Malware Software Attacks Sarkozy Admnistration, U.S. to Blame

Even though France has François Hollande as its president his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is still making headlines. This time, a magazine has reported that Sarkozy’s administration was hacked by the United States during his final days as president. If the accusations are true, the incident could hurt relations between the two nations.

The story was first reported on the French magazine, l’Express. According to The Atlantic the compromise began with the hackers sending friend requests to staff members at the Palais de l’Élysée, the official residence of the French president. After accepting the request, the staff member was sent an email for a fake login page of the administration’s network, which allowed hackers to get a hold of an actual username and password to access the network.

Once the hackers have infiltrated the network they place the malware software, also called intrusive software, so that it can spread to other computers that are using the same network. According to Wired, the specific malware that used is called Flame. The same article also reported that Flame is used “to spy on the users of infected computers and steal data from them, including documents, recorded conversations and keystrokes.” The same software is also being used to spy on systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and Sudan.

It is unclear yet as to real reason of the hacks and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano could not confirm or deny the U.S. involvement in the hack. President Sarkozy’s computer was not affected because his computer was not connected to the network. There are many speculations, but the biggest issue on the French side is the lack of security in their networks. The fact that they gained access by sending a friend request on Facebook shows that the French government is not well equipped to prevent malware to infect their networks. I’m not sure if other systems in the government are more or less protected than the presidential network. Either way they need to run tests to ensure that their security is up to date and impenetrable because the damage might be worse the next time.

It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s a brand-new song

No matter your location, language or taste, discovering new music is a fun experience for most people, and when it’s free—even better. Air France realized the appeal of this activity and looked to the sky to create an innovative app for discovering new music.

Air France is “known for its music selection in on-air entertainment,”according to Skift.com. In fact, its “Air France Music” Facebook page has more than 165,000 fans.  The airline is taking its reputation for good music to the next level with its new app, “Music in the Sky,” released on November 13.

The app is simple to use: point your iphone to the sky, aim it at the music note that appears on your screen and discover a new track. What will make users keep coming back is the fact that the songs that are available change with your location.  According to Air France Music’s Facebook page, “From Paris to Tokyo via Buenos Aires, every sky in the world has its own music with our Air France Music iPhone application, Music in the Sky. Make new discoveries every time you travel!”

Of course I had to try the app for myself. At first I was skeptical. There had to be a catch. Would I be able to use it without being an Air France customer? Would a track be available to me in the middle of Missouri? So I downloaded the app, pointed my phone up and “caught” the track. Within seconds I was listening to a new song!

The app is cool because of how easy it is to use and the access it gives users to undiscovered artists and songs, but it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the year, the airline will give users access to unreleased tracks, concert tickets and even plan tickets “by discovering undiscovered hidden games in the sky,” according to an article from finchannel.com.

So far, users seem to be happy with “Music in the Sky.”  It’s got a five-star rating on Itunes, and all the comments on the app are positive.

User comments on iTunes

User comments on iTunes

Though I don’t think the app or Air France’s music selection would convince people to choose the airline over others, I think the app and interactive Facebook page are a great way to engage young travelers especially. The app will help Air France stick in the minds of travelers, so they log on to the airline’s website when they are looking for plane tickets.

 

One of the hidden games the app offers

One of the hidden games the app offers

 

Overall, I think the app is a great idea. It’s a smart move for Air France because it will help people become more familiar with the airline, and it’s a good opportunity for music-lovers to test their music knowledge and discover new music no matter where they are in the world.

I will definitely be pointing my phone skyward again soon to see what other songs I can discover.

Greek Students Shine in Worldwide Hackathon

Greek Hackathon 2012

Greek Students participating in WOWZAPP Hackathon 2012. Image from Forbes and courtesy of Microsoft.

On November 9th Microsoft launched its first ever WOWZAPP 2012: Worldwide Hackathon for Windows. It was a 48-hour global hackathon for students, startups and professionals all over the world. There were over 100 locations and more than 17,000 people registered for the event.

While the student registration ended up around 14,000, the European country with the most students invovled was Greece with more than 550 participants. Other countries with a great student turn out were Ireland with 200, Poland with 350 and Russia with 200.

“With more than 14,000 students registered to participate, WOWZAPP 2012 will be the largest simultaneous hackathon of student developers ever, acting as a catalyst to bring a wealth of new, exciting and quality apps to the Windows Store,” said Moorthy Uppaluri, general manager of Worldwide Academic Programs at Microsoft. “Microsoft is committed to empowering students with the tools and resources they need to showcase their creativity and make money through app development.” –Yahoo! Finance, Microsoft Corporation press release.

WOWZAPP 2012 Bing World Map

WOWZAPP 2012 participation World Map. Image courtesy of Microsoft Bing.

The WOWZAPP hackathon was a great way for people to come together and create Windows Store apps for the recent Windows 8 product launches. For Greece the turnout was spectacular despite transport strikes being held on the opening day of the hackathon. It shows that these young people are looking for ways better themselves and find employment. It is wonderful that despite all the hardship and frustration, they channeled their skills and knowledge to be apart of something that can only help their future.

“But being a developer has many advantages,” she adds, “and in Greece it’s one of the few job opportunities. I can work for people in a different country. Every developer can speak the same language, no matter the place.” –Lia Kampantai, a 24-year-old developer. Forbes, Parmy Olson 2012.

This event was also a way for them to make connections and become part of a global community that is looking for the younger generations help especially in the field of technology. Check out what people had to say about WOWZAPP 2012 on Twitter at #WOWZAPP.  Also visit the WOWZAPP alumni Facebook page.

And for now I leave you with this….

“I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress.” – Mark Zuckerberg

The Crocodile’s Bite – Russia’s “Meth Problem” And Drug Reform – Explicit

It is a drug for the poor, and its effects are horrific. It was given its reptilian name because its poisonous ingredients quickly turn the skin scaly.  – The Independent

I have to start by saying that this post will contain some graphic images. Please click the links labeled graphic with caution – some of this is really quite sad and hard to see. I felt necessary to include them because I think that the true nature of drug abuse has to be seen by your own eyes in order to believe it. What drives people to inject literal hydrochloric acid into their veins? Only the junkie knows but by getting a glimpse at the state of despair that these people live, for me at least, gives a better sense of how desperate the situation really is. I have to admit that I became interested in this topic as a matter of narco-terrorism. With Russia being next door to the worlds producer of heroin and a border thats as long as the flight from the US to England, it’s no wonder that Russia is also the biggest consumer of heroin.

