Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • How two countries handle illness prevention

    Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:36:00 GMT

    Preventing or addressing an early-stage medical condition is a big piece of the health care puzzle. But the practice is sporadic in both the US and Switzerland. In our previous articles on American and Swiss health care, much of the focus has been on the costs, consequences, and construction of health care delivery systems in the US and Switzerland.  That’s to say, we’ve mostly worried about the particulars of a patient getting treatment for conditions. But health care is not just provided once a condition is diagnosed, or an injury needs treatment. Preventive medicine is also a big piece of the puzzle. Health care screenings, vaccinations or education campaigns all add to a longer view of health care delivery. It’s not just about visiting a doctor for treatment; it’s also about living with healthy habits and periodically getting checked out to make sure nothing is developing. Pay now, save later Proponents credit preventive medicine with lowering costs and helping improve ...

  • Swiss licence fee vote: the demands and potential consequences

    Thu, 18 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    On March 4, the Swiss will vote on getting rid of the compulsory radio and television licence fee. If they say yes, Switzerland will become the first country in Europe to abolish the bulk of its public-service broadcasting. What are the arguments and what is at stake?  Supporters of the “No Billag” initiative say the media market would become more open and competitive, benefiting consumers. The government and parliament on the other hand argue it would harm, among other things, the quality and plurality of the media, which they say is essential in a country with direct democracy.  The No Billag name comes from the company charged with billing consumers for their use of services from the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), swissinfo.ch’s parent company.  What is the initiative demanding?  A change to Article 93 of the Swiss constitution, which covers radio and television. If the initiative is accepted, from January 1, 2019, the government will no longer be able to collect a ...

  • How can young women make themselves heard in politics?

    Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:34:00 GMT

    Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week she meets Sami, who is also an ethnic Tamil and heavily involved in politics. She's on the Youth Parliament, a member of the Young Liberals in Burgdorf and on the Cantonal Parliament electoral roll. She says, what she likes most about politics is that you learn to listen to others, and respect other people's opinions. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)

  • Why the Swiss are experts at predicting avalanches

    Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    It may seem quite a leap from studying snowflakes with a magnifying glass to forecasting one of the greatest natural threats in the Alps, but the step is part of how Switzerland manages avalanches. The approach could soon win coveted Unesco cultural heritage status.   “What happens to fresh snow when it lands?” asks Gian Darms, an avalanche forecaster at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos. Knee-deep in powder, his pupils stare blankly at each other. Whirring chairlifts can be heard in the distance.  “The arms of the crystals break off,” a bespectacled participant finally replies. “Well done,” says Darms.  The group of men in ski gear are standing in a snowfield just below the 2,692-metre Weissfluhjoch peak in southeast Switzerland.  The eight students on today’s avalanche refresher course – a mix of ski lift and communal employees and interested individuals – belong to SLF’s long-established avalanche observer network. Since 1945, when SLF took over ...

  • The bone-picker that was a ghost in Switzerland

    Wed, 17 Jan 2018 11:00:00 GMT

    The largest bird in the Alps, the bearded vulture was exterminated in the 19th century and is a vulnerable species today.  Starting in 1986, bearded vultures were reintroduced in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France; now there are roughly 200 in the Alps, and the population is doing well. In Switzerland, there are about a dozen breeding pairs.  It goes by other misnomers like the horse vulture, chamois vulture, or, most commonly, lamb vulture – highlighting the myth that the bird was powerful enough to attack these animals.  “By the end of the 19th century it was deliberately decimated and finally exterminated in Switzerland for competitive reasons, due to ignorance and because bounties were paid for shooting them,” according to the species profile by the Swiss Ornithological Institute.  In fact, the bird is not predatory. It feeds instead on the carrion and even the bones of dead chamois, ibex, and perhaps cattle or sheep that died while out to pasture. Raphaël Arlettaz, ...

  • Swiss football: punching above its weight or Europe’s punching bag?

