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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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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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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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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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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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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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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