Are Human Rights Truly Universal and Relevant Today?

The year 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1948. The 70th anniversary allows us to look back upon the origins of the Declaration as well as to make some observations on the status of human rights today.

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Which Roger is your kind of hero?

Roger Federer is returning to tennis competition this week at Indian Wells, California. Inevitably, his presence will lead to commentaries about his fabulous career, his record return to the number one ranking at age 36 and his unequalled 20 Grand Slam titles. His charm and grace – the perfect Swiss gentleman – only add to his unique athletic accomplishments. For obvious reasons, philanthropy and fatherhood included, Roger is universally admired. For many, he is considered a hero.

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Steve Bannon Comes to Zurich

Following the Swiss frenzy during an otherwise politically uneventful trip by President Donald Trump to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last January, Swiss media attention is now turning to a March 6 visit to Zurich by Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

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Will the Children Lead Us to Better Gun Control?

“Most adults have bills to pay – house notes, rents, car notes, utility bills, but young people…are not hooked with all those responsibilities,” observed James Bevel, in arguing for recruiting children to participate in the 1960s civil rights movement. Over 50 years ago, the Children’s Crusade had a profound effect on changing America’s attitude towards racial segregation. Young black schoolchildren walked through the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, protesting for their civil rights. The images of the local police using attack dogs and powerful firehoses against the demonstrators precipitated federal intervention and shamed local authorities to begin the process of desegregation.

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Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields

Where is Michael Fields today? What has he done? Has he killed someone?
Michael Fields was my student in a Harlem elementary school years ago. He was placed in my 4th grade class with a file folder bulging with anecdotal records of his violence in and out of school. Numerous warnings about his dangerous behavior were properly recorded from the school’s guidance counsellor to social workers to local police to church authorities.

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Are you up for the Olympics?

Time matters. It is not easy to be up at two in the morning to follow what is happening at the Olympics in South Korea. Not only is it windy and cold over there, but the different time zone makes it most uncomfortable over here for Europeans to be in real time. Far more congenial, a major U.S. broadcasting company, NBC, on most nights of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, will begin showing live events at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time,7 p.m. Central Standard Time, 6 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, and 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. In other words, a major U.S. broadcasting company will be live during peak viewing hours while Europeans will have to get up in the middle of the early morning to get live action.

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Public Service, the Internet and Democracy

The upcoming vote in Switzerland on public subsidies for the national television and radio raises fundamental questions about the concept of public service and the relationship between the internet and democracy. While the March 4 referendum only touches citizens’ payments to the Swiss broadcasting system, the underlying issues behind the vote are the diminishing relevance of the public sector and the rise of privatization through social media.

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A Davos Debrief and Critique of Star Gazing

Donald Trump came, saw but did not conquer at the 48th meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. His presence overshadowed whatever agenda the WEF’s founder and boss Klaus Schwab might have had. Indeed, Trump’s personality overshadows most attempts at serious discussions whether on the situation within the United States or on global politics. The president of the United States has become more than just the president. Already a central figure on the world stage, he has become a planetary superstar who appears in all the media from serious journals to vulgar pop rags.

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Roger Federer the Humorist

“It’s not mine,” Roger Federer quipped to the crowd when a child’s crying disrupted play during one of his matches at the Australian Open. Amid intense competition, the winner of 19 Grand Slam titles was able to interrupt his concentration to the delight of the crowd and an appreciative smile from his wife Mirka, mother of their four children.

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Donald Trump Heads to the Magic Mountain

German writer Thomas Mann came to Davos in 1912 to visit his wife who was suffering from lung complications. At that time, Davos was known for its sanatoriums. His visit became the basis of his classic novel, The Magic Mountain. Davos later became a famous ski area and home to the annual meeting of those “committed to improving the state of the world,” the World Economic Forum (WEF).

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Did you have a good vacation?

The Christmas break is ending – or has already ended for some– and after wishing happy new year, the inevitable question comes up: Did you have a good vacation? The question implies that what did you do during the holiday was different from your usual routine. Having “time “off” assumes you can profit during that period to do that which is not possible during the normal school/work time frame.

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More Than Just One Train Wreck

On the same day President Trump delivered a solemn address presenting his administration’s report to Congress on the threats to the national security of the United States, an Amtrak train jumped off the tracks on a new route from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, killing at least 3 people and injuring about 100 others. While the damage caused by the train wreck cannot be compared to a possible nuclear attack by North Korea or how China and Russia “seek to challenge American influence, values and wealth,” according to the report, there is a relationship between viewing national security as tied to foreign intervention and the failure of domestic policies.

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Johnny Be Good

The death of Johnny Hallyday has caused an outpouring of emotions in Geneva newspapers and across France. Pages have been dedicated to reliving his turbulent life. Beyond obvious comparisons to Elvis Presley, it is intriguing to observe such attachment to one person.

