Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • Curious about drones? Here are the basics

    Thu, 19 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    It seems like drones are everywhere these days – in the news, in stores, and in the air above us. From technology and uses to risks and regulations, here’s a crash course (no pun intended) on this rapidly advancing technology. Switzerland is at the forefront of drone innovation. Over the last five years, it has given rise to a “Drone Valley” of some 80 start-ups in the sector, many of which have spun off from leading research groups at the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne. The country has also integrated aspects of drone use and safety into its aviation and data privacy laws. “Switzerland plays a leading role in drone technology today,” said Swiss Transport Minister Doris Leuthard at the World Economic Forum Drone Innovator’s Network, held on June 26 in Zurich. “Innovative companies and universities driving the success, along with pragmatic government regulation that takes the needs of research and development into account: This unique mix has ...

  • Dealing with death on a daily basis

    Thu, 19 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    "True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly. Earning a living through death: working as an undertaker certainly wouldn't suit everyone, but Michael is anything but unhappy with his average day at the office. And indeed, there is a lot to do: From supporting the relatives and families to transferring and preparing the deceased and to meeting special wishes of the relatives. SRF/swissinfo.ch)

  • From Serbia to the Swiss Alps: a bear's adventure

    Wed, 11 Jul 2018 09:15:00 GMT

    Serbia’s last circus bear recently left his temporary home for the biggest adventure of his life: a 1,400km trip to Switzerland. Napa the bear will become the first resident of the Arosa Bear conservation centre (Arosa Bärenland) in the eastern canton of Graubünden. In 2016, officials rescued the brown bear from a cage in a circus ground, and took him to the Palic Zoo in Serbia. Curator Kristijan Ovari says he was in a poor state, "His fur and teeth were in bad condition. He kept pacing up and down. He had to learn to trust the keepers". A protein-rich diet allowed him to build up muscle and he was in a good condition when he left the zoo in July. Ovari says the keepers were sad to see him go, "It was hard for us to part with him as we had grown to like him. He is very intelligent, very curious. He’s always the first there to see what’s happening". Moving country His transfer to Switzerland was orchestrated by the Four Paws animal rescue foundation, which is providing five ...

  • Swiss wealth manager looks at London as Brexit looms

    Thu, 19 Jul 2018 07:34:00 GMT

    UBP, the Private bank, is about to buy a UK investment boutique in a sign of how Swiss wealth managers intend to increase their London business ready for Brexit. Some Swiss bankers fear the post-Brexit City could snatch business from Geneva as a centre for offshore financial advice to the world’s ultra-wealthy. UBP, which manages $125bn for clients, is close to finalising a deal to buy ACPI, a specialist wealth manager overseeing $4bn assets, according to two people involved in the negotiations. ACPI is run by Brett Lankester, a former managing director in Goldman Sachs’ UK private wealth management division. It has 70 staff. UBP plans to merge ACPI with its UK business, which is a similar size. Wealth managers are typically valued at 1.5-2 per cent of their assets under management. This is understood to be the size of the ACPI deal. UBP declined to comment. ACPI said the deal had not been finalised. The expansion of UBP in the UK follows similar moves by Swiss banks such as ...

  • Social status plays ‘no role’ in career choice

    Tue, 17 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Swiss vocational training has a good reputation internationally, but fears have been raised that it is losing ground at home. But this only really applies to migrants, a study finds. At the recent International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training in Winterthur, participants praised the Swiss dual VET system, that combines education with an apprenticeship at a host company. Currently at least two thirds of Swiss school leavers go down this route. So why is there talk of a decline in its status? “I think that has a lot to do with developments in the economy, so in part with the trend towards upskilling because the labour market increasingly demands a post-secondary education” said Thomas Bolli from the KOF Swiss Economic Institute, part of the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich. People may have the impression that apprenticeships are not a good enough basis for boosting their skills and education, Bolli said. There has been, for example, much ...

  • Can the City of Peace resolve trade wars?

