Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • The new chic: pre-loved watches

    Wed, 20 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    With the rise of e-commerce and retro fashion trends, watches – which, unlike most consumer objects, are rarely thrown out – are finding a second life around new wrists. Both chic and understated, the rising trend of vintage watches offers “fashionistas” and amateurs in the know some serious opportunities: certain specialist websites are offering discounts of up to 60%, while the original owners are happy to pocket some extra cash. “The second-hand watch responds to the desire to acquire a unique object which has already had its own story,” says Vanessa Chicha, director of Iconeek, a Geneva based retailer specialised in second-hand watches. “It also fits the concept of intelligent and sustainable consumption which is trending in every aspect of society today.”  After having managed boutiques for prestige brands which retailed new products, Chicha and her husband launched their second-hand watch business five years ago. “At the time, there was already a palpable craze for ...

  • UN Human Rights Council: an answer to burning injustice?

    Tue, 19 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    It’s that time of year again, the United Nations Human Rights Council is in full swing, government ministers, diplomats, and human rights activists are thronging the Palais des Nations in Geneva, focused on either drawing attention to burning injustices, or defending themselves from accusations that they cause them.  It is, every year, harder to pick out, from so many hundreds of topics, what exactly to cover. The council session lasts four weeks, there are country specific reports from UN special rapporteurs, there are issue-based debates on children in armed conflict, on the rights of people with disabilities, on freedom of religious expression, and much, much more.  Of course, news editors are keen to link the council business to stories already on the news agenda; so, this year any mention of Venezuela will get noticed, and, in the wake of the horrific killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia is getting rather more scrutiny than it might welcome.  Forgotten causes  How hard ...

  • EPFL marks 50 years of scientific progress

    Tue, 19 Mar 2019 14:01:00 GMT

    Over the past five decades, the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) has been the home of many scientific discoveries, some with global reverberations. Regularly ranked among the 25 top universities in the world, the EPFL has spawned various discoveries of scientific or commercial value. For example: The computer mouse (end of the 1970s): developed in the lab of Jean-Daniel Nicoud, the Swiss mouse was a success thanks to the fact that its ergonomic design was present from the very beginning. The invention led to the creation of the Logitech company, which now employs some 9,000 people around the world. The Delta robot (1985): the invention of Reymond Clavel, the robotic machine is now an industrial standard, especially for tasks such as the boxing of chocolates. Grätzel cells (1991): used in the production of solar energy, these dye-sensitised cells are inspired by the process of photosynthesis in plants. Scala programming language (2003): developed at the ...

  • How young Swiss differ from older generations

    Mon, 18 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    There are five generations living in Switzerland: the Traditionals, the Baby Boomers, X, Y and Z. We’ve come up with ten major differences between young and old Swiss. 1. A car? No thanks! Young people dream of owning a nice car, right? Maybe in the old days – but it’s no longer an important goal for young Swiss people. Fewer and fewer even know how to drive. This probably isn’t just a generational thing; there are also practical reasons. In Switzerland it is extremely expensive and time-consuming to get a driving licence. At the same time, public transport options have expanded to include night buses on weekends, while parking spaces are becoming increasingly expensive, especially in cities. Owning a car in Switzerland is simply no longer as attractive as it used to be – or as it is in other countries. 2. Sharing rather than owning Car-Sharing, Uber, Airbnb, communal living: The sharing economy seems hip, especially for generations Y and Z. But according to a recent ...

  • Proposed UN convention aims to better protect journalists

    Mon, 18 Mar 2019 15:09:00 GMT

    In many countries journalists still face daily threats and impunity reigns. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) explains to swissinfo.ch why it believes a new treaty is needed to protect media workers’ rights worldwide.  Since 1990, 2,469 journalists have lost their lives in the line of work, hundreds have been imprisoned, many in inhuman conditions, while others have been victims of cyberattacks or online harassment, according to the IFJ.  Anthony Bellanger, general secretary of the Brussels-based organisation, was at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this week to campaign for a new UN instrument with binding mechanisms to protect journalists and media professionals.  swissinfo.ch: Why is a new UN treaty necessary? Anthony Bellanger: We are concerned that the situation of journalists has become more difficult over time. In recent years, numerous journalists have been murdered: 97 in 2018 alone. Many others are harassed, threatened or arrested.

