GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – One of the most poignant tributes to the work of the ICRC (International Red Cross) is a video with Hussein Saleh, a Yemen national who died on the job in June 2012. Le Monde has just featured him in a short article with the video, a reminder to take a few minutes to watch it and reflect on the work he and others do in the field, under very tough conditions.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Vélos pour l’Afrique will be sending its 100,00oth recycled bicycle to Africa this week, a point brought to my attention by M-Way, the Migros shop that sells electronic bikes – and that is giving CHF250 discounts to anyone who buys a new e-bike and trades in their old bike. A great way to clean out the garage, get yourself a new bike and help someone in Africa get on the move, affordably.
Note: several other companies in Switzerland are project partners.
M-Way is helping collect bikes for a 14 September shipment to Africa, so if you’re quick you might see yours added to the batch. Bikes are taken in seven location: Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Bern Westside, Basel and St Gallen.
M-way has a series of recycled bicycle social projects: 50 percent of those collected in Lausanne go to Lausanne Roule, which repairs them in workshops manned by residents of refugee centres, and the bikes are then made available to asylum seekers as part of efforts to improve integration. In Geneva half of the bikes go to the cooperative Péclot 13, which repairs them and sells them for very low prices. Zurich uses theirs for socioprofessional projects that help people get back into the workplace.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – David Cay Johnston, Reuters columnist, says he thinks the chances are only one in 84,000 that the US Congress will simplify the US tax system, but he’s nevertheless taking on the admirable job of pointing out to them the wisdom of doing so. Johnston’s blog post was sparked by a federal government action to shut down “a nationwide chain of income tax preparation shops it accuses of fraud”.
His lengthy post on why and how to do so are worth reading if the subject affects you, which means just about anyone in Switzerland or France (read: living abroad) who has to file US taxes. Since the complexity and exorbitant cost of filing US taxes for people who don’t owe tax is one of the reasons cited by many Americans abroad for their failure to file (and to thus be considered non-compliant), any suggestions to simplify the system are worth discussion.
Johnston points out that:
“Congress could easily eliminate fraud by abusive tax preparers, as is alleged in the Ogbazion case, and save taxpayers billions of dollars annually, by simply ending mandatory filing of tax returns for most taxpayers.
“About 100 million taxpayers — those whose income is entirely from wages and retirement funds, and who do not itemize deductions — should not have to file returns. The government already has the information it needs to calculate the taxes these people owe, once they supply their marital status and number of dependents. It would not take much to automate their income tax payments, as many other modern countries do.”
The remarkably simpler Swiss tax filing system, for example, requires people in this category to file, but the numbers are calculated for them and the process is quick and simple, a question of a few minutes and there is no need to pay an outside company. Bravo to Johnston for suggesting the US would be wise to move in that direction, too.
Ed. note: The next in a series of US Town Hall meetings in Switzerland will be at the University of Lausanne 18 April. There is one more in the series of five, in Zurich 9 May.
US tax filers and anyone interested in the complex issues linked to US citizenship if you live abroad should consider attending.
UNIVERSITY OF LAUSANNE
INTERNEF BUILDING – ROOM 126
PARKING LOT: DORIGNY
METRO: M1 – UNIL-DORIGNY STATION
RIGHT OFF THE AUTOROUTE TO LAUSANNE SUD
For details contact one of the following partnering organizations:
US Embassy in Bern: Seth Kolb (KolbSS@state.gov) Tel: +41 31 357 7011
American Citizens Abroad: Marylouise Serrato (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Democrats Abroad: Maya Samara (email@example.com)
Republicans Abroad: Edward Karr (firstname.lastname@example.org)
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Work for the US Mission in Geneva, settle down to a quiet retirement somewhere back in America and twiddle your thumbs? Not for Pete Jensen, who retired from the US foreign service three years ago and who is now spending his time as a pilot whose aerial photos of homes are very much in demand in upmarket Westchester County in New York.
Jensen has just been the subject of an article in The Daily Weston, talking about how he made aerial photos for 100 homeowners in 2010, extending a hobby that grew out of his first aerial home photo, the US ambassador’s residence in Geneva.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The US Overseas Vote Foundation in Munich 15 June is launching a remarkable campaign to count, for the first time, US citizens who live abroad, using a “formalized methodology”. The project, which runs until 15 July, aims to fill a gap that has made the number of Americans abroad guesswork, with government and privates unofficial estimates ranging from 4 to 10 million citizens by asking people “to self-report simple demographic information”.
“Even at 4 million, this represents a larger community of Americans than the combined populations of Wyoming, the District of Columbia, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska and South Dakota, according to 2010 US Census data,” the group points out.
“The US Census counts all American citizens in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico every 10 years but has found it difficult to count non-federally-employed Americans living abroad,” the group says in a statement issued Wednesday. “OVF hopes to demonstrate that the Internet and social media can be used to accurately measure this population. Such demographic statistics can be used to support efforts to gain recognition for the needs of overseas citizens and better access to US services from overseas.
The report will be released at the end of 2011.
SwissMissing has been in the news in recent weeks because of the foundation’s help with the search for missing six-year-old twins Alessia and Livia Schepp. They’ve been helping families and police since 2007, however, and swissinfo today, 4 May, carries a well-deserved tribute to their work. Some 5,000 persons go missing a year in Switzerland, with 80 percent of them found, but the work SwissMissing does, at the request of the family, can make a crucial difference.
The swissinfo article also carries several useful links with information in English, for example about what to do if someone goes missing.
Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch.com) – Britain’s prime minister could well be carrying a very special scarf with him to a UN meeting in September, where progress will be assessed on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG). One of these is education for all. The Middle School classes at the International School of Geneva are determined that David Cameron, the new British prime minister, will keep in mind that promise to the world’s children.
They are currently circulating and gathering up to 600 signatures on an 8-metre long “supporter scarf” to insist that world leaders focus on the promise that by 2015 every child will be receiving a primary education. The students are also making a video for their fellow students, to raise awareness of the MDG and the education one in particular, on the school’s three campuses.
The Geneva supportor scarf is part of a UK-based project involving more than 8,000 schools, called Send my friend to school (thus the choice of the British prime minister to receive the scarf). The slogan for the larger project is “1 Goal: send my friend to school” and it ties in with efforts by several football players during the World Cup to promote the MDG of providing education for all. Players and celebrities include Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Thierry Henry and Kevin Spacey.
The United Nations recently warned that although very good progress has been made, meeting the MDG for education will require some bold decisions on the part of governments in the next two years.
A recent UN update noted that:
In the developing regions, net enrollment in primary education reached 88 percent in 2007, up from 83 percent in 2000. The net enrolment ratio in primary education was 74 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, a 16 percentage point improvement since 2000.
One of the more creative – and apparently popular – ideas for donating to Haitians in need: students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, took off most of their clothes, streamed through the library and the clothes were collected for a donation to Haiti.
(Probably not something you want to try at the office.)
Community service bulletin: American Citizens Abroad is encouraging Americans to attend a town hall meeting at Webster University Thursday night, 30 April, to meet new officers from the US Embassy in Bern, including Leigh Carter, deputy chief of Mission in Bern and now the chargée d’affaires and the new consul general, Ed Birsner.
Andy Sundberg has provided a useful background document on US-Swiss treaties that covers taxation, social security benefits, military duty and much more. Swiss-American-treaties