    Tue, 16 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    As the Swiss national team goes from strength to strength in preparing for the World Cup in Russia, we dig into the numbers to explore the struggles of the domestic league. On the surface, Swiss football is enjoying something of a purple patch. The national side ‘Die Nati’ (unfortunately pronounced ‘Nazi’) has qualified for the fourth World Cup running, and will fly to Russia in summer with what’s widely acknowledged as its finest generation in years. The team currently sits eighth in the FIFA world rankings. Meanwhile, domestic powerhouse FC Basel (winners of the Swiss Super League for the past eight years) qualified in December for the last 16 of Europe’s Champions League, racking up wins along the way against Manchester United and Benfica. A “brilliant” achievement not just for the club, but for Swiss football generally, said CEO Jean-Paul Brigger at the time. But how reflective are these achievements of the state of Swiss soccer at home? How does the Super League stack up ...

  • The Swiss chef who became the world's best

    Tue, 16 Jan 2018 16:36:00 GMT

    With numerous Michelin stars under his belt, Swiss cook Daniel Humm is the head chef and one of the owners of the best restaurant in the world, according to an influential 2017 ranking. He took his first steps towards becoming a professional chef at age 14, and now lives and works in the United States. The Eleven Madison Park restaurant in New York was chosen for the top spot in the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017. The ranking is a highly regarded rival to the Michelin Guide, and describes Humm’s fine dining experience as “the perfect partnership of outstanding hospitality and exquisite food in an iconic setting”. Humm was born in 1976 in canton Aargau. After completing his professional training at a large hotel in Zurich, he worked at the 3-Michelin star 'Restaurant Pont de Brent' near Montreux, canton Vaud. He was just 24 years old when he received his first Michelin star. He was working as the head chef at 'Gasthaus zum Gupf' in canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden.

  • Swiss bank Vontobel adds ‘exciting’ to job description

    Tue, 16 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ Uncontroversial, conservative, even dull: one of Zurich’s largest banks wants to overhaul the characteristics traditionally associated with Switzerland’s financial services industry. Zeno Staub, chief executive of Vontobel, has ordered a rewrite of the bank’s job adverts to attract “people that have an opinion, that challenge our status quo,” he told the Financial Times. “We even dared to put in there: excite. We want to have fun.” The change is part of Swiss banks’ efforts to stay ahead in the market for providing financial services and managing the wealth of the world’s richest families. Switzerland’s biggest private banks, including Vontobel, have successfully expanded overseas, especially in emerging markets. But they face tough competition from international rivals, with ultra-low interest rates and costly additional regulation since the financial crisis further squeezing profit margins. Previously, Vontobel’s job adverts emphasised employee benefits and career ...

  • Does a minority rule Switzerland?

    Mon, 15 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland is often regarded internationally as a model of functioning democracy. But a closer look shows that Swiss democracy is far from perfect. The “rule of all” turns out to be the “rule of some”. It is September 24, 2017, a “voting Sunday” as we say here in Switzerland. Voters have the final say on a crucial reform of the old age pension system. This is a topic that will concern everyone, sooner or later. Over the course of the day it becomes apparent that the proposed reform isn’t getting a majority of votes and is going down to defeat. But the real letdown begins to be felt late in the evening, when the last municipalities send in their tallies to the election authorities. Sad but true: only 47.2% of eligible voters took the time to vote. Over half the country’s citizens either had no opinion, or stayed away from the polls for other reasons. Downside of Swiss democracy Switzerland ranks first internationally as regards the number of popular votes held. But even with ...

  • SIHH sharpens contrast with Baselworld in battle of the watch fairs

    Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:42:00 GMT

    When Fabienne Lupo, who runs the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie watch fair in Geneva, says its ambition is “to become a kind of Davos of watchmaking”, this is not just an airy ambition of hers. By comparing SIHH, which opened this week, to the World Economic Forum at Davos, with its political and corporate heavyweight guests and policy-setting discussions, Lupo is continuing the polarisation between her more exclusive fair and Baselworld, the commercial engine of the watch world. Part of this ambition is about SIHH’s exhibitors, which already include Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre. (SIHH started as luxury group Richemont’s riposte to Basel.) The exhibitors have become more prestigious this year with the defection of high-end maison Hermès from Baselworld. In 2017, Ulysse Nardin moved to SIHH after almost 35 years, and chief executive Patrick Pruniaux is confident the shift was good: “I really like the fact that the audience is more select . . . SIHH gives a greater ...

