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Intelligence International Relations Government Culture

Frantic in Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland, courtey of Zug55/Flickr
Zurich, Switzerland, courtesy of Zug55/Flickr

Roman Polanski went missing in Zurich upon his arrival for the Zurich Film Festival.

The festival’s welcome comittee waited in vain at the airport for the director of such brilliant films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974) and The Pianist (2003). He received an Oscar in absentia for the latter; in absentia because he has been a fugitive from US justice since 1978 when he pleaded guilty to having drugged a 13-year-old girl and forced himself upon her.

Instead of facing jail time, Polanski escaped to France, where he was safe from extradition to the US. Since then Polanski has been very careful not to travel to countries where the long arm of US justice might reach him.

However, this finally happened on Saturday when Zurich police arrested the 76-year-old on an international arrest warrant. It didn’t take long for the Swiss art and film scene to decry and condemn the move as “a slap in the face for the entire cultural community in Switzerland.”

Conspiracy theorists quickly pointed out the fact that Polanski had traveled to Switzerland before and even owns a house in the fancy mountain village of Gstaad. They believe that Switzerland wanted to suck up to the US authorities after the legal troubles of UBS and the attack on the country’s banking secrecy laws.

These theories however are probably complete nonsense.

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Uncategorized International Relations Culture

Those Immigrants…

Photo: Tom Godber, flickr
Photo: Tom Godber, flickr

Migrant integration in Europe is one of the hot topics on the continent, especially concerning Muslims. A number of Muslim immigrants in France arrived from Algeria in the second half of the 20th century due to the colonial relationship that lasted until 1962.  In France, and the rest of Europe, its the cultural-religious differences between devout Muslims and the secular majority that gives sociologists and right-wing politicians a lot to write about.

As one of the interesting side effects of globalization, Algeria itself now seems to have some problems with non-Muslim immigrants. There are an estimated 35,000 Chinese who live in the country who seem to be unwilling or unable to assimilate to the cultural norms of their hosts.

Categories
Government Security

Strange Things in the Sky

Arnold_crescent_1947
American businessman Kenneth Arnold pointing out a drawing of an UFO he saw on June 24, 1947 while flying his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington.

The UK Ministry of Defence has released some 4000 pages of previously classified files on UFOs. The sightings documented were between 1981 and 1996 and include observations by private citizens and members of the military such as fighter pilots and other personnel.

Interestingly enough, according to the Times, the yearly sightings of UFOs in the UK increased after the first screening of the X-Files. However you want to interpret this, some disturbing facts remain:

As Nick Pope, a former head of the MoD’s UFO desk is quoted by the Times:

“There are some fascinating cases here [in the released files] and while we could explain 95 per cent of the sightings, the rest were a genuine mystery. We were particularly concerned by near misses with aircraft and cases where UFOs were seen close to military bases.”

So the MoD admits that there are unknown flying objects that can’t be explained and that show up around military bases. Yet people doing research on UFOs are frequently ridiculed and named lunatics by the media and academia.

Can anyone who takes his job in security policy seriously disregard the fact that something is flying around over our heads and we have no idea what it is?

Categories
International Relations

Pilots vs Zurich Airport

Another case of biting the hand that feeds you:

Here in Switzerland, Aeropers, the Swiss Airlines pilots’ union, is suing Zurich Airport because of aircraft noise.

“The Aircraft noise reduces the value of our office building, which is located in Kloten under the eastern approach corridor”, says Henning Hoffman, the head of Aeropers.



View Larger Map

Since Germany has limited the over flight over its territory to the north, the eastern approach of the airport, which is the global hub for Swiss, faces much more traffic and the buildings underneath it an increased devaluation.

At present, many flat owners in Kloten, the town nearest the airport, have lawsuits pending for monetary compensation. Never mind that:

  • They built and bought their homes 1 kilometer from an airport under an existing – though less frequented – approach corridor and knew it.


  • The home prices have always been lower in the area because of the airport.

The same holds true for Aeropers, whose members produce the same aircraft noise they’re complaining about every day. (The ‘B’ in the map is the Aeroper building).

Real life satire.

Categories
Culture

Counter-Strike, the 10th Anniversary

Counter-Strike: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dragon2309/1374231537/ Dragon2309/flickr
Counter-Strike, photo: dragon2309/flickr

Ten years ago, during the summer of 1999, a piece of software was distributed over the internet to the still small but quickly growing community of online gamers. Counter-Strike, developed by a team of private individuals by ‘modding’ the game Half Life, soon became a mass phenomenon that has fascinated the gaming community and haunted family politicians and authorities ever since.

In Counter-Strike two teams go head-to-head and try to prevent each other from reaching set objectives by killing each other with an arsenal of contemporary military hardware. Back in 1999 that didn’t rise many eyebrows. Neither did the fact that the teams battling it out were terrorists and anti-terrorists and the objective of the ‘terrors’ was to either protect a bunch of hostages from being liberated or to blow up stuff like power plants with a bomb. The terrorists came in various uniforms and fictional groups that had such funky names as ‘Phoenix Connection’ or ‘Elite Crew’ ‘1337 Crew’.*  One of the player models showed a man of Middle Eastern decent with Gaddafi-style sunglasses.