Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • The global fight for assisted suicide

    Wed, 14 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Swiss right-to-die organisations are politically and legally active abroad in a drive to legalise assisted suicide worldwide. They believe that political and religious elites do not respect the will of the people.  Assisted suicide is legal under Swiss law, and several organisations offer this service. As one of the few countries in the world with such a law, Switzerland sees many foreigners coming to end their lives from countries where assisted suicide is forbidden.  Some Swiss right-to-die organisations take their commitment a step further, by engaging in efforts to legalise assisted suicide in other countries. Internationally, one of the most active proponents of assisted suicide is the association Dignitas, whose motto is “To live with dignity - To die with dignity". Dignitas' self-proclaimed aim is to make itself superfluous: the seriously ill should not have to travel to Switzerland to get the help they seek, but should receive this assistance in their own countries, the ...

  • Marie-Antoinette’s jewels offered to highest bidder in Geneva

    Wed, 14 Nov 2018 13:35:00 GMT

    An exceptional collection of royal jewellery, including items that once belonged to the Queen of France Marie-Antoinette, are for sale at an auction by Sotheby’s in Geneva on Wednesday.  It is part of a lot belonging to the blue-blooded Bourbon-Parma family descended from aristocracy such as Louis XIV of France, the Holy Roman Emperors and Pope Paul III.  Such a sale is totally out of the ordinary and includes pieces not seen in public in 200 years. Before the auction in Geneva, the collection was presented in several cities around the world: London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore and Taipei.  “It is one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to appear on the market and each and every jewel is absolutely imbued with history. Never before seen in public, this extraordinary group of jewels offers a captivating insight into the lives of its owners going back hundreds of years,” said Daniela Mascetti, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s Jewellery Europe. Among the pieces ...

  • Support for ‘Swiss law first’ initiative remains limited

    Wed, 14 Nov 2018 05:00:00 GMT

    A rightwing proposal to put Swiss law above international law has failed to win additional support over the past few weeks. Pollsters expect the initiative will be rejected in a nationwide vote later this month. In its latest survey published on Wednesday, the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute found opponents widened their margin over supporters of the conservative right People’s Party proposal by 9% (from 16% to 24%) early this month. Along with the ‘Swiss law first’ initiative, two other proposals will be put to a vote on November 25: One proposal is to pay subsidies to farmers who keep cows and goats with horns. The other is to adopt a law with the aim of cracking down on social insurance fraudsters and setting the legal basis for social welfare detectives. See graphic below for the polling results on the three issues. “It appears the arguments of the ‘Swiss law first’ initiative committee have not convinced many citizens outside the ranks of the People’s ...

  • Topsy-turvy campaigning styles enliven controversial vote

    Tue, 13 Nov 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Known for its brash posters the political right has surprised the public with unusually plain and sober designs ahead of the vote about the ‘Swiss law first’ initiative. At the same time, it’s their opponents who have resorted to more populist and spectacular imagery and events. It is a calculated and thought-out strategy on both sides. The visual appearance of the campaign ahead of the November 25 vote about giving the Swiss constitution priority over international law is not what the general public expected to get. The rightwing Swiss People’s Party has used unusually sober language, even omitting the party symbol from its posters, in an effort to convince voters to approve its controversial initiative. They merely show a man or a woman holding a sign saying “Yes”. This is in contrast to previous imagery with black sheep, strong symbols and crude language. Georg Lutz, political scientist at Lausanne University, was also astonished by the choice, but says there is a logic ...

  • The Swiss return of Nazi ‘Angel of Death’ Josef Mengele

    Tue, 13 Nov 2018 16:01:00 GMT

    After the Second World War, Josef Mengele – a war criminal and the man behind experiments on human beings at the Auschwitz concentration camp - fled to South America. There he managed to hide and escape justice until his death. However, he returned to Europe once as a tourist - and came to Switzerland. Josef Mengele decided who was 'fit' to be put to work in the concentration camp and who would be put to death in the gas chambers. As the camp doctor from May 1943, he performed cruel experiments on people and carried out abhorrent tests with twins. In 1945 he fled for South America, but later returned to visit Europe, more specifically Switzerland, as a tourist, and using his real name. French author and journalist Olivier Guez sheds new light on how Mengele managed to flee Europe after his involvement in the Holocaust. His new bestselling book 'The Disappearance of Josef Mengele' is also interesting from a Swiss perspective. For a long time, there has been a lack of clarity over ...