Struggle against drug trafficking

Joint US – Russian raid on drug labs in Afghanistan – RIA NOVOSTI

Narco-terrorism is the way that groups like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Chechen separatists finance their wars against Russia and the US as well as weaken the population in those countries. They expedite the shipment and profit of the sales. With the war in Afghanistan driving down poppy production, there has been a gap between the amount of heroin supplied and what the addicts need. Krokodil fills that gap in the same way that meth has in the United States. It’s cheap to produce, using readily available materials, and turns it’s users into the living dead. In fact, the DEA is now monitoring this growing epidemic in Russia, with increasing concern about it’s spread.

While the United States requires a prescription for codeine (the main ingredient in krokodil), other countries like Canada do not. The DEA is even cooperating with it’s Russian counterpart, the FSKN – Federal Drug Control Service Of Russia. The joint effort is aimed at heroin production in Afghanistan. Both sides have a vested interest in seeing these labs taken out, but the catch 22 is that the poppy is Afghanistan’s cash crop. Millions of farmers subsist on the income they receive off poppy sales because often there’s simply no other alternative.

Girl lighting up a hit of krokodile - crocodile
Lighting up a hit – www.drugwar101.com – some graphic content

The name, Krokodil, comes from the scaly greenish skin that addicts develop after repeated injections. The drug literally eats it’s user. They say that after your first hit the countdown on your life has already started. Enjoy the next 18 months of drug addled euphoria because that’s the typical life span of the user. Russia is looking at a tidal wave of new addicts as the decrease in Russia’s heroin supply (Russia is the largest consumer of Afghan heroine in the world), stemmed by the war in Afghanistan, has created a desperate wedge of users who cannot afford the rising price of heroin. Thus, Krokodile is born.

Here’s a video documentary that is definitely worth watching. Instead of throwing it up on this page, I thought I’d better link to it since it does contain some graphic imagery.

Krokodile Tears Part One – Vice – some graphic content

It’s a drug based on codeine – it’s real name is desamorphine and it has a chemical structure that is almost akin to heroins. The ingredients can be procured at any local pharmacy and the instructions for a proper cook are readily available on the internet. Though while a hit of heroin can give a high lasting 6-8 hours, krokodile is only good for maybe an hour and a half. It takes another hour to cook more. Some of the ingredients used to produce the desamorphine include gasoline, red phosphorous from matches, and hydrochloric acid. The user falls into a vicious cycle of shooting up and cooking almost continuously throughout the day.

I remember one day, we cooked for three days straight,” says one of Zhenya’s friends. “You don’t sleep much when you’re on krokodil, as you need to wake up every couple of hours for another hit. At the time we were cooking it at our place, and loads of people came round and pitched in. For three days we just kept on making it. By the end, we all staggered out yellow, exhausted and stinking of iodine.”- The Independent

The repeated injections cause gangrene and eventual tissue death. The high acidity of Krokodile dissolves muscle and bone leaving late stage addicts looking like something out of  horror film.

“If you miss the vein, that’s an abscess straight away,” says Sasha. Essentially, they are injecting poison directly into their flesh. One of their friends, in a neighbouring apartment block, is further down the line.

“She won’t go to hospital, she just keeps injecting. Her flesh is falling off and she can hardly move anymore,” says Sasha. – The Independent

 

The state apparently has the funds to operate treatment centers for these addicts but the main course of treatment in heroin addiction is methadone. The addict is gradually weaned off of heroin on medically controlled doses of methadone, a medically synthesized version of heroin. The physical pain of withdrawal lasts between one to two weeks. For krokodil users – withdrawal is a living month of hell.

One problem is that methadone is illegal in Russia and can’t be used for treatment. Another is that the state lacks the will to step in and is instead passing legislation that makes the punishment for narcotics harsher and setting punishment for heroin use at the same level as murder.

If the new laws are enacted, drug addicts will face imprisonment or be forced to undergo treatment for their addiction. And the treatment of drug dealers will be akin to that of serial killers. – The Lancet

These draconian measures are hoped to curb the exponential growth of users. Even the simple act of making codeine a prescription medication to prevent users from freely acquiring this main ingredient has fallen flat. Apparently, the pharmaceutical companies make about 25% of their profit from these sales.

rina Pavlova, a recovering krokodil addict, at the Chichevo rehab center in Russia, rocking Artiom Tiomkin — the baby of another

Irina Pavlova, a recovering krokodil addict. – Time

The only option for many of krokodil’s users on their last legs is a treatment center run by religious institutions. Those lucky enough to land a bed can at least hope for some measure of semblance in their lives. Though many groups are labeled as “sects”, synonymous with cult in Russian, at least they help. There’s just not enough money or willpower dedicated to fighting this problem and for an addict on krokodil, they’re a step away from death.

Read More: The Curse of the Crocodile: Russia’s Deadly Designer Drug – Time Magazine

Zhenya says every single addict he knows in his town has moved from heroin to krokodil, because it’s cheaper and easier to get hold of. “You can feel how disgusting it is when you’re doing it,” he recalls. “You’re dreaming of heroin, of something that feels clean and not like poison. But you can’t afford it, so you keep doing the krokodil. Until you die.” – 

The Independent

Could There Be Another Way?

There are many who speculate that the “hard” stance on drugs is actually counter-productive. The train of thought is that by making these drugs illegal, the market is pushed underground. Just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean there isn’t a demand for it. With the market now technically a black market, it’s characterized particularly by its de-regularization and literal “cut-throat” survival of the fittest scramble to fill that gap. Eventually, organizations such as Cartels rival the power of the governments. Ahem, Mexico.

The proposed theory is to legalize it. All of it. You heard right. Legalizing all the narcotics will do two things. Enable regularization and taxation. This allows for the addict to seek treatment instead of avoid punishment – which actually is the most cost effective choice since treatment taxes the state much less than incarceration. The money saved on enforcement is used to fund the treatment. The second part is that taxation enforces oversight as well as cutting into the profits of the drug organizations.

Yeah, right.

This all sounds like some Utopian dream conjured up by tourists in an Amsterdam “café”. There’s no way this will work?! Well, Portugal put its money where its mouth is and did just that in 2001.  Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe at the time and a national commission recommended that piece of new legislation. The list of legalized drugs includes cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine to name a few. Are these people nuts? Legalizing meth?

Nope. Portugal’s experiment was a resounding success. According to the Time’s article, Portugal has cut it’s drug problem in half. 

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well. – Time article – Drugs in Portugal: Does Decriminalization Work?

The article goes on to say that proportionally more Americans have tried cocaine than Portuguese have tried marijuana. Which coincidentally just became legal for recreational use in the states of Washington and Colorado. While the giggles might get the better of you, the issue actually has a lot of weight. The rest of the world is currently watching at how the Federal Government will respond. Several Latin American countries are considering legalizing some drugs, including a bill proposed by a Mexican lawmaker to legalize marijuana. The bill is unlikely to pass, but it is indicative of the frustration with the neighbor to the north as well as it’s war on drugs that so far has cost Mexico over 60,000 lives.

