Switzerland’s immigration worries

Last year in Geneva I was approached by a political activitist and asked to put my name to a petition. I politely declined – and my reply elicited a shocking response.

I should explain, Swiss democracy works in a quirky way. Initiatives that attract more than 100,000 signatures (all are checked to ensure they’re bona fide Swiss voters) can be used to demand an amendment to the Federal Constitution. Continue reading

9 out of 10 statistics are bunkum

Journalists like to use them on quiet news days, but they’re not doing their readers much of a service by reprinting them.

I’m talking about self-serving press releases with phoney statistics. You know the type, “50% of Europeans not saving enough for retirement” (by retirement savings company); “Debt consolidation used by 40% of people” (by debt consolidation company); “60% of Britons don’t know their history, don’t visit enough sites of historical interest” (by a hotel chain). It’s the latter that’s proved a problem for British education secretary Michael Gove. Continue reading

The dangers of crowdsourcing

Investigations by US authorities into the bomb attacks on the Boston marathon have relied heavily on ‘crowdsourcing’, with pleas issued to the world  for help in solving the crime.

Harnessing the power of the internet in this way is not new. But the scale of it in this case is unprecedented. And much of the resulting activity has been grossly uninformed and downright speculative. Continue reading

The politics of leaking

Amidst all the current sabre rattling on the Korean peninsula, one report has significantly upped the stakes – the apparent ‘leak’ of a confidential US intelligence report stating that the North Korean regime has a nuclear bomb that can be launched on a missile.

Previous reports have cast doubt on the regime’s ability to produce a bomb small enough to be carried on a missile. Now, it seems, there’s a secret US intelligence report that says it may well be able to do just this. Continue reading

UK Budget: poor finance, good politics

It was hard, driving on the Swiss motorway to work, to avoid shouting at the radio during the morning-after coverage on the BBC of the UK Budget.

So Chancellor George Osborne is going to pump prime the economy by stimulating the housing market. Is it really the government’s job to fund billions of pounds’ worth of mortgages, helping tens of thousands get into an already inflated and under supplied housing market?   Continue reading