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Racism & Xenophobia in Swiss Politics

by whataboutbob Mon Sep 3rd, 2007 at 04:00:47 AM EST

A hat-tip to someone, for posting this in yesterday's Salon: most people in Switzerland are tolerant and open-minded towards those residents who hail from other lands, and over 20% of the Swiss population is foreign born. In fact, what would Switzerland be without business with the "Ausländ" and the diversity of "Ausländers" in their culture? However, there is a vocal minority in Switzerland (the far-right wing SVP - or Swiss Volks Partei), that is overtly stating racist and xenophobic themes, in order to play on people's fear to gain political power. This piece of racist crap is the SVP's PR campaign for the coming parliamentary election:

I have been very upset by this propaganda, and have been waiting for a political party in Switzerland to stand up and denounce this campaign...FINALLY!! A leader with backbone steps forward!: swissinfo - Swiss People's Party is accused of "racist" campaign

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A second visit to Tanzania

by whataboutbob Fri Aug 24th, 2007 at 08:27:28 AM EST

This last week I returned home from a ten day trip to northern Tanzania. I'm filled with impressions, based on many visits, meetings and conversations ranging from the issues of street children, open space technology, mental health systems in developing countries, energy policy in developing countries to ecology and biology, to name but a few. So I will attempt to assemble some of these impressions into a (hopefully) coherent story, but reader beware...I will also use the opportunity to promote some causes, interests...and fun things too! Plus I will add some photos, so you can get a sense of the place.


Old bull elephant greeting us in Tarangire Park

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Tanzanian water and the World Bank

by whataboutbob Mon Aug 20th, 2007 at 03:35:01 AM EST

I want to capture this article Fran dug up in Fridays Salon from The Guardian: The Water Margin

Tanzania was glad to secure the services of a British-led consortium to run the newly privatised water system in its capital Dar es Salaam. But then the price of water started to rise ... (...)

Three British expatriates were detained by the police in Tanzania, senior managers at City Water, a consortium responsible for managing Dar es Salaam's water supply. After being held for several hours, the men were served with notices describing them as "undesirable immigrants" and told to leave the country. That evening at Julius Nyerere airport, they were escorted on to a plane bound for London. Their families were left to follow some days later.

(...) Their departure from Tanzania signalled the end of a flagship World Bank privatisation deal that had been trumpeted as a modern solution to public water supply in an underdeveloped country. And it marked the beginning of a legal action that has proved hugely controversial in aid and development circles as Biwater plc, the Dorking-based private water company that led the consortium - and which is owned by Adrian White, a multi-millionaire ex-BBC governor and a former high sheriff of Surrey - pitted itself against the government of one of the world's poorest countries.

The story of water in most cities in the developing world is that the group paying the most is the poor, because they have to resort to the water vendors who peddle this precious commodity around the streets. But in Dar es Salaam it is not only the poor. Decades of neglect and underinvestment in the city's water infrastructure mean that fewer than 100,000 households - in a city of 3.5 million people - have running water.

If anyone has any more information on this particular situation in Tanzania, I would appreciate hearing it. But also, it would be interesting to know of other World Bank water privatization schemes, and how those are faring.

Comments >> (9 comments)

outraged...and really upset

by whataboutbob Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 03:55:47 AM EST

Funny about life in Europe, but I didn't find out about Bush commuting Libby's 33 month prison sentence until this morning (Posted Tuesday 3 July). And this news really, really upsets me...and scares the shit out of me too.

Basically, what Bush has done is blatant obstruction of justice. By commuting Libby's prison term, but leaving the felony account there, Libby is still under prosecution and thus can utilize the 5th amendment in order not to say anything that will incriminate himself (or Bush or Cheney).

And what is Congress going to do about this? I see this situation in the same light as Nixon and Watergate, the "Saturday Night Massacre" - this is as serious a crisis in the US government as can happen. If this isn't an excuse of starting the impeachment process, so a real investigation of the law-breaking administration can occur, I don't know what is.

