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Qatari investments in Swiss firms start to look awkward

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 13:42
The isolation and blockade of Qatar by neighbours on the grounds of suspected terrorist financing has raised uncomfortable questions about the Middle Eastern country’s global investments – including those in Switzerland.  The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) sovereign wealth fund has significant stakes in Credit Suisse (and a joint partnership with the bank in the Aventicum Capital Management investment vehicle), commodity trading giant Glencore (with which QIA recently formed a consortium to buy large numbers of shares in Russian oil giant Rosneft), travel retailer Dufry and several Swiss hotels.  The $335 billion (CHF323 billion) Qatari investment fund also has significant holdings in other parts of the world. In Britain it has stakes in Harrods department store and Heathrow airport, in Germany Volkswagen and Siemens and in the United States a large real estate portfolio – the list goes on.  On June 5, connections with Qatar suddenly looked less attractive as Saudi Arabia led ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss education gets high-tech

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:00
Using technology to improve education isn’t as easy as handing every child an iPad. A new start-up incubator aims to solve these problems – and get Switzerland’s foot in the door of the so-called edtech market. Addressing the crowd at the launch of the Swiss Federal Institute Technology Lausanne (EPFL)’s EdTech Collider, Lavinia Jacobs of the Jacobs Foundation for child and youth development did not immediately invoke science, or her organisation’s co-funding of the new centre. Instead, she asked the audience to recall the 1985 American sci-fi classic Back to the Future, and its teenaged protagonist, Marty McFly, who is sent to the year 1955 in a time machine. “Unfortunately, the plot didn’t send Marty into a school classroom, but if it had, he would have found almost nothing different compared to 30 years later – or now, 60 years,” Jacobs said. “Today, education is probably the most innovation-resisting area of public policy.” Overcoming inertia With only an estimated 2% of ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss education gets high-tech

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:00
Using technology to improve education isn’t as easy as handing every child an iPad. A new start-up incubator aims to solve these problems – and get Switzerland’s foot in the door of the so-called edtech market. Addressing the crowd at the launch of the Swiss Federal Institute Technology Lausanne (EPFL)’s EdTech Collider, Lavinia Jacobs of the Jacobs Foundation for child and youth development did not immediately invoke science, or her organisation’s co-funding of the new centre. Instead, she asked the audience to recall the 1985 American sci-fi classic Back to the Future, and its teenaged protagonist, Marty McFly, who is sent to the year 1955 in a time machine. “Unfortunately, the plot didn’t send Marty into a school classroom, but if it had, he would have found almost nothing different compared to 30 years later – or now, 60 years,” Jacobs said. “Today, education is probably the most innovation-resisting area of public policy.” Overcoming inertia With only an estimated 2% of ...
Categories: News EN

‘Switzerland has made progress in combating human trafficking’

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 17:00
A growing number of Swiss organisations are working to document cases of human trafficking – such as prostitution, forced begging or organ trade – and get help to victims. One of them is a telephone hotline, whose director encounters trafficking cases daily. More and more victims of human trafficking are being discovered in Switzerland according to the latest statistics from the Zurich-based Centre for Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking (FIZ). But such figures are approximate at best because many victims don’t dare to speak up. The organisation ACT212 set up its nationwide helpline in October 2015, which allows people to ask for help or report a crime anonymously either by phone or e-mail. Its director Irene Hirzel, who has been working to combat human trafficking since 1997, explains what she encounters every day. SWI swissinfo.ch: How would you describe the typical person who contacts you? Irene Hirzel: We field as many reports from people who ...
Categories: News EN

‘Switzerland has made progress in combating human trafficking’

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 17:00
A growing number of Swiss organisations are working to document cases of human trafficking – such as prostitution, forced begging or organ trade – and get help to victims. One of them is a telephone hotline, whose director encounters trafficking cases daily. More and more victims of human trafficking are being discovered in Switzerland according to the latest statistics from the Zurich-based Centre for Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Trafficking (FIZ). But such figures are approximate at best because many victims don’t dare to speak up. The organisation ACT212 set up its nationwide helpline in October 2015, which allows people to ask for help or report a crime anonymously either by phone or e-mail. Its director Irene Hirzel, who has been working to combat human trafficking since 1997, explains what she encounters every day. SWI swissinfo.ch: How would you describe the typical person who contacts you? Irene Hirzel: We field as many reports from people who ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss signature-gathering platform marks debut year