  • Home owners and tenants wary of reform plans

    Mon, 18 Mar 2019 14:04:00 GMT

    It is a Swiss peculiarity that home owners who live in their property are subject to an additional tax as if they were renting it out. Attempts to do away with the so-called notional rental value of self-occupied homes have failed in the past despite international pressure. Most notably, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has repeatedly recommended that Switzerland abolishes this tax, which is seen as an important contributor to a high amount of consumer debt compared with other countries. At a domestic level, opponents also argue that the notional value rental value of property is an artificial and unfair tax burden for home owners. In their annual tax forms, home owners must indicate the presumed notional value of properties that are not even rented out. This fictitious amount is the equivalent of the payment they would receive from a tenant of the property. Their taxable income is inflated as a result. The system was introduced during the First ...

  • Red Cross develops war video games – with rules

    Sun, 17 Mar 2019 11:00:00 GMT

    The idea that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is developing military shooter video games may be a surprise to many. But the aim is not to kill everything that moves; it’s a training tool to teach people that there are rules, even in wartime.  In war video games, the aim is often to shoot and kill as many enemies as possible. Unlike real conflict situations, children or other civilians are often not present in the games. And the issue of what can be shot at is seldom an issue.  The Geneva-based ICRC wanted to change this idea by developing a video game in which combatants wage war while respecting the rules of international humanitarian law.  This means the player must distinguish between enemy and civilian combatants, and must provide assistance to the wounded. Anyone who kills prisoners of war or shoots civilians is penalised.  “I can’t just shoot everything that moves. I have to watch my target,” explains Christian Rouffaer, head of the ICRC’s virtual ...

  • Softer, processed foods changed the way ancient humans spoke

    Sun, 17 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Language is part of our culture, but has it also developed with the food that we eat? Linguistics professor Balthasar Bickel and postdoctoral researcher Steven Moran at the University of Zurich argue that it also makes sense to study language as part of our biology. The human capacity for language divides our species from the rest of the animal kingdom. Language has not only allowed us to conquer all corners of the globe, but to devise writing, mathematics and all things thereafter. But researchers can find many of language’s basic design features in the communication systems of other animals. For example, many animals have particular calls for specific objects and meanings, and some even seem to combine calls in meaningful, albeit rudimentary ways. These lines of continuity, however thin, drive home the point that, at its essence, language is part of our biology. Our new research suggests that a biological perspective is indeed necessary to resolve why languages have the range ...

  • Climate change, aid to Syria and quality of life

    Sat, 16 Mar 2019 16:00:00 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 some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. 69 The percentage of young people who want immediate action to stop climate change, according to a survey. But they shy away from concrete ideas such as giving up flying or eating meat. 1,000 This is roughly the number of young people who have applied for Swiss citizenship since the law changed a year ago to ease naturalisation rules for third-generation immigrants. This number is small, given that some 25,000 young third-generation immigrants (aged 9 to 25) are in theory eligible for a Swiss passport. 3 Three Swiss cities -- Zurich, Geneva and Basel -- are in the top 10 of a new quality of living survey. The Mercer survey looks at quality of life in 231 global cities.  68 million The amount in Swiss francs that Bern has pledged in aid for Syria this year.

  • The last travelling shepherds of Switzerland

    Sat, 16 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Travelling shepherd José Carvalho moves his flock of sheep across Switzerland throughout winter. It’s a traditional farming practice that’s become much more difficult due to the growing urbanisation of the Swiss landscape. Photographer Moritz Hager spent a day on the road with him and his animals. In summer, José Carvalho is to be found with his 800 sheep on an Alp in canton Graubünden, in the south east of Switzerland. In winter he travels through the district of Winterthur, near Zurich, with 460 or so animals, always on the lookout for meadows where his sheep and donkey can graze. It’s not easy for him to find a spot between the roads, housing estates, motorways or off-limits fields that make up the patchwork of the landscape. José and his herd are a spectacle to be seen, passersby stop their cars to take pictures of the unexpected mass of farm animals traversing the tarmac roads.  A long tradition Born in Portugal, José Carvalho lives with his family on the ‘Tutschgenhof’ ...

