19/07/2018

Battling Summertime Overload

So you think summertime is the season for rest and relaxation. What about last weekend? In no particular order: Finals of the World Cup? Wimbledon Championships finals? Tour de France? Trump’s summit with President Putin? In competition with the televising of these events, there was beautiful weather to lull on the beach, splash in the pool or walk in the mountains. (Notice no mention of following my beloved Yankees’ pursuit of the Red Sox or my forlorn Knicks outstanding performances in the NBA summer league. I’m trying to be proportional.)  How many people did all of the above last weekend?

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11/07/2018

Multilateralism and its Discontents

Somewhere in a safely guarded desk in the White House or locked in a vault in a conservative think tank in Washington there is a list. The list has two columns. Paris climate change agreement: Check. Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP): Check. Nuclear treaty with Iran: Check. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): Check. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): Check. United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC): Check. Breast-feeding World Health Organization (WHO): Check.

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04/07/2018

Is Roger Federer Being Unfaithful?

No, we don’t mean to question whether he is being unfaithful to Mirka or their four children. We have enough of those rumors with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and some of his predecessors. What we are questioning is Roger Federer’s sartorial choices. For those who haven’t noticed – being too busy watching the World Cup and basking in Swiss football’s moments of glory - Roger Federer is no longer being outfitted by Nike. 

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25/06/2018

Shaqiri and Xhaka as Quantum Phenomenon

Xerdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka were the stars of the recent 2-1 victory for the Swiss national team over Serbia in the World Cup on Friday in Kaliningrad. They scored the squad’s only goals. The precious victory placed the Swiss in an ideal position to advance to the next round of the prestigious tournament. But more than just soccer stars, the two demonstrated that what has been called “spooky action at a distance” can exist on the soccer pitch. They actualized one of the most counterintuitive aspects of quantum physics.

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22/06/2018

A Day at the Fights: Valais Cows and International Relations

My favorite was number seventy-three. She had a certain dignity about her. When potential intruders approached her space, she gave off an aura of invincibility causing them to walk away. When potential enemies came too close, she chased them off with a simple flick of the neck. Those familiar to her stayed nearby, confident that if they were threatened she would come to their defense.
There was no question; number seventy-three was a natural leader.

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17/06/2018

To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer

The soccer World Cup opened in Russia on June 14. The 32 competing national teams are hoping to lift the coveted trophy on July 15. Two hundred ten teams from six regional confederations vied to qualify for this global event. The last World Cup, in 2014, reached over three billion people through the media with more than one billion watching the final of the planet’s most popular and prestigious team competition.

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11/06/2018

Globalists vs Tribalists: The False Debate Over Switzerland First

“Who should have the last word concerning laws within our country? Swiss citizens and the cantons or international organizations and foreign judges?” asked Roger Köppel of the right-wing People’s Party during a recent heated debate in the Swiss Parliament. “One puts the law of the European Union above our Constitution!” exclaimed a scandalized Hans-Ueli Vogt of the same party.

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28/05/2018

Geneva’s Democratic Deficit

Each time there is a cantonal election in Geneva I am pleased and astonished at the system. It works. Ballots are sent out on time and eligible citizens can vote by mail, electronically or in person. Like a reputable Swiss watch, everything worked again this time. There were only minor complaints of irregularities. (I am still traumatized from the 2000 Bush vs. Gore Florida recount.) All this confirms Switzerland’s recognized position as an exemplary democracy.

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23/05/2018

“J’accuse All Baby Boomers”

“It’s all your fault,” the Generation X 43-year-old scolded as she pointed her finger at me. “Holes in the ozone level, a crappy housing market, job insecurity, expensive college tuition, income inequality, lack of universal health care, derisory minimum wage, global insecurity, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, environmental degradation. And Harvey Weinstein.” She paused to catch her breath. She was just warming up. To her, the Baby Boomer generation, my generation, was the root cause of most, if not all, of the world’s problems.

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09/05/2018

Of Babies, Marriages and Illiberal Democracies

Newspaper front pages are showing pictures of a royal baby and preparation for a royal wedding in one of the world’s oldest democracies while pertinent questions are being raised about the decline of democracy in Poland, Hungary, Austria and other countries. Why are people so fascinated by the birth of Louis Arthur and the marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in Great Britain at the same time we bemoan the rise of autocratic rule around the world?
Is there a relationship between fascination with royalty and the decline of democracy?
(Full disclosure: I have not been invited to the royal wedding or reception.)

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02/05/2018

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump: Why Should We Believe Either of Them?

In times of rapid change, what was true yesterday is not necessarily true today. For example, the leader of North Korea has threatened to wipe out Seoul and reduce it to rubble while the government of South Korea has confirmed it has a plan to assassinate President Kim Jong-un. Nonetheless, on April 26, 2018, amid lingering handshakes and embraces, the leaders of North and South Korea promised to establish “lasting peace” by formally ending the Korean War of 1950-53 which divided the peninsula 65 years ago.

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24/04/2018

From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes

Much is and will be written comparing the student uprisings in the late 1960s in the United States and the current turmoil in some French universities. Like the nostalgia for the Cold War, the media is going back to what took place in the United States at a time when prestigious universities like Columbia and the University of California at Berkeley were shut down. Strikes by various unions accompanied and accompany the strikes in France so that, on the surface, comparisons between the late 1960s in the U.S. and 2018 in France seem to have some validity.

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18/04/2018

Of Bombs and Ballots

The recent bombing of Syrian chemical facilities was much less “bomb them back into the Stone Age,” a cliché that has a history in United States threats against Vietnam, Pakistan and ISIS. It was a “surgical strike,” coordinated with Great Britain and France, against three suspected chemical weapons sites. At the same time over 100 missiles were launched in retaliation for the supposed use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, Geneva citizens were voting for members of their government.

 

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11/04/2018

The US and Russia: Back to the Familiar Cold War

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, continues to condemn the Russian Federation in the Security Council. Recently, she condemned Russia for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Previously, she had condemned Russia over spy poisoning in England, for its aggressive actions in eastern Ukraine, and for the occupation of Crimea. Beyond the Security Council, details of systematic athletic doping have also sullied Russia’s image in the West.

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27/03/2018

John Bolton: President Trump’s Newest “Adviser”

President Trump’s recently named national security adviser and I have several things in common. He is about my age, wears glasses, and has a mustache and white hair. We are also white males.
Other than that, we have nothing in common. (A dear friend says that at least I can smile once in a while.)

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20/03/2018

Geneva Human Rights Film Festival: Is the Medium Really the Message?

The 1972 photo of a young girl running naked in Trang Bang screaming in pain from the effects of napalm had a profound influence on the public’s perception of the horrors of the Vietnam War. The 2015 photo of a three-year-old refugee boy drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey also had a profound influence of the public’s perception, this time on the desperate plight of millions of refugees. The images of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and Aylan Kurdi are iconic representations. Both capture larger stories; both images express powerful narratives. 

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15/03/2018

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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07/03/2018

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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06/03/2018

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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27/02/2018

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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17/02/2018

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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14/02/2018

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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08/02/2018

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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31/01/2018

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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26/01/2018

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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