  • True or false: ‘Cows need horns to communicate’

    Tue, 13 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Armin Capaul, the farmer behind the nationwide vote on November 25 to save Swiss cow horns, has often claimed that cows need horns to communicate. Is he right?  A study between May 2013 and April 2016 by the Centre for Proper Housing of Ruminants and Pigs, a branch of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), looked into the relevance of horn status in dairy cows.  The project, which was also carried out by Agroscope, the Swiss federal centre for agricultural research, had no connection to the cow horn initiative. However, one of its aims was to “examine how different aspects of social behaviour are influenced by the presence or absence of horns”.  Initial results suggest that dehorning cows influences clashes between members of a herd.  “Cows with horns resolve conflicts and rivalries by and large without physical contact,” Eva van Beek, FSVO spokeswoman, told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper last month. She explained that a threatening wave of the horns was usually ...

  • Blockchain start-ups ‘not ready’ for mainstream investment

    Tue, 13 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Swiss start-up investor Daniel Gutenberg, who has earned a reputation for picking the right technology companies, believes the emerging blockchain industry is several years away from attracting traditional venture capital. In an interview with, Gutenberg said blockchain needs time to realise its undoubted potential to produce the next generation of technology giants – known as “unicorns”. At present, many start-ups are funded via crowd investing schemes known as initial coin offerings (ICOs). The Swiss venture capitalist should know, having made his fortune from early investments in tech giants such as Facebook and Mobileye. He is also one of the founders of the Crypto Finance Conference that brings investors and start-ups together in St Moritz, California and Tokyo. How excited are you by blockchain start-ups as an investor? Daniel Gutenberg: I am a traditional start-up venture capital, seed-stage investor. In 2013 I started investing in bitcoin and ...

  • Geneva, City of Aspiration

    Mon, 12 Nov 2018 14:00:00 GMT

    I had an interesting day in Geneva last week: in the afternoon I went to see Marie Antoinette’s jewels. November in Geneva means the auction of all sorts of sparkling baubles, and this month it is the turn of the diamonds and pearls that once graced the neck of the last queen of France.  We all know what happened to her, of course, and I was reminded of that in a strangely ironic way when I reluctantly left her pearls to hurry to my next appointment: a debate on “Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilisation”.  More than two centuries after Marie Antoinette’s death, the reasons that caused her to be parted from her jewels, and indeed that caused her head to be parted from her body, are still around today.  The debate was the start of a two-day conference organized by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Focusing on the shameful fact that the gap between the world’s wealthiest and the world’s poorest is actually ...

  • Meet a company at the heart of Swiss-made high precision

    Mon, 12 Nov 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    Swiss industry owes much of its success to the thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that export extreme precision parts, tools and machines around the world. This is the story of one of them. Sylvac is a world-renowned specialist in the production of digital measuring instruments. Eric Schnyder is head of the family-run business that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.  Schnyder is satisfied with the way business is going, and with good reason. Sitting opposite the large bay windows in the ultra-modern factory, which opened in Malleray-Bévilard in the canton of Bern in 2014, the CEO of Sylvac describes how his company has taken off in recent years. “Our turnover has increased by nearly 30% since 2015, reaching almost CHF30 million ($30 million); whereas we actually aim for 2% annual growth over the long term,” he explains. Sylvac exports more than 85% of its production, mainly to Germany, China and the United States. Although it occupies only 3 to ...

  • Social sleuths to snoop on Swiss Abroad too?

    Mon, 12 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Surveillance of social insurance clients abroad may take place only if provided for by international treaties, according to the Swiss authorities. Negotiations are underway for a series of accords with governments mainly in southeastern Europe and Latin America. The new legal basis for covert surveillance will be put to a nationwide vote on November 25. Could the issue affect Swiss Abroad? No, unless they happen to be visiting Switzerland, says the government. New legislative amendments approved by parliament in March 2018 give the option to social insurance agencies to carry out covert spying on their clients, where there is reason to suspect benefit fraud. + Learn more about the new legislation The new rules were drafted following a decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which found that there was not an adequate legal basis in Switzerland for surveillance of social insurance clients. Opponents of the new rules have since triggered a referendum, so there will be a ...

