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Why our cities aren’t as smart as they could be

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:00
We read about tech advances in energy all the time. But are low-consumption, high-efficiency ‘green’ technologies enough to create the kind of sustainable cities we’d like to live in? Passengers on bus line 23 of Geneva’s public transport operator TPG, which runs between the airport and municipality of Carouge, might not immediately notice anything out of the ordinary. Sure, the buses are remarkably clean, and so quiet all you can hear is the sound of tires on pavement. And, OK, a USB port built into one of the support bars (with the polite invitation to “charge your mobile device!”) is a bit unusual for a city bus. But what makes bus 23 truly unique happens so fast, you’ll miss it if you blink: every few stops, a mechanical arm extends from the roof of the vehicle – which is free of overhead lines – and hooks itself into an unassuming overhanging battery charging port, which could easily be mistaken for a street lamp. In the time it takes for passengers to step off and on the ...
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Why men can’t be rape victims in Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:00
Swiss criminal law defines rape as assault during vaginal sexual intercourse with a woman, legally exempting men from the status of victims. A proposal wants a legal reform, forcing parliament to use explicit language. “Coercing a person of the female gender to endure sexual intercourse” is the Swiss definition for the crime of rape. If a man is raped anally or a woman is penetrated with an object, this is only considered a so called “sexual assault”. In both cases, courts can hand down maximum prison sentences of up to ten years against the offender, but a minimum sentence of 12 months is only applicable in the case of rape. As for sexual assault, offenders may only face a monetary fine because it includes a series of other forms of sexual assault considered less serious. Oral sex It is a particularity of Swiss law to distinguish between anal rape of a man and vaginal rape of a woman, legally speaking. Most other countries know much broader – and gender-neutral – definitions.
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Linking corporate taxation and pensions: a risky compromise

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 10:47
The Swiss Parliament has decided to link corporate tax reform (Tax Project 17) to the financing of old-age insurance. This is an unprecedented political manoeuvre that may not go down well with ordinary citizens.  The debate is closed: Parliament has completed its examination of Tax Project 17 and approved its link with the financing of the old age pensions. We look at what the fuss is all about.  What is Tax Project 17? Corporate tax reform is one of the most important issues facing the legislature today. Tax Project 17 (TP 17) is a new version of the third corporate tax reform, that was rejected by nearly 60% of voters in a referendum held on February 12, 2017. The objective of TP 17 remains the same: to comply with international requirements by eliminating special tax rebates for foreign companies, while retaining Switzerland's attractiveness as a low tax destination for all companies. FP 17 is therefore a second attempt at passing the failed tax reform measures by making ...
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Credit Suisse/Finma: the usual suspects

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 08:52
Who could ever have suspected it? Weak money-laundering defences at a Swiss bank, of all places. And in relation to Fifa and Petrobras, those beacons of moral probity. Thank heavens regulator Finma has shown how seriously Switzerland regards lapses at Credit Suisse. It has issued a press release. Enough sarcasm. European banking has a lucrative history of controls lax enough for money laundering and tax evasion to flourish. Tighter public morality is making this expensive for shareholders and bosses, as scandals at Danske and ING illustrate. Further trouble may be brewing. Finma has been probing several banks in relation to suspected corruption at Fifa, which runs world football, and to Petrobras of Brazil and Venezuela’s PDVSA. The regulator cannot levy fines. It can only demand reforms. It may be able to time announcements for best effect, however. If that applies here, Finma’s action against Credit Suisse may be the drum roll rather than the execution. Worse revelations ...
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Pupils must remain in education until 18 in Geneva

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 07:42
Young people in Geneva now have to stay in education until they turn 18, which will see those with no post-school plans going back to school or starting an apprenticeship. The aim is to ensure that young people are not marginalised and are given an extra chance to finish their education, said Anne Emery-Torracinta, head of the Public Education department in canton Geneva. The initiative, which is unique in Switzerland, is pioneering in the fight against young people dropping out of school with no qualifications. Until now Geneva pupils could leave school at age 15. Every year 1,000 young people, of which 550 are under 18, break off their studies. They subsequently find themselves hovering close to the margins of society. Even if they have the support of their parents or can count on a series of casual jobs, they are four times more likely to find themselves long-term unemployed than their more qualified peers, experts say. Bottom of class Canton Geneva’s problem is a ...
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Nestlé: battle for the millennial coffee drinker