Read More: Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced By Lawmaker – Huffington Post

It’s all tied together

So what does buying weed from your dealer have to do with the krokodil addict? Actually the connection isn’t too far removed. With the end on Marijuana prohibition in sight, or at least on the horizon, US lawmakers are taking notice of the Portugal case study. With the ineffectiveness of the War on Drugs clear as trillions of dollars have been spent over decades with no noticeable change in usage, the tendency is to be more open to different approaches.

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington for recreational purposes should be seen as the opening shots in the offensive to retake the ground lost in the War on Drugs. I sincerely hope that the system that governs 5% of the worlds population but holds 25% of the worlds prisoners can finally realize redefining the victory conditions for the War on Drugs should not be availability of drugs – but focusing on the human conditions that lead people to abuse drugs.

The legalization of pot will force the Federal Government to make a stance on whether it will enforce the issue. Prior to President Obama’s re-election, his administration took an ambiguous position on the issue. Now with his position secure, proponents of drug reform see this as their chance to make  the push.

Suppose the administration, in my opinion, makes the right decision and legalizes Marijuana. The far-reaching consequences could end up effecting those desperate enough to shoot up krokodil. If the change in attitude holds a steady course, perhaps even Russia will finally be swayed to follow suit – especially when one of it’s biggest allies in the War on Drugs – the U.S. – has implemented legalization. At least those in charge will be forced to acknowledge the problem not just with promises – but with money.

ABC  News report on Krokodil – Some graphic images

I hope that rational thought prevails and that ultimately the people that deserve society’s help the most receive compassion instead of scorn.

– Dmitry

Sources:

Kool Savas, Xavier Naidoo under attack: Hidden track leads to outrage in Germany

It’s not only beer brewing in Germany these days. No, sir. Something far more controversial has been fermenting over the past days. Two of Germany’s most popular singer/musicians – rapper Kool Savas and soul singer Xavier Naidoo – have been making headlines for their collaborative CD creatively titled Xavas. It isn’t the tracks listed on the CD that are causing a stir, but rather a hidden track titled ‘wo sind’ – not listed on the CD – that has led the men in being accused of inhumanity, race-baiting, glorifying violence, as well as relating homosexuality to pedophilia. It seems these boys like a good ole’ foamy controversy-ladened concoction…or do they?

Upon the highly publicized release of their CD, the youth organization of the left party (die Jugendorganisation der Linkspartei) – die Linksjugend Solid – complained to the police about the song and its seemingly disturbing and offensive content.

So what is it about the song that is offensive? Here’s a graphic, yet examplatory sample from the song’s text:
“I’ll cut you all in the arms and legs and [explitive] in the ass just like you do to the little ones. I am only sorry, not mad. Nonetheless I would kill you all. You all kill kids and fetuses and I will squash your balls. You all simply have no length and your small dicks aren’t in hand. Why do you not like pussy? Because everyone comes out of one.”

The song goes on to ask questions such as “where are our helpers? Our strong men? Where are our leaders (using the controversial, Adolf Hitler provoking word ‘Führer’)? Where are they now?” This, of course, in the utilization of the word ‘Führer’ is a controversy all on its own..

There is no denying these lyrics are over-the-top and vulgar. Here are some Tweets:

Dieser Hidden-Track “Wo sind” von XAVAS ist echt Heavy von den Lyrics her O.o

 

Wieso zur Hölle lädt man Kool Savas auf ein Benefizkonzert zugunsten von Kindern ein? #battlerap http://tinyurl.com/awat2fb

 

.@Kraftklub voten wohl nicht für Xavashttp://ow.ly/floYx  #krone12 Voting:http://ow.ly/flp9R 

 

Just to be fair, here are some more positive tweets:

It’s a Xavier Naidoo kind of day… http://ow.ly/ff5sI 

I don’t listen to Xavas but thankful for their facebook post supporting the LGBT community. Glad Xavier shows that side of Christianity.

Despite this heaviness and vulgarity, and quite frankly the unnecessary images their text provokes, I do stand on the side of Xavier Naidoo and Kool Savas and believe what they have to say about their song.

According to Xavier Naidoo and Kool Savas, their intentions were meant to be informative and thought provoking instead of being hateful, homophobic, and threatening. On the homepage of their joint-project, Kool Savas explains “Ich would like to make clear that it wasn’t the intention of the song to position homosexuality and pedophilia on the same lines, or to provoke violence against [other] people.” Naidoo, who was propelled to popularity with hits such as ‘dieser Weg’ and ‘Ich kenne nichts’, indicated that as an 8 year old kid he, too, had to suffer through pedophilic abuse. They take the position that pedophilia in Europe is a much bigger issue than most are aware of.

I can somewhat understand the hostility against the artists for the song and its content; however, one only needs to listen to a song by almost any American rapper (I recommend Lil’ Wayne or old-school Eminem for violence against women), or Skipknot for the non-rap fans, if they want vulgarity, violence, and racism. If one would only look into Xavier Naidoo’s and Kool Savas’ past, you’ll find a much different character – and content – being portrayed by each individual.

Luckily for them, the police have decided not do anything legal against the singers. Good for them. And good for Xavier Naidoo and Kool Savas. For those with sensitive ears, this song may not be for you. I recommend a cold brew with a chill out session and, of course, some time to think how silly (and way to serious) you’re being. For German seriousness, please see my last blog post.

Of course, hot topics lead to a difference in opinion and not all may feel the way I do. Opinions are a lot like humor – not everyone sees it the same. So don’t take my word for it – formulate your own and if you get the urge to respond to this post, I’d like to hear from you!

(Translations done by me).

No Place like Swiss. Make Your Move.

If you read my previous post about “The Best Country Brand” and FutureBrand’s latest Country Branded Index (CBI), why not consider a move to Switzerland? Remember, this country is geared around its people and their needs and aims to create an emotional and cohesive connection. Ultimately, my post displayed the branded identity that Switzerland brings to the table other than their authentic and resilient international Swiss exports. So, with new business opportunities and the Swiss image, how else can one market a country? In my opinion, a big part would be a game plan for what to expect with migration.

Additionally, I believe it’s inherent to recognize and understand what non-citizens have to go through. So, for the lists below, I encourage you to read through the list below so as to give a better perspective of the laundry list migrants must undergo to live in another country.

Swiss, switzerland, mountains, water, sea, blue, grassy

An aerial view from the foot of the Swiss Alps.

In order to migrate, I believe non-citizens must acknowledge how to actually transition from their rooted cultures to the land within the Swiss borders. Through articles prescribed by Expatica.com, a Swiss-driven news source, I discovered the best ways for non-natives to move to Switzerland.