  • The rise and fall of St Gallen textiles

    Mon, 12 Nov 2018 10:02:00 GMT

    St Gallen was once a world-renowned textile capital. Today, very little of the industry remains. One of the last great names of the textile industry, Bischoff Textil, announced last month that it would outsource production to Asia. What remains of the textile stronghold?  Bischoff, an embroidery company from St Gallen in northeastern Switzerland, is moving most of its production to Thailand and Sri Lanka. Switzerland has become too expensive for the production and sale of high-quality embroidery and textiles.  Of the 1,000-strong global workforce, 76 people currently work in Switzerland. Of these, 45 are expected to lose their jobs. The company is based on a long St Gallen tradition in the textile industry. As early as the Middle Ages the textile industry was the economic backbone of eastern Switzerland. For centuries, thousands of families and workers lived from manufacturing and trading textiles. Of particular value was St Gallen embroidery, which became one of Switzerland’s ...

  • Switzerland’s armistice memories, carved in stone

    Sun, 11 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    On Sunday, many countries are celebrating the centenary of the end of the First World War. At the heart of these ceremonies are monuments that honour the memory of the dead.  Saint Martin’s cemetery in Vevey, overlooking Lake Geneva and the French Alps, is one such place. The British military section of the cemetery honours 88 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the First World War and 48 others who lost their lives in the Second World War.  The presence of foreign soldiers’ graves on Swiss soil dates back to the presence of prisoners of war in Switzerland since the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. This policy continued during the two world wars.  During the First World War, Switzerland welcomed more than 65,000 prisoners of war for humanitarian reasons from 1916 to 1919. They were either seriously ill or wounded or relatively old. A number of them died in Switzerland, where they are buried.  This policy has left its mark on the stone. There are more than 100 places in Switzerland ...

  • ‘Switzerland is the model I always refer to’

    Sun, 11 Nov 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Claudio Ghizzo was born in Italy to a Swiss mother. The 32-year-old nurse works in Italy and believes his Swiss origins have influenced his way of thinking and civic spirit, but he is also very much attached to the landscape of the Dolomites. Have you ever thought of living in Switzerland? Claudio Ghizzo: The wish to live permanently in Switzerland is a recurrent thought – but it’s not easy to change your whole life just like that. What do you do for a living? When did you get your job? How are things going for you career-wise? C.G.: I’m a nurse with a degree and I work in a hospital near where I live. I got this job by going to university and passing a state exam to become a public service employee. Career-wise things could be better, as my profession is not very well recognised at the political and social level. I think in Switzerland the work I do would be more highly valued. Where do you live at the moment? How is the lifestyle and ...

  • Swiss artist brings Indian rug-making tradition to world stage

    Sun, 11 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    A near-extinct carpet-making technique is receiving global exposure thanks to collaboration between a Swiss artist and Indian artisans.  Instead of fulfilment, an opportunity for Karim Noureldin to be a part of a unique artistic project only brought frustration. He was among ten artists invited to create designs that would each be transformed into carpet artworks in China. It was a unique chance for the Swiss-Egyptian artist, who was already a fan of textiles due to the many parallels with his geometric designs realised with colour pencils on paper.  “I wasn't happy with the result. So much so, that I bought the carpet I had designed,” he told  The frustration with the outcome is what drove Noureldin on a quest to find a partner that would produce the perfect carpet for his abstract work. Online research and well-connected contacts led to him to India. Three years ago, he found a workshop near Delhi that could produce “dhurrie” rugs to his liking. But Noureldin ...

  • Conflict resolution, cow horns and carbon capture

    Sun, 11 Nov 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of November 12: Monday In our series on International Geneva, we’ll be examining the role of the city as a meeting point for discussing the world’s challenges. Does the self-proclaimed “Capital of Peace” deserve the title?     Tuesday  Switzerland will vote on November 25 whether to encourage farmers to let their cows keep their horns. We will be verifying the claim that bovines need their horns to communicate with each other.     Wednesday  Switzerland is one of the world leaders in assisted suicide thanks to the services offered by organisations like Dignitas and LifeCircle. We look at the global impact of these institutions on making a case for legalising assisted suicide.     Thursday  The impact of climate change has not proved enough of a deterrent to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions to the extent necessary. We visit a Swiss carbon capture plant that offers a technological route to ...