  • Gallus and the Irish monks: grandfathers of European culture?

    Sun, 14 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages. It might have fallen further had it not been for the epic efforts of a band of Irish monks. Take a walk through the vast courtyard of St Gallen Abbey. The stone church towers stretch 68 metres into the sky, clichés of clanging bells sound out, a scent of hot waffle drifts from an old cafe. A few bemused Asian tourists stroll around. It’s difficult to imagine things were ever otherwise. But the history of the Abbey—and of founding father Gallus—is one of constant change. Enzo Farinelli, a Dublin-based Italian scholar, says it is also an inspirational story, one that needs to be retold for a modern and troubled Europe. He recently did so, with a book about the impact of Irish monks on Swiss history (“On the Summits of the Highest Love”). Hibernian roots It all begins in Ireland, he writes. 590 AD. Cold, wet, bogged, forested. A period of history hovering between Romans and Renaissance, under the ...

  • What does it take to get to the top?

    Sun, 14 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMT

    The answer is skis, stamina and stalwart determination in this photo by Swiss photographers, Dan and Janine Patitucci. The last 30 metres of the Bishorn, 4153 metres above sea level, is the only steep section as it climbs an ice cap. After 1800 meters of ascent on skis, the mountain summit requires a short climb without skis. While this is one of the Alps easier 4000 meter peaks, it does require excellent endurance to make it to the summit after a long slog up the Turtmann gletscher. Of course the advantage on skis is that the hard work getting to the summit is rewarded with a 2500 meter descent back to the village of Zinal. At work and play We are fortunate to call the mountains our workplace and still marvel at what we get to do on any given work day, be it in the Alps or Himalaya.  After all these years, the passion we have for life as mountain sport athletes and photographers hasn't faded. Experiencing the Alps on so many levels keeps us motivated for what comes next. ...

  • By the numbers: Avalanche scare puts Switzerland on edge

    Sat, 13 Jan 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Behind almost every story about Switzerland is a number of some kind. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting statistics to appear in the week that was. Monday 2 That’s by how many degrees the average temperature in Zurich-area train carriages will drop as part of a Swiss Federal Railways experiment to lower the heat and save energy.  5 The maximum avalanche warning level of 5 was issued for large parts of southern Switzerland, and later in the week access to the resort town of Zermatt was cut off for several days as a result of avalanche threats. Tuesday 5,000 The European Court of Human Rights ordered Switzerland to pay €5,000 (CHF5,860) to an anti-racism group for infringing on the group’s freedom of expression. Swiss courts had forced the group to remove online comments citing a politician’s speech as “verbal racism”, a ruling that Europe’s highest human rights court did not agree with.  18 That’s the number of years that have passed since the last US President ...

  • Annemarie Schwarzenbach: America's Great Depression

    Sat, 13 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Between 1936 and 1938, Swiss photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach travelled several times to the United States. swissinfo.ch looks at a selection of her work that documents the Great Depression. In the 1930s, Annemarie Schwarzenbach crossed America to get closer to the people and their stories. What emerged was a body of socially critical writings and images. In 1936, she followed the re-election of Franklin Roosevelt in New York, and the following year she traveled with American journalist and photographer Barbara Hamilton-Wright to the southern states. They used Rolleiflex cameras to capture prisons, cotton plantations, factories and the working population. "The vision of a better life, the long-held American dream, has a shadow cast over it as the roads lead south,” wrote Schwarzenbach in her report "On the dark side of Knoxville". To mark the 75th anniversary of Schwarzenbach's death on November 15, 2017, the Swiss Literary Archives has made more than 3,000 digital ...