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 17:00
A reader asked us what Nestlé’s purchase of a majority stake in Blue Bottle Coffee in 2017 means for the California company’s local employees. After a busy month for coffee drinkers with Coca-Cola’s purchase of Costa Coffee, Starbucks’ first store in Italy, and comments by a Nestlé executive about the potential for Blue Bottle to work in Europe, the future of the local, independent coffee shop is more uncertain than ever. The quaint, local coffee shop has been a fierce battleground of globalization for decades. The disappearance of the beloved independent coffee shop pushed out by big coffee chains became a symbol of what was wrong with capitalism and free markets. Today there is a new sort of coffee battle underway. Instead of pushing out local coffee shops, the behemoths are discreetly swallowing up smaller brands that have won fans among young, hip coffee drinkers in local urban markets. Case in point is Nestlé, which in 2017 bought Blue Bottle Coffee – a coffee roaster and ...
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Extravagant photographs shown in lakeside town of Vevey

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 12:09
Every two years Vevey becomes a town of photographs. For three weeks, monumental pictures are shown at the festival, "Images Vevey", Switzerland's largest open-air exhibition of its kind. Sixty-one projects, and 58 artists from 19 countries are presenting their works on the theme: "Extravaganza. Out of the ordinary".  The oversized photographs are wallpapered on houses and placed in parks, projected onto facades and streets or afloat in the lake. "Extravagance" comes to the fore as a huge whale floating above the rooftops of Paris, captured by Daido Moriyama, or the traffic policeman who performs a handstand at a crossroads and is observed by a colleague. Vevey's townscape is the perfect canvas for these larger-than-life images. The Festival runs until September 30.
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Swiss animation scene needs polish

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 11:00
The success of My Life as a Courgette, nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars last year, raised the profile of animation in Switzerland, but there are still many hurdles to getting funding and distribution deals. At the recent Fantoche animation film festival in Baden, swissinfo.ch spoke to animators and producers about the evolution of the art form and the challenges it faces in a small alpine country, with limited funding and language barriers to overcome.  “Animation is wonderful. It can fly, it can do anything. That’s why it’s a bit difficult to apply the rules of traditional storytelling when deciding whether to fund it: other factors must also be taken into account.” Gabriela Bloch Steinmann, SRF  Film funding If you want to make a film in Switzerland, you will spend months, if not years trying to organise financing. Nevertheless, more and more films are being made and funding has increased correspondingly.  Two of the major contributors to film funding ...
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Tezos blockchain platform finally goes live

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 09/17/2018 - 08:14
The blockchain project Tezos has put its past problems behind it by launching the platform fully live on Monday. Tezos raised $232 million from the public in July 2017, but corporate governance disputes delayed the completion of the project until now. In function, Tezos has broad similarities to smartphone operating systems that allow third parties to plug in their services via apps. The main difference is that Tezos has a decentralised structure, which means it is owned, operated and developed by its entire community of users rather than by a single company or entity. The platform has been operating in a controlled live phase since the end of June. In that time, users had been able to mint, or ‘bake’, the digital Tezos tokens needed to run the system in the knowledge that the platform could have been shut down in the event of technical problems. Collective effort Having passed that test, Tezos is now fully operational without such a kill switch or other forms of centralised ...
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The Swiss woman who made a splash in Boston

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 17:00
Swiss architect Renata von Tscharner has spent the past two decades championing the cause of the Charles River in Massachusetts. In 2000, she founded the Charles River Conservancy (CRC), a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the urban parklands along the waterfront. Having grown up swimming in the River Rhine in Basel, Renata wants to get people swimming in the once badly-polluted Charles. The CRC is developing plans for a swim park that would give Bostonians the chance to enjoy the river that inspired the song “Dirty Water” by The Standells. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.
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Army wish list reveals splits in parliament