The Top ‘Must Knows’ Before moving to Switzerland

1. New Licenses

If your license is foreign to Switzerland, the country still recognizes your native license and will allow most to drive for up to 12 months with their existing license. Also, the license must have been issued by a competent authority abroad. According to Expatica.com, it must be valid and have been acquired lawfully. Lastly, the owner must be old enough to hold a Swiss license in the same category (18 for cars).

swiss, license, switzerland
2. Physically Moving: Overseas Shipping
According to Expatica’s forum, “When moving to Switzerland, there are three possibilities: leave with noting, leave with something, or leave with everything.” More guidelines to consider follows:
  • Hire a relocation company, or prepare for a full-time job.
  • Apparently, not hiring a company to take care of your paperwork, moving to another country can become a full-time job. “If you want to do this on your own, get ready to spend several weeks calling companies for quotes and filling out paperwork for customs, port documents, insurance and more,” says one Expatica editor who moved her household belongings overseas by sea container.
  • You definitely need insurance. With the rare occurrence of a storm, insurance will cover the entire loss of the container for the arrangement.
Swiss, cargo, barge, water, Atlantic, storage
3. Electricity, phone, T.V., and Internet
When renting a house, utilities are usually excluded from the monthly rent. Apartments, however, commonly include heating and hot water in the rent.
To set up Internet or telephone services, make sure you provide a copy of a residence permit (or other photo ID) and be sure you’re ready for a one-time connection payment. The service can usually be installed within a few days.
Mobile phones can be paid with a one year to two year subscription or by prepaid card. Some providers have facilities for recharging the card at train ticket dispensers, the post office or ATMs.
prongs, electricity, chord, electric, power
The Swiss pay a TV tax and radio tax. The annual cost allows an unlimited access to t.v. and radio programs. Not paying may result in fines. Swiss regions have their own respected programs. For wider ranges of programs, check out monthly cable services that allow national and international channels. Also, satellite dishes are an option if you must have a specific channel selection.
4. Living outside your comfort
  • For many, seeking a mentor to stay informed is very effective to assist in career paths, and aid visibility within the company while away and when you return.
  • Create a ‘transition fund’ that allows you to use money toward unexpected costs during a transitionary period.
  • Expect values and beliefs to change. After any new experience in other countries, it’s sometimes difficult to come back to what one always knew.
  • Consider changes in relationships. Sometimes colleagues and friends may be envious of international experience and unsure of new differences.
5. Stay positive and be happy
  • Hold on to your positive and adventurous attitude. Though you’ll face challenges, it’s part of the experience. It’s important to remember the reasons one moved abroad in the first place.
  • According to the 2011 documentary “Happy” 50% of happiness stems from genetics, 10% from extrinsic value (income, socioeconomic status, class rank), and 40% from intentions to be happy. So, do something you haven’t done before. Skydive, ski, go canyoning. Or, do something you’ve never even heard of and play the sport that’s famous in Bern. It’s called Hornussen.
So you think you’ve got what it takes to live abroad? If you need a new environment, remember that this country aims for connectedness and strong bonds with its citizens. It’s not just the exports and Swiss Alps that make a name for Switzerland. At it’s core, it’s the interpersonal relationships that give this country a brand of its own.
What about you? Is there anything stopping you from dropping everything in the states and moving to an unknown territory to start over?
As said before, this list may not meet your current needs and desires. But, I believe it is important to spend 10 (or 10,000) miles in someone else’s shoes. Read thought the lists again. While doing this, think about others that you know that have studied abroad. Then, I encourage you to come up with ways that you can facilitate a transitionary period for a non-citizen.
So let’s be honest: The time to take advantage of these extraordinary opportunities –whether studying abroad or not — is now.

 

 

 

 

Secularism: inclusion, or exclusion?

If secularism boils down to the separation of church and state, then theoretically it should allow for religious freedom since the state is not dictating what you, as a citizen, can and cannot believe, right? Your religion is your private affair.

Well, that’s the idea, anyway.

However, the secularism practiced in France, also known as laïcité, seems to stomp out religious sentiments of any kind, making non-religion a sort of national religion in and of itself.

French people obsess quite a lot over religion. While they are proud of their grand cathedrals, and appreciate their artistic and historic value, many French people are skeptical at best when it comes to religious beliefs. On my first day  in France (I studied abroad the summer after my Freshman year, in Lyon), my host family took me to a basilica near their house. One of the first things my host mom asked me was, “Tu crois en Dieu?” Do you believe in God?

I was taken aback by the question. It seems like a rather personal question to ask a practical stranger, as well as a big faux pas according to American culture.

“oui?” I answered, unsure of what she was getting at.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France

“Nous ne croyons pas en Dieu.” We don’t believe in God.

“Ah, je vois.” Oh, I see. I replied vaguely, both because I did not know how to say much more in French at the time, and because I was, quite frankly, not sure how to carry on the conversation. Her statement was  just so blunt.

Originally (that is over 100 years ago), the idea of laïcité in France was not so anti-religion. It was setup to keep the Catholic church from gaining too much control over French citizens and their institutions, which, I will agree, seems like a pretty good check of power. After all, this freedom of belief and the idea of separatism from the church was a large motivating force behind the French Revolution, and is consequently  still a central part of France’s national identity.

While perhaps the intentions behind French secularism were pure in the moment, France clearly didn’t know what was coming. France diversified, bringing in large immigrant populations from its North African protectorates. As it turns out, keeping the Catholic church at bay would not prove to be the challenge at hand, rather the integration of a new religion, Islam, would capture the attention of the French people.

My second night in France, around the dinner table, we ate North African sausage, merguez, with our salad, bread, cheese and wine, as we discussed the government housing that had been installed on the street right behind us, just a few years earlier. In a whisper, my host mom said, “Those are the immigrants. They are, well, poor. Tu as compris? You understand?

When my family asked me what I thought of it, I explained to them the best that I could that it was like America. We, too, have government housing in the suburbs sometimes, and honestly, I didn’t think much of it. I guess this response was to my host mom’s delight as she exclaimed. “O, elle est progressive!” Oh, she’s progressive!

Very quickly into my stay in France I became aware of the many contradictions of French culture. My host family (whom I love dearly) considered themselves to be very modern, progressive and most of all, secular. They loved North African food and we ate couscous and merguez on a regular basis, yet when it came to encountering the immigrants, they were bitter that they had moved into their middle-upper class neighborhood, le point du jour (sunrise).

My host family's house with the government funded apartments in the background

My host family’s house with the government funded apartments in the background

One day as I was walking along le point du jour with a family friend of theirs, Marie.  She clenched my arm and dragged me backwards when two Muslim boys passed us, whispering in my ear, “Nous ne les aimons pas” We don’t like them. I played dumb and asked her, “Pourquoi, ils sont egalement humains, non?” Why not, they are also human, right? To which she said coldly, “Ils sont dangereux” They are dangerous.