  • How to prepare for Brexit as a Swiss in the UK

    Fri, 15 Mar 2019 13:09:00 GMT

    With Britain’s exit from the European Union looming, Swiss citizens in the UK are facing an administrative challenge that will determine their right to stay in their adopted home. What will they have to do to secure their future in the UK after Brexit? A citizens’ rights agreement signed by the UK and Switzerland in February has gone far in assuring the respective citizens on both sides that they can stay put in the other’s country. It guarantees existing rights for both groups, where these people are already living in each other’s countries. However, Swiss citizens in the UK will have to apply for “settled status”. What is settled status? Swiss citizens living in the UK have to apply for settled status before June 30, 2021. This status can be granted only to Swiss (and EU) citizens who have been living in the UK for five years. It centres on three points: confirming your identity, providing evidence of five years’ residency, and a criminal record check.  Those who haven’t been ...

  • Rithy Panh revisits the horrors of the Khmer Rouge

    Sat, 16 Mar 2019 14:00:00 GMT

    Cambodian film-maker Rithy Panh talks about his latest film, Graves without a name, being shown in Geneva, which explores the lasting effects of the Cambodian genocide.  His documentary is competing in the city's 17th International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights. Many of the director’s 22 films have dealt directly with Cambodia’s genocide and its perpetrators, including The Missing Picture (2013), Exil (2016) and his latest, Graves with no name. His new documentary focuses on a 13-year-old boy, representing Panh, who has lost most of his family in the genocide and begins a search for their graves. He travels to Trum, a “village in the middle of nowhere” in Battambang province. This is where Panh and ten of his family members were deported in 1975, along with many other Phnom Penh residents. In moving scenes, Panh, one of only two genocide survivors from his family, carries out funeral rites for his relatives who disappeared. swissinfo.ch: Graves without a name ...

  • Why bananas could be the fabric of the future

    Fri, 15 Mar 2019 08:30:00 GMT

    Cotton is the king of natural fibres, but its large water footprint can create problems in areas where it’s grown. Can Swiss experiments with fibres from banana stem, nettle, wood or flax offer better alternatives? India is one of the world’s largest cotton producers and exporters. However, the Cotton Association of India has been in a bit of a bind this year. It has already had to lower its cotton yield estimate for the 2018-2019 season three times, always because of lack of water. Drought-like conditions in parts of India have even forced farmers to uproot their crops to preserve what little moisture remains in the soil.    “The water consumed to grow India’s cotton exports in 2013 would be enough to supply 85% of the country’s 1.24 billion people with 100 litres of water every day for a year. Meanwhile, more than 100 million people in India do not have access to safe water,” states an article in The Guardian newspaper.  Bananas also present a dilemma for Indian farmers, ...

  • Saving the planet and saving UBS – which is the emergency?

    Fri, 15 Mar 2019 09:20:00 GMT

    Young people are going on strike across Switzerland, demanding that the government declare a state of climate emergency. Unfortunately for them, the climate is not a bank that can be bailed out.  “Bye-bye holidays in Chile, bye-bye bananas for breakfast and bye-bye car. You’ll no longer be able to fly and you’ll be able to eat meat just once a week.” That’s the political manifesto of Yvan Richardet, a candidate for Vaud cantonal government.  Richardet is not a politician but a comedian and actor. Although he describes his candidature, announced on his blog, as a joke, he wants to get across the serious message of the need to declare a state of climate emergency.  Like Richardet, thousands of people across Switzerland are calling on the authorities to recognise climate change as a crisis which needs urgent attention. This appeal has gained support above all from young people, who on Friday will once again hit the streets to make their voices heard.  The Klimastreik (climate ...

  • Reflections on the lives of Syrian children in exile

    Fri, 15 Mar 2019 09:06:00 GMT

    It has been eight years since the start of the conflict in Syria. Herve Verhoosel, the UN World Food Programme Senior Spokesperson on the refugee crisis in Syria and the region, reflects on life for children uprooted from the war and why supporting refugees remains an urgent priority. The bell rings and the halls erupt with the sounds of chatter and excitement as hundreds of children run to the dusty courtyard for recess. I joined them to play football but the game instead turned into a round of questions. “What is your name? Do you speak Arabic? Where are you from? Do you live here? Do you support Barcelona or Madrid? Or Manchester? Do you play PokemonGo?” Where am I from? I’m from Belgium, and I’m living in Geneva. But I know that if I asked such a question to some of these children, their response wouldn’t be so simple. This Friday marks the eighth anniversary of the start of the Syria crisis and, with an average age of 9, many of the refugee children I spoke to would have a ...

