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Weeding out smokers of illegal cannabis

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 03/13/2018 - 11:35
A new test makes it possible for Swiss police officers to find out whether someone is smoking an illegal substance. The test is reliable and cheap to carry out, and quickly allows the police to see if someone is in possession of legal, industrial hemp or a banned type of cannabis. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)  Legal cannabis has become a flourishing business in Switzerland, which changed its laws in 2011 to let adults buy and use cannabis with up to 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient that gets smokers high. It is used alongside another active ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD), in a growing range of cannabis-related products, from cosmetics to drinks.  Under a 2013 law, like a simple traffic offence, anyone over 18 caught in possession of up to ten grams of illegal cannabis will receive a CHF100 ($105) fine and the offence will not show up on their criminal record.  In 2008, Swiss voters rejected an initiative to decriminalise cannabis. At the same time they approved a new ...
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Swiss drive demand for big and powerful cars

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:37
In Switzerland large, powerful vehicles make up almost half the fleet. But thanks to technological progress, the environmental impact of this trend is lighter than expected.  The trend for big cars continues this year at the Geneva Motor Show, as well as on Swiss roads. American-style pick-up trucks are no longer as rare a sight as before. However, it is the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) that has found fertile ground in the Alpine nation. According to the Federal Roads Office, SUVs now account for almost half of all private vehicles, compared with the average European share of around one third.   In terms of engines, “with a car fleet 25% more powerful than the European average, Switzerland is fond of horsepower”, François Launaz, president of auto-suisse, the umbrella organisation for car importers, told Swiss public television, RTS.  But this trend towards larger and more powerful vehicles has not necessarily had catastrophic effects in terms of the environment, because under ...
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Swiss multinationals step up US lobbying

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 12:00
Swiss multinational corporations in the United States have ramped up efforts to influence American policy making, spending nearly CHF22 million ($23.3 million) on lobbying last year.  From tax reform to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Swiss multinationals – especially those in the pharmaceutical and financial sectors – have left nothing to chance.  While it is not unusual for multinationals, via their US-based subsidiaries, to engage in lobbying, the amounts of money spent by Swiss firms on lobbying in 2017 rose markedly compared with previous years, according to data from US transparency organisation Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).  Spending by pharmaceutical manufacturer Novartis on lobbying rose from CHF6.4 million in 2016 to CHF8.11 million in 2017. On a smaller but equally ambitious scale, industrial digital technology company ABB Group doubled its spending on lobbying to CHF500,000.  According to the CRP, the lobbying spend of these ...
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Centre-left parties dominate Switzerland’s biggest cities

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 03/11/2018 - 18:00
Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, St Gallen: Switzerland’s largest cities are dominated by parties on the political left. Meanwhile, most small towns in peripheral regions are governed by parties on the right, with the left slowly gaining ground in some locations. Why is that?  Elections to the Zurich city council and the local parliament at the beginning of March saw the political left boosting its power at the expense of centrist and rightwing parties. In Switzerland’s biggest city, the leftwing Green Party secured a clear majority (six seats) in the nine-member executive and won a majority in the parliament.  An electoral alliance of centre-right parties clearly failed to break the centre-left’s 28-year grip on the city government.  Since the 1990s, the leftwing Social Democratic Party has grown into the strongest political force in Switzerland’s big towns and cities. In recent years, this shift to the left has been witnessed in smaller towns, such as Aarau, Olten, Baden ...
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Lobbying in the US, human rights and Brexit

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 03/11/2018 - 13:00
Here are the stories we’ll be following the week of March 12, 2018: Monday Swiss multinational corporations in the United States have ramped up efforts to influence American policy making, spending more than CHF20 million ($21 million) on lobbying activities last year. We’ll look into where that money goes, exactly. Tuesday As the UN Human Rights Council hears a chilling new report on South Sudan, we look at how the four-year civil war has affected the population and how Swiss NGOs are trying to help. Wednesday Philippe Bischof, the new director of Swiss cultural foundation Pro Helvetia, tells us about the significance of cultural exchanges abroad. He says art offers a chance for dialogue, and he explains how Pro Helvetia helps support culture in countries where art is under political pressure. Thursday Switzerland – which isn’t a part of the European Union – has been watching with interest ever since the people of Britain decided to drop out of ...
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Robert Woodrich: ‘Switzerland still appears a political oasis of sorts’

