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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Roman Polanski moved from Swiss jail

The justice ministry said the film-maker, who is fighting extradition to the United States over a child sex conviction, would be released on bail and arrive in the Alpine village on Friday.

The transfer was made for "security reasons and protection of the person," spokesman Folco Galli said.

The surprise transfer on Thursday was done to ensure that Polanski's departure for his chalet could be done in a discreet manner.

Bern police had said they were taking "no specific measure" for the arrival of Polanski, who was arrested on September 26 in Zurich, where he was due to receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival.

Polanski has been wanted in the United States ever since he fled the country in 1978 after admitting unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The 76-year-old's earlier applications for bail were initially turned down by both the Swiss criminal court and justice ministry.

But last week they accepted an offer of a £2.7 million bail bond, the surrender of his identity documents, as well as his house arrest under electronic monitoring.

The decision to grant bail prompted a quick reaction from Interpol, which called on the government to be vigilant in case Polanski goes on the run again.

His 20,000 square foot chalet named "Milky Way" is just 42 miles from the closest French border post.

Sources said Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner and their two children Morgane and Elvis were expected to be at the chalet to welcome him.

Source: telegraph.co.uk/


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Shame On Switzerland

As I'm sure you have heard, the Swiss people, in a referendum, have voted against the construction of minarets (though apparently NOT against the presence of Islam).

This significant, though inadequate vote, has resounded in the universe of the MSM with thunderous cries of racism, Islamophobia, right-wing extremism, and similar standard accusations hurled against any country or individual who does not bow down in abject servility to the world-conquering ideology.

Francois Desouche has posted this video of Jean Ziegler's reaction to the Swiss vote against the building of minarets. Ziegler has served on the Geneva city council, on the Swiss National Council, in the Swiss Parliament as a Social Democrat, and as UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Read his biography at Wikipedia, but prepare yourselves for a description of a very mixed-up personality whose best deed seems to have been that he rejected the Moammar Qadhafi Human Rights Prize (or that he was nominated for it).




Here is the gist of what he says in this video:

I am not only surprised. I am ashamed, I'm scandalized because Switzerland has just veered to the extreme Right, has become a racist country; 57.5% of the population, in a completely free election, with a high voter turnout, have voted to ban the minarets, at the demand of a party of the extreme Right, the Union Démocratique, a little like the Front National in France. What is especially scandalous is the result - of course absurd, to ban through the Constitution, the Federal Constitution of a country that has been a democracy for 700 years - minarets on the most scandalous pretext: that minarets are the expression of the inherent violence of the Muslim religion, that it is a religion in which the minarets symbolize all the violence, the irrational, all the terrorism, that is contained in this religious dogma. It's totally insulting to the 420,000 Muslims who live peacefully, working in Switzerland and totally respectful of the laws, and it is totally insulting to the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Because the third monotheistic religion, Islam, is the religion of tolerance, of goodness, of love as the two others have said. This outcome, expressed by my people who are, God knows, not idiots, not illiterates, the Swiss, is something I am profoundly ashamed of...

The poster used by the two conservative parties - UDC (Democratic Union of the Center) and the UDF (Federal Democratic Union) sent a powerful message to the voters. Le Figaro suggests that the changes that will be made to the Constitution as a result of the referendum may not be constitutional:

Banning the construction of minarets will be described as a measure whose purpose is "to maintain peace between the members of different religious communities." (...)

It remains to be seen if the new text is constitutional. The Swiss Minister of Justice Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf warned, even before the referendum, that banning the minarets would be contrary to freedom of religion and discriminatory. Accepting the initiative would violate human rights and would place the image of Switzerland in peril. The Green Party announced on Sunday that it would examine the possibility of taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

It's reminiscent of the Irish referendum: when you don't get the results you want the first time, see to it that you do the second time.