  • The writing’s on the wall, roof and façade

    Fri, 15 Mar 2019 09:13:00 GMT

    Indoors or outdoors, signs are all around us. They tell us where we are and signify a building’s identity. Zurich’s Museum for Design is celebrating Swiss sign design with an exhibition “3D-Schrift am Bau” (3D signs on buildings). We are all aware of the term 3D – three-dimensional – when talking about films, virtual reality or printing. This technology can enhance visual perspective and the dimensions used for sign-making, the subject of the exhibition at the Museum for Design. Visitors can see examples of how designers experiment with technology and new materials. With a focus on Swiss signage, the exhibition also presents a selection of international inscriptions for buildings and their surroundings. There are 24 projects presenting 3D writing on the outside and inside of buildings. The designers of the 3D typefaces, including architects and artists, work in interdisciplinary teams.  The exhibition 3D-Schrift am Bau runs until April 14, 2019.

  • Could geo-engineering help reverse climate change?

    Thu, 14 Mar 2019 16:58:00 GMT

    New technologies that block solar radiation or suck CO2 out of the atmosphere could help tackle global warming. Switzerland is hoping for an international assessment of the opportunities and risks of so-called geo-engineering. Long considered an unlikely alternative to curb rising temperatures, geo-engineering has become a hot topic again, thanks to scientific progress and political momentum. Despite scientific reports and international agreements on climate change, CO2 emissions have remained stubbornly high. Although there are strong doubts about its feasibility, UN climate experts (at the IPCC) argue that climate engineering could represent a temporary "corrective measure". Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment has said that the country would also prefer not to rely on a "risky emergency solution". Nevertheless, it is necessary to have as many options on the table as possible to address climate change, the environment office stated in a recent publication. In this ...

  • Spying game: what does the Swiss intelligence service do?

    Thu, 14 Mar 2019 10:19:00 GMT

    The Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) is seen as a relatively small security service that makes headlines more for its amateurism and embarrassing gaffes than for bloody missions. How accurate is this? Ten FAQs about the FIS.  Does any spying go on in Switzerland?  Masses! Switzerland was and remains a hotbed of foreign spies. During the Second World War, Bern was teeming with spies from all sides and during the Cold War it was those from the Eastern bloc.  Today, Switzerland is interesting for spy-watchers because of the presence of countless international organisations. Clement Guitton, an expert on intelligence services, reckons the true extent of foreign spies in Switzerland is unknown.  “It’s also doubtful whether the FIS itself has a good idea of what’s going on – and that’s because Switzerland is ambivalent when it comes to combating espionage,” he says.  As a small country, Switzerland has tried for years to establish itself as a venue for negotiations, competing ...

  • Climate strikes: why we scientists are getting involved

    Thu, 14 Mar 2019 09:02:00 GMT

    Young people are on a climate strike, and researchers are supporting their cause. Reto Knutti of Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology ETH  discusses an unexpected turn in the climate change debate and the role of science in society. Scientists have been publishing one climate report after the other, and politicians debate endlessly on which actions to take, yet very little has actually happened. That is, until recently, when Swedish student Greta Thunberg called for an international strike over climate protection. Now more than twelve thousand scientists have signed a call to action prepared jointly by climate researchers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. So why are we getting involved? The facts are clear Climate change is real and is predominantly caused by humans. It is already having major effects, many of which are irreversible. In a perfect world, science provides the factual basis and society then decides what actions need to be taken. The reality looks far ...

  • Eritreans stuck in Switzerland lose faith in a better future

    Wed, 13 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Thousands of failed asylum seekers cannot be sent back and refuse to return home voluntarily. Many continue to live in Switzerland with emergency assistance, with no prospect of a future. Young Eritreans share their stories. Mewael* lives in Geneva on CHF10 (around $10) a day. He is not allowed to train or work. To occupy his days, he plays football, does small jobs at the reception centre where he lives or cooks at a local charity. He is among thousands of people who have not been granted asylum, but who cannot return home and find themselves trapped in Switzerland. In 2017, more than 8,000 people received emergency assistance, mostly in the form of shelter or food. Mewael is in his twenties. He fled Eritrea and arrived in Switzerland almost three years ago. He filed his asylum application and learned French while waiting for the decision that came through only two years later. His application was rejected and Mewael had to leave the country. He has appealed the decision and is ...