I'm completely upset about this...I can't even coherently say how outrageous and in-your-face blatant this act is. The President is saying he is above the law. Will anyone stop him here? And if not here, what does he do next? This is a coup of the rule of law...

wow...this is truly awful...and incredibly scary...

Brought across by afew

Comments >> (105 comments)

Poll of Swiss electorate - 4 months from election

by whataboutbob Sun Jul 1st, 2007 at 04:45:50 AM EST

In fall the Swiss nation-wide parliamentary elections occur, which will decide the composition of the parliament and the 7-headed Bundesrat for the next four years. Today in Swissinfo is an article discussing the results of the recent nationwide poll (carried out by the gfs.bern institute). The article focuses on the gains that the Greens may make, but I think the whole poll results are interesting: Greens confirm steady progress

Four months before Swiss parliamentary elections, support for Green parties has stabilised at over ten per cent - well ahead of their previous score.

This is in contrast to leftwing and rightwing parties, which continue to lose votes, signalling the end to the polarisation that has marked the Swiss political landscape since 1995.

Latest major party poll results below:

Read more... (1 comment, 412 words in story)

Protective Factors Enhancing Resilience in Children (2)

by whataboutbob Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 05:49:10 AM EST

To further follow up on the conversation that we started the other day (here), below is the little online article that I had published on the "International Platform for Sports and Development". The article is focused on the use of sport and play programs for kids who have been through disasters or wars (ie, catastrophic events), and so trauma focused. But I would add that these concepts are relevant to the experience of other types of adversity, and that arts and education are also crucial activities (and structures) that can help promote health in children, so I would keep this in mind as you read this:

In recent years new questions in Sport & Development have emerged: can psychosocial sport and play programs help youth learn to manage adversity, or in overcoming severe stress or trauma? And if yes, how might this happen? These questions have been especially important for humanitarian and development workers who wish to respond to the trauma experienced by victims of disasters, conflicts and/or in ongoing societal emergencies. Although the idea of using sport was increasingly discussed over the last few years, only now are empirical psychosocial field research projects actually being initiated to assess the effects of sports and play in helping youth overcome trauma. A key concept in much of this new research involves the idea of resilience - an internal process in which an individual is seen to adapt positively to particularly adverse circumstances. At the moment, it is applying resilience-supporting and enhancing practices in psychosocial sport and play programs that are thought to actively support the emotional and mental health of youth.

(more below)

From the diaries - afew

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Building community builds resilience (a perspective)

by whataboutbob Mon Jun 25th, 2007 at 08:24:56 AM EST

As some of you know, I am researching the issue of ,,resilience" (with resilience being a concept that relates to the ability of a person to withstand adversity, an internal process involving strength and flexibility - which some are now referring to as ,,positive psychology"), and I came across this quote that caught my eye:

A relevant aspect of enhancing resilience (in individuals) includes the experience of a strong sense of cohesion between community members, and strong community educational, political and religious support"

Now I found this quote in the context of doing research on the children who survived the terrorist attack on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia (and the quote was from ,,Narratives from caregivers of children surviving the terrorist attack in Beslan: Issues of health, culture and resilience", by Moscardino, Axia, Scrimin & Capello, in ,,Social Science and Medicine" vol 64, 2007, p 1776-1787). But my interests go beyond children surviving traumatic experiences, and includes my general interest in the idea of how to enhance strength and flexibility in anyone's life. And specifically, I was struck how this could also apply to the development of the ,,European Tribune Community" .  Follow me below...

From the diaries - afew

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Renewing the Left in Europe? Let's debate

by whataboutbob Thu Jun 21st, 2007 at 04:08:56 AM EST

Notwithstanding the unexpected bounce back by the Social Party in the just completed French legislative elections, I have been feeling a growing sense of frustration as I watch the Left lose seats and/or power in many recent national elections around Europe. And I wonder "what the heck is going on??"

And I had an interesting (but too short) conversation with Jerome in Paris about the need for a new "hard Left"in Europe too (which I hope Jerome will say more about here).