  • The most important ski race of the year – in numbers

    Sat, 13 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Here are some of the facts and figures about the Lauberhorn ski race this weekend in the Swiss resort of Wengen.  There are a lot of superlatives to describe the Lauberhorn ski race. It's the oldest and longest race of the International Ski Federation's Ski World Cup, and the most important sporting event in the Jungfrau ski region. It draws one of the largest audiences on Swiss television – more than one million viewers. Clearly, the race is an extraordinary event, but here are some concrete figures to help grasp its magnitude – and that of the resources it takes to organise it – even better. ​​​​​​​

  • How a village profits from a giant downhill ski race

    Fri, 12 Jan 2018 07:00:00 GMT

    The Lauberhorn, the oldest and longest race on the FIS Ski World Cup circuit, puts the Swiss resort of Wengen on the world stage once a year. Could the village survive without it?  “Lauberhorn is why Wengen is so famous and why so many tourists come year-round,” says hotelier Bettina Zinnert, noting that it’s a sure-fire attraction for all Swiss visitors who envision skiing the Lauberhorn race course at least once in a lifetime.  At the Hotel Schönegg, manager Caroline Ogi calls the Lauberhorn race coverage “perfect publicity – especially in good weather”.  Another person with a clear interest in the attention garnered by the race is Rachel Padley, who runs an apartment rental service in the ski resort: “Lauberhorn gets the word out about Wengen. It is a great way of publicising the town to the world.”  But without the race, it’s not just Wengen that would suffer. “It’s the most important event for this entire region,” says Marc Ungerer, CEO of the region’s tourist board, ...

  • Swiss village showcases battle over lakefront access

    Fri, 12 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Countless super-rich people have fulfilled their dream of a Swiss villa with private access to water. But legally, the public has access to all lakes and rivers. A waterside “class war” has therefore been waged all over the country for decades.  In Uetikon am See, a small municipality on the shores of Lake Zurich, an old chemical factory owned by industrial group CPH blocks access to the water. For 20 years, Rolf Käppeli successfully fought to ensure that the plot of land belongs to the public. Käppeli says the factory is on built-up land – land that the lake would otherwise cover and as a result is public property. The former teacher argues that this should also count in the case of the factory’s grounds.  The local council sees things differently. The Zurich cantonal government previously decreed that built-up land could be entered in the land registry – and users could therefore become owners.  For Urs Mettler, the current mayor of Uetikon, the issue is clear: “This land ...

  • A step towards a new global compact on migration

    Fri, 12 Jan 2018 07:23:00 GMT

    Managing migration is one of the most profound challenges for international cooperation in our time.   Migration powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies.  Yet it is also a source of political tensions and human tragedies.  The majority of migrants live and work legally.  But a desperate minority are putting their lives at risk to enter countries where they face suspicion and abuse.  Demographic pressures and the impact of climate change on vulnerable societies are likely to drive further migration in the years ahead.  As a global community, we face a choice.  Do we want migration to be a source of prosperity and international solidarity, or a byword for inhumanity and social friction?  This year, governments will negotiate a Global Compact on Migration through the United Nations. This will be the first overarching international agreement of its kind.  It will not be a formal treaty. Nor will it place any binding obligations on states.   ...

  • Here’s to you, Swiss Family Robinson

    Thu, 11 Jan 2018 10:20:00 GMT

    Johann David Wyss, who died exactly 200 years ago, wrote the most-translated Swiss book ever: Swiss Family Robinson. Yet, at home, both Wyss and his book remain practically invisible and firmly in the shadow of a certain Alpine orphan, Heidi.  “This work is, as the title has said, for children and friends of children. It is not, however, for all children, but only for those who read with some understanding, who have a command of general terms of natural history and geography, and who have been versed in a range of knowledge from the better schools for 8- to 14-year-olds.”  The publisher who wrote the preface for the first printed edition from 1812 of “Der Schweizerische Robinson” knew his target audience.  Despite these seemingly limiting requirements, Swiss Family Robinson – or to give it its full catchy title, “Swiss Family Robinson or the shipwrecked Swiss preacher and his family. An instructive book for children and friends of children who live in cities and in the ...

  • The radio course that helps refugees find work

    Thu, 11 Jan 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week she visits the 'Klipp und Klang' radio school. The students, who are refugees, conduct radio interviews with managers of various enterprises to find out what sort of skills they need for different types of work. They also learn how to apply for jobs. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)

  • Why should WEF appeal to the US President?

    Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:49:00 GMT

    United States President Donald Trump has stirred up Switzerland by announcing he will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos later this month. It won’t be an official state visit, so what’s the big deal and what is WEF all about? Trump will be the second US President to visit WEF after the Bill Clinton carnival stole the show 18 years ago. Trump is expected to arrive with a huge retinue to spread the “America First” gospel for the benefit of the US economy, businesses and workers. The annual Davos congress has grown exponentially since its first incarnation as the European Management Forum in 1971 (renamed World Economic Forum in 1987). Given the breadth and depth of topics it now addresses, it should perhaps be known as the “World Everything Forum”. In its nearly 50 years of existence, WEF has welcomed many global leaders, industry chiefs and bigwigs from the worlds of civil society, religion, technology and the arts. Some 3,000 delegates are willing to pay big bucks for the ...

  • Cryptocurrency mining to restore Alpine village’s goldrush fever

    Wed, 10 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    A new kind of mine is providing hope for a Swiss mountain village that has seen its share of misfortune over the years. Gondo, with 40 inhabitants, is no longer mining for gold, but for cryptocurrencies. On the face of it, Gondo - an isolated community on the Swiss-Italian border - is hardly the most likely location for such a cutting-edge, disruptive and divisive technology. It has nevertheless been chosen as the venue for a cryptocurrency mine by start-up Alpine Mining. Bitcoin’s inexorable rise in value has attracted more and more people worldwide to the apparent riches of cryptocurrencies. There are more than 1,000 crypto tokens in circulation with more being produced every day. Many are expected to sink without trace, but enthusiasts believe others will stay and thrive. Enter Gondo. Gone are the days when the gold mines here were packed with 500 prospectors seeking their fortunes.  Its cryptocurrency mine is a small room full of flashing lights, humming computer servers ...

  • Swiss start-ups choose a new way of doing business

    Wed, 10 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Initial Coin Offering (ICO), an unregulated means of raising funds for cryptocurrency ventures, is experiencing a kind of gold rush, with Swiss companies among the first to get on board. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) An increasing number of startups use ICOs to bypass the rigorous and highly regulated capital-raising process required by venture capitalists or banks. ICO describes the limited period in which a company sells a predefined number of its own tokens to the public, typically in exchange for major cryptocurrencies (mostly Bitcoins and Ether). The tokens are issued using blockchain technology, an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions. Figures published by the consulting group PwC in September 2017 show that worldwide, startups received virtual capital of at least $4.6 billion (CHF4.5 billion) in 2017. That’s more than 20 times as much as the year before. Switzerland has several successful ICOs inside its borders. Out of the six largest ICOs, PwC says four are hosted ...

  • Swiss watchmaking city tries to shed gritty reputation

    Tue, 9 Jan 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Home to watchmaking giants Rolex and Swatch, the city of Biel struggles to attract newcomers as it has the highest proportion of welfare dependents in the country. Can viewing the city through a local’s eyes change people’s minds? Biel (or Bienne in French) at the foot of the Jura mountains is home to a unique population. On the one hand, its people are perfectly bilingual, on the other, there are more people living on welfare here than anywhere else in Switzerland, and every third resident is a foreigner. At the same time, Biel is an important watchmaking hub. “Biel has only developed into a city in 1850 thanks to the watchmaking industry,” says mayor Erich Fehr “That’s also why we don’t have an old aristocracy. Biel has always been an industrial city and continues to be one to this day.” However, the industrial city today needs specialist professionals and not factory workers. The manual jobs have been automated, but engineers, programmers and IT specialists are in high demand.

  • How English-speaking theatre brings expats together

    Tue, 9 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    English-language drama clubs are thriving in Switzerland, keeping many expats in touch with their culture. Switzerland is home to numerous amateur theatre groups that regularly stage performances in English. The most prolific ones put on two shows a year and host weekly play readings. What they all have in common is their desire to engage in and share a piece of their culture. This podcast takes us to a performance in Bern as well as a play reading and rehearsal (pictured below) in Zurich.  Most of the clubs are concentrated around Basel, Lake Geneva and Zurich, but there are opportunities to experience and participate in English-language theatre in other places as well. Is your club on the map? Please get in touch if not. You can contact the producer of this podcast on Twitter.

