25/01/2016

Corruption in the Pristine World of Tennis?

The sports world, traditionally a refuge from the harsh realities of politics and business, continues to be sullied. After the crisis of corruption in the ruling football organization FIFA and the Russian state-sponsored athletic doping scandal, the pristine world of tennis has been rocked by allegations of match-fixing. The usually reliable BBC with BuzzFeed published an article asserting that the names of 16 players who have been ranked in the top 50 worldwide were sent to the Tennis Integrity Unit for investigation. “Gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy have made hundreds of thousands of pounds placing highly suspicious bets on scores of matches – including at Wimbledon and the French Open,” the article stated.

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21/01/2016

New Year’s Eve, Changing Neighborhoods and Integration

One of my favorite cartoons shows two Native Americans standing on the shore near Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts watching the Pilgrims on the Mayflower sail into the harbor. One of the Indians turns to the other and snidely remarks: “Oh, oh. There goes the neighborhood.”

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15/01/2016

Barack Obama’s Perception of the State of the State: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

The president of the United States is required by law to give an annual presentation to the Congress on the status of the country. President Obama carried out this duty for the last time this week with his formal State of the Union address. What makes the speech extraordinary is not its contents – the world will little remember what he said – but the divergence in perceptions about the country’s situation.

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08/01/2016

Do Real Men Cry in Public?

President Barack Obama cried in public. The president of the United States of America, the man who has his finger on nuclear weapons, had “tears streaming down his face” before television cameras when he announced new executive actions to reduce gun sales in the U.S. As reported by the International New York Times: “Mr. Obama broke down as he spoke about the young children shot to death in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.”

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04/01/2016

A New Year and a New Sense of Time

The new year has started with all its expectations. It is new. But it is also a year: twelve months, 365 days, 7 days in a week, 24 hours in a day. While we cannot predict what will happen in 2016, we can be confident about time. That doesn’t change.
Or does it?

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24/12/2015

Is the Language of Shakespeare Necessary to Govern?

During the recent election for the Swiss Federal Council, the necessity of knowing English was hotly debated. In his interview to be one of the seven members of the Executive, Guy Parmelin said: “I can English understand but je préfère répondre en français pour être plus précis.” Although the quotation went viral on social media, he was easily elected and became the Minister of Defense, Civil Protection and Sports. Apparently being conversant in the language of Shakespeare is not a necessity to govern Switzerland.

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15/12/2015

Relativizing Security: Comparing Geneva and Islamabad

Geneva and Islamabad are two very different places. The former is known as a bastion of tranquility in Western Europe with a long history of democracy and neutrality, the latter as the capital of a large, militarily dominated country recently created with a history of violence as well as a continuing potential for destabilization from its neighbors Afghanistan and India.  

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02/12/2015

Responding to ISIS: Is Multitasking Possible?

Multitasking has become an imperative in our accelerated, modern era. People have to juggle their personal and professional lives 24/7. This is not simple. Sometimes the juggled balls drop to the floor. Politically, faced with the horrific November attacks in Paris, it is difficult to accept the duality that ISIS is both a quasi/state and a global network. It is a military force which controls half the territory of Syria as well as a loose web of global terrorist organizations often aligned with lone wolves around the globe. How to respond to the dual nature of the threat? How to multitask our response?

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24/11/2015

Rename the Palais Wilson and the President Wilson Hotel?

T. Woodrow Wilson is an iconic figure in the history of International Geneva. The 28th President of the United States (1913-1921) is revered not only for his vision of a world without wars (World War I was to be “the war to end all wars”) but also for his role in choosing Geneva as the site of the League of Nations’ headquarters. While his name continues to be associated with peace – the building housing the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights bears his name as well as the famous hotel next to it – his legacy is less appreciated today in the United States.

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16/11/2015

The Danger of Calling for War Against ISIS

Of the horrific events in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said: “It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh, against France,” Hollande told the nation from the Élysée Palace. He went on: “It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside, which the investigation will help establish.”

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09/11/2015

A Tale of Two Cities: A Brief Visit to the Sister Republic

To fly from Geneva to New York City is more than just an eight hour 40 minute flight. To go from news about federal elections in Switzerland with discussions of political party alignments to the billion dollar theatrical televised debates of candidates in the upcoming 2016 U.S. presidential elections is similar to the apple and oranges analogy; they are both fruits, but they are very different. And Geneva is not New York.

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28/10/2015

Can You Predict the Future?

Who will win the November 2016 United States presidential election? Who will be elected Senators from Geneva? Will the price of oil stay low? Will the stock market go up? Should I put money aside for my grandchildren’s education? Where should I go on vacation?

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20/10/2015

The Swiss Vote Right Wing for Their National Government

In Switzerland, unemployment is well below neighboring countries; there is a stability that contrasts with the chaos in many other parts of the world. Sunday’s right-wing vote was a conservative vote to keep the status quo. After all, in politics as in sports, the first rule has always been: “Never change a winning game.”

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13/10/2015

Vladimir Putin’s UN Speech: A Russian History Lesson for the West

During his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to give a history lesson. It is highly questionable whether he will be listened to. For the United States to admit its errors in democracy promotion, for the U.S. to admit it is not exceptional, and for the United States and Russia to cooperate to restore peace in Syria remain highly questionable. Nonetheless, his speech was a fascinating presentation of his world view. Although discourse analysis is fraught with difficulties, some of his comments do merit a close reading. 