  • Carrots as you’ve never seen them

    Sat, 10 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    The city of Aarau in northern Switzerland always turns into a Mecca for carrot-lovers on the first Wednesday of November. The colourful “Rüeblimärt” (carrot market) has been a rooted fixture since 1982.  Carrots extend as far as the eye can see, offered in all colours and shapes and used to make delicacies such as carrot pasta, carrot risotto, carrot soup and carrot sausage. The yellow, orange and violet vegetables are artistically arranged into floral displays and faces.  People travel to the market from far and wide. Travel companies put on special coach tours. Up to 40,000 visitors admire the 140 carefully arranged stands. Everyone enjoys themselves, despite the crowds.  Aarau is the capital of Aargau, which has long been called at the carrot canton. This description probably comes from the second half of the 19th century, but it’s not in fact correct: canton St Gallen wears the carrot crown. It’s thought there was a mix-up between “Rüebli”, the Swiss-German for carrot, and ...

  • Hazardous mountains and expensive tastes

    Sat, 10 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Almost every article published by 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 last week’s stories. 336 The number of Alpine sites in Switzerland under surveillance for climate change-related risks like landslides, rock slides and mudslides. 1.1 million The number of Swiss residents exposed to excessive noise pollution that can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, coronary issues and depression. 136 The number of deaths on Swiss mountains in the first nine months of the year. This was nearly double the fatalities during the same period last year. 100 million The estimated cost in Swiss francs of a new glass and steel building at over 3,000m altitude on Mount Titlis designed by Swiss architect firm Herzog & De Meuron. 7 The percentage of Swiss youth who support leftwing extremism, according to a survey. This was higher than those with ...

  • ‘Insurance fraud is unfair and asocial’

    Sat, 10 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Using social welfare detectives has reduced the number of fraud cases massively over the past decade. If the new law fails to win approval in the November 25, those paying insurance premiums and taxes will once again be the victims, says People’s Party parliamentarian Mauro Tuena. Until 16 years ago, large parts of the population were convinced that social insurance and welfare beneficiaries do not cheat. When the Swiss People’s Party became the only party daring to claim the opposite, it was heaped with scorn. The reality, however, looks different. Under the pressure of the People’s Party and later the media, countless fraud cases committed by claimants of social welfare payments came to light. The damages resulting from such scam tactics hovered at around six per cent of the total amount of insurance and social benefits paid. We are talking about billions of Swiss francs. Use of detectives undisputed Over the past 12 years, the use of insurance as well as social welfare ...

  • ‘Insurance surveillance law is open to interpretation’

    Sat, 10 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Insurance companies will be allowed to spy on individuals claiming social security payments if voters give the green light on November 25. Social Democratic parliamentarian Silvia Schenker argues the legal text was drafted in haste and is of poor quality. She recommends rejection of the law. The European Court of Human Rights and consequently, the Federal Court, ruled that there was insufficient legal basis for the surveillance of insured individuals in either the accident insurance law or the disability law. After this, such surveillance had to be stopped. Parliament created a new legal framework for this in haste. The speed, but also the pressure from the insurance lobby, were hugely detrimental to the quality of the proposal. The law is very badly formulated. Instead of the necessary legal clarity, the wording leaves much open to interpretation. Filming in private spaces In the first instance, this applies to the ruling that is intended to define where insured individuals ...

  • Swiss farmers divided over removal of cows’ horns

    Fri, 9 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    The question of cow horn removal, up for a vote in Switzerland, has revealed sharp divisions within the country's agricultural community. A visit to two farms reveals why. Supporters of the cow horn initiative are calling for the Swiss constitution to be amended to introduce subsidies for farmers who do not remove the horns of their cows. The leading Swiss Farmers Association has declined to take a position, preferring to leave the issue to a free vote. Two dairy farmers living in different parts of French-speaking Switzerland have starkly differing views on the issue. “I remove my milking cows’ horns to prevent them from breaking and to avoid the animals injuring each other,” says dairy farmer Laurent Tornay who, together with his sons, runs a farm near Orsières in canton Valais. Perched on a mountainside at 1,100 metres above sea level, Tornay’s farm La Rosière is accessible by a road that winds up an ever-increasing slope punctuated by breathtaking views. “It is ...