From my American point of view, it seemed that French secularism had moved its citizens to fear religion, and to think of it as the enemy.  I do not claim to say that all religious folks in France are perfect; I know that is not true. But I do mean to say that really, they are not well protected by the government’s secular policy, and considering their minority status in the country, especially those who practice Islam, they are une cible facile, an easy target,  and a scapegoat for many social issues in France.

Just this past weekend there was a march on Paris led by French Nationalists who chanted the national anthem and held signs calling Muslims fascists and saying that they do not have a place in French culture (Washington Post).

One anti-islam protester was quoted as saying:

“France was always a welcoming country, but for the first time we have to deal with a religion which can’t and doesn’t want to integrate itself.”

This blogger from Islamaphobia Today makes fun of the protestors, saying:

“Golly jee, I wonder how you get rid of Islam in France? Oh yes, by expelling and or otherwise repressing its 6 million adherents!”

On the other end of the spectrum, Muslim activists openly combat discrimination from their fellow citizens in quite a bold way as well. During their recent celebration of Eid, Muslims handed out free pastries to people on the streets in response to a controversial comment made by French politician Jean-Francois Copé who claimed that Muslim “thugs” were stealing pain au chocolats during their Ramadan Fast. Seems rather brazen, not to mention hilarious, to me!

That’s just it though, the French are more brash about their opinion and they display it in a much more public way than Americans. We are not immune to these social conflicts. Really, the parallel that we can draw is alarming. Think of our neighbors to the south and all of the immigrants who come from there to live here. Then think of people like my 80 year old grandmother (sorry, Grandma!) who send chain emails on a daily basis full of fear and often hatred, rejecting and demeaning our immigrant population.

I think that it is part of the human condition to have fear of people who are different than ourselves. We find comfort in what is familiar and when that identity is threatened, we, as humans, respond. It’s just a matter of how we choose to do so.

It’s all the same game; it’s just that France deals with its controversial issues out in the open, rather than over the Internet, and, perhaps, it is their deeply rooted secularism that leads the culture in this direction.

I asked a French friend of mine what his thoughts on the subject were, and he was quick to respond.

“Secularism and religion are at two, opposite ends of the spectrum that can never meet”


To me, French laïcité is contradictory in this sense. Secularism should mean that you are open minded, that you don’t care which religion your neighbor practices, so long as it is not harmful and (s)he does not push it onto you. But ask a Frenchman and much like my friend he may argue that religion has no place in a secular society.

 

French Cinema Delivers Again…Or Does It?

There seems to be a surplus of great French movies these days, and guess what… I have one more!

Rust and Bone, or its French title, De Rouille et d’os, is about an unlikely couple who fall in love after Ali, a Belgian fighter (Matthais Schoenaerts) moves himself and his son in with his sister.  Along the way, he meets Stephanie (Marion Coutillard), a Killer Whale trainer, and the two fall in love.  The plot takes a tear-jerking turn after a tragic accident causes Stephanie to lose both of her legs, which in turn only enhances the amour the two have for each other.

Sounds like a good movie to me and audiences appear to have the same reaction:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three of many positive receptions of “Rust and Bone” via Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film even took away the “best film” prize at the London Film Festival.  Tack that up on France’s recent slew of cinema accolades.

Hold up!  What’s this?

 

 

 

Two tweets calling for a Boycott of “Rust and Bones” for animal rights purposes via Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boycott?  How can a film that will be nominated for an Oscar be boycotted?

It’s a little confusing to me why someone would boycott a fictional movie, but doing some good ol’ fashioned research led me right to the heart of the problem.  It appears that animal rights organizations such as Animal Defenders International (ADI) believe that filming confined Killer Whales translates to condoning their captivity as stated by ADI’s chief executive, Jan Creamer:

We are dismayed that the director, Jacques Audiard, gave his approval to the incarceration of orcas by using performing animals in the film.

Valid point, Ms. Creamer, but does a boycott of this film accomplish some goal?  For me, when I think of the word “boycott” juxtaposed with the word “film,” it brings back memories of my high school days when firebrand Christians protested  The Da Vinci Code. Boycotts like these don’t deter me from seeing the film.  Whether or not I choose to investigate more about the issues surrounding film controversies, the snubbing of a it makes me want to see the movie all the more.

But just to clear my conscience (I am an animal lover, by the way) I chose to dive deeper into my search.  According to SeaWorld, hunting and harassing Killer Whales is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).  Under this Act I found the following section to be particularly interesting:

The MMPA does allow for certain exceptions: native subsistence hunting; taking marine mammals for research, education, and public display; and taking restricted numbers of marine mammals incidentally in the course of fishing operations.

Okay, I understand native subsistence hunting, research, education, but the fourth criterion, “public display,” is a little unsettling to me.  I can understand how captive marine mammals for the sole purposes of human entertainment would cause Jan Creamer and other animal rights activists to see red.  Even Marion Coutillard expressed a discomfort with interacting with the detained dolphins:

I’ve always had a repulsion going in a place where animals are in captivity.

Like I said, the whole situation makes me a bit uncomfortable, which makes the whole boycotting issue a bit difficult.  Here are some other opinions from an article in The Telegraph:

 

Responses concerning animal rights issues in “Rust and Bone” via The Telegraph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These people bring up some reasonable points, but does this film still have a glimmer of hope left in it?  Yes.  Yes it does.

Rust and Bone seemed to resonate with at least one individual on a profound level.  Stuart Holt, from the Limbless Association, was interviewed by The Guardian about how well Coutillard embodied an individual who has lost a limb.  As an amputee, he believes the film and Coutillard did an excellent job depicting the emotional turmoil that follows an amputation.

Based entirely off of the receptions of its audiences, there seems to be a lot of hope in this film.  It has only been available for American viewership since the 2nd of November, but I can guarantee that I will see it soon.  I know, perhaps I am a terrible person for wanting to watch a movie with captive Killer Whales, but Stuart Holt’s personal anecdote makes up for at least some of my folly.  Oh, as well as the constant high remarks coming in from Twitter.  Check out what people are saying when you search “Rust and Bone” on Twitter.  You’ll probably want to see it too.

 

Gears of Old Left in the Cold: Moscow Soccer Team’s Logo Torpedoed by Police

Torpedo Moscow’s Symbol Under Torpedo Fire. // Credit: Wikipedia

Russian police have decided that second-division Torpedo Moscow’s 82 year-old logo is no longer acceptable for public consumption – which may be a bitter pill to swallow for fans of the old Moscow team.

The logo, shows a stylized “T” with the words “1930” written in the bottom in the foreground.