    Mon, 16 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    In the grand corridors of the World Trade Organisation, there is a new sense of urgency.  As Donald Trump ramps up trade tariffs, WTO headquarters, originally designed by Swiss architect George Epitaux in 1923 to house the new League of Nations International Labour Office, are coping with an unprecedented number of dispute cases.  “It’s fair to say our mettle is being tested,” says the WTO’s Director of Information, Keith Rockwell.  It’s all rather different from 2008, the last time I reported extensively on the World Trade Organisation. Then, trade ministers from around the world had gathered, they hoped, to put the final touches on an ambitious new deal which would lower trade barriers around the world and help developing countries access global markets.  That optimism was short lived: after nine days of fractious meetings, hours and hours of stalled talks followed by late night last minute developments, the deal known as Doha looked dead.  It was partially revived in Bali ...

  • The making of International Geneva

    Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    2019 will mark 100 years since the creation of the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations. With United States President Donald Trump attacking the UN system, it is more timely than ever to rally behind International Geneva, the seat of the League from 1919, write historian Sandrine Kott and Geneva politician Grégoire Carasso.  At the end of the highly destructive First World War, US President Woodrow Wilson recommended the creation of a "general association of nations" to protect world peace. In February 1919, the Treaty of Versailles laid the foundation for the League of Nations, the precursor to the UN, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) (simultaneously created in response to the labour movement). The two new organisations had their first meetings in Geneva in 1920, helping elevate the small Swiss town to an international city. Swiss writer Robert de Traz later mythologized this international status as a natural fulfilment of "the spirit of Geneva", ...

  • New Swiss stock exchange (gingerly) mulls cryptocurrencies

    Sun, 15 Jul 2018 11:26:00 GMT

    A Swiss digital stock exchange, designed to trade tokenised assets from next year, is playing coy on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offering (ICO) tokens that do not qualify as securities. The established financial industry is wary of the new asset class, but SIX Group is not ruling it out. SIX Group, which runs Switzerland’s stock exchanges, announced a week ago that it would launch its digital trading platform by mid-2019. But will the bridge between traditional and digital financial services eventually allow for the conversion of bitcoin to francs?  swissinfo.ch asked SIX Group spokesman Stephan Meier for some more details. swissinfo.ch: Will the SIX Digital Exchange allow the trading of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin? Stephan Meier: With the new service we will provide a safe environment for issuing and trading digital assets, and enable the tokenisation of existing securities and non-bankable assets to make previously untradeable assets tradeable.  Currently we ...

  • American by birth, Swiss by imprint

    Sun, 15 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    A dog sits on a wooden sleigh bed, chewing on a rabbit bone. The bed seems outsized in Claudia Bucher's small cottage. But it’s understandable why she keeps it. It’s one of the few possessions she has from her eccentric Swiss father.  The bed has travelled from Florida swamplands to the lawn of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to its current resting place in an adobe home near Joshua Tree in California.  “It’s a family heirloom,” Claudia says. “For a while this was the guest bed, and we had all these illustrious characters like William Burroughs sleeping on it. And for a while it was my bed and I’d have to give it up so a visiting artist could sleep on it.” An art history professor by day, Claudia’s father François Bucher had a vision of building an artist and writers’ colony in Florida. He started by buying up plots of swampland near Tallahassee.  “I would go out in the pick-up truck with him. The first order of business was putting in some roads. We’d go traipsing through ...

  • Lover, leader, prisoner and carer: The multiple lives of Ma Anand Sheela

    Sun, 15 Jul 2018 10:00:00 GMT

    Once leader of the almost 5,000-strong Rajneesh spiritual commune in Oregon, Sheela Biernstiel now runs homes for the disabled in Switzerland. A flashback to the time swissinfo.ch met her. 

  • Recruiting voters to be part of the campaign

    Sat, 14 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Traditional politics has relied on influencing public opinion largely through the press. The new politics is all about mobilising crowds.  Does this mean the end of political discourse as we know it? Hardly. But campaigning for Switzerland’s next parliamentary elections is going to be different from what we have ever seen before. A press release from Zurich University recently created a stir: “Disappearing media are a threat to democracy,” it was headed. It quoted a political science study which claimed to show that turnout for local votes depends directly on the (dwindling) local media. This claim revealed a significant assumption. Our current understanding of political campaigning is based on the idea that information provided through the press is what citizens need to form their opinion. Claude Longchamp is a senior political expert and one of Switzerland's most experienced and highly-regarded political scientists and analysts. He founded the polling and research institute ...