  • The 50-year-old intern

    Fri, 9 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Even though he's over 50, Andreas Büttiker has been working as an intern. Is it a success story that could serve as a model for others? Büttiker originally trained as a broadcast technician, but was working as a production manager when he lost his job. He realised that years of work experience weren't as useful as he might have hoped in helping him find a new job, as he didn't have a diploma which officially recognised the skills he had accumulated in the workplace. As part of a project set up by canton Solothurn, he was able to work for a new company for a three-month trial period, which led to permanent employment. Instead of wages, he received a daily allowance from the unemployment insurance scheme during his trial period.  The over-50s in Switzerland particularly struggle to find a new position if they become unemployed. Although they have years of experience, younger applicants have a different education and other skills. Some job advertisements in Switzerland even specify ...

  • How easy is it for international students to land a Swiss job?

    Thu, 8 Nov 2018 08:00:00 GMT

    Like in the US or UK, Swiss immigration regulations restrict non-European graduates from embarking on a professional career in the country. However, recent developments give them a fighting chance.  Foreign nationals holding a degree from a Swiss university and wanting to find work in the Alpine nation got some help from the law in 2011. An amendment to the Foreign Nationals Act came into effect that allows them to remain in the country and look for a job for up to six months following their studies. The law puts these graduates on the same footing as their Swiss counterparts when applying for a job that is “of high academic or economic interest”.  During that six-month period, graduates can work for up to 15 hours each week and must show they have housing and sufficient financial resources. The six-month limit for finding a job does not affect EU/EFTA nationals, who benefit from freedom of movement under bilateral agreements.  International students in the UK are also ...

  • Tyler Brûlé says Switzerland has ‘lost a bit of its coziness’

    Thu, 8 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Monocle magazine editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé first visited Switzerland as a teen. Now the Canadian is running his media empire from a new office in Zurich. Though his love affair with Switzerland continues, he sees the need for some tweaks.  It’s a big day and Tyler Brûlé is ashamed of his haircut, the handiwork of a Tokyo barber. “I look like freaking Monchhichi,” he complains, meaning the fuzzy-headed Japanese toy monkey launched in the 1970s.  On top of the involuntary buzzcut, he seems uneasy about a welcome speech running longer than expected. As a local politician tells the audience what Zurich has to offer, Brûlé stands awkwardly at the other end of the stage – flicking through notes and murmuring to a colleague – so intently that he nearly misses a compliment.  “… in 2002, Tyler designed the ‘new look of Switzerland’ – with the SWISS design,” says Carmen Walker Späh, head of canton Zurich’s department for economic affairs. She’s referring to Brûlé’s branding of the new ...

  • A Swiss revolution that started in a pulpit

    Thu, 8 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland nowadays might be known for being a peaceful and neutral country, but that hasn't always been the case. The nation has also had its share of civil wars and revolutions. One of them was brought about by the reformer, Ulrich Zwingli.  Throughout history, thousands of men and women have shaped Switzerland's territory and society. The stories of who they were, the battles, revolutionary ideas or quiet but significant changes have been handed down through generations, and now fill the pages of Swiss history books. The traces of this rich heritage are many, some hidden and unknown. In this series by Swiss Public Television, RSI, seven places have been chosen that are linked to historical events or myths and legends, that are part of the country's cultural heritage. In this first part of the series, the story of Zurich of 500 years ago is evoked - and with it the deeds of a man who changed the country's social landscape forever: the reformer Ulrich Zwingli. (RSI,

  • Swiss pension funds feel society’s pull

    Wed, 7 Nov 2018 08:21:00 GMT

    The fallout from the deadliest garment factory accident in history shows the role that investors can have in changing business practices. Pressures have mounted on traditionally conservative Swiss pension funds to make an impact of their own. In April 2013, more than 1000 factory workers died when the Rana Plaza garment factory complex in Bangladesh collapsed. After the tragedy, a coalition of 200 institutional investors called on fashion brands, including Basel-based Tally Weijl,  to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety – a legally binding treaty to address worker rights in the garment supply chain. By most accounts, the effort has been a success. It has led to a massive increase in inspections, worker trainings, and building safety measures. And in 2017, long after the consumer outcry and media attention had faded, investors successfully called for an extension of the treaty with more protections for workers. Among those investors were some Swiss pension ...