The background is the issue. The T covers a light gray mechanical gear and a darker gray torpedo-like car. City of Moscow police believe the gear resembles an old Nazi symbol where a gear held a swastika. Fans are upset, and there is a distinct possibility that Torpedo Moscow may have drawn attention to itself with a riot (not a Pussy Riot…just a normal riot) with intra-city Dynamo Moscow during a Russian Cup game in late September.

This is backed up with a statement from Russia’s President of the Football Development Foundation, Alisher Aminov said in an interview with Russia Today:

“This increased attention by the police is caused by the recent fans’ misconduct at the Torpedo stadium, and nothing more.”

I think that in response to fan riots, police needed to find a scapegoat for the violence. Instead of choosing a person, a player, or a coach – they chose the team’s logo because the problems were started by fans and not the organization. Since fans are a reflection of the organization, changing the team’s full logo can hurt and punish the team.

Changing a logo changes the team’s identity, not to mention from a marketing standpoint – the team would have to create all new merchandise and destroy everything old. This would be a special case because old merchandise would not be seen as “throwback,” it would be simply disallowed by Moscow police because of its connection to fan riots, or in their eyes, a connection to Nazi Germany.

There are strange things going on in Russia and I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not the logo is similar to the old Nazi symbol.

Torpedo Moscow vs. Nazi Gear Symbol. // Credit: Fanstyle.ru Forum

Links:

 

https://twitter.com/search?q=Torpedo%20Moscow&src=typd

http://rt.com/sport/football/torpedo-nazi-logo-football-149/

http://rt.com/sport/football/torpedo-dynamo-boyarintsev-hooligans-231/

Greece host Open House Worldwide

Open House Thessaloniki

How much do you pay attention to buildings you pass by and stop to look at them? Do you regard architectures as things to appreciate along with other artifacts? Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, provides an event called, “Open house worldwide.” Private and public sites will open doors on the day to people giving a chance to think about what architecture makes itself special within the city.

Greece became a member of the Open House family this month and will present 60 selected sites of architecture to the public for one weekend from Nov. 23rd to 25th. The idea of Open House Worldwide initiated in London in 1992 and 21 cities all over the world have joined drawing people to the cities since then.

Saint Sophia Church from 8th century

 

So how people will actually enjoy this opportunity? There are some reviews from previous visitors of Open House from other cities.

A visitor of Open House in England said “Open House Weekend was a chance for everyday plebs like me to have a look inside some of the city’s most remarkable buildings.” He took the opportunity to visit some of London’s unique libraries. Another blog said, “One of many London buildings not usually accessible to the public is the Victorian Bethlem Hospital at the Imperial War Museum. (…) Some of the distinct hospital locations, however, will be open for visitors on Saturday 18 September only, as part of Open House London weekend.”

Barcelona also hosted Open House last October, and a blogger posted, “So what is there to see? (…) For anyone fascinated by architecture, history or just Barcelona itself, this weekend is sure to be a real eye-opener. Check out the program either by day or district or there’s a map showing all of the locations.”

 

Architectural Center from 1900s

A Greek blog talked about the Open house was translated: “For one weekend, sixty public and private buildings open doors to the public free of charge and the city turns into one big museum, with exhibits of the same buildings and architecture, contributing to the emergence of the importance of architecture in daily lives.”

A lot of people are showing interest on The Open House of Thessaloniki with 1,307 likes on Facebook and 110 twitter followers. It launched the official website introducing architectures ready to be open. They include residential, educational, cultural, or public buildings and monuments built from the ancient world to Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire and the early 20th century.

Open House encourage people’s involvement through official website where people can suggest buildings and sites that they think are meaningful.

It is a good thing that Greece has joined Open House family as a birthplace where western architectures have stemmed from. The value of architecture is well demonstrated in Frank Lloyd Wright’s saying: “The mother art is architecture, without an architecture of our own, we have no soul of our own civilization.”

People who are interested in architecture but did not know where to begin, Open House  Thessaloniki will be a great start to look into building around them, and for those from different places will also be able to appreciate what kind of characterful architectures are in Thessaloniki, Greece.

An ancient tradition of watchmaking continues to build the legend of “Swiss-made” in a new generation of brand wars.

Students at the North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking in Fort Worth use handheld files to make perfect cubes for the ends of watch stems, or specialized tweezers to cut hair-thin springs for the mechanical movement.

Recently, I have been captured by the History Channel mini-series “The Men Who Built America” and the affect its main protagonists had on the America we know today. Focusing in on the “building” of America, the program identifies tycoons from the late 19th century who literally built many of the United States’ landmarks and corporations from the ground up.

They were businessmen who shared a drive for capitalist success and wealth, and forged empires that have had resounding effects on the modern world. They were Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan along with the inventors Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.

These legendary Americans give us pride in our homeland and a defining idea of what to expect from anyone or thing that calls itself “America” and I dare say that among nationalities US citizens seem persecute misappropriations of the label “Made in America” more than most. The Swiss have the same sense of expecting exceptional quality from the luxuries Switzerland has made a name for itself from. Switzerland even lays claim to the royalties and rights to produce the indigenous drink Absinthe, expanding the umbrella of luxury products from Switzerland while cutting out the competition to keep the “Swiss” label pure.

Arguably the absolute best quality in the world, Swiss made watches represent 500 year of refinement and tradition that make the time pieces exceedingly beautiful and also expensive. For comparison, watch maker Vacheron Constantin’s watches sell for between $50,000 and $3 million USD and was founded in Geneva in 1755, when the states were just colonies. There’s a lot of incentive for the Swiss to protect such an immense legacy as well their brand’s marketable perfection

“Nobody can deny there is something special about Switzerland. Just ask the Swiss,” wrote English columnist for Time magazine, Andrew Marshall. In 2009, the Swiss government passed laws on watches given the “Made in Switzerland” seal of approval that dictated 60% (up from 50%) of the fabrication costs of the watch had to be incurred in Switzerland. The aim was to make sure any watch claiming the quality of the Swiss watch masters couldn’t acquire the same status with only half the DNA of a true Swiss watches.

The New York Times reports however, that since 2008, North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking (IOSW) in Fort Worth, Texas has been transferring the age old knowledge of fine watch making to a new generation of skilled engineers. When quartz powered watches and digital interfaces took over in the 1980s as a cheap alternative to gears and springs, the enrollment numbers at Swiss watch making schools plummeted and the Swiss market was decimated.

In order to keep the Swiss horological tradition alive, the Institute of Swiss Watchmaking, which has satellite schools in Shanghai and Hong Kong, is taking in new kinds of students from all kinds of education and work backgrounds provided they pass a rigorous dexterity exam.

A dilution of Swiss watch making traditions could spell the end of Switzerland’s reign as the land of exceptional luxury. The instructors and requirement for students at IOSW are determined to make the process of hand made watches constructed by the rest of the world worthy of the name “Swiss” label: the six students who were successfully weeded from an applicant class of 700 complete at least 3,000 hours of training.