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 03/11/2018 - 12:00
Born and raised in Canada, 32-year-old Robert Woodrich now lives in Thailand, where he runs a business. But because of his Swiss ancestry, he sees Switzerland as a third “home away from home”. swissinfo.ch: Your name doesn’t sound Swiss. What’s your connection to Switzerland, and when did you start to identify with your Swissness?  Robert Woodrich: I was born abroad, in Windsor, Canada – due south of the US city of Detroit. My Swiss citizenship passed to me from my ‘Oma’ [grandmother] on my mother’s side, who hailed from Zurich and Schwyz during a time when women could not yet vote. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. I learned about my nationality at a young age; my parents used to joke about being able to send me to Switzerland should conflict erupt during the Cold War. I really began to feel a strong connection to the country during my youth, when I visited sites such as the original ...
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Expats between bank accounts and welfare benefits

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 03/10/2018 - 22:04
The Council of the Swiss Abroad has called on parliament to reject a proposal linking welfare benefits to residence status in Switzerland or contributions to the country’s social security system. In a resolution, adopted unanimously on Saturday, the assembly criticised the proposals of a committee of the House of Representatives as a breach of legal equality set down in the constitution. “The proposals are tantamount to a blatant discrimination of all those Swiss citizens who live abroad [notably in countries outside the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)] for whatever reason,” the resolution says. It also contradicts the international mobility of citizens, according to the resolution. In the same vein, council member François Baur, a representative of the Swiss Business Federation, said the proposals of the parliamentary committee were not at all in the interest of the Swiss economy, notably the export-oriented sector and companies with subsidiaries ...
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Fifty years of going flat out on frozen Swiss lakes

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 03/10/2018 - 12:00
Switzerland’s largest cross-country ski race is turning 50. On Sunday 14,200 athletes will take part in the Engadine Ski Marathon.  Images of endless lines of skiers snaking across frozen lakes have become a trademark of Switzerland as a winter sport location. The 42-kilometre (26-mile) race is the most popular in the country – to the extent that organisers have been forced to limit the number of places in order to guarantee the event’s quality.  When a group of stalwarts got together in 1969 for the first Engadine Ski Marathon, they were probably unaware that they were real pioneers. Today, similar events pop up everywhere in all endurance sports. The aim is always to attract thousands of hobby athletes to the region where the event is being held.  The images document the development of the marathon from a local cross-country run for a few people bitten by the cross-country skiing bug to a massive sporting and logistical event, which attracts not only hobby skiers but also the ...
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When the Alps become your place of work

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 03/10/2018 - 10:00
Swiss photographer Dan Patitucci spends months each year in the Alps and other mountain ranges of the world, on assignment. In this last image in his series, we see him checking his gear. For long periods each year, I literally live in the mountains.  Sometimes it's in huts throughout the Alps, other times it's tents in the Himalaya.  The gear I use is critical for my work, communication, comfort and safety.  Here, I've set up office in the Finsteraarhorn Hut during a ski tour magazine assignment. At work and play We are fortunate to call the mountains our workplace and still marvel at what we get to do on any given work day, be it in the Alps or Himalaya.  After all these years, the passion we have for life as mountain sport athletes and photographers hasn't faded. Experiencing the Alps on so many levels keeps us motivated for what comes next. Grandiose landscapes Since December, swissinfo.ch has been publishing a series of Dan and Janine Patitucci’s pictures: images ...
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By the numbers: the Geneva passport boom

