30/07/2014

The End of Humanitarianism?

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013. Started in a small apartment in the Old Town of Geneva, the ICRC crystallized and codified the first international norms dealing with the laws of war. After watching on the news the bombings of hospitals and schools in Gaza with innocent women and children among the victims as well as the difficulty for outside forensic experts and family members of passengers to inspect the site of downed MH17 in eastern Ukraine, I ask: Is humanitarianism still pertinent today?

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25/07/2014

MH17 and Gaza: Who Is Responsible?

Responsibility is central to moral philosophy and law. On the negative side, justice demands that we find out “Who did it?” “Who is to blame?” On the positive side, we want to know who should be praised, who should be rewarded. But beyond moral philosophers and lawyers, we often debate in the simplest conversations about who was responsible for a given act or situation. Even if we hold responsible a heavenly being or fate, we still want to know who is responsible.

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18/07/2014

Reconciling Peace and War: In But Out

The sun shines in Geneva during glorious summer days. Swimming pools are crowded with excited children; some have left for their chalets in the mountains, others have left or are planning to leave on vacation to the beaches of southern Europe or Asia. “Summertime and the livin’ is easy” as George Gershwin wrote. But newspaper headlines scream otherwise: “Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza,” “Jet brought down by missile in Ukraine”. How to reconcile “the livin’ is easy” with the horrors of the headlines? And with other tragic events that don’t make the front pages.

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15/07/2014

Reflections on Non-Violence at the World Cup

The World Cup has ended. An orgy of flag waving and anthem singing has concluded for at least another four years. Germany won, as could have been expected. What wasn’t expected was how the threats of street violence and protest within Brazil over the lavish preparation did not materialize.

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11/07/2014

The Human Brain Project Controversy: Let the Taxpayer Beware

When asked if it was difficult to govern during a world war, the American President Woodrow Wilson famously replied; “Not at all. I have been chairman of a political science department and president of a university.” The quotation referred to notorious conflicts among academics, and in many ways reflects what is currently taking place surrounding the Human Brain Project (HBP).

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07/07/2014

Can One Be Heroic In Defeat?

Roger Federer is being lavishly praised for his heroic battle with Novak Djokovic in this year’s Wimbledon final. The Swiss football team is being lavishly praised for its heroic battle with Argentina in this year’s World Cup round of 16. Federer and the national team were both close to victory but they both lost. Can one be heroic in defeat?

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04/07/2014

What if the U.S. Won the World Cup?

The World Cup dominates front pages. Forget Sarkozy’s problems; the war in Syria has disappeared; Russia and Ukraine are far from Brazil; ISIS and Iraq are not competing on the pitch. Even stories about incomplete stadiums and social protests in Brazil can’t make the news. Rabid nationalism in the best sense has broken out all over. Even in the United States. 

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