Now you may not agree with my perception about the Left not doing so well recently...and I sure would like to hear your arguments, because I am eager to be convinced as wrong...but right now it is what I am seeing. So I have some questions to pose for you all out there:

  1. Why do you think the Left is or is not doing so well in various countries and regions throughout Europe?

  2. What does the Left need to do, to renew itself in a way that regains people's interest (and votes)?

Comments >> (111 comments)

World Day Against Child Labor

by whataboutbob Wed Jun 13th, 2007 at 05:49:09 AM EST

Yesterday I heard about this report on the radio about the use/abuse of child laborers between ages 5 and 15 around the world, and found this article in the "Daily Times":

ILO estimates 218 million child labourers in world

PESHAWAR: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 218 million child labourers the world over. In a statement issued by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) on the World Day Against Child Labour (today), said lack of information on existence and number of bonded child labourers who come from the poorest families are a major problem."

"Bonded child labourers work in workshops, remote quarries, on farms and in the homes as domestic workers," he added. "Approximately 8.4 million are trapped in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, prostitution, pornography and other illicit and illegal activities. (...)

SPARC spokeswoman Fazila Gulrez said there were three types of bonded labourers, adding, "The first is when a child inherits a debt carried by his/her parents. Another form of bonded labour occurs when a child is used as collateral for a loan. Finally, a child worker may enter into bondage when the parents request an advance on future wages they expect to earn." "In such a clandestine environment, it is impossible to get precise figures on the extent of the phenomenon of child debt bondage," she added. (...)

"The most effective way of reducing and eventually eliminating child labour will be the provision of adequate access to primary and secondary education."

This is stunning news.

Many of these child laborers are used in agriculture...to < gulp > grow the food we eat!

If the issue of improving the lives of children is a major concern of yours, then investing in primary and secondary education is definitely worthy of your attention and effort, as it will provide for the way out for many kids!

Comments >> (3 comments)

Swiss tolerance or Right wing fear?

by whataboutbob Tue Jun 12th, 2007 at 05:04:05 AM EST

Just in case you didn't know (from Rueters): Swiss reputation for tolerance under threat

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland's reputation as a haven of tolerance for immigrants has been undermined in recent weeks by calls for a ban on new minarets, a mysterious synagogue blaze and neo-Nazi threats to disrupt national day celebrations.

Switzerland is known for public order and efficiency. Its neutral status and high living standards, as well as its need for lower cost workers, have historically attracted refugees from conflicts around Europe and the world.

But with rising immigration -- and lack of integration caused partly by tight laws on handing out Swiss passports -- religious and ethnic tension has been on the rise, particularly focusing on Muslims.

There will be a vote later this year, and it will be interesting to  see what happens if the Swiss people outlaw the building of minarets. Seems to me that's asking for trouble. Will tolerance or emotional fear and right wing extremism win out? Stay tuned...

From the diaries - afew

Comments >> (26 comments)

Save the Children - World Mother's Report 2007

by whataboutbob Wed May 23rd, 2007 at 08:07:57 AM EST

I stumbled across this report on the

Save the Children's publications webpage

entitled: "State of the World's Mothers 2007 - Saving the lives of children under 5" (in pdf). It is a thorough and detailed report on where all the countries of world are ranked, as far as mother's and children's health (with a focus on under age 5 children). It is quite shocking. But again, the Northern European countries lead the way in lowest deaths for children under 5 in the world, and in providing for mother's health (among other things).

I can't go into it much right now (I'm at work), but I strongly recommend that you download it and look over the many charts they have...lots of information to chew on. What catches your eye?

Comments >> (1 comment)

Wolfowitz resigns...in controversy

by whataboutbob Fri May 18th, 2007 at 07:44:45 AM EST

From Fran in this morning's Salon, via FT: Departure terms divides bank

The terms of Paul Wolfowitz's departure as president of the World Bank caused immediate divisions within the institution.

The staff association said the board had further eroded employee confidence by accepting that Mr Wolfowitz had acted in good faith over a generous secondment package awarded to Shaha Riza, his girlfriend. Mr Wolfowitz won acknowledgement both of his service and his key assertion that the bank shared responsibility for the controversy.


Allison Cave, head of the staff association, said: "We are pleased that he is leaving. But it is unacceptable that he stays a day longer.