“The traditional technical and artistic crafts that come along with watchmaking have been passed down from generation through generation,” said Hugues de Pins, president of Vacheron Constantin North America. This “intelligence of the hand,” as he calls it, takes years to master. “This itself is a challenge: the transmission of technical know-how. It’s a complete, 100 percent human process to make a watch.”

It is now up to the Swiss to determine if they will continue to abide the use of their namesake for fine luxuries made elsewhere, regardless of what the market considers to be more important to quality: the brand name or the trained master.

The tale of Moscow’s subway

Once upon a time, in the year of 1902, in a far-away land, there lived two brave men, Pyotr Balinski and Evgeny Knorre. Pyotr and Evgeny were two young, skillful engineers. One day, these two enthusiastic engineers told the fairy tale of a path to the world beneath daylight through an “underground metro” to the highly ranked people of Moscow: the Moscow City Duma. The Duma consisted of very wealthy rich men. They have never had to experience the traffic of their busy city and never had problems going anywhere. And, of course, they did not approve of the two young men’s foolish idea; Nevertheless, Pyotr and Evgeny did not back down. They persisted, and after five proposals, the Duma finally approved. Eventually, in the year 1935, the first metro opened.

That is, however, not even near the end of the tale of Russian underground life. When the doors of the subway first opened, it was like a gate into the most readily available and accessible transportation for the city’s population. Anyone trying to get to work and from school, in any weather and at any time, would now be enjoying their trips in a “luxurious palace for the people” instead of dirty buses and trolleys. The vivid images of Stalin, portrayed as mosaics and tile panels, covered the ceilings and walls of this new level of the Moscow city which was meant to be an ideological move to eulogize the young Soviet country.

The same artists that designed and created the original interior of this new underground world were the same ones to invent the mosaic icons for the St. Petersburg Church of the Savior of Blood.

Stalin's portrait as a mosaic in Moscow's metro

Stalin portrayed in mosaic form in one of Moscow’s metro stations

 

Bronze sculptures of workers, soldiers, and other every-day Soviet people are portrayed in 76 bronze sculptures throughout different stations. Any average person who will now be using the newly invented transportation will now have these wonderful works of art to relate to while they travel. There are even some small good luck charms incorporated into these sculptures for the superstitious travelers and other believers.

lucky dog in Moscow's metro

Rub the dog’s nose and have good luck!

 

The architecture took quite a few twists and turns throughout history ever since the first trains welcomed some daring passengers. This diverse history is exactly what makes Moscow’s subway as unique, abstract, and amazing as it is. With Stalin’s death in 1953, all of his art depictions were completely removed, the metro was renamed after Lenin and the images of Lenin completely replaced everything from the years past. In 1955, the metro went from its grand baroque style of the Stalinist era to the complete elimination of extravagance in design and construction, which was decreed by the Communist party: this ensured that everything built in that period, both above and below ground, was bland and boring. In 2002, the 30s and 40s architecture was reintroduced along with portrayals of book characters and scenes from popular authors such as Dostoyevsky.

Metro station

metro station

metro station
another view of an original metro station

The metro went from being merely an idea, a fairy tale, to 11km underground with 13 stations, to 300km with 12 lines and 182 stations, to monorail tracks, and now plans of over 120 more kilometers to be built.

The expanding underground world is also looking to become safer. The Moscow underground railways have been repeatedly bombed and attacked in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, numerous times in 2004, and 2010; along with smaller crimes and attacks happening monthly. The statistics are shocking. In hopes of alleviating such threats,  authorities are attempting to adopt new security technology. Just recently, news about VibraImage 7.5, a “new smart video surveillance system which automatically identifies potential threats, such as aggravated and distressed passengers” were reported on The Voice of Russia; this will hopefully help the city authorities prevent crime and terrorist acts which have been  killing thousands and scaring millions of people of this world.

Not only does the safety of the metro have a promising future, but designs of the new stations, additions, and renovations are making even me want to go back and re-visit. Some twitters link to the future of Moscow’s metro:

Twitter

Twitter

And, indeed, new designs of some of the new stations are quite “pretty” and do contain “badass hipsters”:

Farganskaya station project B

Ferganskaya station project B

Uhtomskaya poject B

Uhtomskaya project B

Okskaya project B

Okskaya project B

This isn’t the end of the story, either, and there’s always room for improvement, but for now, I’m going to leave it at that. And as the Russian folk tales usually end…

“They lived happily ever after

And that is my faithful tale’s end, while he who listened is my own true friend…”

The importance of Colors for German Authorities

This is my last blog post for the semester, and I wanted to end with something that would get everyone talking—something I, personally, find interesting. I began my quest on Google and when I couldn’t find anything, I moved to Twitter. #TGFTwitter! (It means “Thank God for Twitter” for you Twitter acronym amateurs).

Tweet post on racial profiling case in Germany

I came across an interesting interview recently conducted by Spiegel Online International with a 26 year-old Black German man who won a two year proceeding court case. It finally came to an end, but this marks the beginning of a never-ending battle of racial profiling.

I never thought about racial profiling as a critical issue in Germany as it is here in American, but this matter affects human rights all over the globe. Racial profiling is a subcategory of racism, and should not be accepted. I know the race talk is a touchy topic to discuss and many don’t like to enter those boundaries. But, sometimes those sticky subjects are the ones that get ignored and need the most attention.

I found interesting facts about Black Germans as I searched various blogs, Youtube channels, Google, Twitter, and other news sources.

Gong back to the issue involving the black German architecture student, he was racially profiled when two German police randomly asked to see Identification in Kaasel Germany.

The black German student tells his story as follows:

Yes. I had just purchased a cup of tea from the snack vendor in the train when the police officers asked me in a commanding tone to show them my identification. I wanted to know why, but got no real answer, so I refused. […]  Yes. I had just purchased a cup of tea from the snack vendor in the train when the police officers asked me in a commanding tone to show them my identification. I wanted to know why, but got no real answer, so I refused. […]  I didn’t want to be treated differently any longer. The police brought me back to the station in Kassel, where I was asked if I spoke English and had papers. They threatened to charge me high fees for taking my photograph and fingerprints, and for holding me in a cell. Then I showed them my driver’s license and they let me go. It was the worst day of my life.

He is not the first to experience this racial profiling as a black German. When considered a foreigner n your own country, it hurts. Everyone yearns for the same respect and acceptance. There is an assumption that people make, and I am also guilty of thinking, that there can only be White Germans. My misconception of no Blacks in Germany stems from the lack of their history, and culture presented in mainstream media. When I think of Germany, I think of their Nazi past, BMWs, Frankfurt beef, and beer. Could it be because of my own personal ignorance, or because the media purposely leaves out information that doesn’t fit within the “norm”? I believe that we are both responsible.