  • The day Switzerland found its online voice

    Tue, 12 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    SWI swissinfo.ch is 20 years old today. It still fulfills the same mission as its former avatar Swiss Radio International (SRI) but by means that barely existed two decades ago. Imagine a time when there were no smartphones or tablets. Where the personal computer was too expensive for mass ownership. A time when there was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Only the brave dared “chat” on Yahoo’s forums. Google had just made the transition from a garage project to a company. Internet connections were still very slow and very expensive. You paid by the minute, once the modem deigned to connect to the web, often after several attempts, punctuated by the famous electronic gurgling sound of two computers getting to know each other. It was not uncommon to wait a minute to see a simple picture displayed on the screen. And video? They were some available but you had to be very, very patient. Broadband became widespread only in the year 2000 and YouTube arrived five years later. At the ...

  • As web turns 30, inventor reflects on how to fix growing pains

    Tue, 12 Mar 2019 12:41:00 GMT

    As the World Wide Web marks its 30th anniversary, its founder and inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, ponders what it has grown into – not always for the good of mankind – and how to fix it.  “The web has become a public square, a library, a doctor’s office, a shop, a school, a design studio, an office, a cinema, a bank, and so much more,” Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter published on his World Wide Web Foundation’s site on Tuesday. Today, web concepts like html, http and URL are universally recognised. Half of the world’s population is online and close to two billion websites exist. But as the web expands, it continues to experience numerous growing pains and the digital divide continues to widen. “We need to get the other half of humanity online as quickly as possible as it’s becoming increasingly unfair that they aren’t. We need to keep it open and free, fighting for net neutrality, and we must think about privacy and owning your own data and how social networks should really ...

  • Confetti king explains his ‘labour of love’

    Tue, 12 Mar 2019 14:37:00 GMT

    Basel’s carnival is in full swing and confetti is raining down on the city’s streets. Much of it is made by Hans Rudolf Streiff, who owns Switzerland’s only confetti factory and produces around 200 tonnes of the stuff each year. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Everyone loves confetti. Street cleaners perhaps less so, but carnival wouldn’t be carnival without the countless shreds of coloured paper – “Räppli” in the Basel dialect.  And while the Basel Fasnacht lasts only three days and wraps up on Wednesday, it’s carnival almost all year round in a small part of the town of Näfels in northeastern Switzerland.  There, for more than 50 years, the Kurt Hauser factory has been producing confetti for various sorts of celebrations. Confetti, however, is a scarcely profitable labour of love – the company makes its money from flags and other party-related paraphernalia.  Hans Rudolf Streiff, who has worked there for 30 years, explains how he chooses the colour of the year – and how a recent scandal ...

  • Radioactive waste: Japan learns from Switzerland’s mistakes

    Mon, 11 Mar 2019 09:44:00 GMT

    How and where should countries build safe permanent storage sites for highly radioactive nuclear waste? As Japan remembers the victims of the  Fukushima power plant disaster, it is looking at the Swiss approach to the problem to figure out how to involve locals in the discussion. Eight years have passed since that terrible March Friday when an earthquake and tsunami struck the east coast of Japan. The huge tidal wave crashed down on the atomic power station of Fukushima, knocking out its cooling system. The result was a three-reactor meltdown, which amounted to the most serious nuclear disaster in history along with Chernobyl. The disaster of March 11, 2011 once again reminded the world of the risks associated with atomic energy. While study of the effects of Fukushima on people and the environment continues, another much older problem is as yet to be resolved. Where can the thousands of tons of radioactive waste produced every year around the world be stored? For Pascale Jana ...

  • Political (in)correctness lights up Basel carnival

    Mon, 11 Mar 2019 09:07:00 GMT

    “To the end” is the motto of this year’s Basel carnival, which began on Monday at 4am. As the lights went out in the city centre, colourful satirical lanterns illuminated the 10,000 revellers and musicians. (Keystone SDA, swissinfo.ch) “Morgestraich, vorwärts marsch!” (morning parade, forward march!). The cry rang out and the groups started shuffling along the streets of Basel’s Old Town behind their massive lanterns. The sky was clear, the wind was calm, and drummers and pipers ensured everyone was wide awake.  The range of targets for the lanterns was as wide as in previous years. In addition to racism, environmental pollution and assisted suicide, the satirists took aim at global news events (US President Donald Trump as a pedlar of fake news) as well as more local ones (a blaze in a Basel timber yard).  As expected, gender roles, sexism and political (in)correctness played a significant role.  ​​​​​​​ The motto, “Bis zletscht” (to the end), alludes to the end of the ...