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06/10/2015

Guns and Nuclear Weapons: The More the Merrier?

The recent shooting of thirteen students at a community college in Oregon has raised again the question of gun control in the United States. In speaking to the American people after this latest incident, a frustrated President Obama pointed out how little progress has been made to curb these shootings and how repetitive the situation has become: “We’ve become numb to this. We talked about this after Columbine, and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun,” he said.

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02/10/2015

“What the Hell Were You Thinking?”

The Volkswagen scandal is perplexing. For a rather small benefit per car, the company took enormous risks if caught. Penalties are said to be in the neighborhood of $18 billion without the cost of recall and repairs. The CEO resigned; sales and the stock have plummeted; the reputation has been tarnished; the image of Germany as efficient and non-corrupt has been damaged. (If a similar incident had happened to an auto maker in France or Italy, would there be such reverberations?)

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28/09/2015

A Tale of Two Visits: Ethics and Politics and Ethical Politics

Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the United States last week. The Pope’s visit was his first to the U.S., and while he obviously tried to energize Catholics, the largest denomination in the U.S., his message was surprisingly political. For the Chinese leader, on his first state visit as president, his trip included meetings with business leaders in Seattle, a reception in Washington with a 21-gun salute on the White House lawn, and multilateral events in New York. While the Pope used the opportunity to emphasize a moral dimension in political affairs, Xi Jinping dealt with such earthly matters as cyber-espionage, climate change, the South China Sea, and China’s relationship with the U.S. as a great power.

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17/09/2015

Racism in America, The Story That Won’t Go Away

Racism is not simple to define. From South African apartheid’s formal segregation to racial profiling, there are many different hues. “Black Lives Matter” has become a United States movement in reaction to violence, often by police, against blacks. But violence can take on many forms. When African-American celebrities are involved in an incident, not a shooting or violent crime, the publicity can become front page news. 

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08/09/2015

European Union’s Refugee Policy: Missed Obligations and the German Example

From the outset, the European project has been under considerable pressure to prove that it is not just an economic union. The recent Greek crisis, which is far from over, raised the fragility of a deeper sense of a Eurozone beyond a common currency. We watch in stupefaction and dismay as refugees continue to pour into Europe only to be met with barbed wire barriers and hostile police. The reaction to the current mass influx is an example of the lack of commonality among EU members.
 

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01/09/2015

Feel the Bern vs. Get Clean for Gene

The 2016 United States presidential election has drawn international attention. Who is Donald Trump? Does he have a chance to be elected? Will Hillary Clinton be the first woman President? Will Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush be part of continuing dynasties? Will Vice-President Joseph Biden enter the race? These questions appear in headlines around the world, and justifiably so. But there are less spectacular questions as well.

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25/08/2015

Trying to Understand Collective Heroism and Responsibility

“Let’s go, go!” Alek Skarlatos shouted to his two American friends vacationing in Europe as they went after the heavily-armed gunman on a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris. The three Americans are being hailed as heroes, receiving congratulations from the presidents of France and the United States, among many others, for subduing the gunman.

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18/08/2015

The Skiing Country Shines on the Courts

René Stambach could not have dreamed of a better Monday. The president of Swiss Tennis awoke on August 17 to see that two Swiss men were in the top five – Roger Federer at no. three and Stan Wawrinka no. five – and that two Swiss women had moved into the top 15 – Belinda Bencic at no. 12 and Timea Bacsinszky at no. 14. Not only is Switzerland the reigning Davis Cup champion, but with the two women in the top 15 and the world’s second-ranked women’s doubles player, Martina Hingis, the Swiss are realistic challengers for the Fed Cup, the World Cup of women’s tennis.

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14/08/2015

Sports Insults and Rules of the Game

The tennis world is in shock, according to an article in the Tribune de Genève, because of insulting language used by the Australian Nick Kyrgios during a match against Stan Wawrinka Wednesday evening in Montreal. The insult, referring to Wawrinka’s current girlfriend and another Australian player, resulted in a $10,000 fine for the volatile Australian who later apologized for what he had said in “the heat of the moment.”

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10/08/2015

Let Me Entertain You: The US Presidential Election and Politics as Theater

The top ten contenders for the 20016 Republican presidential nomination squared off in a televised debate-like scenario hosted by Fox News last week. The debate was eagerly anticipated, especially as to how the billionaire businessman, reality show host and front-runner Donald Trump would perform. Fifteen million people tuned in. Soon after the debate, blow-by-blow descriptions appeared in the press, with winners and losers announced in a combination of boxing and theater metaphors.

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04/08/2015

Cecil and Animal Politics

The recent killing of a lion in Zimbabwe has caused a global outcry. Front page stories recount how guides for an American dentist and hunter, Dr. Walter Palmer, supposedly lured the animal out of its protected habitat, allowing Palmer to shoot him with a bow and arrow, and later to behead him - the stuffed head being the hunter’s trophy for which he paid $50,000 in fees. Considering the number of people dying in wars throughout the world, the number of undernourished as well as the homeless, it may seem bizarre that so much attention at this time has been given to a specific animal.

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