A few comments I found shows the lack of knowledge people have, including myself, about other race and racial profiling:

juju88: there isnt such a thing as a black german, like there is no such thing as a white chinese, is the typical anti-white rethoric.

LairdKeir: As a foreigner married to a Chinese woman and whose son was born in Germany, I can say Germany has been an extremely hospitable and welcoming country provided you follow the rules and respect their country as a guest. I write this as someone who actually has experience with the country and its people, and will not attack people out of ignorance.
I also teach outside Dachau, so am all too well aware of its history.

Kriol Kidd: Give Germany a break……it’s not like they have a history of asking different looking people for their papers or something…….

KamranAghajani:90% of violent crime in Germany last year was done by Turkish, Moroccan and Somali immigrants….
aka people of at least some color.
sorry, this is good news for all Germans, as thugs do not care what color you are when they rob or assault you.

 

I could read on and on the comments people made about the court ruling, but it shows that people have different levels of knowledge and opinions when it comes to the topic of race. While reading a few, I had to shake my head in shame for what some people thought was politically correct.

Black German Student Story continued…

  The first ruling of this case resulted in a dismissal of the case. A German court ruled police authorization to carry out ID checks on the basis of skin color. This created outrage among human right activist organizations such as the Amnesty International and the Initiative of Black People in Germany.

If this is true, it is essentially illegal, Tahir Della of the Black People in Germany Initiative rights group told The Local (a German publication). The authorities always said the police do not do racial profiling.

 Initiative of Black People in Germany (http://vimeo.com/18867923)

Source: Huffington Post

To bring the situation up to current ruling, a court in Koblenz, Germany

The case closed this past Monday. The judges ruled in the favor of the Black German student and said police should not conduct spot checks on people based on their skin color. Many rejoice in this victory.

There’s disagreement among the police as to whether they welcome the ruling.

 The court’s deal with the law in an esthetically pleasing way, but they don’t make sure their judgments match practical requirements,” said Rainer Wendt, chair of the German Police Union. The ruling will make the work of the police more difficult.

I am happy to hear the ruling was in favor of the German student, because equality rewarded to all citizens of a country is fair.

Black German groups responded to the ruling and racial profiling issue in creative ways. A flash mob video, created by African Socialist International (A.S.L.) group, took a stand to create awareness of the troubling issue of racial profiling among Africans and Blacks in urban Germany that many try to overlook.

African Socialist International (Video)

This is not the only incident I found in which race is an issue, and racial gestures made towards Black Germans.

Here is an example of blackface used in a German UNICEF’s extremely patronizing ad. The fact that the ad agency found it okay to place this type of message in Germany shows that it is accepted in Germany.

One point that stood out for me that the German student said in his interview is very important to this entire article.

First, this isn’t just about me, but about everyone who has had a similar experience. It also isn’t a very nice thing to be the person who speaks up about racism. Additionally, I don’t want people to point their fingers at me because I filed this long-overdue case.

The moral of this post is that there was an underlying issue that needed addressing, and somebody needs to take a stand. This reminds me of a past blog article I wrote about, and how Twitter was the first to take a stance online in the removal of a Neo-Nazi group. It is all about being the leader that starts the chain reaction. Racial profiling and racism still exist, and change needs to occur not only in Germany, but also in all nations.

If you are interested in more sources and topics regarding Black Germans and racial topics here are some other things I found:

 

Swiss Welcomes World-Class Academy

GWA Etoy set to open in September 2013

Photo taken from genevalunch.com

As an international business student there is a small chance that I someday could be positioned overseas with a company for my career. If a scenario ever arose where I was to be displaced from my location in the United States and had to move my future family overseas to Switzerland where would I want my children to be educated? Would I want them to go to school with the children of the country I am stationed in, or would I prefer them to be educated in an accredited world-class international school which instructs students in English of the importance of a local and global perspective.

Personally, I would like my child to attend an accredited world-class school. This is not because the school will teach in English, but more so because I would feel that my child would benefit more from partaking in a curriculum that stresses a local and global perspective, while also adding a comfort zone for my child to learn with other international students.

Say this scenario were ever to actually arise then my choice to send my child to an accredited international school would be quite feasible. World-class Gems Academy is less than a year away from opening their 162-million Swiss franc school (172 million USD) in Etoy, Switzerland. This will be the first Gems Academy in continental Europe.

The Dubai-based Academy is the largest operator of private schools in the world. They currently have over 100 academies built in the United Arab Emirates, the UK, Africa, China, India, and the US.

The expensive Gems World Academy that will open in Etoy will boast a radio station, television studio, music technology lab, a world language learning center, a high-tech library, and a multi-use sports center. Also, in maintaining Gems’ world focus students will be required to be fluent in two languages by age 12, and towards the end of their schooling with the Academy the students will be introduced to learning mandarin.

Gems will initially welcome 400 students ages 3 to 14 into their program, and soon after grow that number to 1,000 as they welcome students ages 15-18 into their International Baccalaureate program. The Academy’s primary public will be the international population, but this also includes Swiss families seeking an international education. However, this GWA in Etoy comes at a steep price. Tuition for the Academy aims to be upwards of 26,000 Swiss francs (27,531 USD). Luckily, there are a few scholarship opportunities to aid some financially.

International schools have boomed in the Geneva-Lausanne area over the past 5 years due to strong growth in international companies in the area, and according to genevalunch.com “The population in the region has exploded, as shown by the number of train passengers, which has doubled in 10 years and is expected to double again by 2030, reflecting overall population growth.” Many international schools in the area have had to increase their enrollment from 100 students to 250 students. The new GWA in Etoy plans to crush those numbers and eventually reach an enrollment of 1,500 students.

With population growth booming from a group of international employees from several multi-national corporations the need for this type of English-based, globally focused academy is quite clear. These private schools within the area have been quick to close any gap left from the local public school system in offering before and after-school care, as well as during lunchtime to help the high number of working parents in the region.

The emergence of these private-international schools in the Geneva-Lausanne area has made it an easier transition for employees of international firms to switch over to a new country. Coming from a private-school in St. Louis I find that the class and curriculum in with the children learn and develop is amazing, and all of the amenities based to cater to families that come from other countries to work will only broaden the already strong growth of businesses in the area. If ever you were in doubt of which path to choose just hear some of the parent testimonials.

Related articles:

http://www.thelocal.ch/page/view/dubai-firm-to-open-162-million-franc-school

http://genevalunch.com/blog/tag/gems-world-academy-etoy/

http://www.premiumswitzerland.com/private-school/international/benefits-international-school.htm

http://www.gemsworldacademy-etoy.com/contents.php?pageid=3874&parentid=989