Tag Archives: craze

Belgium tourist boards latch on to cat craze on social media

Belgium’s tourist boards have latched onto a social media craze of cats that gave Brussels light relief during a tense five-day security lockdown in the wake of militant attacks in Paris.

Images of the city’s streets deserted as security forces hunted suspected Islamist militants have dealt a blow to Belgium’s tourism industry, with hotels reporting many cancellations.

When police on Sunday asked the public in Brussels not to share details of their operations on social media, Belgians took to tweeting each other pictures of their cats.

Capitalizing on the social media hit, Belgium’s three tourist authorities have now released a 20 second video film showing cats at Brussels’s landmarks such as the historic Grand Place or the Atomium, which they said was filmed at the height of the lockdown.

The video depicts cats dancing all over the city, some wearing black bowler hats or with green apples in front of their faces in a nod to paintings of the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte.

In the background, a saxophone is heard, an invention of the Belgian Adolphe Sax. The original trend drew a warm response on social media, and the tourist authorities said they wanted to show how proud they were of Brussels and its residents for their good-humored response to the crisis.

Belgium’s capital has been on maximum alert since Saturday over the threat of a possible Paris-style attack. A coordinated assault in which 130 people were killed in Paris on Nov. 13 was claimed by Islamic State.

Brussels, home to the European Commission, reopened its metro system and schools on Wednesday, albeit with armed police and soldiers still patrolling.

“Tourism Flanders, Visit Brussels and Wallonia-Brussels Tourism are proud of the people of Brussels and wanted to give them an extra boost,” they said. “Their winking cats evoked great sympathy at home and abroad.”

On the Web…


HIV meds are part of dangerous South African drug craze

A new street drug that’s sweeping South Africa is made from a cocktail that includes antiretroviral medication used to treat HIV/AIDS.

Demand for the drug – called “whoonga” – has led to widespread theft of the antiretroviral drug in a nation where six million people are HIV-infected, the highest number in the world. Health officials there say skyrocketing theft of the drug is reducing access to HIV treatment.

“Whoonga” is made by crushing the HIV medication and mixing it with rat poison, detergent and marijuana, according to Sky News. The mixture is then smoked to produce a high reportedly so addictive that users become hooked within days.

“If I don’t smoke it, I get pains and I can’t sleep until I get some more,” 31-year-old Jomo told Sky.

In Durban, packets of the drug are sold for about 30 rand, or about $4.25. Addicts smoke about 30 packets a day

Whoonga is highly toxic and has been blamed in scores of deaths over the past year.