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Last Saturday there was an “Soirée africa, stand up!” at Le Bourg. This started with a showing of the film Fangafrika, a documentary about African hip hop and rap, which followed by a percussion concert (with people from the audience coming on stage both as musicians and as dancers), and finally ended with a DJ playing African music (though I didn’t stay for that part).

What was “funny” to see was how a trip to Senegal was advertised in flyers. One of the things included in such an organized journey was a trip to a village which was guaranteed not to have electricity or running water. Maybe the company can boost its sales further by also guaranteeing a minimum quota of HIV positive people and a certain number of children dying from malnutrition.

No, they were not all run over when they crossed the road. But chickens are simply not needed anymore. What the world needs nowadays are efficient laying hens – and Hy-Line provides them!

Their vision:

“At Hy-Line International, we strive to breed the most efficient laying hens that will produce the majority of eggs worldwide to nourish a growing population.

And their values:

The Hy-Line International team embraces a set of common values:

* Integrity and honesty with everyone
* Hard work in the pursuit of quality and excellence
* Diversity and cooperation across international boundaries
* Cross functional teamwork to solve problems
* Stewardship and welfare of our animals and the environment
* Confidence in the performance of our breeds
* Passion about listening to and serving our customers
* Innovation and creativity in everything we do
* Resilience and resourcefulness

By embracing these values, we believe that we foster a vibrant, engaging environment for our people to flourish and grow as individuals and citizens.

Admittedly, I was “pleasently surprised” (… though more surpised than pleased …) when on the second reading I did eventually spot the word “animal” somewhere on this page.

If it was April Fool’s Day I’d be so sure that somebody was simply taking a piss with this list of products. Now I’m just disappointed by the world and a bit by myself, for not being more of an animals’ right activist.

The next time somebody tells you a “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke, just reply “What chicken?” and point him to the Hy-Line website.

To me, as a naive “economic layperson“, it seems that the chairman of the fed (or at least the fed itself) has more power than all the politicians of the G8 combined. How can a single number, the federal funds rate, be such a matter of life or death?

I mean, I understand enough economic theory to “understand” it at a superficial level, but I wonder if this enormous dependency (see the current news) is really due to the objective meaning of this number, or whether the effects we’re currently seeing are not mostly caused by day traders, without any actual interest in any of the companies (or the employees) they invest in. [Probably, any reasonably cynical person will automatically reply: “It’s the latter!”]

To explain in more detail: The fed’s funds rate was changed by 0.75%. That means if you borrow $100, the difference in the interest you have to pay back after one year is 0.75. But these 0.75 cents seem to be enough to have a serious impact on the near future of the world’s economy.

It’s simply not the most comforting thought for me, to think that probably a few thousand people get a kick (and lots of money) out of playing with global recession, before they die of a heart-attack at the age of 45. It’s simply not the kind of people in whose hands I’d like to see so much power over the future of the planet I live on (and its people) .

… when the 10-minute film by Geert Wilders about the Qur’an will be released in about 2 weeks.

In his own words he will try to show that that Islam’s holy book “is an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror”. In February last year Wilders called on Muslims to “tear out half the pages of the Koran and throw them away”.

I wonder how any person can be so full of hatred. Does he really hope to change anybody’s life to the better with this film? (Ok, maybe his own due to more publicity.)

He wants to provoke and provoke he will. Sadly, people will let themselves go to their feelings of “revenge” and people will get hurt and probably killed if the film gets shown. More than one hundred people died after the Mohammed cartoons were released, but that will be a picnic compared to somebody tearing and burning the Qur’an and broadcasting it on youtube.

Of course, in an ideal world nobody would get insulted. They’d just ignore Wilder altogether and that would be the end of the story. But people will not ignore him.

So how could it be avoided that a single individual causes so much suffering and sorrow?

Does there have to be this asymmetry? What I mean: could a single person just as easily, by releasing a 10-minute film, bring joy and happiness to the world and support the mutual respect and understanding between religions?