  • From Serbia to the Swiss Alps: a bear's adventure

    Mon, 9 Jul 2018 08:00:00 GMT

    What you see in this video is the rescue of Serbia’s last circus bear, Napa. The brown bear was kept in a small cage, but is now embarking on an adventure with a very Swiss flavour. Napa was born in a zoo and it's thought that he was sent to the Corona circus in Srbobran when he was young, and made to perform. In 2009, circuses in Serbia were banned from using animals, but it wasn't until 2016 that veterinary inspections were allowed.  Kristijan Ovari, the curator of Serbia's Zoo Palic, says he first spotted Napa at the Corona circus in 2012 and started making plans to free him and bring him to the zoo. He explains, "Many organisations were involved. Thanks to the Four Paws animal protection foundation and the Serbian ministry of the environment, everything went well. There were many problems and complications, but we managed to rescue him and he was taken to Zoo Palic in December 2016." The video shot by Four Paws shows his release from the cage and transfer to the zoo in a bear ...

  • Christoph Blocher: ‘The Swiss have to stay out of the EU’

    Fri, 13 Jul 2018 07:50:00 GMT

    Christoph Blocher’s hilltop home above Lake Zurich is the best known private residence in Switzerland. The modern, cream-coloured mansion, with manicured lawns and a glimmering 21-metre outdoor pool, features in campaign videos for his ultra-conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the most popular political movement in the country. Blocher is shown cutting the grass with scissors and belly-flopping into the pool. The comic clips, viewed more than 1m times on YouTube, attempt to soften the image of a hardline political party that backs tough restrictions on foreigners living in Switzerland and for Swiss independence from the EU. Wearing the same style of straw hat as in the clips, Blocher is in a humorous mood as he greets me on the driveway. A sprightly 77 years old, he apologises for his poor English but proudly notes “an Englishman’s home is his castle” as he surveys his property, built in terraces on the hillside. His cheery politeness and the house’s dreamy setting, with ...

  • Combating the spread of wartime rape

    Thu, 12 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The Swiss non-governmental organisation Trial International, supported by Swiss diplomatic efforts, is campaigning to put an end to rape as a weapon of war, and the impunity which protects the perpetrators. “Today there is not a single conflict in the world where rape is not used. As a weapon of war it is extremely effective, with multiple repercussions which affect the victims, their families and their communities. And it is used all the more because impunity is the rule for the perpetrators of these atrocities.“ This is the summing-up of the situation from Céline Bardet, founder of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) “We are not weapons of war”.  Along with about fifty other activists, Bardet was attending a meeting organised by TRIAL International on June 18 and 19 in Geneva to mark the 15th anniversary of the Swiss NGO. Susannah Sirkin, of the NGO Physicians for Human Rights, takes a similar view: “The first thing needed is prevention. One of the things to do is to put an ...

  • Family separation under US immigration law has a long history

    Thu, 12 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    The US government’s separation of children and parents at the Mexican border has sparked disbelief around the world. But as Alexandra Dufresne explains, the separation of parents and children has been a part of US immigration law for a long time. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that between the fiscal years 2009 and 2013, possibly as many as 500,000 parents of American children were deported. Separations stemming from everyday detention and deportation are more mundane perhaps than those in recent news. But the harm these separations inflict on children is nonetheless significant.  From 2003-2005, I worked as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Detention Attorney at Boston College Law School. My students and I, along with a colleague from a local nonprofit, were responsible for giving “Know Your Rights” presentations to the roughly 1,000 immigrants and refugees detained in four local jails. We also represented as many individuals in Immigration Court as we could, ...

  • "Even deaf people are into music"

    Thu, 12 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    "True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly.  Fabienne is 33 and was born deaf, but that doesn't stop her from loving techno music. Unlike people who can hear the beat, she feels the rhythm through her body. But the similarities between the deaf and those who can hear don't end there. Just as there are different spoken dialects throughout Switzerland, there are also regional dialects in sign language.  On the negative side, she says,"Many people think you must be stupid if you can't talk, which is not the case. It makes people feel uncomfortable talking to a deaf person". She makes an appeal for more openness in society towards those who can't hear.   