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 14:35
For the past year, the wecollect.ch platform has been collecting online signatures for initiatives and referendums, the basic instruments of Swiss direct democracy. The founder is pleased with its success but annoyed by authorities' lack of enthusiasm for it. "At 100,000, I would have already been happy, but 140,000 is a fantastic result, even if almost half of these signatures came in support of the initiative for paternity leave," said Daniel Graf, co-founder of wecollect.ch. More than 40% of the signatures for the the paternity leave proposal so far (more than 59,500) have come via the online platform. The signature-gathering website's philosophy is especially oriented around progressive social issues such as strengthening paternity leave and strong nursing care, ending the sale of weapons abroad and increasing transparency for party financing. Wecollect.ch is therefore not used by the conservative-right Swiss People's Party, which nevertheless makes abundant use of ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss signature-gathering platform marks debut year

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 14:35
For the past year, the wecollect.ch platform has been collecting online signatures for initiatives and referendums, the basic instruments of Swiss direct democracy. The founder is pleased with its success but annoyed by authorities' lack of enthusiasm for it. "At 100,000, I would have already been happy, but 140,000 is a fantastic result, even if almost half of these signatures came in support of the initiative for paternity leave," said Daniel Graf, co-founder of wecollect.ch. More than 40% of the signatures for the the paternity leave proposal so far (more than 59,500) have come via the online platform. The signature-gathering website's philosophy is especially oriented around progressive social issues such as strengthening paternity leave and strong nursing care, ending the sale of weapons abroad and increasing transparency for party financing. Wecollect.ch is therefore not used by the conservative-right Swiss People's Party, which nevertheless makes abundant use of ...
Categories: News EN

Up front with a Swiss train driver

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:00
What’s it like to sit in the driver’s seat of a Swiss train? It’s a dream job for one woman, who says she doesn’t fear she’ll be replaced by driverless trains anytime soon.  In the break room before the trip, they ask if I’d like something to drink. Then there’s a hiccup with the coffee machine and I don’t get a full cup, but that’s OK. It would be annoying if I had to pee during the ride! And that brings me to my first question – what if the driver needed to?  “Oh, I just make sure I go beforehand,” laughs Lea Steppacher, who seems genuinely amused at the question. Indeed, once the train is in motion, there’s no way she could leave her post at the controls. It’s not like a plane, where there’d be a co-pilot or an autopilot mode.​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​ Steppacher, 36, has been working for the Swiss Federal Railways for eight years, and she loves it – especially at dawn and dusk. “There’s nothing more beautiful than a sunrise or sunset ride! You can enjoy looking at it and you get ...
Categories: News EN

Up front with a Swiss train driver

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:00
What’s it like to sit in the driver’s seat of a Swiss train? It’s a dream job for one woman, who says she doesn’t fear she’ll be replaced by driverless trains anytime soon.  In the break room before the trip, they ask if I’d like something to drink. Then there’s a hiccup with the coffee machine and I don’t get a full cup, but that’s OK. It would be annoying if I had to pee during the ride! And that brings me to my first question – what if the driver needed to?  “Oh, I just make sure I go beforehand,” laughs Lea Steppacher, who seems genuinely amused at the question. Indeed, once the train is in motion, there’s no way she could leave her post at the controls. It’s not like a plane, where there’d be a co-pilot or an autopilot mode.​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​ Steppacher, 36, has been working for the Swiss Federal Railways for eight years, and she loves it – especially at dawn and dusk. “There’s nothing more beautiful than a sunrise or sunset ride! You can enjoy looking at it and you get ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss Jihadi recruits sought ‘fresh start’

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 08:13
Homegrown Swiss jihadists often want a fresh start due to troubles at school or in the workplace. They tend to view the world in stark terms but harbor no hatred toward Switzerland, according to academic research by an analyst at the Federal Office of Police. The findings come from an unusual source – an unpublished master’s thesis by University of Bern student Florent Bielmann, who works at the Federal Police Office (Fedpol). The work emerged this week through his mentor, Frédéric Esposito, a political scientist and lecturer at University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute. Bielmann had access to thousands of pages of police reports and other documents from public prosecutors about alleged Swiss jihadists. He used them to document the journey of nine men and one woman charged with becoming jihadi travelers before returning to Switzerland - a relatively limited phenomenon. Though he studied a relatively small number of people, Bielmann’s work represents "a unique cartography” ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss Jihadi recruits sought ‘fresh start’

