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‘Invest money’ to stop violence against women

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 18:00
One person dies every two weeks from domestic abuse in Switzerland; most often, it’s a woman. The Swiss authorities must do more to implement the Istanbul Convention to combat this scourge, say campaigners.  Since last year, the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc movements have put the spotlight on the problems of sexual abuse and harassment. Violence against women is not a new phenomenon, but it is a widespread and persistent human rights violation.  Non-governmental groups place a great deal of hope in the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (better known as the Istanbul Convention), which entered into force in Switzerland last April.  Ahead of the United Nations-supported International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, talked to Simone Eggler of Terre des Femmes about the scale of the problem in Switzerland and possible solutions. Eggler belongs to a new civil society ...
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How young Swiss choose their profession

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 15:41
Getting professional, on-the-job training in Switzerland is made easier in Switzerland due to the country's vocational school system. The biggest Swiss trade fair is currently underway in Geneva. Around 300 different professions and further training courses in a diverse range of fields are presented at the 'Cité des Métiers', giving young people an insight into the world of work. A young person today is faced with different challenges than youth from previous generations: How has digitisation changed job prospects? Which professions have a secure future? At the fair, visitors are introduced to the various teaching professions and further training opportunities. The presence of vocational training coaches and apprentices provides young people with the opportunity to obtain information about dream jobs from their peers.
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Champions League finals for modern direct democracy

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 12:00
Should the government financially support cows with horns? What should an Olympic delegation be called? What about spending taxpayer money to host ski races? These are just some of the questions 30 million citizens across four countries will have to answer this weekend. It amounts to the most interesting referendum weekend of 2018. That’s following a year of headline-making democratic exercises, from local elections in Tunisia and Indonesia to ballots in Mexico and Brazil as well as key votes in Russia, Italy and the United States.  Historic referendums also took place in Ireland, New Caledonia and Colombia. On this last weekend in November, eligible voters across four jurisdictions will be involved in examples of genuine citizen-lawmaking. British Columbia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Taiwan will see probably the most comprehensive simultaneous exercise of modern direct democracy in history – a showcase for observers of the initiative and referendum process across the globe.
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The art of publishing art books, independently

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 12:00
A Zurich art publishing fair is proving the printed book isn’t dead. The “Volumes” event is more popular than ever, attracting publishers from the world over.  Switzerland has a long tradition in independent publishing. In the early modern age, many scholars and artists, such as Erasmus von Rotterdam and Albrecht Dürer, would come to Basel to print their works, considered offensive by the Catholic Church. With the Reformation, after the 1520s, protestants, anabaptists and other anti-clerical authors also sought refuge in the Swiss city attracted also by its printing presses. They were eventually followed by anarchists, socialists and revolutionaries from further afield. Today's independent publishing market has very little to do with politics or religion. Rather, it is a niche increasingly explored by visual artists, with or without renown, as well as for designers who work this medium as an art form in its own right. “Independent publishing is not just about ...
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Bizarre or idealistic? Swiss initiatives come in all forms

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 18:00
As part of the country’s direct democratic system, Swiss voters have a say on cow horns, hiking paths or even minarets: issues that may appear exotic and that sometimes attract worldwide attention. It’s often said that other countries look to Switzerland with a mixture of envy and admiration because of the possibility to bring a wide variety of issues to a nationwide vote. Indeed, the people’s initiative is a tenet of Swiss democracy that gives citizens – in theory – the right to have the final say even on issues that can range from the seemingly minor to the utopian or revolutionary. The cow horn initiative, which will come to a vote on November 25, is just the latest example. Who would have thought that a mountain farmer might force a nationwide vote on a constitutional amendment after collecting the necessary 100,000 signatures within 18 months? For political scientist Marc Bühlmann from Bern University, the horn cow initiative is proof of the functioning of the direct ...
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Swiss president chosen as ‘Sign of the Year’ by deaf society

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 14:52
Humour is a universal language. This is reflected in the Swiss Sign of the Year, which pokes gentle fun at Alain Berset, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year. But what is the status of sign language in Switzerland?  In order to describe the Swiss president accurately, you only need two things: a thumb and an index finger. The gesture symbolises his lack of hair. Since 2016, the Swiss Deaf Association has awarded a Sign of the Year in the German-speaking part of the country. Donald Trump was the inaugural winner, with Roger Federer receiving the honour last year. The sign for Alain Berset has established itself among Swiss signers since his speech on Swiss National Day, August 1, on the Rütli meadow. For the first time, the speeches and national anthem were interpreted in sign language.  This is a good example of the increased awareness for such needs. But where does sign language currently stand in Switzerland?  Sign languages are independent visual speech ...
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Switzerland: home to one of Europe's oldest monasteries