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 15:00
The Swiss army wants to invest CHF2 billion ($2 billion) this year, including on high-performance bullet-proof vests for every soldier. It also plans to sell off around half of its fleet of F-5 Tiger fighter jets.  The total budget of CHF2.053 billion, approved on Thursday by the House of Representatives but still to return to the Senate, would be spent on modernising certain systems of the air force, supplementing soldiers’ equipment and development training infrastructure.  This figure is similar to previous years and would be allocated as follows:  The politicians also gave their backing to the most controversial item on the army’s shopping list: new combat gear for every soldier, costing CHF3,000 per person, including a high-performance bullet-proof vest. This will cost the army a total of CHF377 million – something that has divided politicians, with some questioning whether every single soldier needs such a vest. The plan is to introduce the equipment in 2022 and use it ...
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Animated films, smart cities and Switzerland's first diplomat

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of September 17: Monday Animated films have experienced a surge in profile since the success of My Life as a Courgette, but Swiss filmmakers still face an uphill struggle to secure financing and distribution deals, as producers at the recent Fantoche animation film festival in Baden told swissinfo.ch. As part of our Eyes on the Multinationals series, we answer a reader's question about the consequences of Nestlé's takeover of Blue Bottle and examine whether the local roaster and coffee chain has "lost its soul" as critics feared. Tuesday Our science reporter travels to Geneva for a ride on the city's e-bus, part of "the first 100% electric large-capacity bus system", and talks to experts about what else Switzerland can do to create smart, highly efficient and sustainable cities. ​​​​​​​ Wednesday We go back 370 years in history, to the peace conference that followed the Thirty Years' ...
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‘Everything is a little bit more relaxed’

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 11:00
Florian Lüthi only became an expatriate this year after moving to the Netherlands, where he hopes to gain new experience working as a nurse. Aged 30, he is still getting used to Dutch directness.   swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland?  Florian Lüthi: I left Switzerland at the beginning of April 2018. I wanted to gain new experience in my job as a nurse, and do my master’s degree abroad. I decided to take this step for those reasons and because my mother has relatives in the Netherlands. The points of view stated in this article, especially about the host country and its politics, are the interviewee’s points of view and are not necessarily in line with swissinfo.ch’s position. swissinfo.ch: Was it a one-way journey, or do you intend to return to Switzerland one day?  F.L.: So far it is a one-way journey. It was first and foremost a question of gaining experience. But I didn’t know if what I was hoping for would work, or if I would perhaps find something else.
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Marching cows to Lehman losses

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 17:00
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 Switzerland has launched a new platform to help reduce the number of non-assisted suicides. It is part of a long-running government strategy to bring down the number of suicides by 25% by 2030 – in other words, to prevent about 300 suicides per year.   Tuesday 270,000 Every year, more than a quarter of a million cows march up to the top of mountains in Switzerland and then march down again. The migration starts in early summer as they are taken to alpine pastures and ends in early autumn when they return to the valleys. Tuesday  115 Between 2014-2017, Switzerland began 115 anti-corruption investigations against corporations and individuals conducting trade abroad, according to Transparency International. The NGO says that makes Switzerland an active ...
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The Art Basel for classic car fans

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 11:00
The Swiss city of Basel recently hosted a four-day classic car show featuring over 100 exclusive automobiles from “past, present and future”. swissinfo.ch’s Thomas Kern visited the first inaugural luxury and classic car trade show, Grand Basel.  I wonder whether they managed to meet their 12,000-visitor target and budget? In any case, the organisers seem happy. Before the show, the press material was a masterclass in understatement: “a building full of expectations!”, “masterpieces, significant cars, that’s what it’s all about”, or simply “cars are art.”  However, on the day I visited, Hall 1 was slow to fill up. Collectors and VIPs had gone the previous two days. Today was the first one for the public and I was in good company. Most people had come to ogle and take snaps with their smartphones. There were only a few women, mostly accompanied by men.  When admiring so many beautiful luxurious cars, you often feel like you are in church – you can just hear the hushed ...
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Opponents of e-voting suffer setback in parliament