  • Women bankers criticise UBS over maternity leave cuts to bonuses

    Mon, 11 Mar 2019 09:39:00 GMT

    Top women bankers at UBS have criticised Switzerland’s biggest lender over its practice of using their maternity leave as a reason for imposing long-term cuts to their bonuses, raising questions over its commitment to gender equality. Some have resigned in frustration — forgoing promotions in at least two cases — while others having begrudgingly continued working for less pay than before they became mothers, according to several current and former UBS employees. One woman had her bonus reduced and re-based four times after having had four children. Another was informed that being a working mother was a “lifestyle choice” by means of explanation for her lower bonus, while someone else was told to “focus on her baby” when she challenged the policy. “Basically once pregnant, one will never catch-up again with male colleagues in the career one has built up prior to going on maternity,” said one of the women, who still works for the bank. Despite multiple complaints, “the practice ...

  • Swiss workplace inequality, by the numbers

    Sun, 10 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Work, politics, wages: the differences between women and men in Switzerland are significant. We look at five areas in which women are still underrepresented, and how the Swiss compare internationally. Equality between women and men has long been enshrined in the Swiss constitution - since 1981. But differences remain when it comes to working life. 1. Employment What percentage of the population over the age of 15 has paid jobs? In most countries, the proportion is higher among men, even in Switzerland. According to World Bank data, the difference between women and men is greatest in Turkey. In Switzerland, around 60% of women aged 15 and over are employed, while the figure for men is 70%, which is the average among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The differences between women and men are smallest in Scandinavia. 2. Working time There is a significant gender gap when it comes to full- and part-time work. In all OECD- ...

  • A day in the life of an avalanche dog

    Sun, 10 Mar 2019 13:00:00 GMT

    Vali Meier, responsible for rescue and safety in the Davos-Klosters mountain region, skis off down the slope with canine colleague Woopy on his shoulders. Today, Woopy is looking for a buried dummy.  It’s impossible to say when dogs started being used to rescue avalanche victims. The Swiss Alpine Rescue service says it is not certain that the renowned St Bernard, Barry, was the first. Barry is thought to have kept watch over the St Bernard pass in the 1800s and saved around 40 people.  In 1937 a group of 18 schoolboys was hit by an avalanche in the Bernese Oberland. While rescuers managed to find 17 of them, one was still missing. The search was on the point of being called off when a local mixed-breed dog known as Moritzli drew the rescuers' attention to a particular location in the snow. After prodding the ground with sticks, they found the 18th member of the group who was resuscitated.  A dog specialist, Ferdinand Smutz, heard the story and in 1940 presented the idea of ...

  • Big money, big vehicles

    Sat, 9 Mar 2019 16:00:00 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 some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. 1/3 The share of Switzerland’s landscapes that are undeveloped. Most of 2,400 “near-natural” areas identified by Swiss scientists are in the mountains while very few undeveloped areas exist at lower altitudes. 1,000 On Tuesday, the Swiss bank unveiled a new 1,000-franc note with a purple hue and motif celebrating the country’s multilingualism. The new note goes into circulation starting in Bern and Zurich on March 13. 3 The number of elements discovered by Swiss scientists in the periodic table that celebrates its 150th anniversary. Can you guess which ones? 49 The percentage of four-wheel drive vehicles sold in Switzerland last year – a Swiss record and double the share of a decade ago. Switzerland’s growing love affair with big vehicles will likely make ...

  • The golden age of winter tourism in Grindelwald

    Sat, 9 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    Grindelwald was the first thermal spa town in the Bernese Oberland region to open up to winter tourism at the end of the 19th century. Photos from private collections provide a glimpse into this bygone era. It must have been an exciting time for the small village near Interlaken: with the construction of a road and, a few years later, a cogwheel railway, a connection to the wider world was suddenly established. In 1888, the village experienced a tourist boom thanks to the development of winter sports. Visitors from all over the world came to enjoy sleigh rides, curling, skating and, increasingly, skiing. This boom also encouraged investment - hotels installed central heating and electric lighting. Optimism at the turn of the century was boundless: there were plans to build a casino and make all the mountains accessible by train. However, the outbreak of the war in 1914 led to a collapse of foreign tourism and these ambitious plans had to be buried. Blast from the past The ...

  • Corruption: Is Trudeau like Blair?