  • Shadowy influences on Swiss democracy

    Mon, 8 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Lack of transparency as regards the funding of parties and political campaigns: this is one of the few weak points where Switzerland is criticised. “One doesn’t talk about money,” is a proverbial saying in this country. So it is hardly surprising that the nation has trouble with the issue of transparency of funding of parties and political campaigns. But there are more and more voices calling for change. In January 2015 a report in the Handelszeitung business paper attracted considerable attention. For the first time, an opinion survey about contributions to political parties by big companies in Switzerland had been carried out and published. It was something of a breakthrough, because until then powerful companies had preferred to stay quiet about their relations with political life. This is an article in the series #DearDemocracy, the direct democracy platform of swissinfo.ch. Here contributors, including outside authors, give their views. The opinions expressed are not ...

  • Why size matters when it comes to ski pass prices

    Sun, 7 Jan 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Where in the Swiss Alps do you get access to the most ski slopes for your money? We crunched the numbers and found there’s a reason you’re asked to pay more at Adelboden than Airolo, or at Zermatt than Zuoz.  Our graphic shows the international resort of Zermatt rivalled in price by only a handful of other ski areas at CHF79 ($81) a day, while a pass at Zuoz costs only CHF56. However, the additional CHF23 in Zermatt buys you access to 360km of groomed pistes, compared to only 15km in Zuoz.  At the lower end of the scale are stations where you can get in a day of skiing for between CHF20 and CHF40, but many are located below 1,500m in altitude where a consistent snowpack is anything but certain.  Correspondingly, the lowest-lying ski areas operate only sporadically, serving the local population and offering little in the way of infrastructure and accommodation.  We gathered the ski area data from ‘On the Snow’ (149 stations). As shown in the graphic below, there is a strong ...

  • Kurt Sieber: 57 years in Japan – thoughts of a retiree

    Sun, 7 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Swiss businessman Kurt E. Sieber went to live in Japan in 1960. At first he managed a Swiss trading company, then an Austrian one. In 2011 he retired – but did not return to Switzerland. What does he think about the country where he has lived for so long? What challenges does he think Japanese society currently faces?  "My view of Japan has changed a great deal in the 57 years I have lived in Tokyo," says Kurt Sieber. "I have thought a great deal about Japan’s position in the world, the Japanese economy and politics, and the question of what would need to be done to resolve society’s problems." He gives a few examples of the things that are particularly on his mind. The opinions expressed in this interview, notably on the speaker’s country of residence and its policies, are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch Pay too low for part-time work “In Japan pay for part-time work is too low. Supermarkets or 24-hour shops pay on average 800 ...

  • What do glaciers have in common with Swiss cheese?

    Sun, 7 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMT

    The answer is holes that present a hazard to runners on the Glacier Haute Route, as seen in this image by Swiss photographers, Dan and Janine Patitucci. Pascal Egli and Kim Strom look into the depths of a 'moulin' on the d’Otemma glacier while running the Glacier Haute Route.  These massive holes stopped us in our tracks while traversing the glacier:  You don’t want to get too close, but you can’t help looking down before cringing and stepping back.  The holes are carved by surface melt water created during warmer times of the day - sometimes as white water, before it finds a weakness and disappears into the ice. At work and play We are fortunate to call the mountains our workplace and still marvel at what we get to do on any given work day, be it in the Alps or Himalaya.  After all these years, the passion we have for life as mountain sport athletes and photographers hasn't faded. Experiencing the Alps on so many levels keeps us motivated for what comes next. Grandiose ...

  • By the numbers: High winds mark start of year

    Sat, 6 Jan 2018 10:11:00 GMT

    Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 45 At 45, Alain Berset is the youngest politician to become Swiss president since 1934. In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Berset remains cautious about a change in Swiss-EU relations and talks about whether Switzerland is experiencing its own ballot box protests. Tuesday 78,000 A display of art from the controversial collection by Cornelius Gurlitt has been hailed as an early success. The Fine Arts Museum in the Swiss capital, Bern, reports that it had more than 78,000 entries between November and the end of December. That’s more than 1,500 visitors a day. The exhibition is to run until the beginning of March. Wednesday 30 Nature conservation organisation Pro Natura announced the animal of the year: the short-tailed weasel, also known as the stoat or ...