"The board statement and the term will damage staff confidence in the board and make reform more difficult."

Even his resignation leaves lots of questions and a cloud of scandal...

Comments >> (15 comments)

To World Bank: He won't jump, push him out now

by whataboutbob Tue May 8th, 2007 at 03:44:03 AM EST

As I posted in today's Salon, from the New York Times:

World Bank Panel Finds Wolfowitz at Fault

WASHINGTON, May 7 -- A committee of World Bank directors has formally notified Paul D. Wolfowitz that they found him to be guilty of a conflict of interest in arranging for a pay raise and promotion for Shaha Ali Riza, his companion, in 2005. The findings stepped up the pressure on Mr. Wolfowitz to resign. (...) The special committee was still working today on what to recommend. (...)

So what's going on here? Why the long deliberation? If this were a European busted for this (and not Bush's bbf), would they be talking this long? It's politics. But Wolfowitz must go.

I did find this interesting, and believe it is time this happened:

A senior European official said that Europeans have informally told Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. that many of their governments, some of whom asked for the custom to be discarded in 2005, would now renew their demand, especially if Mr. Wolfowitz is forced out by a vote of the bank board.

This official said that the overwhelming sentiment in Europe, as expressed in editorials, political commentaries and even web logs, was that European governments should never again let the United States pick the president of the World Bank all by itself.

In addition, the Europeans say that they have begun signaling their intention of aiding African countries and other poor nations through their own development agencies, rather than through the World Bank or its principal vehicle for aid to the poorest countries, known as the International Development Agency.

Yes, move your international aid out of World Bank!

Comments >> (8 comments)

European Football: Champions League Semi-finals (Picks?)

by whataboutbob Sun Apr 22nd, 2007 at 06:13:51 AM EST

It's hard for me to tell how closely Europeans watch the Champions League playoffs, but I assume these are fairly popular, especially for those fans whose teams are playing. Anyway, for those of you who ARE interested...this week will be the first games of the home and home semi-finals:

Here's how it went in the last round:

2006/07 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals:

AC Milan (ITA) defeated FC Bayern München (GER)
Liverpool FC (ENG)defeated PSV Eindhoven (NED)  
Manchester United FC (ENG) defeated AS Roma (ITA)  
Chelsea FC (ENG) defeated Valencia CF (ESP)

So the UEFA Champions League semi-finals will be:
1st leg: 24/25 April
2nd leg: 01/02 May

Chelsea versus Liverpool

Manchester United versus Milan

2006/07 UEFA Champions League final will be at
Olympic Stadium, Athens on Wednesday 23 May

My question for you: who do you think will win the semi-finals and advance to the final, and who will be this year's champion?

Comments >> (42 comments)

Paris meet-up: June 16th?

by whataboutbob Sat Apr 21st, 2007 at 07:01:45 AM EST

Hi All...there have been some rumors floating around about a 2nd annual European Tribune meet-up in Paris. So I checked in with Jerome, and he said he is into it, but could only meet on Saturday June 16th. It would be at the same time and place as last year (I have misplaced the details for the moment, but will post these later).

So, the question is, anyone out there interested in going to Paris for a meetup on Saturday June 16th? Perhaps indicate if you are interested, and if you can definitely commit. More later...cheers!

Comments >> (68 comments)

Euro-Tribers: The Quality of Your Work/Play Life?

by whataboutbob Fri Apr 20th, 2007 at 07:28:38 AM EST

As the issue of work and play is an area I am trying to get some perspective on for myself, it dawned on me that it would be very interesting to hear what the rest of you in the European Tribune community are doing with your daily lives. I am particularly interested in anything you can say about the the quality of your work and play life.

Here are some questions I will pose, and you can choose to any of these that you care to answer...

*    What is your work?
*    Do you look forward to going to work each day?
*    Or, are there certain aspects of your work that you love, but there are other aspects of work that aren't so fun and impact in a negative way the work you like?
*    Do you wish you could do more of what you like?
*    What are the main stresses of your work?
*    Are you feeling burned out by work? (And if so, why do you think?)
*    Do you feel fortunate that you have the job or career that you do?
*    How are your relations with peers, or with bosses, or employees?