  • A new model for Swiss innovation

    Wed, 11 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ On Tuesday, the World Intellectual Property Organization named Switzerland the most innovative country for the eighth year in a row. André Kudelski, president of the newly rebranded Swiss innovation agency Innosuisse, spoke earlier this year with swissinfo.ch about how the country can avoid complacency, and why taking risks is a sure path to success. Traditional Swiss excellence in the areas of trademark filings, scientific publications and education spending, as well as emerging strengths in mobile app creation and green technologies, all helped the alpine nation claim the top spot in WIPO’s 2018 Global Innovation Index of 126 countries. + WIPO crowns Switzerland as world’s most innovative nation The report was published a little over halfway into the inaugural year of Innosuisse, which in January replaced the government’s executive Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). Since 1996, CTI had been responsible for providing consulting services and financing to ...

  • Meet a Neanderthal woman from one of Europe’s oldest cave sites

    Wed, 11 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Some 70,000 years ago, a Neanderthal woman about 40 years old died in a small cave in western Switzerland. Or if she didn’t die there, her body was brought there, - maybe by family, maybe by a cave lion or wolf. We know of her because her upper jaw with teeth still intact was found in the cave. Now you can see the exact spot where the woman was discovered. Since early June, this cave, “La Grotte de Cotencher” – just a short drive and walk from the town of Neuchâtel – has been open to the public for guided tours. The cave is the oldest archeological site in this part of Switzerland showing human habitation. The woman’s jaw was found on a little shelf of earth the size of a dinner plate.  “We call her ‘La Dame de Cotencher”, says archeologist François-Xavier Chauvière, who has been in charge of excavations at the cave since 2016.  But the discovery of La Dame is only one dramatic archeological pinpoint along the 700-century timeline of this small cave. Here, in the layers of earth ...

  • Glencore: an audacious business model in the dock

    Wed, 11 Jul 2018 09:43:00 GMT

    In a sleepy Swiss town 30km from Zurich sits one of the companies that keeps the global economy ticking, supplying the raw materials that touch every facet of modern life from mobile phones to automobiles and petroleum. Since its creation 44 years ago Glencore has become the biggest commodity trader in the world. But with that has come notoriety and this week the attentions of a US Department of Justice investigation into bribery and corruption that some believe will force the Switzerland-based group to change its business model. As well as being a major miner, it is the ultimate middleman, moving millions of tonnes of commodities across the globe, linking the suppliers of raw materials - often in developing countries - with consumers in wealthy and fast-growing ones, earning wafer-thin margins on large volumes along the way. But what sets Glencore apart from its peers is its appetite for risk, at times pushing the limits of what is allowed in the modern global economy.

  • How a behemoth crypto trading platform could impact Switzerland

    Tue, 10 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    swissinfo.ch asks what a new Swiss stock exchange, fusing the worlds of traditional and crypto finance, will mean for the burgeoning home-grown blockchain industry. What is the SIX Digital Exchange? It is a new trading platform to be rolled out in mid-2019 by the SIX Group, which runs the Swiss stock exchange. SIX says the fully regulated exchange will be the “first market infrastructure in the world to offer a fully integrated end to end trading, settlement and custody service for digital assets.” This means the platform will host all elements of trading under one roof, unlike other crypto exchanges that use third parties to execute parts of the chain. It will be run on a distributed ledger system (DLS) with similar properties to blockchain. Financial assets, such as bonds and equities, can be digitised and attached to a digital token to store their value and allow swift transaction between parties. Other stock exchanges are also looking at DLS technology. These include the ...

  • Crypto-finance beyond the ‘boom’

    Tue, 10 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Traditional financial players should not violate the core values of crypto-finance, such as decentralisation and community, as they delve deeper into the new digital world, argues Alexis Roussel, co-founder and CEO of Swiss crypto exchange Bity.com. Crypto-finance is coming out of the woods but governments, banks and industry players in the global financial system need to make sure they understand its core values. The skyrocketing bitcoin price at the end of 2017 got the financial world talking about the credibility of cryptocurrencies in finance.  Even traditional financial exchanges like CBOE, CME Group and Nasdaq, which began listing Bitcoin futures earlier this year, are capitalising on the unprecedented rise of the bitcoin price. But, they’re missing the point of bitcoin.  They criticise bitcoin for being a highly speculative investment, yet futures are essentially for speculation only, unless you are a miner or large consumer of bitcoin. There is more to the hype and ...

