial or something?’ Because it was so amazing,” Shirley Hol, President of the Christchurch Scrabble club, told the NZ Herald of Richards’ underdog win.

Still, the win wasn’t out of sorts with Richards’ Scrabble history—Richards is the winner of five U.S. national titles and three World Scrabble Championships, even though he reportedly didn’t even learn to play Scrabble until he was 28, when his mother taught him.


TIME monopoly

Hasbro Is Selling the Factory Where it Made its Iconic Monopoly Game

Hasbro Announces New Monopoly Playing Figure
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The acquirer is a Belgian card business

Hasbro is selling the factory that for years manufactured its iconic Monopoly board game.

The plant will be sold to card maker based in Belgium called Cartamundi, which will continue to employ the factory’s workers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The move comes as many of Hasbro’s toys are already made overseas and Hasbro is in the middle of transitioning itself from “a toy and game company to an organization delivering global brand experiences,” according to the company’s CEO Brian Goldner, as reported by the Boston Globe.

In other Monopoly news, Entertainment Weekly reported earlier this year that a Monopoly movie is in the works with Lionsgate. In February, Hasbro hid real money in French special editions of the game in honor of its 80th anniversary.

Hasbro first acquired the Monopoly maker Milton Bradley in 1984.

TIME Cycling

Watch This Terrifying Crash During Stage 3 of the Tour de France

Riders and metal hurtling at speeds of 50 m.p.h. This doesn't end well

Some 20 riders were involved in a massive crash at Stage 3 of the Tour de France in Belgium on Monday, causing organizers to temporarily halt the race.

Video shows the cyclists on a flat, straight and slightly downhill part of the road, traveling at high speeds with just under 37 miles of the stage remaining, reports Yahoo News.

Just as cyclists were beginning to make a move to the front of the pack, one rider clips the wheel of the cyclist in front, who goes down suddenly. At speeds of around 50 m.p.h., there was no time for those behind to react, and so the riders crashed into one another, resulting in a massive pileup of wheels, frames and spokes.

In all, six riders were forced to pull out of the race.

Competitors began the Tour de France 2015 in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on July 4 and will ride around 2,000 miles (3,360 km) over 21 stages until they finish in Paris on July 26.

[Yahoo News]

TIME On Our Radar

A Photographer’s Quest to Rediscover His Native Belgium

After spending most of his life abroad, Cedric Gerbehaye comes back to Belgium

Photojournalist Cedric Gerbehaye has spent more than a decade working outside of his native Belgium. He’s covered the conflict in Israel and Palestine, South Sudan’s difficult independence and Congo’s struggle with peace after years of violence.

So, when he was awarded a grant from the Photoreporter festival in 2012 to produce a new body of work, he chose an unlikely location: his own country.

“I had this desire to work at home, which I had never done before,” he tells TIME, as his stark photographs of Belgium are published in a new book and exhibited at the Foto Museum in Antwerp. “I’ve always worked abroad from my very first assignment in Palestine. I haven’t stopped for 10 years. I wanted to see what I would be able to do in Belgium — working away from the news.”

His desire to concentrate on his country was also sparked by his interactions with his subjects abroad. “Every time, I was asked about Belgium, a country that I didn’t really know, in fact.” And that was when Belgium was going through some of the biggest upheavals in its modern history. In 2010 and 2011, the nation had gone 541 days without a functioning government, and in 2013 it welcomed a new King after Albert II relinquished his post.


Gerbehaye started working with no particular angle in mind, he says. “My goal was to take my time, to find myself. I wanted to discover my own country, get into my car and drive for three or 10 days. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to talk about what everyone talks about, which is the differences between the north and the south, between the Flemish and the Walloon communities. People often have a set idea of Belgium. I wanted to get away from that.”

The result is Gerbehaye’s most personal work – images at times amusing and at times tragic, which convey a sense of community but also of loneliness in a country that struggles with its own identity. “It addresses questions like what it means to be home. How do you define home?” says Gerbehaye.

The results of the three-year slow-journalism experiment have affirmed Gerbehaye’s decision to take his time. “I realized that I need to create real relationships with the people I photograph,” he explains, “to understand what they are going through.”

Cedric Gerbehaye is a photographer with Agence VU.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

TIME medicine

Woman Gives Birth After a Transplant of Her Own Frozen Ovarian Tissue

Case hailed as a scientific breakthrough

Over a decade ago, a bone marrow transplant left a Belgian girl infertile. Now, a transplant of her own frozen ovarian tissue has helped her get pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby boy, Sky News reports.

The scientific breakthrough is likely to benefit other sick children who lose their fertility through cancer treatments.

“Freezing ovarian tissue is the only available option for preserving their fertility,” Dr Isabelle Demeestere, a fertility specialist at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, told media. The details of the transplant were published in Human Reproduction, a medical journal.

