• Je peux français comprendre, but I prefer to write in English

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    The recent kerfuffle surrounding the new Swiss minister of the economy Guy Parmelin’s command of English has generated numerous commentaries on the role of English in a country that has four national languages, but not English. Parmelin’s declaration; “I can English understand but je préfère répondre en français pour être plus précis” was even the subject of an article on page 2 of the New York Times. Is it necessary for important Swiss politicians to be fluent in English?

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  • Direct Democracy vs. Gilets Jaunes

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    The recent protests by the gilets jaunes in France would seem to have all the elements of direct democracy. For several Saturdays, thousands of citizens protested in the streets throughout France against the government, initially against an increase in the tax on diesel fuel. And they were successful. French President Emmanuel Macron suspended the gas tax increase as well as acceding to several other demands of the protesters. 

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  • 1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away

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    Few days remain in 2018 to celebrate and recall all the events on the 50th anniversary of 1968. Comparisons with the “gilets jaunes” in France have evoked some of the memories, but for those who lived through 1968 as students there are events permanently etched in our psyches that will not go away. For Millennials and the X Generation, 1968 is pre-history, ancient dinosaur time. For those who experienced 1968, it was a year of rupture and transformation.

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  • The Valais – of all places – Shows a New Politics

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    The reputation of the Canton of Valais has never been one of a hotbed of radicalism. Long dominated by the Christian Democratic Party, it is known for its conservatism and Catholicism. (Crucifixes are still hung in many Valais classrooms in public schools and the Church-run school in St. Maurice has long been an educational cantonal leader.) One doesn’t learn about Karl Marx or Antonio Gramsci on the slopes of Crans Montana or Verbier nor at the Foire du Valais in Martigny.

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