  • A marathon, not a sprint: what the midterm elections mean for American democracy

    Wed, 7 Nov 2018 18:43:00 GMT

    Many people in Switzerland are deeply concerned about the state of American democracy. Why? Because what is happening in the US is not just about the 325 million people who live there. It is about values that the US and Switzerland hold in common: democratic norms, respect for the rule of law, freedom of the press, a commitment to human rights, peace, stability, environmental protection, and international cooperation, and basic norms of human decency.  And, for better or worse, the decisions of voters in the US have an enormous impact on people all over the world. For example, Trump’s election radically altered our perception of what is “normal,” giving oxygen to racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic and misogynistic words and deeds usually considered taboo in polite company and emboldening far-right populist movements and autocratic leaders around the world. Almost one hundred years after Armistice Day, one has the strange feeling that we are hurling towards a ...

  • While US politics remains divisive, direct democracy is proudly at work locally

    Wed, 7 Nov 2018 21:19:00 GMT

    While much of the focus of this past US election night was on the high-profile congressional and governor races, US citizens in many states also participated in thousands of ballot measures initiated by the people themselves. Voting results show that direct democracy is working at a local level in contrast to the divisive politics in Washington. Election days in the US offer a fascinating wealth of insights into the state of democracy in America. The procedures and practices of modern direct democracy by initiatives and referendums are a very important part in most American states and cities. On November 6, 158 state-wide votes took place across 37 US states. Additionally, several thousand local initiatives and referendums were on the ballot with the most in California where 540 such votes were registered. The results of these popular votes offered a welcome respite from the divisive and reactionary politics in Washington. Voting to let convicted felons vote In Florida voters ...

  • Threat of gridlock spoils Democrats’ ‘revenge’ in US midterms

    Wed, 7 Nov 2018 08:54:00 GMT

    What do the results of the US midterm elections mean for the country and the world? Swiss press reactions suggest it all depends on what President Trump does next: will he double-down his attacks on the Democrats and any other perceived enemy, or consider seeking compromises?  Democrats seized the House majority from Trump’s Republican Party on Tuesday in a suburban revolt that threatened what’s left of the president’s governing agenda. But the Republicans gained ground in the Senate and preserved key governorships, beating back a “blue wave” that never fully materialised.  “Relief was palpable in both parties that their worst fears hadn’t been realised,” said the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. “Only one thing could be said with certainty after these midterm elections: the Republican Party has definitively given itself over to Donald Trump. Thanks to him it wins where he’s strong – and it goes down where voters reject him.”  Whereas college-educated voters in the nation’s suburbs ...

  • How social media is changing science

    Tue, 6 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    In this edition of the Swiss Connection, we look at how the internet is changing science funding – and revolutionising the way scientists interact with the public and each other. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.

  • It's survival of the biggest for Swiss mountain resorts

    Tue, 6 Nov 2018 09:57:00 GMT

    To beat the competition, popular mountain destinations are investing in glitzy new infrastructure to pull in the punters. As the ski season begins so does competition to attract skiers to the slopes.  The largest ski resorts are investing large amounts of money on new infrastructure to expand and improve. A project costing CHF100 million ($100 million) on the Titlis resort was presented on Monday. It will comprise a building made of steel and glass and a re-purposed radio tower that will host a bar and a restaurant at 3,028 metres (9,934 feet) altitude. A new roof terrace on the summit station of the cable car will also be built as well as escalators taking visitors directly to a nearby glacier, according to the operators. “We have the ambition to combine practical objectives and aesthetics here on the Titlis,” said Pierre de Meuron of the renowned Swiss architecture firm, Herzog & De Meuronexternal, at a presentation on Monday. It’s expected to take up to six years to ...