The patient, who suffered from sickle cell anemia, was 13 when her ovary was frozen and she had yet to start her period.

A decade later, four pieces of the frozen tissue were transplanted onto the patient’s remaining ovary at her request. Two years after the transplant, she was pregnant, Sky News reports

Doctors reportedly expect the woman’s ovary function to remain normal, allowing her to have more children in the future.

[Sky News]

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Honors Inventor of Flat Map Gerardus Mercator


Jailed for heresy in 1544, Mercator later revolutionized navigational theory

To celebrate his 503rd birthday, Flemish mathematician and cartographer Gerardus Mercator, who in 1569 discovered how to create a flat map that takes into consideration the curvatures of the earth, has been honored in a new Google Doodle.

His theory, dubbed the “Mercator projection,” was a major breakthrough for navigation because for the first time sailors could plot a route using straight lines without constantly adjusting their compass readings.

However, because the projection lengthens the longitudinal parallels, the scale of objects enlarge dramatically as they near the north and south poles and the method becomes unusable at around 70 degrees north/south.

Mercator was ahead of his time, not living to see his discovery become fully employed, but “by the eighteenth century the projection had been adopted almost universally by European navigators,” TIME wrote in 2013.

The cartographer was born on March 5, 1512, in the town of Rupelmonde in Flanders (today a part of Belgium). He was educated in the Netherlands and in 1544 was jailed for heresy due to his protestant faith and frequent traveling for research. He died on Dec. 2, 1594.

Read next: 8 Outstanding Google Tools You Should Know About

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TIME Behind the Photos

World Press Photo Withdraws Controversial Award

Giovanni Troilo Oct. 10, 2014. Charleroi, Belgium. Locals know of parking lots popular for couples seeking sexual liaisons.

The about-face follows a week of intense debates within the photojournalism industry and comes just three days after World Press Photo stood behind its award to Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo

Acting on new information, World Press Photo has revoked the award it bestowed on Giovanni Troilo’s controversial series of images about the city of Charleroi in Belgium.

The decision comes just three days after the Dutch organization conducted an investigation into allegations that some of Troilo’s images had been staged. At that time, World Press Photo upheld the original award, as the organization was unable to find “grounds for doubting the photographer’s integrity in carrying out his work,” it said in a statement.

But, as TIME revealed on Monday, World Press Photo’s investigation was flawed: the organization only relied on testimony from the photographer and the mayor of Charleroi to ascertain whether Troilo’s pictures had been staged.

Following these revelations, and acting on new information provided by photojournalists Thomas Van Den Driessche and Bruno Stevens, who conducted their own investigations, World Press Photo has now concluded that Troilo’s story “was not in compliance with the entry rules and therefore the award must be revoked,” the group said in a statement.

“Troilo submitted his story, titled ‘La Ville Noir – The Dark Heart of Europe,’ to the 2015 Photo Contest as a story about the Belgian city of Charleroi,” the statement said. “However, World Press Photo learned that the photo of a painter creating a work with live models had instead been shot in Molenbeek, Brussels. Troilo confirmed over telephone and email that the image had not been taken in Charleroi, contrary to what he submitted to the contest. This falsified information is a violation of the 2015 Photo Contest entry rules.”

The World Press Photo contest “must be based on trust in the photographers who enter their work and in their professional ethics,” managing director Lars Boering said in a statement. “We have checks and controls in place, of course, but the contest simply does not work without trust. We now have a clear case of misleading information and this changes the way the story is perceived. A rule has now been broken and a line has been crossed.”

As a result of Troilo’s disqualification, Giulio Di Sturco’s series on Chollywood has been promoted from 2nd Prize to 1st Prize in the Contemporary Issues category, and Tomas van Houtryve’s Blue Sky Days from 3rd Prize to 2nd Prize.

TIME Behind the Photos

World Press Photo Upholds Controversial Decision

The gas supply tubes run along the houses built near the steel factories of Charleroi. Before the electric upgrade of the blast furnace these tubes used to provide the energy necessary to this operation. The factory and furnace infringe and loom over the lives of the inhabitants.
Giovanni Troilo The gas supply tubes run along the houses built near the steel factories of Charleroi. Before the electric upgrade of the blast furnace these tubes used to provide the energy necessary to this operation. The factory and furnace infringe and loom over the lives of the inhabitants.

The Dutch organization stands by its decision to award Giovanni Troilo's work

World Press Photo is standing firm behind its decision to uphold the Contemporary Issues award it bequeathed upon Giovanni Troilo after the Italian photographer was accused of staging his work.

The claims came after the mayor of Charleroi, Belgium, where Troilo shot his award-winning project The Dark Heart of Europe, wrote to World Press Photo to contest the work, as first revealed by the French photography website OAI13.

