• Three Presidential Crises

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    When I was invited to speak at a meeting a while ago about “my” president, I began by saying how honored I was to speak about Ueli Maurer, the current Swiss president. When the laughter died down, I tried to explain Donald Trump, my fellow New Yorker, as best I could. Now, sometime later, during the U.S. impeachment hearings, there are also serious questions being raised about what it means to be president in Switzerland. Ueli Maurer’s “autocratic world tour 2019” to Saudi Arabia, Russia and China (should we include his Oval Office meeting as well?) has made headlines. And there is even a debate in Geneva about a five-year term for the president of the Conseil d’Etat.

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  • Repentant Jihadists: What Does it Mean to Say, “I’m Sorry”?

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    “I’m sorry for what I did,” avowed a captured American apologizing to a journalist in a camp in northern Syria. “I now realize that I made a wrong decision,” he confessed. Was he hoping for some form of clemency? Was he hoping to be returned to the United States or to be defended by an American lawyer wherever he is tried because of his citizenship? Whatever the reasons for the apology - I assume we will never really know beyond his declaration – the case of apologetic, captured “jihadists” poses an ethical question.

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  • Sadako Ogata: A Deceptively Tough Lady

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    Tributes are pouring in for Sadako Ogata, who died on October 22 at age 92. The first woman and Japanese to be United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), she was also the former president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency as well as Japan’s first representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Although less than five feet tall, she earned the nickname “the diminutive giant” in fighting for refugees, the internally displaced, and even for standing up to the UN Secretary-General during the Bosnian war.

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  • Syria Talks: Is Jaw Jaw Better Than War War?

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    The opening of Geneva talks of a Syrian constitutional committee organized by the latest UN representative for Syria, Geir Pedersen, brings to mind the famous adage attributed to Winston Churchill; “It is better to jaw jaw than to war war.” One hundred fifty Syrians from the government, opposition and civil society are meeting in the city of Calvin to work on a document that will form the basis of a future “credible, inclusive, and non-sectarian” government.

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