Source: europenews.dk

Architectural Racism in Switzerland

The recent vote by the people of Switzerland to ban minarets is at best misguided, at worst downright racism. Out of the 400,000 Muslims in the country, only 1 in 10 are actively practices their religion and there are only 4 minarets. Not one of them does a call to prayers out of respect for their neighbors. It appears the Swiss have forgotten that respect is earned not given and that turning around to tell a minority what they can and cannot build is distressing.

Architecture is a political act. What, where and how we build is affected by politics but this is beyond the pale. This story has become the center of debate in architecture firms across the globe. We are not talking Tiger nor are we hyperventilating over Dubai, it is the banning of minarets. Recent online discussions on architectural sites like Archinect show the dismay (and support) at this decision and it is hard to disagree with the fact this even got on the agenda is eye-opening. Many of the moderate Swiss suggested that the ban was for 'architectural conformity' but the SVP political party said they represent a "political-religious claim to power, which challenges fundamental rights."

Some context - The minority Muslim population in Switzerland are mainly refugees from the Yugoslav wars, so they are European. Not that this makes a huge difference but Europe has had its' issues with countries going after religious minorities.

If the west wants to show that it is a culture of openness and peace - this clearly sends a wrong message. Think I'm over-reacting? Below are two images, one from the campaign to ban minarets and the other a photo I took a few years ago. One suggests minarets are missiles, the other to kick the black sheep off the Swiss flag. So much for being a 'neutral' country.

President Obama and all leaders in the West should denounce this decision and call on the Swiss government to overturn this ban immediately

Source: huffingtonpost.com/

Proposed Minaret Ban Divides Switzerland

Opponents say proposal violates freedom of religion and incites hostility toward Muslims.



The proposal to ban the construction of new minarets was approved by 57.5% of Swiss voters who participated in the Nov. 29 referendum. Only four of the 26 cantons opposed a ban, but there was a clear division between urban and French-speaking areas, where support was relatively low, and rural and German-speaking cantons, where two-thirds of voters supported the initiative.

At 53%, turnout was high by Swiss standards. All major parties, except the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP), businesses, religious groups and interest organizations were united in their opposition to the ban. They argued that it violates the constitutional right to freedom of religion and incites hostility toward Muslims. The outcome was met with surprise and condemnation both inside and outside Switzerland.

Although the Courts ultimately may overturn it, repercussions for Swiss-Muslim relations and, consequently, Swiss business interests are possible. Domestically, it boosts the radical anti-immigration agenda of the SVP and threatens Swiss consensus politics.

Popular initiative. The minaret ballot was instigated by the SVP and ultraconservative groups, and it was triggered when almost 115,000 voters signed a people's initiative handed to parliament last year in favor of the ban. One hundred thousand signatures are required to force a federal initiative in Switzerland.

Legal challenge. Although the Swiss Federal Council is bound by the outcome, which has already come into effect, it may be overturned by the Swiss Supreme Court or the Council of Europe's European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. A likely test case for the ban is the pending permission for building a minaret in Langenthal, a canton of Berne. The Muslim community in Langenthal intends to take their case to the Federal Supreme Court and possibly further to the Strasbourg Court.

Direct democracy. The verdict raises concerns about direct democracy, which is an almost sacred institution in Switzerland. Both federal and cantonal initiatives are very common in the country:

The Council of Europe has questioned whether fundamental rights of individuals, protected by international treaties, should be subject to popular votes.

--The Swiss Green Party has put forward a proposal making popular initiatives invalid if they violate fundamental rights.

Criticism abroad. The government has faced a chorus of criticism from governments and human rights organizations across the world:

--A top UN human rights official has called the decision "clearly discriminatory."

--Political and religious leaders of Muslim countries, including Turkey, were also quick to condemn the vote.

--Justice Minister and former SVP member Widmer-Schlumpf has stressed that the vote should not be seen as a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture.

--However, Switzerland's big multinational companies fear that the ban could prompt actions against Swiss interests in Muslim countries and boycotts of Swiss products. When Danish newspapers published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in 2005, widespread protests in Muslim nations and a boycott of Danish products occurred.