“The photographer’s constructed photographic subject is regarded by [Charleroi] as a serious distortion of reality that undermines the city and its inhabitants, as well as the profession of photojournalist,” wrote Charleroi’s mayor, Paul Magnette. “The falsified and misleading captions, the travesty of reality, the construction of striking images staged by the photographer are all profoundly dishonest and fail to respect the codes of journalistic ethics. In our opinion, this work does not comply with the objective of the competition.”

After a three-day investigation, World Press Photo found “no grounds for doubting the photographer’s integrity in carrying out his work,” the organization said in a statement. “No misleading facts have been uncovered in the caption information that was made available for the jury. As a result Giovanni Troilo’s award stands in the 2015 Photo Contest.”

The extent of the organization’s investigation, World Press Photo told TIME, was “scanning local newspapers for reports about crime and other issues in the suburbs [of Charleroi],” talking to the city’s mayor and asking the photographer to provide “further clarification about his work methods.” Though the question at hand is whether the photographs were staged, World Press Photo did not directly contact Troilo’s subjects.

“We had to judge [Troilo’s award] again on the facts and basis of his declaration,” the organization’s managing director Lars Boering told TIME. “So our decision to confirm his award is based on the story he shared with us.”

The final decision was made by the chair of this year’s jury, Michele McNally of the New York Times; the secretary of the jury, David Campbell; and Boering himself. McNally was unable to comment at the time of writing.

Speaking to TIME, Troilo said that none of his images had been staged — including a particularly controversial photograph of his cousin having sex in the back of a car. “I started this project one year ago,” Troilo said in a phone interview facilitated by a translator. “I’ve spent my childhood there. And I saw different scenes of sex that were pretty rude, to tell you the truth.”

Giovanni TroiloOct. 10, 2014. Charleroi, Belgium. Locals know of parking lots popular for couples seeking sexual liaisons.

As Troilo worked on his project, which uses Charleroi to discuss the slow decline of Europe, his cousin repeatedly suggested that he photograph him while having sex. “What I did is pretty much letting them know that there was a camera, and I just took a photo,” says Troilo. “They knew I was there, and they didn’t do anything different than what they would have done.”

The photographer, however, admitted to using a flashlight underneath the couple to improve the image’s quality.

Giovanni TroiloDec. 10, 2014. Charleroi, Belgium. Maitre Doberman and Klara la Chienne, his wife, receive guests in a building that at glance appears abandoned.

In another image of a husband and wife engaged in BDSM, Troilo says the shot was the result of a meeting he had with the couple. “I went in there and I asked them to do what they are used to doing in their private lives,” he tells TIME. “That’s what I saw and that’s what I took pictures of. [The woman] in the cage is something that’s not peculiar at all. It’s something they do.”

More problematic is Troilo’s use of the words “psychiatric asylum” in a caption portraying a woman laying her head on a table. In its investigation, World Press Photo learned that the stage for Troilo’s photo was a nursing home, which TIME independently confirmed. And while Troilo claimed that the home had a psychiatric ward, a spokesperson for the institution said it only had people suffering from Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease, two degenerative disorders common in old age.

Giovanni Troilo - World Press Photo 03
Giovanni TroiloDec. 9, 2014. Charleroi, Belgium. A woman in a psychiatric asylum.

Boering tells TIME that his organization asked Troilo to explain where this particular image was shot. “He explained to us that it was a nursing home where his aunt also was,” he says. “I think it was a bad choice of words from Giovanni. I need to check with the team that researched it, but I don’t think it was considered a big issue.”

Whether or not it was a big issue, the controversy has damaged World Press Photo’s reputation, with photographers calling for a boycott of next year’s competition. The organization had to issue two clarifications to statements it made in the last three weeks, including one that was interpreted as condoning staging in photojournalism — a claim World Press Photo clarified earlier today.

“There are always debates about World Press Photo,” said Boering, who acknowledged that his organization had suffered a blow. “It’s up to us to start a dialogue and listen to all the opinions. If we think as a professional community we should change things concerning manipulations and ethics, we will listen and we will change [our] rules as well.”

World Press Photo is not “an arrogant foundation that does it all by itself and doesn’t consult the industry,” he added. “On the contrary, that’s something that will need to be [addressed] in the next couple of months. At this point, it’s damaging World Press Photo because there are a lot of people expressing their discontent with this. But we have to slow down this yelling and look back at the facts, and listen to people who are in favor of this decision.” That debate, however, should not take place on social media, he said.

“We have to realize that the photos and the stories, and everything that we judge, are being sent in by the professional community,” Boering added. “We should look at this both ways: what we get is what we judge; and what we judge will end up into a result; and that result will always be debated but it’s also very important for the photographic community to realize what’s [happening] on the side of people who produce work. What is staging? Are all photographers showing what they see in front of their lenses? It’s very hard for the audience to know what happened around [a] photo when it was taken. It’s something you have to keep in mind.”