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 08:13
Homegrown Swiss jihadists often want a fresh start due to troubles at school or in the workplace. They tend to view the world in stark terms but harbor no hatred toward Switzerland, according to academic research by an analyst at the Federal Office of Police. The findings come from an unusual source – an unpublished master’s thesis by University of Bern student Florent Bielmann, who works at the Federal Police Office (Fedpol). The work emerged this week through his mentor, Frédéric Esposito, a political scientist and lecturer at University of Geneva’s Global Studies Institute. Bielmann had access to thousands of pages of police reports and other documents from public prosecutors about alleged Swiss jihadists. He used them to document the journey of nine men and one woman charged with becoming jihadi travelers before returning to Switzerland - a relatively limited phenomenon. Though he studied a relatively small number of people, Bielmann’s work represents "a unique cartography” ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss families take in young asylum seekers

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 17:00
Two brothers were separated from their parents while fleeing Afghanistan. Thanks to a volunteer organisation, Hamed and Khalil Majidi have found a new home with a Swiss family. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The brothers are two of 1,997 unaccompanied minors who came to Switzerland seeking asylum in 2016. In 2010, only 235 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the Alpine nation, but by 2015, there were ten times as many children seeking refuge without an adult by their side. Since the partial closure of a refugee route through the Balkan countries in 2016, Switzerland has seen slightly fewer applications for asylum overall. But more and more unaccompanied minors are seeking asylum; in 2016, they made up over 7% of all asylum seekers in Switzerland. Some cantons provide asylum centres just for unaccompanied minors and families. In canton Fribourg, for example, children are given help with their homework and adjusting to a new school, especially in a different language, and they are ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss families take in young asylum seekers

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 17:00
Two brothers were separated from their parents while fleeing Afghanistan. Thanks to a volunteer organisation, Hamed and Khalil Majidi have found a new home with a Swiss family. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The brothers are two of 1,997 unaccompanied minors who came to Switzerland seeking asylum in 2016. In 2010, only 235 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the Alpine nation, but by 2015, there were ten times as many children seeking refuge without an adult by their side. Since the partial closure of a refugee route through the Balkan countries in 2016, Switzerland has seen slightly fewer applications for asylum overall. But more and more unaccompanied minors are seeking asylum; in 2016, they made up over 7% of all asylum seekers in Switzerland. Some cantons provide asylum centres just for unaccompanied minors and families. In canton Fribourg, for example, children are given help with their homework and adjusting to a new school, especially in a different language, and they are ...
Categories: News EN

Time travelling writer returns to Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 11:00
Author Alison Anderson’s lifelong association with Switzerland began in her childhood. In this fourth in a series of profiles with English-language authors, Clare O’Dea visits Anderson in her Lake Geneva home, close to echoes of her past. As a young student in the 1970s, Alison Anderson came to a pebble beach on the shore of Lake Geneva with her friends to while away summer days and nights. Today, the American author has made her home in that quiet place. The weather is poised to change when I arrive in the village, rain threatening to rush inland at any moment from the vast expanse of the lake. I follow Anderson’s directions to Watchmaker Street, a quintessentially Swiss address, and discover her bijou residence, the smallest house I’ve ever seen. It is just the right time of day for a cup of tea, but experience has taught me to be cautious when accepting a cuppa in Swiss homes. You never know what sort of fruity concoction you may be served. Anderson bowls me over when she ...
Categories: News EN

Time travelling writer returns to Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 11:00
Author Alison Anderson’s lifelong association with Switzerland began in her childhood. In this fourth in a series of profiles with English-language authors, Clare O’Dea visits Anderson in her Lake Geneva home, close to echoes of her past. As a young student in the 1970s, Alison Anderson came to a pebble beach on the shore of Lake Geneva with her friends to while away summer days and nights. Today, the American author has made her home in that quiet place. The weather is poised to change when I arrive in the village, rain threatening to rush inland at any moment from the vast expanse of the lake. I follow Anderson’s directions to Watchmaker Street, a quintessentially Swiss address, and discover her bijou residence, the smallest house I’ve ever seen. It is just the right time of day for a cup of tea, but experience has taught me to be cautious when accepting a cuppa in Swiss homes. You never know what sort of fruity concoction you may be served. Anderson bowls me over when she ...
Categories: News EN