  • Ballet teacher gives lessons in dance and fortitude

    Tue, 10 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    From children in diapers to aspiring professional ballerinas and eclectic choreographers, no-one leaves the Basel Dance Academy without a lesson in fortitude. The driving force of the academy, weaving together dancers of all ages to culminate in two annual performances, is Galina Gladkova-Hoffmann. The strong-willed brunette glides across vinyl dancefloors on a wheelchair as she instructs students how to plie, pirouette and polish their pas de deux. She guides with them with a combination of voice and hand gestures. Gladkova herself was a professional ballerina at the Basler Ballett before a horse riding accident paralysed her from the neck down and forced her to rebuild her life from scratch. swissinfo.ch meets her after a few hectic weeks preparing students to perform on stage at Theatre La Coupole in nearby Saint-Louis, France: a two-night performance in June that came off without a hitch, leaving proud parents and children full of a sense of accomplishment. Gladkova ...

  • Choose judges by lot? How fair is that?

    Mon, 9 Jul 2018 16:36:00 GMT

    A Swiss people’s initiative has called for federal judges to be drawn by lot. Historian and legal scholar Lorenz Langer explains how Switzerland came to have its internationally controversial system of selecting judges. On the day that US President Donald Trump is set to announce his nominee for a lifetime position on the US Supreme Court, Langer also discusses the consequences of giving too much power to one person. swissinfo.ch: Why did Switzerland begin to take political parties into account in appointing judges, even though there is no legal requirement for this? Lorenz Langer: The fundamental question is how far the justice system requires democratic legitimisation, or whether applying the rule of law is a purely technocratic task that should be fully isolated from politics. In Switzerland, the conclusion reached was that there are certain connections to politics, and that perhaps there have to be. swissinfo.ch: So it was deemed desirable to have judges who represent a ...

  • Why the Swiss dump their rubbish in France

    Mon, 9 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    French border towns are reacting after a slew of incidents of Swiss residents being caught dumping rubbish across the border in France. "When they come to shop at our supermarkets at the weekends, the Swiss bring their garbage and leave empty-handed," an outraged Bernard Mamet, mayor of Rousses, recently told francetvinfo.fr.  In 2017, customs for the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté on the northwestern Swiss border, intercepted nearly 10 tons of waste from Switzerland. In one year, around 140 Swiss were caught transporting or illegally dumping waste on the French side of the border – 20 more incidents than in 2016. That doesn’t include others who were not caught or identified.  + Find out what it costs to keep Swiss streets so clean Those apprehended leave with a fine of 150 euros and their illegal cargo in tow. "Of course, they have to return to Switzerland with their rubbish. Some protest and think paying a fine still gives them the right to leave their waste in France,” a ...

  • Young Swiss gearing up for Arctic mission

    Sun, 8 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    When your own carbon footprint is large, how do you convince others to change their ways to help reduce global warming?  This month, the Swiss Arctic Project will take five Swiss students on a three-week mission aboard a ship exploring the area around Svalbard, Norway. Advertised as the “coolest summer job” in the world, their main task will be to document signs of climate change in the region, and to share their impressions via social media.  But an inconvenient truth about the project is the long journey to get there. As one applicant calculated, the team’s flight from Zurich to Spitzbergen and back will generate 11.7 tonnes of CO2. Availing of train and bus service to Tromsö, and flying from there to Spitzbergen, would bring the CO2 down to 4.84 tonnes.  Not including plane or boat travel, the average Swiss generates about ten tonnes of CO2 per year, according to the Federal Office for the Environment. A round-trip economy flight from Zurich to New York releases 2.3 tonnes of ...