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 18:00
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. Sunday 71.6 The percentage of voters who rejected a proposal to scrap the mandatory licence fee for Switzerland’s public broadcasters.  Tuesday 5,789 Almost 5,800 foreigners living in Geneva were granted Swiss citizenship in 2017 – a big jump from 2016 as applicants raced to meet the end-of-year deadline, when stricter rules came into force.  Wednesday 57,000,000 Switzerland exported steel products worth CHF57 million to the US last year. The Swiss and 17 other members of the World Trade Organization have expressed concerns over Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs of 25% on steel imports. Swiss aluminium exports, worth CHF30 million, could also be affected.  Thursday 60 Authorities in Geneva have ruled that private apartments or houses can be rented on ...
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Ten arguments for and against e-voting

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 15:25
Is voting online a big step forwards or backwards? Opinion in Switzerland about the use of electronic voting is divided.  The Swiss have more chances to express their opinions at the ballot box than anyone else in the world thanks to their extensive system of direct democracy. Wouldn’t it be more practical if you could do so with the click of a mouse?  The Swiss government is convinced. From 2019, two out of three cantons (26 in total) could have e-voting in place. But data protection campaigners and IT experts warn of the dangers; opponents will probably launch a people’s initiative on the issue.  These are the ten most commonly heard arguments for and against e-voting: Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) The issue of e-voting has been on the agenda of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) for many years.  The OSA’s assembly, the Council of Swiss Abroad, is meeting on Saturday in the Swiss capital, Bern. A panel discussion is taking place, entitled "E-Voting:
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Is there such a thing as ‘Latin Switzerland’?

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 09:00
Switzerland’s French and Italian speakers - the ‘Latins’ - are sometimes painted as a single political bloc forming a natural ally against the German-speakers. But this is far from the truth. There is a moment, during the train journey from Bern to Geneva, after rolling through the farmlands of Fribourg, when you enter a long tunnel. All normal, you think. But then you suddenly emerge high above the turquoise crescent of Lac Léman, fringed on one side by sheer mountains that seem to spring straight from the water and on the other by warrens of stacked twisting vineyards, and, especially if the sun is shining, it’s difficult not to think: the South. The same sensation is present when cresting (or burrowing through) the Gotthard, connecting German-speaking canton Uri with Italian-speaking Ticino, where you’re likely to be met with sunshine and palm trees. There is a reason Switzerland has names for the virtual dividing lines between its linguistic regions: the so-called ...
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Fynn: ‘I don't have to choose between being a man or a woman’

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 03/08/2018 - 18:00
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly. This week, we speak to Fynn who defines himself as non-binary. He says the climate is much safer now for people to declare themselves as trans. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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Swiss women have come a long way, but still face discrimination

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:57
Switzerland has been swept up in the grassroots ‘#metoo’ movement and the growing dissatisfaction among women with the status quo. A lot has changed since 1971 when Swiss women won the right to vote. The social media campaign against sexual harassment and for gender equality, which started in the United States last year, has given fresh energy to today’s women’s movement in Switzerland, according to Silvia Binggeli, editor-in-chief of the Swiss women’s magazine, Annabelle, which was founded 80 years ago. She participated in the Women’s March in Zurich one year ago and was impressed by the number of women and men from multiple generations who turned out. She argues, “there is a women’s movement underway today. I see younger colleagues that are much more politically active than ten years ago.” However, gender equality remains elusive in both Switzerland and the US. In the US, the women’s movement is often described in three waves starting with the first women’s rights convention ...
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Telling the untold stories of the Swiss women’s movement

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:53
In 1972, Margrit Zinggeler took her first trip to the US, accompanying her husband who was working as a computer programmer. The women’s liberation movement was in full swing and Margrit embraced it, enrolling in women’s studies classes at the University of Minnesota and burying her head in books like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.  A few months before arriving in Minnesota, Margrit had become part of the first generation of women to vote in a national election in Switzerland. She remembers the celebratory atmosphere and receiving flowers from the local community representative as she entered the voting booth in Zurich.  Only after arriving in the US did she realise how much more progressive it was than her home country. “There was much more solidarity among American women than I had seen in Switzerland. So many more women were attending university, and the sexual revolution was transforming women’s sense of identity like nothing I had seen in Switzerland.” The fight ...
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Trump tariff plan may spark ‘undesirable chain reaction’