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 08:00
Parliament has thrown out attempts to stall the permanent introduction of electronic voting – a decision welcomed by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). Two proposals by representatives of right and leftwing parties cited data security concerns, including cyberattacks, and were aimed at effectively blocking plans by the government to conclude more than 15 years of trials and enshrine e-voting in law as a third option - besides going to the polls and the postal vote. The House of Representatives earlier this week rejected the proposals by parliamentarians of the Swiss People’s Party and the Greens, thereby refusing to draft a bill for discussion. However, plans are afoot to launch a people’s initiative in the near future, further threatening the hopes of the OSA, which represents the interests of the more than 750,000 Swiss living around the world. The government is due to present details of a draft bill in the next few months and parliament could discuss the plans by 2020.
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The Swiss apprentice: biggest event of its kind shows off "Swiss Skills"

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 15:00
Visitors to the Swiss capital, Bern, have been finding out for themselves what it’s like to work as an apprentice.  The different jobs at "Swiss Skills" – with 135 categories represented - are shown in authentic work environments, giving people an insight into these different professions and career opportunities.  A main attraction: the championships, in which around 900 apprentices across 75 categories compete against each other to be the best in their field. It's only the second time that the championships, which are normally held separately by profession, are being carried out in one place. The last time was in 2014. Swiss Skills, which ends on Saturday, is expecting 50,000 visitors, the majority of which will be school children. Organisers say this year’s event is the biggest of its kind worldwide in terms of the number of professions represented. WorldSkills 2017, in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates – where the Swiss had a record gold medal haul in the international ...
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Lehman Brothers: the bankruptcy of a bank and that of a system

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:54
On September 15 2008, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was the start of a lengthy and complex process encompassing about $1.2 trillion worth of creditor claims.  When flight LB2008 crashed, after suddenly disappearing from the radar assigned to so-called systemic banks, it was apparently a case of thunder on a sunny day, an unpredictable catastrophe.  However, some elements of the black box, despite their complexity, allow us to better comprehend the reasons for this disaster and to highlight the untruths that had allowed this bank’s catastrophic situation to be camouflaged well before its disappearance. In this respect, Lehman Brothers’ last annual report offers an abundance of indications. It is complacent with frequent self-praise. Terms such as "record performance", "terrific results", "talent management efforts", “excellence” and “focus on risk management” follow one after another. In 2007, the bank boasted about being “number one” in ...
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Even the world’s best democracy isn’t perfect

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:00
Switzerland’s system of direct democracy is admired by many, and it is often held up as a model for others. But even a country which to a certain extent invented citizen’s rights doesn’t get it right the whole time.  Switzerland has been called a gold standard for direct democracy. But did you know, for example, that…  …the government and parliament sometimes blatantly disregard the wishes of the people?  One example is the current discussion about Daylight Saving Time, that is putting the clocks forward an hour for summer and back for winter. European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker wants the practice to end, which could call time on the issue in Switzerland as well. Parliament approved the law on Daylight Saving Time in 1977. A group of farmers successfully challenged it and won a subsequent nationwide vote in 1978.  But the people’s vote was never implemented because the government and parliament introduced a new bill on the issue in 1980 – and this time nobody ...
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Understatement as statement in photography

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 08:10
A group exhibition in the Photobastei in Zurich is dedicated to young photographers. Thematically, it deals with the limits of human perception; Nigerian refugees, Dominican men, Swiss legends, and Tuscan quarries. Simon von Gunten won the vfg prize for young photographers with his work "Cutis". His series of portraits seem to be made for Instagram: People immersed in blue-violet fluorescent light - imperceptible to the human eye - but recorded by digital cameras. It's less about showmanship than about making life stories visible.  Connecting the different photographic impressions is a certain understatement. This young generation of photographers has something to say, and therefore something to show. But they are not showing off.  The exhibition runs until October 7, before moving to the Galerie l'Elac in Lausanne in the first half of November, and then Basel at Oslo 8 in late November through early December and Stuttgart, Germany next March. 
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