Right-wing applause. In contrast, far-right leaders across Europe have praised the Swiss vote and seized the opportunity to call for similar bans in their own countries:

--The anti-immigration Danish People's Party applauded the referendum and urged the Danish parliament to call a similar vote.

--In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders' popular anti-Islam Freedom Party is also pushing for a vote.

--Roberto Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League and a minister in Italy's center-right coalition government, has proposed a national referendum that would lead to a ban on minarets in Italy.

To read an extended version of this article, log on to Oxford Analytica's Web site.

Oxford Analytica is an independent strategic-consulting firm drawing on a network of more than 1,000 scholar experts at Oxford and other leading universities and research institutions around the world. For more information, please visit here.


Source: forbes.com/

Libyan group calls for boycott of Switzerland

Tripoli/Geneva - A Libyan organization called Thursday for an economic boycott of Switzerland and urged Muslims to withdraw any assets they have from banks in the Alpine country, in response to the referendum passed this week banning minarets.

The latest censure from Libya, from the World Islamic Call Association, follows several similar condemnations from groups in the authoritarian regime, though none had demanded specific sanctions.

Reports had earlier indicated Libya would place two Swiss men on trial, for a second time, for allegedly violating the country's economic laws.

The two businessmen were sentenced to 16 months in jail earlier this week for violating visa laws, also following condemnations of the minaret vote, which passed with a 57 per cent majority.

The businessmen, Max Goldi and Rachid Hamdami, remain at the heart of a diplomatic row between Switzerland and Libya that stretches back to June 2008. First, Geneva police arrested Hannibal Gadaffi, son of Libyan leader Moamer Gadaffi, and his wife at a hotel on allegations that they were beating their servants.

The two were released shortly thereafter and reportedly reached a financial settlement with the servants.

Four days later, the two Swiss men, who were working in the country, were arrested for allegedly violating visa laws. They have been unable to leave Libya for 16 months, and have disappeared at points.

Diplomatic relations have deteriorated - the most recent sign of which was Libyans being banned from attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland - and trade is down to a trickle.

Swiss President Hans Rudolph Merz traveled to Libya in August and apologized to Libya for the Geneva arrest and said he was promised the two would be released.

He faced heavy criticism at home for the apology and for failing to secure their release.


Source: monstersandcritics.com/

Santa Claus Championships hit Switzerland and Germany

With Christmas just around the corner, the Santa Claus Championships were held in Switzerland and Germany on Saturday. The creative skills of each Saint Nick were put to the test in various competitions, from climbing the chimney to decorating gingerbread.

Twenty Santa teams from all over the world competed at the annual Santa Claus World Championships in Switzerland on Saturday.

The contest began with the Santa teams parading through the host town of Samnaun.

The Santas then had to compete in various disciplines, including Santa's bobsled, organizing Christmas presents, and of course, climbing the chimney.

The winning team from Thusis, Switzerland, was awarded 5,000 US dollars.

Christoph Kunz, head of Tourist Office, Samnaun, said, "On the one hand, Santa has to be creative. He must have spirit, he also must have something in his head and the combination of all. This is what makes a Santa Claus, and these are the qualities awarded here at the Santa Claus World Championship."

In Germany, the annual Santa Championships took place in the town of Celle on Saturday, this year with a female Santa in the mix of big, jolly, bearded men.

The Santas battled it out for the top title in various disciplines including comforting upset children, sled slalom, and the building and decorating of gingerbread houses.

Source: cctv.com/

First Switzerland, now Italy could be next country to ban building of minarets


With Christmas just around the corner, the Santa Claus Championships were held in Switzerland and Germany on Saturday. The creative skills of each Saint Nick were put to the test in various competitions, from climbing the chimney to decorating gingerbread.

Twenty Santa teams from all over the world competed at the annual Santa Claus World Championships in Switzerland on Saturday.

