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Switzerland

How A 'Dumb Phone' Can Save Us From Drowning In Technology

Feel the novelty fatigue growing inside? But it is not just the vintage feel of the reissued Nokia 3310 that makes it convincing, it is something deeper.

The 'new' Nokia 3310
The "new" Nokia 3310
Aïna Skjellaug

GENEVA — The Nokia 3310, the historic and so-very vintage cell phone that you could drop a hundred times without breaking, is back. And I've been wondering why I find that so cool, despite defining myself as a technology addict. I should be swearing only by the latest model of Apple iPhone, AI-powered robots, self-driving cars, automated payments, digital home automation.

Maybe this return of the dumb phone is just another trend. The marketing of ancient technology has already taken us through the sudden return of the 80s Casio watches worn by my male friends and vinyl records spun by my female friends. Not to mention old vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes and others, 60s-style stirrup pants and Abba remixes lighting up the dance floor on Saturday nights.

But ultimately, I don't think this is really about nostalgia, but rather about pace. It's got to do with the never-ending feeling of moving towards something we haven't asked for.

I feel novelty fatigue growing inside of me. I can feel it with my smartphone, the one that shows me real-time stock values, allows me to purchase everything without even touching the screen, to chat with thousands of people at the same time, the one that serves as my torchlight, my weatherman, my map, and guide and more. You have one too, you know what I'm talking about.

You also know that I can't live without it, though from time to time I'd also like to get a break. I'd also like for my phone to be just a phone, not something that ties me down, creates anxiety, becomes addiction. I wish I could spend more than five hours away from home without needing a charger.

Yes, I do believe I will get myself this old-new Nokia. I will give in to the novelty of an old-fashioned thing, but for $50, and maybe I'll feel like I'm 17 again, when having a cell phone felt incredibly good but hardly compulsory. Everyday life objects talk to us and sometimes even tell us what matters and what doesn't. What matters is who I call or who's calling me, who wants to have a drink or go to the movies. And not that piece of plastic inside my handbag.

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Economy

Russian Diamonds Are Belgium's Best Friend — But For How Much Longer?

Belgium has lobbied hard for the past year to keep Russian diamonds off the list of sanctioned goods. Indeed, there would be a huge impact on the economy of the port city of Antwerp, if Europe finally joins with the U.S. and others in banning sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Russia. But a 10th package of EU sanctions arriving this month may finally be the end of the road.

Photo of a technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

A technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

Wang Xiaojun / Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has agreed to nine different packages of sanctions against Russia. With the aim to punish Moscow's leadership and to cripple the war economy, European bans and limits have been placed on imports of a range of Russian products from coal, gas and steal to caviar and vodka — were successively banned over the past 11 months.

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Still, one notable Russian export is a shining exception to the rule, still imported into Europe as if nothing has changed: diamonds.

Russian state conglomerate Alrosa, which accounts for virtually all of the country's diamond production (95%) and deals with more than one-fourth of total global diamond imports, has been chugging along, business as usual.

But that may be about to change, ahead of an expected 10th package of sanctions slated to be finalized in the coming weeks. During recent negotiations, with 26 of the 27 EU members agreeing on the statement that ALSROA’s diamonds should no longer be imported, the one holdout was not surprisingly Belgium.

The Belgian opposition to the ban is explained by the port city of Antwerp, where 85% of the rough diamonds in the world pass through to get cut, polished, and marketed. There are estimates that 30,000 Belgians work for Alrosa.

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