Would it change the world if there was 10-minute film with all the religious leaders playing pool together, or maybe going on a roller coaster ride together?

It certainly wouldn’t hurt (and it would immediately become my favorite movie), but I doubt that it would start waves of people embracing each other as brothers and as fellow human beings in their quest for happiness.

No, not because there are certain doctrines in Islam (that I’m aware of) that appeal to me a lot more than doctrines in other religions, but because I think it would be an adequate way to show solidarity. [On a related note: The conductor Daniel Barenboim took on the citizenship of Palestine as a sign of solidarity about a year ago, but this only became public very recently.]

Why solidarity? Because I feel sickened and personally insulted by recent statements made by the Austrian politician Susanne Winter. In a public speech she said that the prophet Muhammed would according to the juridical system of our time be a “child molester“, as he married a 6-year old girl when he was 50. Later, in an interview, she added that “there is widespread abuse of children among Muslim men“.

It’s tempting to try to argue back at the same level along the lines that most statistics show (I guess) that the the number of alleged cases of child abuses committed by Catholic priests is (when normalized by the number of people present in a country) significantly higher than for Muslim men, but then you’re at a level of “debate” where you might as well argue that Christ was a bastard, as his father was not his wife’s husband or that Buddha should have paid alimonies, as he left his wife and daughter behind to find enlightenment.

Can somebody please explain to me, how politicians like Susanne Winter can claim to “uphold Christian values”? [Btw: it’s always great fun, when a politician names the 10 commandments as one of the Christian values … but then fails to recite more than 6/7.]

So far I’ve always selected “none” on any form asking me for my religion. The next time I’ll put “Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindi” (and maybe more, depending on the space provided). Somehow scary to think that there are probably more forms which can accommodate multiple nationalities, than there are forms which can accommodate multiple religions.

On the one side, a shop window with the latest Barbie accessories.

On the other side, a poster with two starving kids in Africa, asking for donations.

Both in a street in the pedestrian zone in Lausanne.

I get along very well with pretty much all the people I’ve met in Switzerland so far. And nobody I know would admit to have voted for the SVP/UDC and most would also openly express their disgust for this party and its racist, oh excuse me, of course simply xenophobic policies.

So about 29% of the Swiss population has been hiding from me so far. Probably not in and around EPFL but in other places. Mostly in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

The only positive thing (in my admittedly biased view of the world) is that the Green Party also gained almost as much as the SVP/UDC.

Sometimes I still find the idea strange that anyone could “own” land, at least if it’s not used for food production and if it exceeds certain reasonable dimensions.

One of the strangest pieces of land owned by anyone is close to Lausanne. Have a look here for a picture. You can find these 3 m² of concrete somewhere around here. [I don’t remember exactly where as I found it when I went running on Saturday.]

I find it quite sad that somebody puts up a sign to keep people off this tiny pier. As you can see from the picture, there’s not really anything to vandalize, even if you wanted to. Of course, I also realize that he probably more or less “has to” put up a sign (and a fence) as he could be held responsible if somebody jumps off his pier and breaks a leg or even drowns.

Crazy world we live in …

I just found out that our dog doesn’t want to get up anymore. He is already quite old (about 16 years) but I hope that he’ll manage to pull through so that I’ll see him again in November.

I still remember when we got him. How I trusted him from the beginning. How he was “my” dog at the beginning, until I went to England. How he would sleep in my room. How any line between man and animal was washed away in a playful fight.

Zottel is a great dog. He broke some things. He stole a lot of food from tables. He sometimes farted horribly. He sometimes barked a lot when there were visitors. He hardly ever followed orders. But he never hurt anybody.  He enjoyed being patted. He was always friendly and playful. He gave a lot of comfort to my mom. Despite everything, he always gave so much joy to the people around him. He was loved, he is loved. And I think he knows this as he lies on a blanket under a linden tree in our garden.

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