The contest began with the Santa teams parading through the host town of Samnaun.

The Santas then had to compete in various disciplines, including Santa's bobsled, organizing Christmas presents, and of course, climbing the chimney.

The winning team from Thusis, Switzerland, was awarded 5,000 US dollars.

Christoph Kunz, head of Tourist Office, Samnaun, said, "On the one hand, Santa has to be creative. He must have spirit, he also must have something in his head and the combination of all. This is what makes a Santa Claus, and these are the qualities awarded here at the Santa Claus World Championship."

In Germany, the annual Santa Championships took place in the town of Celle on Saturday, this year with a female Santa in the mix of big, jolly, bearded men.

The Santas battled it out for the top title in various disciplines including comforting upset children, sled slalom, and the building and decorating of gingerbread houses.

The Santas could later be seen making their way through the busy streets of Celle's old town handing out lolly pops and other goodies.

Source: cctv.com/

Switzerland elects women for top 3 jobs in politics

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland, where women could not vote in national elections until 1971, will have female politicians in the country's top political jobs next year for the first time.

Christian Democrat Economy Minister Doris Leuthard was chosen on Wednesday to hold the Swiss presidency in 2010.

Social Democrat Pascale Bruderer is to be the speaker of parliament's lower house and at 32-years-old is the youngest ever to fill this job. Free Democrat Erika Forster-Vannini will be speaker of the upper house, or Council of States.

Leuthard takes over from Hans-Rudolf Merz, a liberal Free Democrat also in charge of the finance ministry who has come under heavy fire this year for giving up Swiss bank secrecy under international pressure, and for a clash with Libya.

Her election to the presidency was uncontested as she is the longest-serving cabinet member not yet to have held this role.

In the conservative rural canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, women only won the right to vote in local elections in 1990 under pressure from a national court.

Women now represent nearly 30 percent of parliamentarians in the two chambers, according to the Swiss statistical office.

Equality between men and women became a constitutional right in 1981 in Switzerland but a federal law banning discrimination in the workplace only came into force in 1996.

Source: reuters.com/

Pervaiz flays Switzerland for minarets ban

LAHORE

PML-Q central leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has condemned the Switzerland government for banning construction of minarets on mosques.

Talking to the PML-Q parliamentarians at his residence on Tuesday, he demanded the Pakistani rulers adopt measures to protect Islamic values.

He said that the attitude of Pakistan rulers had always been apologetic and they made the maximum efforts to present themselves as progressive against the narrow-minded policies of Western countries, including banning veil and publication of blasphemous caricatures.

He said it was mandatory upon all Islamic countries to unanimously confront challenges confronted by Islam. He said the churches with long minarets within Muslim countries were being preserved and nobody had ever objected to them so there was no justification of banning minarets on mosques.

Pervaiz Elahi also condemned the recent increase in the petroleum prices, claiming that it would bring a new waive of price-hike. He said the increase in petroleum prices would add to the miseries of poverty-stricken people.

Source: thenews.com.pk/

UPDATE 1-UBS denies plans to leave Switzerland

Quashes talk UBS may move if regulations tightened too far

* Credit Suisse has also denied plans to move HQ

(Adds background on talk of threat to shift, UBS comment)

ZURICH, Dec 2 (Reuters) - UBS's (UBSN.VX) chief executive has denied the bank plans to move its headquarters from Switzerland, quashing talk the bank was threatening to shift if regulation was tightened too far.

Swiss weekly paper Sonntag CH had reported at the weekend that UBS was threatening to move its headquarters from Switzerland if the authorities impose too many new regulations in the wake of the global financial crisis. [ID:nGEE5AS03B]

CEO Oswald Gruebel spoke at a private event last week about the importance to Switzerland of its large banks, UBS and Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX), UBS said in a statement.

"He in no way threatened that UBS would leave Switzerland. Gruebel makes it clear that UBS wants to keep its headquarters in Switzerland," UBS said.