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 18:22
Switzerland and 17 other members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have expressed their fears over United States President Donald Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, with most urging the United States to reconsider.  In Geneva, leading trading partners of the US outlined their misgivings over Trump’s proposed tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, and fears of tit-for-tat trade actions, a WTO spokesman said on Wednesday.  China raised the issues at a closed-door WTO general counsel meeting on Wednesday, and ambassadors and other officials from Australia, Brazil, the European Union, India, Japan, Norway and Russia warned US action would be unjustified and improper.  “Our concern is that this measure, which is widely contested by various countries, may cause other protectionist reactions. This could cause an undesirable chain reaction,” Swiss ambassador to the WTO Didier Chambovey told swissinfo.ch.  “Certain Swiss interests are also ...
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How work has evolved for Switzerland’s women and men

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 18:00
We take a look in graphics at how gender patterns have evolved in Switzerland’s labour market.    The Swiss labour market is the most discriminatory in Europe in terms of gender equality, according to British magazine The Economist. It puts Switzerland 21st out of 21 European countries and 26th out of 29 OECD countries. The main reasons are traditional views of gender roles and women’s difficulties reconciling family and professional life.  Changes in gender proportions But the situation is far from static. We looked at the data for more than 500 professions over 50 years to see which ones saw the biggest changes in gender patterns.  Although many professions have become more diversified in less than 50 years, gender segregation nevertheless remains widespread. A 2013 international survey found that Switzerland was the country with the most professional gender segregation. The graphic below shows the professions most strongly dominated by one gender. This situation brings ...
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As time takes its toll, the Zytglogge gets a facelift

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:02
The Zytglogge is one of Bern's most important sights: the ornate astronomical clock has served the city of Bern since 1530, but now the intricate moving parts have been taken away for repairs. A large crowd of tourists can normally be found watching the clock from the cobbled streets below as it strikes each hour, on the hour. It’s a highlight of the city’s old town – a UNESCO world heritage site. The clock itself is a fascinating piece of machinery: on the outside, it’s not only the numerous hands that move, but also characters such as a jester, a cockerel and of course, bears. On the inside of the clock tower a complex system of giant cogs, wheels, levers and knobs turn together to keep the clock on time. The rhythm is set by a giant pendulum. The many intricate parts need to be kept in excellent working order in order to function properly, and so the clock faces and various moving characters have been taken away to be cleaned and repaired. They’re due to return in June 2018. ...
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How do the Swiss deal with firearms? Your questions, answered

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 12:00
Following recent gun law debates in the United States, many readers wanted to know more about how gun issues are handled in Switzerland. Here are answers to some of the most frequently-asked questions, including why a country with so many guns in private hands has so few mass shootings.  What kind of guns are ordinary people allowed to own? Are there any conditions or requirements they have to meet? There’s a clear right in Swiss law for ordinary Swiss citizens to possess a gun. However, there are some requirements that need to be fulfilled first. Notification requirement Certain types of firearms only have a “notification” requirement. This means you’ll need a written contract that details the person selling or transferring the weapon and the person acquiring it. Specifics of the weapon need to be included. The person transferring the weapon has to send this contract to the new holder’s cantonal authorities within 30 days. The guns falling under this category include manual ...
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Bannon brings his ‘populist revolt’ to Zurich

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 23:27
In front of a sold-out crowd of over 1,500 in the Swiss city, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon spoke about the reasons for right-wing resurgence in Europe, and why the coming years will be far from stable. The list of items banned from the Zurich venue is long: guns, knives, axes, handsaws; fireworks, megaphones, hi-fi systems; photography equipment and laptops; umbrellas, selfie-sticks, pets; even, oddly enough, roller shoes. But neither the airtight security nor the dreary March evening has stopped a huge crowd turning out to see the European début of Steve Bannon – former chief strategist of Donald Trump and editor of alt-right Breitbart News – on Tuesday night, where he was invited to speak on the future of global populism by Swiss magazine Weltwoche. At 6:30 pm the queue to enter the Halle622 venue in the Oerlikon district stretches 20 metres down the street; by 7, half an hour before the event is due to start, it's ballooned almost as far as the local train ...
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