  • Final call for traditional Swiss phone booths

    Sat, 6 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Phone booths used to be places where couples met secretly, where people talked for hours in thick clouds of cigarette smoke, where homeless people sought refuge or children played pranks. But this era is coming to an end. The main Swiss telecom, Swisscom, is beginning to dismantle those left since it is no longer obliged by law to provide them as a public service.  At the peak in 1995, there were over 58,000 public telephones in Switzerland. But since it first appeared on the market, the mobile phone has slowly been sounding the death knell for public phones. There are still 5,900 such phones in operation, but they are being phased out. Anyone nostalgic for a soon-to-be bygone era can purchase a booth for around CHF3,000.  

  • Getting your teeth into Swiss meat prices

    Fri, 5 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Why is Swiss meat among the most expensive in the world? Farmers, consumer groups and industry experts all have their opinions. Not many people in the world can afford to pay nearly $50 for a kilogramme of beef leg round or more than $20 for the same amount of pork chop. But those are the price tags on these cuts of meat in Swiss supermarkets. According to the Meat Price Index 2017 by Caterwings, Switzerland has the highest meat prices in the world - 142% more than the global average.  Caterwings estimates that an unskilled Swiss worker needs only 3.1 hours to afford 1kg of beef, while in India someone must work 22.8 hours to pay for the same amount. The extremely high cost of living in Switzerland goes some way towards explaining the high prices, yet Switzerland still lags behind many other western European countries in the index’s affordability calculations. On closer analysis, multiple factors influence Swiss meat prices. For Franz Hagenbuch, president of the Swiss Beef ...

  • Autopilot routes give Swiss air rescue a lift

    Thu, 4 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss air rescue service Rega, is to start using a new autopilot mode that will allow its helicopters to fly more safely in bad weather conditions. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Rega helicopters have been given authorisation to operate the Low Flight Network (LFN), a system that enables aircraft to fly in autopilot mode on predetermined routes stored on the onboard computer.  Since the end of December, the helicopters have been able to follow a countrywide network of flight routes linking together airports, hospitals and Rega helicopter bases in Switzerland. This offers considerable benefits in terms of safety especially when visibility is poor due to fog, for example. Rega, together with the Swiss Air Force, the air navigation service Skyguide and the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) have been working together for a number of years to set up the Low Flight Network .  Founded in 1952, Swiss air rescue service Rega is a privately-run, non-profit foundation. It is funded by ...

  • How many hours do you work a week?

    Thu, 4 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    More than 41 hours and 10 minutes? That’s the average in Switzerland for people with full-time jobs – relatively few compared with most developed countries. How did Switzerland get to this seemingly happy situation, and why are unions and business associations getting all worked up?  After the General Strike of 1918 (in which over 250,000 workers downed tools, resulting in the troops being sent in), a 48-hour week for workers on contracts was introduced in Switzerland in 1920.  The current labour law – with weekly maximums of 45 or 50 hours, depending on the sector – dates back to 1966.  A popular initiative to lower this to 40 hours was launched in 1971. The Federal Council came out against it – Economics Minister Ernst Brugger described it as “formally and legally impossible and unimplementable to boot”. In 1976, almost four out of five voters agreed with him.  At present, a 41-hour week is the norm across Switzerland (excluding the self-employed), according to the Federal ...

  • Becoming Swiss: ‘Where do I sign?’

    Thu, 4 Jan 2018 13:21:00 GMT

    Swiss citizenship is highly sought after – and correspondingly hard to get. After changes introduced on January 1, we've updated an article on how to get the naturalisation ball rolling, who is eligible for the fast track and how much it could all cost. I want to become Swiss. I’m free for an interview next week. It’s not quite as easy at that. There are basically three ways of becoming Swiss: from birth (having a Swiss parent), marrying a Swiss (after you have lived in Switzerland for at least five years, more below) or living in Switzerland for at least ten years (prior to January 1 this was 12 years, more below). Note that being born in Switzerland doesn’t mean you automatically become Swiss. Neither of my parents is Swiss and I’m not married. Then you’ve got to live here for ten years. Did you spend any time in Switzerland between the ages of eight and 18? No. Shame. Those years count double. Anyway, after you’ve done your time and you apply for citizenship, your ...