Anything else you care to say about your work?

And/or...what about the play/fun part of your life?

*    What do you like to do for fun?
*    Is the fun/play part of your life also your paid job?
*    Is this involvement really your ,,life work", and you just do your paid work to support this?
*    How much time do you get to spend doing your play/fun part?

Anything else you care to say about your fun/play life?

Anyway, I think you get my drift...I am really interested to hear about how you spend your time and what the quality of your experience is, and with as diverse a community as ETs, I think this will be very fun and interesting to learn about!


Comments >> (78 comments)

World Bank: Fire Wolfowitz

by whataboutbob Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 11:17:23 AM EST

From this morning's Salon, via BBC News: Wolfowitz future still in balance

The future of beleaguered World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz remains in the balance despite a defiant statement that he intends to stay.

His fate lies in the hands of the executive board, which is under pressure to take a decision. Mr Wolfowitz is still facing calls to resign after admitting helping his partner win a promotion and pay rise. Bank member governments say the matter is of great concern and the bank staff association said again he should go. Mr Wolfowitz on Sunday vowed to stay on to continue what he called "important work".
"I believe in the mission of this organisation and I believe that I can carry it out," he said

I have strong feelings about this: Wolfowitz should resign, or the bank should fire his ass. His behavior is grossly corrupt and unethical - he does NOT deserve to remain in his position. Firing him is the right thing to do. Will they?

Update: In the comments, Metavision has posted email addresses that anyone interested can contact and express your opinion about the situation. wab

Comments >> (35 comments)

Champion's League - Quarter Finals

by whataboutbob Fri Apr 6th, 2007 at 12:33:19 PM EST

2006/07 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals
1st leg: 03/04 April
2nd leg: 10/11 April  

1 AC Milan (ITA) v FC Bayern München (GER)
2 PSV Eindhoven (NED) v Liverpool FC (ENG)
3 AS Roma (ITA) v Manchester United FC (ENG)
4 Chelsea FC (ENG) v Valencia CF (ESP)

2006/07 UEFA Champions League semi-finals?
1st leg: 24/25 April
2nd leg: 01/02 May

1 Winner quarter-final 4  v Winner quarter-final 2 ?2 Winner quarter-final 3 v Winner quarter-final 1
2006/07 UEFA Champions League final?Olympic Stadium, Athens?Wednesday 23 May
Winner semi-final 2 v Winner semi-final 1

1st Leg - Quarter Final Scores

Roma 2 Man U 1
Chelsea 1 Valencia 1

Milan 2 Bayern 2
PSV 0  Liverpool 3

Comments >> (5 comments)

Impacts of global warming in Switzerland

by whataboutbob Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 09:59:55 AM EST

Methinks we will be hearing more about the impacts of the relationships of these issues: water & power. From Swissinfo is this article: Swiss issue key climate report

The long-awaited report predicts that output of mountain hydroelectricity plants (60 per cent of total domestic power generation) could decrease by around seven per cent, since they will have to rely more on rainwater and less on melted snow (...) based on forecasts of an increase of precipitation in winter by ten per cent and decrease in summer by 20 per cent. The report says Switzerland can expect more frequent extreme weather patterns, resulting in floods and mudslides in winter and spring, and summer heatwaves. In winter, mid-range mountain regions will receive more rain than snow, whereas those areas above 2,000 metres will get heavier snowfalls.(...)

As glaciers slowly melt away, around 75 per cent of water from glaciers is expected to disappear by 2050. This will lead to tough competition for water resources between industry, the eco-system, consumers and regions.Less water will also affect nuclear power plants (38 per cent of total domestic power generation), which rely on water from Swiss rivers to cool the reactors and may have to reduce output.

More below...

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To become a warrior...

by whataboutbob Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 01:16:37 PM EST

A number of years back, a friend gave me this poem as a birthday gift...and every once in awhile I stumble across it in my archives...I really love it. It's a poem by a Judy Wyatt, called "To Become A Warrior"...I'll post it below...

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