  • Moutier vote judged an embarrassment for Swiss democracy

    Tue, 6 Nov 2018 08:54:00 GMT

    “Shockwave”, “political earthquake”, “mess”: for the Swiss newspapers, the thwarted attempt by the town of Moutier to change cantonal allegiance via direct democracy has reignited the “Jura Question” and damaged Switzerland’s reputation as a smooth-running democracy machine.  In June 2017, almost 52% of voters in Moutier decided (by 137 votes) to leave canton Bern and join canton Jura. However, suspicions were aroused that some people had registered as eligible voters in Moutier without actually living there. On Monday the result was declared void.  “Who wins loses”, noted Le Quotidien Jurassien bitterly in an editorial headed “the claw of the prefect”, referring to the district official who had taken the decision on Monday. An accompanying cartoon showed the official manipulated like a puppet by a Bernese bear, which is forcing her to light the fuse of a barrel of explosives marked “Jura Question”.  The controversy is the latest twist in a long-running territorial dispute in ...

  • FINMA sets tough restrictions on bank bitcoin trading

    Mon, 5 Nov 2018 12:08:00 GMT

    Cryptoassets like bitcoin should be risk weighted at eight times their market value when banks calculate loss-absorbing capital buffers, according to a confidential letter from the Swiss financial regulator seen by The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has taken no official position on how to merge cryptoassets into Basel III capital requirements or liquidity ratios. But a letter to EXPERTsuisse, an association representing Swiss trustees and accountants, reveals the regulator’s current thoughts on the issue. “FINMA has recently received an increasing number of enquiries from banks and securities dealers holding positions in cryptoassets and are subject to capital adequacy requirements, risk distribution regulations and regulations for the calculation of short-term liquidity ratios,” the letter, dated October 15, starts. Until the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision makes global recommendations, FINMA is advising financial players that ...

  • ‘Fake news’: The thorny question of safeguarding elections

    Mon, 5 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    As Americans vote in highly anticipated mid-terms, across the Atlantic there is growing concern over disinformation and manipulation derailing democratic processes. Will Switzerland be spared the onslaught of “fake news” campaigns ahead of next year’s general elections? It’s a scenario that has become increasingly commonplace, surfacing most recently in the lead-up to a referendum in Macedonia on changing the country’s name, a long-standing barrier to its entry into NATO and the European Union. Trolls, fake accounts and bots (automated accounts) peddle divisive narratives and false information on Twitter and Facebook, in this case to convince citizens to boycott the vote when a 50% turnout is needed to validate the result. In the end just 34% of the Macedonian electorate cast their ballot, and the outcome – an overwhelming yes – was null and void.  Ever since the highly contested US presidential election two years ago this month brought the problem into focus, “fake news” and ...

  • Swiss women settlers have their stories told

    Sun, 4 Nov 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    A 12-year-old Syrian bride poses beside her husband, a man old enough to be her grandfather. A continent and several generations away, on the frigid Canadian prairie, a 15-year-old Swiss immigrant prepares to marry a soldier.  Both scenes have been staged but are based on very true stories. The video of actors playing the young Syrian bride and old groom is shot on a boardwalk in Lebanon as part of a campaign by an NGO to combat the practice of child marriages.  Such contemporary stories gave writer Therese Bichsel the idea to write a historical novel about forced marriages experienced by Swiss girls and young women nearly 200 years ago. In Überleben am Red River (Survival on the Red River), the novelist forgoes the classic approach of describing the fortunes and misfortunes of European settlers in North America through the eyes of men. Instead, Bichsel brings to light the largely untold stories of women. We’re sitting in the author's tidy flat in a leafy district of Bern. She ...

  • ‘Yes’ in the name of animal welfare

    Mon, 5 Nov 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    The health and well-being of animals is the main motivation behind a proposed constitutional amendment which calls for financial incentives to encourage farmers – though not to compel them – to have cows with horns. Green Party parliamentarian Michael Töngi fully supports the “cow horn” initiative. It is to be put to a nationwide vote on November 25. Cows and horns: they belong together. When cows appear on labels and advertisements in Switzerland, they always have horns. No advertiser would think of having hornless cows. But the reality on the farm is different from the world of advertising: more and more cows are routinely dehorned. A few weeks after birth, calves have their budding horns burnt away. Cow horns are not just an inorganic appendage, however: they have blood flow and nerves, and they grow throughout the animal’s life. They are important for the social behaviour of animals, their communication with each other, but also for hygiene. If animals are born with ...