  • How to speak football

    Thu, 4 Jan 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week Tama pulls on her soccer boots and joins SC Wipkingen, an international team of female players in the Zurich suburbs. She finds out from team members how football contributes to integration. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)

  • Every three months, a revolution

    Wed, 3 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    The people’s initiative is a powerful tool in the hands of Swiss voters enabling them to effect change from below against the will of parliament and government. Most initiatives are defeated at the polls. Yet they often have a real influence on politics. On November 26, 1989, Swiss politicians got a shock. The people were voting on a proposal to abolish the army.  In the end, the proposal from a citizens’ group was turned down. There was consternation and indignation, however, about the amount of support the initiative proposal received in spite of the radical nature of the proposal: 36% of voters came out in favour of getting rid of the Swiss army altogether. It seems to be paradoxical. A 64% rejection for an initiative means a drubbing for the promoters of the proposal, you could argue. But not in this case. To the military and political elites, it felt like a drubbing for them that over a third of the voters wanted to get rid of the army. The result had consequences, too:

  • Washington exhibition showcases Swiss painter

    Wed, 3 Jan 2018 12:43:00 GMT

    Ferdinand Hodler is one of the best-known Swiss painters of the 19th century. Now one of his works is the centrepiece of an exhibition running until November 12, 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.  “Portraits of the World: Switzerland” is the title of this inaugural exhibition in a series “highlighting the global context of American portraiture”, according to the gallery. It features Hodler’s Femme en Extase (woman in ecstasy), a portrait of the Italian dancer Giulia Leonardi on loan from the Museum of Art and History in Geneva.  Gallery curator Robyn Asleson explains in this video the importance of Hodler and of his  Femme en Extase: The gallery says that Femme en Extase “embodies the Swiss modernist approach to expressing emotion through movements of the body — a theory known as eurhythmics — which had an international impact”. The Hodler painting will be complemented by works from the Portrait Gallery’s collection showing American dancers influenced ...

  • The local club as a school of democracy

    Tue, 2 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    There are tens of thousands of them, all around the country: clubs and associations. Often these are very local groups. The classic example is the village rabbit-breeders’ club. In Switzerland these groups are important for learning democracy, says Fanni Dahinden of the Vitamin B centre in Zurich, which advises and supports volunteer boards and knows what the issues for clubs and associations are. Its name is based on a slang expression in German for the power of networking. #Dear Democracy This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. Clubs and associations affect people’s lives in Switzerland from cradle to grave: from the birthing centre to the playgroup, from the choir and the sports club to, finally, the Panther Club for seniors – behind everything there seems to be an organised group. Even when we ...

  • Telling the world about historic peacekeeping efforts

    Mon, 1 Jan 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    On 1 January, 1942, a document was signed by 26 states, coining the term "United Nations". The Declaration of the United Nations  pledged that their governments would continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. Swiss Public Television, RTS, takes a closer look at attempts to make historic documents like these available to a wider public. (RTS/swissinfo.ch) The Geneva archives are testament to efforts to establish peace through diplomacy. The League of Nations was the predecessor of the United Nations, and was the first international organisation that set out to achieve world peace. The 26 years of the League's history are summed up in 15 million pages.  These documents will soon be available on the Internet, thanks partly to students at the University of Geneva. They are busy deciphering and indexing the documents with the help of thousands of Internet users via an online research platform. The project is part of a crowdsourcing project and it's like a social media site ...

  • Youngest Swiss president in 84 years takes office

    Mon, 1 Jan 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    At 45, Alain Berset is the youngest politician to become Swiss president since 1934. He holds the rotating post for 2018. In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Berset remains cautious about a change in Swiss-EU relations and talks about whether Switzerland is experiencing its own ballot box protests.    swissinfo.ch: A few days after you were elected president, you wrote to an unhappy naturalisation candidate in Nyon, canton Vaud, to express your support. Why did you do that?   Alain Berset: I can’t imagine being involved in politics without emotion. Co-existence, mutual respect, dialogue and human contact are integral to the political action I’ve been engaged with for the past 15 years.  Alain Berset Alain Berset became one of the youngest cabinet ministers in history when he was elected to the cabinet in 2011 at the age of 39. He has since headed the Home Affairs ministry, where he is responsible for health, social insurance and culture. He is a member of the leftwing Social ...

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