  • Switzerland’s oldest man – and Roger Federer

    Sat, 7 Jul 2018 15:00:00 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 the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 300,000,000 The amount, in francs, that the Swiss Federal Railways is planning to spend revamping its intercity IC2000 fleet. The first completely renovated trains will be put back into operation in early 2019.  Tuesday 115 The age of Jafar Behbahanian, who was born in Persia in 1902 and died in Basel on July 3. He was Switzerland’s oldest man.  Wednesday 3,000 The number of Swiss patients treated with medical cannabis last year. The government has recommended the approval of the sale of cannabis for medical purposes.  Thursday 300,000,000 Same figure as Monday, but this time it’s the reported value in dollars of a new ten-year sponsorship deal between Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo and Swiss tennis star Roger Federer. However, NGOs aren’t happy about the ...

  • The group that helps shape Swiss foreign policy

    Sat, 7 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    At a time of global upheaval 50 years ago, a group of politicians and leading members of civil society came together to form an association to help shape Swiss foreign policy.  Today, the Swiss Association for Foreign Affairs brings together people from across the political spectrum and non-profit organisations to promote interest in Switzerland's international relations.  When it was founded in 1968, global events such as student-led riots across Europe, the Prague Spring and assassination of Martin Luther King convinced the founders of the society that they had to become more active in foreign policy. The group's new president, Christa Markwalder, has told swissinfo.ch that the "autocratic tendencies" appearing throughout the world make the society's work more urgent than ever before. 

  • Nestlé: Betting on big brands

    Sat, 7 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Mark Schneider pours a can of cold brew Nitro Nescafé coffee in the company’s head office overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland. He points out the distinctive cream “head” on the dark liquid. “You see that foam building up!” he exclaims. Testing new products is the fun part of heading the world’s largest food and drinks company. More difficult for Nestlé’s 52-year old German chief executive is rebuilding sales growth and profits in an industry roiled by rapid changes in consumer tastes, increasingly severe cost competition and a plethora of mergers and acquisitions. With annual revenues last year of SFr90bn ($91bn), Nestlé is larger than Japan’s Sony and just smaller than Russian energy producer Gazprom. Its best-known brands include KitKat chocolate bars, Perrier bottled water and Purina pet food. But size per se is looking less attractive. Nestlé’s sales growth has slowed substantially , smaller rivals and start-ups have taken market share and the company’s shares have fallen ...

  • Why the Swiss still speak in dialects

    Fri, 6 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    In German-speaking Switzerland, people who cannot speak dialect end up feeling left out of things. In French-speaking regions, however, speakers of patois are hard to find. Use of dialect differs in the different language regions of the country. The reasons are surprising. Phone conversation: "Kantoonspolizäi, Grüezi" (Cantonal police, morning) "Süddeutsche Zeitung aus München, Grüzi" (This is the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, morning) "Grüss Gott" (Hello) This dialogue, with its abrupt switch from Swiss dialect to High German (and for which there's no real English equivalent), took place on an emergency response line. The calls were recorded for research purposes and studied by a team at the University of Fribourg led by Helen Christen. According to Christen, the brief dialogue shows how German-speaking Swiss – even policemen – habitually begin any conversation with a stranger in dialect, and then, if they pick up cues that the person is not a dialect speaker, they switch ...

  • Swiss elected to lead Council of Europe body in tough times

    Thu, 5 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Rocked by a corruption scandal which saw members accused of accepting bribes in exchange for votes and hampered by financial difficulties, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has elected Swiss Liliane Maury Pasquier as president to steer it through its current difficulties. The so-called “caviargate” scandal revealed a “strong suspicion” that Azerbaijan had attempted to bribe parliamentarians with gifts or cash to change their votes on a 2013 report denouncing that country’s treatment of political prisoners. Despite the results of this investigation and other measures taken by its members to insulate itself from corruption, Pasquier says the PACE has yet to recover the full confidence of the people in the wake of the scandal. Switzerland joined the 47-member state PACE in 1963. Rules of the Assembly stipulate that only parliamentarians duly elected in their home countries can be elected to the body. Pasquier is the fourth female to preside over the assembly ...