  • The initiative? No need to take the cow by the horns

    Mon, 5 Nov 2018 13:00:00 GMT

    The cow horn initiative is unnecessary and could stir up dissension among farmers, warns Pierre-André Page, parliamentarian from the conservative right Swiss People’s party and a farmer himself. For ten years, I bred horned cows. For the past 20 years, I have kept a herd of some 40 cows... without horns. So my views on the matter are based on my experience, which today makes me say “no” to the people’s initiative for the dignity of agricultural livestock. I say “no” to this initiative because there is no need to enshrine a text like this in our constitution. Our fundamental law must not become a kind of Noah’s ark, a long inventory of prescriptive measures. It must remain a document that sets out our legal principles. Already today, Article 104 of the constitution, in particular, provides for financial incentives for farmers who use especially animal-friendly methods. So why suddenly promote horned cows and put it in the constitution? This is unequal treatment... “Collateral ...

  • Fake news, sustainable investments and graduate job hunts

    Sun, 4 Nov 2018 16:00:00 GMT

    Here are some of the stories we’ll be following the week of November 5. ​​​​​​​Monday As Americans vote in highly anticipated mid-terms, across the Atlantic there is growing concern over disinformation and manipulation derailing democratic processes. Will Switzerland be spared the onslaught of “fake news” campaigns ahead of next year’s general elections? Tuesday Our podcast looks at how the internet is changing science funding – and revolutionising the way scientists interact with the public and each other. Wednesday The fallout from the deadliest garment factory accident in history shows the role that investors can have in changing business practices. Pressures have mounted on traditionally conservative Swiss pension funds to make an impact of their own. Thursday Getting a job after graduating from a Swiss university can be tough for international students from outside the European Union. We compare restrictions and opportunities in Switzerland, US and Britain. Sunday ...

  • Churches face an uncertain future

    Sun, 4 Nov 2018 10:01:00 GMT

    A visit to a cathedral near Basel reveals how one religious community practises its faith even as more people in Switzerland and across the West turn away from the church. The percentage of people in Switzerland who say they don’t belong to any religion increased by 13.5% between 2000 and 2016, according to the Federal Statistical Office. But in places like Arlesheim in northwestern Switzerland, churches and their services continue to be part of the community, despite certain challenges. Arlesheim’s cathedral was built in the 1680s as a satellite church for the one in Basel. It has become the town landmark, with its impressive exterior and interior architecture that was restored in the Rococo style of the late Baroque period. The church’s organ was made by renowned builder Johann Andreas Silbermann and is admired worldwide for its special sound. In mid-October, this parish and the one in the nearby town of Münchenstein both welcomed a new pastor. Reverend Sylvester Ihuoma ...

  • When Switzerland went on strike

    Sat, 3 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    With war raging in neighbouring countries, and Spanish flu, revolutions and poverty - it is hard to imagine what life was like in Switzerland during the 1918 General Strike. This gallery provides a photographic snapshot of the period.  At first glance a photograph might seem like definite proof of a factual event or time. But photography is always subject to cultural influences, prior information and expectations.  Historical photographs are particularly challenging. Dates, names and information can be missing and hard to track down. For this 1918 General strike gallery, we gathered information from different archives and experts.  If you look at the first picture, for example, we see fourteen children, most of whom are carrying buckets. They are wearing dark stockings, so it could be cold. The buildings and wall made of large stone blocks on the right suggest an urban environment. And the mischievous smiling boy in the middle sets a cheerful tone.  Commentary by Zurich ...

  • Almost 100 teachers are on schools’ black list

    Sat, 3 Nov 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    There are currently 95 people on a teaching black list in Switzerland, most of them primary school teachers, banned for offences of a sexual nature. But not all cantons are reporting their cases. Some details of the list, kept by the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK, in German), were revealed by the SonntagsZeitung earlier this week, after it battled for eight months for the right to access the text. The list was launched 15 years ago by the conference and has been obligatory for all cantons – who are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland – since 2008. It is aimed at stopping people with paedophile tendencies, addictions or suffering from a mental illness, who are banned in one canton, from applying for a job in another. The list shows that one in three teachers are from canton Zurich. Other cantons with double figures were St Gallen (15), Bern (14) and Lucerne (11). In all, 43 of the 95 people on the list are primary school staff, with 24 from ...

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