A Credit Suisse executive also said this week the bank had no plans to move headquarters away from Switzerland. (Reporting by Sam Cage; Editing by Hans Peters) ((zurich.newsroom@reuters.com; +41 (0)58 306 7457; Reuters Messaging: sam.cage.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Source: reuters.com/

Switzerland gets it all wrong

The people of Switzerland voted Sunday to ban the construction of minarets in their country. Some 57.5% of voters and a majority in 22 of Switzerland's 26 cantons (the equivalent of a state or province).

I can smell the freedom from here...Andrew E. Mathis

This vote was eleven kinds of wrong, for some reasons that ought to be obvious. or one, our First Amendment principles ought to dictate to us that the mere expression of religion in the form of architecture shouldn't be banned. This is why we have a First Amendment to begin with — not to protect points of view that are popular, but ones that are deeply unpopular.

Anyone disagreeing with that basic principle should read the unanimous decision in the 1969 Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio, where the court reaffirmed that any speech is protected, as long as it is not libelous, seditious, or likely to cause an immediate breach of the peace (e.g., shouting "fire" in a crowded theater).

Building a minaret does none of these things.

OK, I know: Switzerland isn't the United States and shouldn't be held to our standards. That's probably true. It's one of the things that Switzerland enjoys via its militant neutrality: It can pass laws like this one that are immensely intolerant. (Any country in the European Union, for instance, would get a censure for enacting such a law. Switzerland is actually a member of the U.N., if only for the last seven years, but it's not likely that such an action will be taken up there either.)

The really scary thing, or things, about this law are not mentioned in the above link from the BBC, by and large. The article mentions, e.g., that the Swiss are now concerned that they will be a target for terrorists. How justified is this concern?

Based on Switzerland's terrorism statistics, not very.

Is there some Muslim fifth column coming up in Switzerland as we speak? Based on the fact that about 4% of the Swiss population is Muslim, I'd say, again, no. Germany has more Muslims and has never had an al-Qaida attack.

So what is Switzerland afraid of? You've got me.

What scares me about all this is that a country with a Muslim population of about 350,000 and that has not been subject to terrorist attacks by Islamic fundamentalists is passing a law that restricts the free exercise of religion. You know how many minarets there are in Switzerland? Four. You read that right: Four.

One Swiss politician made a statement on the initiative after the vote. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf of Bern (the capital) stated:

The outcome of today’s vote reflects the concern among the population that our national and social order could be eroded by yielding to fundamentalist Islamic tendencies. Conversely, there are concerns among well-integrated Muslims in our country that they could be segregated from society and debased. The popular initiative gave vent to the fears felt by both sides.
She also noted that Swiss legislators will take the issue to the European Court of Human Rights. (Switzerland's constitution does not afford judicial review of legislation.)

The party behind this initiative, the Swiss People's Party (SVP), which is also the country's largest party, split in the aftermath of the 2007 federal election because of the rise of a more moderate wing. This wing, now called the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland, is led by none other than Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

That Ms. Widmer-Schlumpf seems to oppose this law may indicate the ideology behind the law more greatly than anything else. What it may indicate is that, by pushing this law, the SVP was scapegoating a tiny religious minority for false reasons of national security and national identity.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we've seen this kind of thing before in Europe. It doesn't look good now, no matter what faith is on the receiving end and no matter what country is dishing out the treatment.

Source: examiner.com/

Presence Switzerland budget upheld by upper house


Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) - The upper house of Parliament, the Council of States, voted 2 December to approve the budget for Presence Switzerland, the agency charged with cultivating Switzerland’s image abroad.

The upper house budget committee took note of the lower house’s prior decision to cut the agency’s budget but said that the money would be well-invested to refurbish the country’s image, given the outcome of the past weekend’s vote on minarets.

The lower house had voted to strike CHF2.5 million from the agency’s budget for an advertising campaign in the US, arguing that this was only to polish UBS’s tarnished image there.

Source: genevalunch.com/