  • 'No, you can't touch my hair'

    Thu, 5 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    "True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly.  This week, Les talks about being a black African in Switzerland. "The same people who thought I was so cute as a child clutched their bags tighter when they saw me going out aged 18 or 19." He admits to being macho, "We have to put on a tough face because we're in the minority." Asked about the notion that black people have bigger penises, he replied: "I don't know. I've only seen my own and I'm happy with that".  (SRF/swissinfo.ch)

  • Swiss doctors pledge to resist economic pressures

    Wed, 4 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    In Switzerland, the Hippocratic oath, stating the obligations and proper conduct of doctors, has been given a make-over.  40 doctors at the cantonal hospital of Fribourg recently gathered to take a new oath, the aim of which is to counter the trend towards making medicine too money-focused. They have pledged to withstand economic pressure to operate when it's not absolutely necessary.  "The Swiss Oath" was drawn up by the umbrella group for Swiss surgeons. The Swiss Medical Association is expected to introduce it at other hospitals around the county.  The Hippocratic Oath is one of the oldest and most widely known codes of ethics. The original text is attributed to Hippocrates, a Greek physician commonly credited with beginning the practice of medicine as a rational science. Its most basic principle was that a doctor must always cure patients, but never harm them. It also discussed respecting teachers, passing medical knowledge to new generations and keeping patients’ secrets.

  • Switzerland are out of the World Cup: who to support now?

    Wed, 4 Jul 2018 12:17:00 GMT

    Switzerland are out of the World Cup - though not for lack of support, as we saw from the pictures and messages you sent us from around the globe. You showed us how you supported the Swiss team, wherever you are. From large-screen cinemas, to Swiss flags, cuddly bears and of course, the team t-shirt, Switzerland was cheered on from far outside Swiss borders. Tuesday's 1-0 loss to Sweden in the knockout round was a disappointment for Switzerland's many supporters, some of whom thought the squad deserved to go further.  No matter the end result, some Swiss abroad still think the Swiss players gave their best. It was a big disappointment for others, who questioned the team's performance.  For Switzerland's large foreign population, or Swiss with roots in different countries however, the World Cup dream lives on. How are you supporting your country from at home in Switzerland? Send us your pictures via Facebook or Twitter!

  • Tour the Swiss flat made from recyclable, compostable...and edible materials

    Wed, 4 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ This modern flat doubles as a research project aimed at finding new materials and technologies to help reduce the resources needed for construction. What’s special about this design is its life cycle concept: after a few years, the flat will be completely dismantled and all materials used elsewhere. The NEST (Next Evolution in Sustainable Building Technologies) building in Dübendorf, near Zurich, is probably the craziest building in Switzerland. The Federal Institute for Material Science and Technology (Empa) has a few offices and several research projects under its roof. Before entering the modernly furnished flat or ‘unit’, we have to put felt slippers over our shoes. The first thing we notice is the pleasant smell of oil-treated wood. The apartment on the third floor is referred to as "UMAR" which stands for "Urban Mining and Recycling". This month, two students are due to move into this modern flat. “This is a real environment. This is not an exhibition piece or ...

  • Raiffeisen report raises questions for Europe’s co-operatives

    Wed, 4 Jul 2018 10:09:00 GMT

    In his 16 years as chief executive of Switzerland’s Raiffeisen group, Pierin Vincenz aggressively expanded the country’s third-largest bank by assets.  A network of local co-operative banks, Raiffeisen is the biggest mortgage lender in the affluent Alpine state, where house prices scaled dizzy heights as its central bank drove interest rates deep into negative territory to battle a strong franc. But Mr Vincenz’s reign has attracted the attention of Swiss authorities for a different reason. A scathing report recently by the Finma financial supervisor into Mr Vincenz’s business dealings found serious corporate governance failings by Raiffeisen’s board, which allowed him “at least potentially, to generate personal financial gain at the bank’s expense”. Mr Vincenz, who left the bank in autumn 2015, is under investigation for mismanagement by public prosecutors in Zurich, and has spent 15 weeks held in jail. Mr Vincenz denies allegations he abused his position as chief executive.