    Sat, 9 Mar 2019 10:18:00 GMT

    The political scandal currently gripping Canada and the British Aerospace case under Tony Blair both show money’s corrupting influence, writes Swiss anti-bribery expert Mark Pieth. On February 27, the former Canadian Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, took the courageous step of explaining to the media how she had been pushed out of office. Even though she is independent according to the Canadian Constitution, she had for months been cajoled by high-ranking officials close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to strike a deal with the Canadian engineering company SNC-Lavalin, rather than go to court over whether the company paid bribes to the family of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The reasons for the political pressure are obvious. SNC-Lavalin has its head office in Québec, Trudeau’s main power base. His fear was – as he admits – a dramatic loss of jobs, as a corruption conviction would possibly lead to the barring of SNC-Lavalin from future business. The case ...

  • Mothers face double-edged sword in Swiss workplace culture

    Fri, 8 Mar 2019 08:25:00 GMT

    Switzerland’s part-time work options can be both a blessing and a curse for working mothers. More women are now calling for an end to a stigma on mothers in the workplace that is holding their careers and the country back. Ingrid Bringas’ career was on the upswing at a big multinational company in Switzerland until she told her employer she was pregnant. “I was managing a global project for Ceva Logistics with 13 to 14 smaller projects running in parallel. I told them I was pregnant, and another manager was put on the project and I was shoved aside.” The real kicker came when she was told not to return the day after her maternity leave ended and given three months’ salary as severance. In a response to swissinfo.ch, Ceva Logistics said they don’t comment on individual cases but that it is a priority to treat all employees equally. A Zurich-area woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, had a similar experience at a big tech multinational in Zurich where she says she was left out ...

  • Oldest Swiss Abroad dies at age 110

    Fri, 8 Mar 2019 11:13:00 GMT

    Rodolphe Buxcel, who was born in 1908, passed away last month in Michigan, United States. He was born in a Swiss settlement in tsarist Russia and lived a frugal life in the US in his last years. With roots in the town of Romainmôtier in the French-speaking Swiss canton of Vaud, Buxcel was born in the Swiss settlement of Chabag, under the regime of Russia’s last Tsar, Nicolas II. One of his ancestors, Jacques-François Buxcel, had emigrated there with his six children and wife. The Swiss enclave was created in 1822 by Swiss botanist Louis-Vincent Tardent. Like all Chabag families, the Buxcels kept a Swiss passport during the 120 years of the colony's existence. The youngest of ten children, Buxcel lived a comfortable life in what is now Ukraine. His father owned 50 hectares of vineyards and 130 hectares of arable land. The family prospered until June 28, 1940, when the Soviets arrived. They lost their land and all their belongings. The family then spent five years in camps in ...

  • Taxing airline tickets is an ‘absurd’ idea

    Thu, 7 Mar 2019 13:38:00 GMT

    Switzerland, like many other nations, is wrestling with how to curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by air traffic. A Swiss aviation expert outlines how the sector is combatting emissions.  The Swiss love to fly, much more than other Europeans. On average, each Swiss citizen flies 9,000 kilometres a year, according to 2015 figures.  Recently, there have been growing calls for stricter rules to curb CO2 emissions in the aviation sector, particularly from young people and environmental groups. Such emissions represent 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, or 10% in Switzerland (2016 figure).  In Bern, leftwing parliamentarians have suggested imposing a climate tax on plane tickets, like those adopted in Italy, France, Germany and Britain. Parliamentarians in the lower House of Representatives rejected such a proposal last December, but it is currently being examined in the Senate as part of the revision of the Swiss CO2 law.  swissinfo.ch talked to Hansjörg Bürgi, editor-in-chief of the ...

  • The dark Swiss fertility tradition with hunters and ‘victims’

    Thu, 7 Mar 2019 10:09:00 GMT

    Masked men pin down young women and force them to wear blackface. The “Pschuuri” Ash Wednesday festival in eastern Switzerland is possibly the least politically correct custom in the world.  That said, as with other Swiss traditions that might raise eyebrows abroad – for example the cattle show where six-year-olds are allowed to smoke – everyone has a good time and there’s a happy ending involving a big meal.  “Pschuure” means “to blacken” in the local dialect and is an important part of carnival in Splügen, a village near the Italian border in canton Graubünden where all these images were taken on Wednesday. The day begins with young children getting dressed up and harmlessly going from house with a basket around their neck begging for sweets.  In the afternoon, however, things get darker. Literally. Unmarried young men, “Pschuurirolli”, put on furs, masks and bells. Armed with a sackful of a greasy coal mixture, they hit the streets looking for children and, in particular, ...