Update: World Press Photo has since announced it was reopening its investigation into Troilo’s award.

TIME Behind the Photos

Belgian Mayor Says Award-Winning Photos of His City ‘Distort Reality’

World Press Photo jury
Bas de Meijer Members of the specialized and general jury for the 2015 World Press Photo Contest.

Images of Charleroi by Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo "profoundly dishonest," says city's mayor

The mayor of Charleroi, Belgium, has asked World Press Photo to withdraw an award given to Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo for a series of images that he says “undermines” his city and its inhabitants.

The move, first revealed by French photography website Our Age is 13, comes three weeks after the World Press Photo jury awarded Troilo the first prize in the Contemporary Issues Stories category.

In his work, Troilo says that the city of Charleroi “has experienced the collapse of industrial manufacturing, rising unemployment, increasing immigration and outbreak of micro-criminality. The roads, once fresh and neat, appear today desolated and abandoned, industries are closing down, and vegetation grows in the old industrial districts.”

In an extended description, published on his website, the Italian photographer, which calls Charleroi the “dark heart of Europe,” adds: “A perverse and sick sex, race hate, neurotic obesity and the abuse of psychiatric drugs seem to be the only cures being able to make this endemic uneasiness acceptable.”

In a letter, seen by TIME LightBox and sent to World Press Photo and Michele McNally, chair of this year’s jury and director of photography at the New York Times, Charleroi’s mayor Paul Magnette expresses his surprise and dismay, claiming that “the photographer’s constructed photographic subject is regarded by [Charleroi] as a serious distortion of reality that undermines the city and its inhabitants, as well as the profession of photojournalist.” Troilo has yet to return a request for comment on the claims.

Magnette continues: “Indeed, this work uses essentially staging technique that adds to the drama of the images through an artificial lighting. If this was a private artwork, it would not be a problem. Unfortunately, the photographer does not seem to present his work as such. He claims to be doing investigative journalism; a photo essay reflecting a simple reality. But this is far from being the case: the falsified and misleading captions, the travesty of reality, the construction of striking images staged by the photographer are all profoundly dishonest and fail to respect the codes of journalistic ethics. In our opinion, this work does not comply with the objective of the competition.”

The mayor’s letter goes on to analyze Troilo’s photographs and captions, including one that purports to show a couple having sex in a car. Troilo submitted the image to World Press Photo with the caption: “Locals know of parking lots popular for couples seeking sexual liaisons.” On his website, however, the photographer reveals that the image was set up: “My cousin accepted to be portrayed while fornicating with a girl in his friend’s car. For them it was not strange.”

Troilo’s work should be reevaluated, the mayor concluded. “Charleroi is not, on any account, the black heart of Europe,” Magnette writes. “You will not find one single inhabitant who will recognize his city in these pictures, not to mention the captions that look more like a settling of scores than a reportage.”

World Press Photo has confirmed receiving the letter. “We are currently verifying the facts behind the photo story, as we do with all the prizewinning pictures, and we are in touch with the photographer Giovanni Troilo,” a spokeswoman tells TIME.

The controversy comes after World Press Photo and various international photography organizations have been debating the use of post-processing techniques, which led to the disqualification of 20% of entries in the competition’s penultimate round.

TIME Belgium

Belgian Troops Take to Streets to Guard Against Possible Terrorist Attacks

Belgian soldiers guard outside the U.S. Embassy in Brussels near the Belgian Parliament on Jan. 17, 2015.
Eric Vidal—Reuters Belgian soldiers guard outside the U.S. Embassy in Brussels near the Belgian Parliament on Jan. 17, 2015.

Soldiers reinforced police in Belgium after a raid on an Islamist cell Thursday

Belgium’s defense ministry said Saturday said that the country is deploying hundreds of troops to guard possible terrorism targets, including Jewish sites and diplomatic missions after deadly raids on an Islamist cell.

As many as 300 military will be stationed at locations like the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Brussels and NATO and European Union institutions, Reuters reports. They will be supporting regular police.

“It’s very important to say that this wasn’t a simple decision, but it was necessary, at a time when police are overly engaged, for the army to enter in a supporting role,” Defense Minister Steven Vandeput told reporters.

The government raised the threat level to 3 on a scale of 4 this week, after a raid Thursday in the east Belgian town of Verviers, in which police fatally shot two gunmen, who authorities said were preparing an attack on police.

Troops with machine guns stood guard outside Jewish schools in Antwerp, where there is a large Jewish population. In Brussels, soldiers stood outside EU institutions.

The Brussels Jewish Museum was the site of an Islamist attack last May that killed four people.


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