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 13:00
In the east of Switzerland, in Val Müstair, is one of the oldest churches in Europe. Here, in the Middle Ages, Charlemagne was venerated as a saint. Throughout history, thousands of men and women have shaped Switzerland's territory and society. The stories of who they were, the battles, revolutionary ideas or quiet but significant changes have been handed down through generations, and now fill the pages of Swiss history books. The traces of this rich heritage are many, some hidden and unknown. In this series by Swiss Public Television, RSI, seven places have been chosen that are linked to historical events, myths and legends, that are part of the country's cultural heritage. In the third episode of the series, we visit the Abbey of St John, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. The site's origins have been lost somewhere between reality and legend. (RSI,
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Taiwan’s young democracy has Swiss genes

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 12:00
On Saturday, Taiwan will experience a first: Voters on this Asian island face more than ten national referendums. This is the story of a direct-democracy bridge that straddles half the world, from Switzerland to Asia.  The last metres are always the hardest. Legs heavy as lead, lungs struggling for air. But in the end, Yu Mei-nu, a member of the Taiwanese parliament, gets right to the top of the peak. “It’s almost like home,” she says, exhausted but happy.  On a beautiful autumn day, Mei-Nu Yu is standing on the Rigi, a mountain in central Switzerland also known as the “Queen of the Mountains.” “We have mountains like this at home, where you can almost see the whole country,” she says enthusiastically.  Live from the television studio This Taiwanese expedition to conquer the peak of the Rigi took place on the afternoon of the September 23 referendum in Switzerland. Before that, the Taiwanese delegation of politicians, officials, researchers and journalists had visited a polling ...
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Switzerland’s global status is in jeopardy

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 11:34
Three recent Swiss diplomatic controversies have raised questions about whether the small Alpine country can still be considered a moral voice in world affairs, one that traditionally has been said to punch above its weight. Switzerland has always prided itself on being able to establish a place among larger countries because of its successful economy, historical neutrality and moral positions, including Geneva’s being host to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Human Rights Council. The comparative advantage of Switzerland, particularly international Geneva, as a unique platform for discussions such as the Reagan-Gorbachev summit during the Cold War or the Syrian peace talks have enhanced the Swiss image in human rights and humanitarian issues. But three recent controversies have challenged this identity in global affairs: the refusal to sign a treaty banning the future use of nuclear weapons; a decision concerning selling arms to ...
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Switzerland’s first female ambassador in Paris

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 11/21/2018 - 15:55
It’s still rare for top diplomatic postings to go to women, but things are changing. Livia Leu, who since September has represented Switzerland in France and Monaco, agrees. Swiss public television, RTS, accompanied her during her first day at work in Paris.  Men cover the portrait wall of Leu’s predecessors. She is the first woman to get the job in the city where she did her apprenticeship in the diplomatic services almost 30 years ago.  Leu is well-known in the Swiss diplomatic corps. She is one of the few women at the top level. In 2009, the then Foreign Affairs Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey sent her to Tehran, where she represented the interests of Switzerland and the United States, because Switzerland has served as the United States’ protecting power in Iran since 1980.  She also is the Federal Council’s delegate for trade deals and head of the bilateral economic relations section in the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). There are currently 155 ambassadors ...
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How Swiss cities could still improve rankings

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 11/21/2018 - 12:00
Swiss cities often rank highly in global quality-of-life surveys. But when their urban policies come under closer scrutiny, how do they compare? A recent study by the liberal think tank Avenir Suisse has taken a closer look at the urban policies of Switzerland’s ten biggest cities and ranked them based on 47 indicators in eight specific areas, ranging from the quality of local administrative services to mobility and life-work balance.  Avenir Suisse “City Monitoring” urban policy ranking (2018)  1. Zurich: 64.7% of possible points; 2. Basel: 62.8%; 3. Bern: 62.7%; 4. Lucerne: 58.3%; 5. St. Gallen: 53.8%; 6. Winterthur: 52.8%; 7. Lausanne: 49.3%; 8. Biel: 48.9%; 9. Lugano: 43.1%; 10. Geneva: 38.8% As in the 2018 Mercer quality-of-life survey, Zurich came out top (with 64.7 points out of a total of 100) in the Avenir Suisse ranking. It said Zurich excelled in managing state budgets, and praised its cultural offerings and education policy, the city’s work-life balance and its ...
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ABB chief Ulrich Spiesshofer under pressure to reinvent group