  • Robotic hand teaches kids the power of tech and empathy

    Thu, 7 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    On Saturday mornings, a Basel arts centre becomes a playground for kids on a humanitarian mission. They're making 3D-printed hands for their peers in need, learning both technical skills and understanding for others.  They are focused on one part: a prosthetic finger that can be used for the performance of vital daily tasks or simply add an element of fun. “Imagine you have no hand and you can’t eat or drink, you can’t enjoy food,” says Aditi who is working on what she calls a SPRIFE, an index finger replacement that combines the functionality of a fork, spoon and knife. High-tech, low cost helping hand The 13-year-old is taking part in a private class provided by  TechLabs in Switzerland. The programme is certified by Enabling the Future, an international online community of 8,000 people which is using 3D printing technology to create printed hands and arms for those in need of such devices. One in 2,000 children born each day could benefit from such a device, according to ...

  • The growing Swiss love affair with 4x4s

    Wed, 6 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss seem to be falling more and more in love with big powerful cars with four-wheel-drive performance. Fans claim they are safer and useful for big families and when in the mountains. But what about their environmental impact?  2018 was a bumpy year for the Swiss auto industry. Overall sales of new vehicles were down again for the third year in a row, but one segment stood out. According to auto-suisse, the umbrella organisation for car importers, almost one in every two cars (49%) sold in Switzerland last year was a four-wheel drive – a Swiss record and double the share of ten years ago. “Switzerland is a rich country, the cars come from abroad and the Swiss franc is strong, so the Swiss tend to buy bigger, wider and longer cars than our European neighbours,” Pierre-Emmanuel Dessemontet, an expert in urban and suburban geography at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), told Swiss public television, RTS, last year.  For auto-suisse President François ...

  • App to help Swiss army recruits get fit

    Thu, 7 Mar 2019 09:52:00 GMT

    Having fit soldiers is important for the Swiss army – it means fewer injuries and fewer people dropping out. That’s why it has launched an app to get young people ready for military service. The target group of the sports app “ready #teamarmee” is men and women aged 14-18 who want to prepare themselves both physically and mentally for their first basic military training. Military service is compulsory for Swiss men, optional for Swiss women. It generally lasts from age 18 to 30. The app was developed by the army and the Federal Office for Sport. Users can choose which army function they want to prepare for, for example tank sapper, and the app will produce specially designed sports programmes, the sports ministry said on Monday. Like other fitness apps, ready #teamarmee also offers advice on nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. The Swiss army app can also be used by civilians, who don’t need to put in a military function but just the type of training they want to do. Three ...

  • Making way for women at the dangerous Cresta Run

    Wed, 6 Mar 2019 10:00:00 GMT

    This winter season, women have been given free access to the iconic Cresta Run toboggan track in Switzerland for the first time in 90 years. The historic ice track in the ritzy resort of St Moritz in the upper Engadine valley is billed as the most famous and feared toboggan run in the world. It was a male sporting bastion until 2018, when the club decided to let women properly join their ranks. However, Gary Lowe, the current club secretary, says the decision will be reviewed again in two years.  Ladies had been allowed to race on equal terms with men until the 1920s, when it was deemed medically dangerous. In more recent decades, women could compete only on a token end-of-season ladies' day on the lower track.  Deadly The Cresta Run was first built at the end of the 19th century from natural ice. Runners hurtle headfirst down the ice track on a small toboggan called a skeleton, reaching speeds of up to 130 kmph (80 mph). Skeleton racing on the Cresta Run remains one of the ...

  • When Swiss chemists were in their element

    Wed, 6 Mar 2019 12:38:00 GMT

    Gadolinium, holmium and ytterbium. What are they and, for a bonus point, what have they got in common? On the 150th anniversary of the publication of the periodic table, we look at the properties and uses of the table’s three elements that were discovered by Swiss scientists.  On March 6, 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev presented his system of classifying the 63 known chemical elements to the Russian Chemical Society. As you will remember from your school days, the 118 elements today are arranged by atomic number, electron configuration and recurring chemical properties.  However, for around 50 years certain elements were left off the table because they either were not pure enough or couldn’t be identified. Many of these were rare-earth elements (lanthanides), including the three “Swiss” elements.  Jean-Charles Galissard de Marignac, who taught chemistry at the Geneva Academy (since 1873 the University of Geneva), will be remembered for discovering ytterbium (Yb) in 1878 and gadolinium ...

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