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A Global Thanksgiving

At a recent Thanksgiving celebration in Geneva, where almost all the participations were expats, we were asked to tell what we were thankful for. Traditionally, people express their thanks for something or some things during the dinner feast. Tradition also has it that people say thanks for their family, friends and good health. All of that is as much a part of Thanksgiving as are the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie.

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Russia and Rethinking Everything

“Rethink everything,” advertises the venerable Swiss bank Lombard Odier. Amidst the western diabolization of the Russian Federation, from undermining electoral campaigns to supporting the war criminal Bashar al-Assad, I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Moscow of the political elite. It was an opportunity to witness how Russia is perceiving its situation instead of the daily western diatribes against the autocratic Putin and his crushing of liberalism. It was a welcome chance to get away from Trump, Weinstein, Moore and Franken to hear a different narrative about serious politics.

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The Sex Scandals and Responsibility

The recent revelations about sexual abuse in politics and the arts are more complex than most tabloid headlines would lead us to believe. We certainly want to know who did what and when. But we should be cautious about all the revelations. It is inevitable that certain allegations will prove to be false. False news can be personal as well as political. Rumors can circulate about individuals in all walks of life, but without proof, they can remain mere speculation.

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Tennis Nostalgia

Two recent films puzzle me. Each revisits a specific event that I witnessed but have no nostalgia for. The first is advertised as: “Borg McEnroe, also known as Borg vs McEnroe, is a 2017 internationally co-produced multi-language biographical sports drama film focusing on the famous rivalry between famous tennis players Björn Borg and John McEnroe at the 1980 Wimbledon Championships, culminating in their encounter in the men's singles final.”

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International Geneva: A Tale of Two Visits

Two visits to Geneva say a great deal about world affairs. Chinese President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Switzerland from January 15-18, 2017. During that time, Xi met with Swiss President Doris Leuthard, had discussions with representatives from international organizations in Geneva and Lausanne, and opened the 47th annual World Economic Forum in Davos. At each venue, he praised multilateralism and China’s willingness to cooperate.

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Are Presidents and Generals Always Right?

The outcry over Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and the #metoo and #balancetonporc condemnations have dominated the news. It is puzzling that the condemnations of Weinstein and his behavior have not affected Donald Trump, who was accused by many of groping or worse. The outcry over Weinstein has not affected Trump’s ardent supporters.

Why not?   

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Reverse History: The Young Shall Rule

Sebastian Kurz led his party to victory in the recent Austrian election. Already foreign minister, he is about to become the world’s youngest leader at 31. Emmanuel Macron became president of France at 39. At 37, he was appointed as the Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs. Guillaume Barazzone was elected to the Administrative Council for the City of Geneva in 2012 and has been a member of the Swiss National Council since 2013. Barazzone was Mayor of Geneva at 34.

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Corker Condemns Trump: Revisiting Profiles in Courage

“It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning,” Tweeted Senator Bob Corker, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in response to a negative Tweet from President Donald Trump. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker followed up his criticism in an interview.

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The Fragile Nation-State

The recent vote for Kurdish independence and the attempted vote for separation in Catalonia reflect a desire to establish homogeneous nation-states. We are witnessing a backlash against globalization towards more local types of representation. Kurds want to be ruled by Kurds – even beyond their own regional parliament – and the Catalans want to be ruled by Catalans. Beyond autonomy, there is a calling for political independence.

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Trump Takes on U.S. Athletes: A Rant and Tweet Too Far?

Not satisfied with taking on the Rocket Man of North Korea, and at the same time trying to repeal and replace Obamacare if not the nuclear deal with Iran and NAFTA, President Trump has taken on a most sacred place in America’s heart, its professional athletes. At a political rally in Alabama last Friday, he asked: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of those N.F.L. owners when someone disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired.’”

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Donald Trump: The Apprentice World Leader

Donald Trump’s speech before the UN General Assembly was typical Trump and all that we had feared. At the headquarters of an institution designed to “develop friendly relations among nations” and “to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations,” Trump’s 42 minute diatribe mentioned “sovereign” or “sovereignty” 21 times. America First obviously t(T)rumped any form of cooperation. As the Swiss President Doris Leuthard reminded the world’s leaders, “No country alone can confront future challenges. Nationalism and patriotism alone cannot contribute to that goal.”

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Is Nature Winning?

Unprecedented hurricanes thrash islands in the Caribbean and devastate much of Texas and Florida. Unusual monsoons kill thousands in India while droughts plague other parts of the region. Wildfires cause havoc in parched areas of southern Europe and California. Are these events results of climate change or are they merely something we are more aware of because of better information? Even earthquakes and volcanoes can be caused by climate change, according to Bill McGuire, a professor of geophysical and climate hazards in London.

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