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 11/21/2018 - 09:32
The strange and cumbersome corporate beast that is the industrial conglomerate must adapt — or die. In the US, General Electric’s share price has collapsed since its troubled power equipment division slumped to a loss and concerns grew about its financial health. In Switzerland, speculation swirls over Zurich-based ABB, which is in talks with Japan’s Hitachi about divesting all or part of its power-grids division. In the limelight is Ulrich Spiesshofer, ABB’s Germany-born boss since 2013. A company veteran, he transformed ABB’s robotics division, which is now its fastest growing unit. As chief executive he has cut costs and focused the group, which has annual sales of $34 billion, around four pillars: industrial automation and electrification, as well as robotics and power grids. Yet ABB continues to underwhelm investors. Its share price has fallen 20 per cent over the past year, compared with 13 per cent at German rival Siemens. (GE is down 55 per cent). Two years ago, ...
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Country kids outperform city kids on motor skills

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 18:28
The more children move, the better they are at balancing, rolling and catching a ball, a pioneering Swiss study has found. This is especially clear when you compare children growing up in the country to those in the city – and there are differences between boys and girls too. This is the first study to investigate the differences in motor skills among pre-schoolers in Switzerland – motor skills being a key part of the early development of children – the authors said. The results have been published online in the journal Swiss Sports & Exercise Medicine. Using a newly developed test instrument called MOBAK-KG, researchers compared the motor skills of around 400 four-to-six-year-old children, looking at how they moved on their own and how they dealt with an object, like a ball. Taking part were 12 Kindergarten classes in the more rural canton of Uri, and 14 Kindergarten classes in the city of Zurich. “The first results show that clear differences between the sexes are already ...
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Basel and Zug rated most popular Swiss expat cities

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 12:06
Although expats in the Swiss cities of Basel, Zug and Lausanne enjoy a very high quality of life, those in Zurich and Bern struggle with settling in and those in Geneva say finding somewhere to live is a nightmare.  The six Swiss cities are among 72 around the world analysed in the Expat City Ranking 2018, published on Tuesday by InterNations and based on its annual Expat Insider survey.  The Swiss cities’ popularity among expats varies quite strongly, with Basel coming 22nd and the capital Bern 61st. Taipei, Singapore and Manama came top, while Rome, Jeddah and Riyadh propped up the ranking.  Basel (22 out of 72) did very well regarding quality of life (10), with expats particularly satisfied with the transport system. It was also the best-rated Swiss city for “personal finances and housing” (28) and “economic climate” (5). On the other hand, 32% said they didn’t feel at home (compared with 23% worldwide) and 54% said it was hard to forge new friendships (worldwide 34%).  + ...
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What’s the secret to Finnish school success?

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 12:00
At a Swiss event, a top Finnish education official explains why the country’s schools are so good - and what the Finns could learn from Switzerland. Anita Lehikoinen, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education in Finland, recently attended the Worlddidac fair in Bern, which highlights the latest educational trends. Finland, known worldwide for its high-quality public education, was the official guest country for the event. Switzerland is no slouch in the education stakes either. It came 12th out of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the 2015 PISA educational assessment of 15-year olds, whose focus was on science performance. + Read more about how Switzerland did in the 2015 PISA survey here This compared to Finland’s third place for science among OECD countries. But it was not all jubilation in Helsinki - performance had dropped by 32 points since Finland’s record high score in 2006, the last time PISA focused on science.
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Pharma companies put faith in AI for breakthroughs

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 11:10
Global pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis and others based in Switzerland, are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to develop new drugs. But this may not lead to lower prices. In 2013, US start-up Berg was asked by the Department of Defense to help improve the detection of prostate cancer, a disease common among pilots. Less than five years later, an artificial intelligence-driven tool has been tested on more than 1,000 patients with promising results. Excitement about AI, machine learning and big data have prompted a boom in health-tech start-ups in a market traditionally dominated by big pharma. Despite debate over the extent to which AI will revolutionise medical science, billions are being bet on something revolutionary emerging to drive the next big leaps in drug development This year has seen a jump in investment from big pharma and a range of joint ventures with health tech groups. In 2018, at least 15 companies have integrated AI into their drug ...
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