  • Rouhani: Iran will respect nuclear deal as long as interests preserved

    Tue, 3 Jul 2018 11:30:00 GMT

    Iran will continue to respect its nuclear agreement with world powers as long as its interests are preserved and it believes it can benefit from the resulting advantages, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday during an official visit to Switzerland.  However, Rouhani appeared to threaten to disrupt oil shipments from neighbouring countries if Washington pressed ahead with its goal of forcing all countries to stop buying Iranian oil.  “The Americans have claimed they want to completely stop Iran’s oil exports. They don’t understand the meaning of this statement, because it has no meaning for Iranian oil not to be exported, while the region’s oil is exported," Iran’s presidential website, president.ir, quoted him as saying.  When asked at a news conference in Bern whether those comments constituted a threat to interfere with the shipping of neighbouring countries, Rouhani said: “Assuming that Iran could become the only oil producer unable to export its oil is a wrong assumption .

  • Painting and decorating: not just a man’s job

    Tue, 3 Jul 2018 15:00:00 GMT

    Painting and decorating used to be considered a man’s job. But in some cantons, there are now more women finishing apprenticeships in the profession than men. In central Switzerland, for example, women make up 62% of apprenticeship graduates in painting and decorating. They are not just working as house painters; some also have jobs on building sites. Those in the field say that one reason for the rise is that young women get better school results and decide independently that painting is their dream job. Young men might however see it as a fall-back when other apprenticeship options don’t work out. Women are increasingly making inroads into traditional “male jobs” in Switzerland, but professional stereotypes for both genders remain hard to eradicate. In fact, overall in Switzerland, men still remain in the majority in painting and decorating. But experts warn that increased numbers of women coming into sector means that it will have to become more family-friendly in the ...

  • Nike aced as Federer dons new wardrobe from Uniqlo

    Tue, 3 Jul 2018 12:54:00 GMT

    In the cutthroat world of celebrity athlete endorsement, Nike has just been served the equivalent of an ace by Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo. Nike was among the biggest decliners in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday as it surrendered some of last week’s strong share price gains and as investors digested news that Swiss tennis superstar Roger Federer has ended his longstanding relationship with it in favour of an apparel deal with Uniqlo reportedly worth more than $300 million (CHF298 million). Plenty of air had been pumped into Nike’s share price, which leapt 11.1% on Friday to a record high after the Oregon-based group revealed sales in North America turned positive in its fiscal fourth quarter for the first time in a year and lifted its revenue growth guidance for 2019. Federer had been a longtime Nike athlete, wearing the company’s shoes and clothing for more than two decades and through all of his record 20 grand slam singles titles. But, as defending ...

  • Pressure builds on banks to offer Swiss crypto start-ups accounts

    Tue, 3 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Switzerland’s drive to become a “Crypto Nation” has hit a road block: Swiss banks are unwilling to offer accounts to many blockchain start-ups. Following a personal intervention by Swiss finance minister, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) is now addressing the impasse. The bottleneck has become acute thanks to the extraordinary rise of cryptocurrencies and the initial coin offering (ICO) crowdfunding craze that attracted $1.46 billion (CHF1.45 billion) to Switzerland last year. Companies seeking ICO funds typically issue tokens in exchange for cryptocurrencies, which they use as start-up capital. The ‘wild west’ ICO market has been peppered with high profile cases of fraud, scams and Ponzi schemes – one reason that practically all Swiss banks steer clear of this business. Having been stung by a calamitous tax evasion fight with the United States, Swiss banks are also now alarmed by what they see as money laundering risks associated with bitcoin and other digital tokens that ...

  • Nestlé: Betting on big brands

    Sat, 7 Jul 2018 09:00:00 GMT

    Mark Schneider pours a can of cold brew Nitro Nescafé coffee in the company’s head office overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland. He points out the distinctive cream “head” on the dark liquid. “You see that foam building up!” he exclaims. Testing new products is the fun part of heading the world’s largest food and drinks company. More difficult for Nestlé’s 52-year old German chief executive is rebuilding sales growth and profits in an industry roiled by rapid changes in consumer tastes, increasingly severe cost competition and a plethora of mergers and acquisitions. With annual revenues last year of SFr90bn ($91bn), Nestlé is larger than Japan’s Sony and just smaller than Russian energy producer Gazprom. Its best-known brands include KitKat chocolate bars, Perrier bottled water and Purina pet food. But size per se is looking less attractive. Nestlé’s sales growth has slowed substantially , smaller rivals and start-ups have taken market share and the company’s shares have fallen ...

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