‘An act of global irresponsibility’

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:18
The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement sparked indignation around the world. For internationally renowned Swiss climatologist Thomas Stocker, this will clearly complicate efforts of climate protection. But the American decision also offers a unique opportunity for the Swiss economy, as well as for Swiss science and innovation.  swissinfo.ch: Did President Trump's decision surprise you?   Thomas Stocker: No, it didn’t surprise me, because he had announced it. But I am deeply disappointed that he did it. We witnessed an act of global irresponsibility. What does this withdrawal mean for the Paris Agreement?  It is certain that the US will not respect their emissions reduction obligations in the framework of the Paris Agreement. This also means that Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which foresees emissions being reduced by 32% compared to their 2005 values by 2030, will probably not be implemented.  But hope lies in the fact that various US states are ...
Categories: News EN

‘An act of global irresponsibility’

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 09:18
The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement sparked indignation around the world. For internationally renowned Swiss climatologist Thomas Stocker, this will clearly complicate efforts of climate protection. But the American decision also offers a unique opportunity for the Swiss economy, as well as for Swiss science and innovation.  swissinfo.ch: Did President Trump's decision surprise you?   Thomas Stocker: No, it didn’t surprise me, because he had announced it. But I am deeply disappointed that he did it. We witnessed an act of global irresponsibility. What does this withdrawal mean for the Paris Agreement?  It is certain that the US will not respect their emissions reduction obligations in the framework of the Paris Agreement. This also means that Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which foresees emissions being reduced by 32% compared to their 2005 values by 2030, will probably not be implemented.  But hope lies in the fact that various US states are ...
Categories: News EN

Yodelling the old-fashioned way

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 11:00
Traditional Swiss folk music is often performed at conservative political events, but Barbara Betschart, head of Roothuus Gonten, the Centre for Appenzell and Toggenburg Folk Music, dismisses the notion that this is the only place to find it.  "Emancipated, modern people make folk music too", said Betschart [link in German]. Folk music in Switzerland is cool right now, in the cities as well as the countryside, but Betschart does not believe that hit records are the same as folk music. "What's on television these days doesn't have a lot to do with traditional folk music.”  Music for tourists Those looking for authentic folk music might want to visit the Säntis region. In Appenzell and Toggenburg in the St. Gallen region, string instruments are still part of folk-music culture – unlike other regions of Switzerland where they have been displaced by accordions and wind instruments. Appenzell natural yodelling by the Herisau Alpeblueme Yodelling Club This is due to factors such ...
Categories: News EN

Yodelling the old-fashioned way

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 11:00
Traditional Swiss folk music is often performed at conservative political events, but Barbara Betschart, head of Roothuus Gonten, the Centre for Appenzell and Toggenburg Folk Music, dismisses the notion that this is the only place to find it.  "Emancipated, modern people make folk music too", said Betschart [link in German]. Folk music in Switzerland is cool right now, in the cities as well as the countryside, but Betschart does not believe that hit records are the same as folk music. "What's on television these days doesn't have a lot to do with traditional folk music.”  Music for tourists Those looking for authentic folk music might want to visit the Säntis region. In Appenzell and Toggenburg in the St. Gallen region, string instruments are still part of folk-music culture – unlike other regions of Switzerland where they have been displaced by accordions and wind instruments. Appenzell natural yodelling by the Herisau Alpeblueme Yodelling Club This is due to factors such ...
Categories: News EN

Yodelling, speaking Romansh, and driving a train

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 06/04/2017 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we will feature in the week beginning June 5. Monday Folk music in Switzerland is experiencing a renaissance –  the yodelling and traditional tunes played on stringed instruments are becoming more popular, and are not just for religious or conservative political events anymore. But is commercialisation harming the richness of this Swiss tradition? Tuesday In this fourth instalment in our series on English-language writers in Switzerland, Clare O’Dea visits American author Alison Anderson to learn about her approach to novel writing and translation. Having been drawn to Switzerland many times throughout her childhood and adult life, the author of The Summer Guest and Hidden Latitudes now makes her home on the shores of Lake Geneva. Wednesday On Wednesday, Swiss Federal Railways driver Lea Steppacher welcomes a swissinfo.ch journalist aboard her RE460 commuter train for a high-speed interview. Climb aboard for a first-hand look at what ...
Categories: News EN