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Welcome to Biel, ephemeral capital of Swiss photography

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 13:43
The city of Biel, known for being a center of the global watch industry, also is a cultural crossroads of national importance. For nearly a month every year, the largest bilingual city in the country welcomes a festival dedicated entirely to photography. The Biel Festival of Photography, which runs from May 5th to 28th, is an opportunity to discover the heritage of this often unknown Swiss city – while also enjoying a bit of physical exercise. The 28 exhibitions presented at the 21st edition of the festival, three-quarters of which are exclusively Swiss or worldwide, are distributed in eight separate venues.  Among them are three unusual locations: the Farel House, a witness to the architecture of the late 1950s; a former abandoned industrial building; and the Working Station, a private gallery space. This years's festival focuses on the notion of what is extreme. The themes dealt with are multiple: the flow of images, the omnipresence of technology, and the excesses of a global ...
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Swiss keep up the patent pace

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 11:00
Switzerland is the champion of the patent world, filing the most patent applications per head to the European Patent Office in 2016. But is the Swiss inventive spirit really unparalleled? A machine for sorting gravel, a barometer that works by atmospheric humidity and a special electric writing machine: these are just a few of the patents that were filed in Switzerland over a hundred years ago and very probably reviewed by a certain Albert Einstein. The famous German physicist worked at the Swiss Federal Office of Intellectual Property in Bern from 1902 to 1909, a place he spoke of as a worldly cloister where he hatched his most beautiful ideas. At that time, Switzerland had just brought an end to a trade war with Germany, which was accusing the Swiss chemical and pharmaceutical industry of copying its products. “Before the Swiss Federal Act on Patents came into force in 1888, Switzerland had been a country known for its forgeries,” says Louis Lagler, president of ...
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Roger Moore has died in Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 15:45
British actor Roger Moore, who played the role of James Bond in seven of the spy adventures, has died in Switzerland at the age of 89. He passed away after a short battle with cancer. His family announced the news on Tuesday: “it is with a heavy heart that we announce the death of our loving father, Sir Roger Moore”, they said. Moore, who played the role of Ian Fleming’s secret agent 007 between 1973 and 1985, had owned a chalet for years in the chic resort of Gstaad. Since 1996, he had lived part of the time in the mountain resort of Crans-Montana in canton Valais. He also owned property in the South of France, and in Monaco, where he was close to Prince Albert.  In 2007, he told Swiss public television, TSR, that he had moved to Switzerland after pressure from his children, who had learned to ski one winter in Gstaad. Beautiful Switzerland "As I am a very weak father, I said yes. In fact, I was waiting for an excuse to leave England and set up in a beautiful place like ...
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Swiss canton pushes for mandatory voting

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 14:50
Driven by concerns over low turnout, a Swiss political party has proposed mandatory voting in canton Jura. The northwestern region could one day follow the example of Schaffhausen, the only one of Switzerland’s 26 cantons that penalises non-voters. The Jura cantonal parliament is set to discuss the issue later this year and the government must then present a bill.  Ultimately, voters in the sparsely populated region bordering France must have the final say on the potential change to the cantonal constitution. The Independent Christian Social Democrats - the fourth-largest party in the 50-member Jura parliament - brought forward the idea of compulsory voting. “Democracy is weakened and loses its purpose if citizens stay away from politics,” parliamentarian Philippe Eggertswyler says in his motion on behalf of his party. “The right to vote had to be won with hard work over centuries, and people in many countries are still fighting for it." He says there is a ...
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From mere mortal to climbing superstar

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 11:00
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Five takeaways from Sunday’s Swiss energy vote

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:57
On May 21, Swiss voters endorsed a new energy law that aims to promote renewable energy, ban new nuclear power plants and ensure lower energy consumption. Sunday’s vote revealed five interesting lessons. 1. Doris Leuthard is having the time of her life Energy Minister and Swiss President Doris Leuthard could pretty much sell anything right now. When spotted at Bern train station on a recent Friday evening among tired-looking commuters, she stood out from the crowd not because of her notoriety but because she simply seemed the happiest. Sunday’s vote in favour of the Energy Strategy 2050 is her victory. Cabinet ministers have expertise in the specific issues they cover, but only Leuthard ever really seems positive and upbeat about her topic. That detail made the difference in the vote, the outcome of which was uncertain. Polls show that two-thirds of Swiss citizens trust Doris Leuthard, and almost as many voted for the new energy law (58%). 2. The ...
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'Nothing is more precious than love'

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:00
The new priest appeared before his congregation for the first time on 1 January 1519. The faithful sat shoulder to shoulder on the benches of Zurich's Grossmünster, for Huldrych Zwingli's reputation had preceded him: he was said to be a gifted preacher, if highly individual. Though there is no documentary evidence for this, we can assume that Anna Reinhart was among those listening to his sermon. She lived very close to the church. Daughter of the innkeeper of the "Rössli", Anna was said in her youth to be "an extremely lovely creature". And that probably explains why Hans Meyer von Knonau, scion of a leading family, fell hopelessly in love with her and wanted to marry her. His father was furious. He threatened to disinherit him and finally sent him to Constance. It didn't work: no sooner had Hans returned than he married Anna behind his father's back. "The Reinhart girl loved her husband, and he loved her too," wrote a surprised contemporary chronicler: marrying for ...
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Particle physicist shuns hyperactive investments

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 08:59
Cern practises cutting-edge science but its pension fund is surprisingly risk averse. The prestigious nuclear research centre near Geneva, is best known for blasting atoms around its Large Hadron Collider, a 27-kilometre tunnel that forms the world’s largest machine.  The organisation, founded in 1954 and straddling the border between Switzerland and France, declares boldly on its website: “What is the universe made of? How did it start? Physicists at Cern are seeking answers, using some of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators.”  Against this backdrop of cutting-edge science, it seems counterintuitive that the woman charged with ensuring a comfortable retirement for Cern’s community of 3,600 scientists, researchers and support staff is extremely risk averse.  Elena Manola-Bonthond, chief investment officer of Cern’s $4 billion (CHF4 billion) pension scheme, says: “I don’t like hyperactivity in investment management, or rushing into making decisions.
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Swiss give green light for renewables and nuclear phase out

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 05/21/2017 - 17:08
Voters have endorsed a new energy law that aims to promote renewable energy, ban new nuclear power plants and lower energy consumption. Final results show just over 58% of voters on Sunday coming out in favour of the Energy Strategy programme. Supporters said the result is a "historic step for Switzerland", while opponents have warned of a shortage of energy supplies in winter. The places closest to the country's five nuclear reactors, where residents would arguably have the most to lose with their shutdown, rejected the reform with clear majorities. According to Claude Longchamp of the leading GfS Bern research institute, voters put their faith in the arguments of Energy Minister Doris Leuthard and the government over those of the opponents. "After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland's energy policy can begin," said Leuthard at a news conference. "But there is still a lot of work to do." She said ...
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Alpinism, invention and integration

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 05/21/2017 - 10:00
Here are a few of the stories we will bring you during the week starting on May 22. Monday Our series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation continues on Monday with the story of Anna Reinhart’s once-secret marriage to Huldrych Zwingli, an important pastor and Reformation leader in Switzerland who believed that nothing is “more delicious than love”. Tuesday The family of Ueli Steck holds a solemn public ceremony on Tuesday honoring the life of the world-renowned Swiss alpinist and speed mountaineer. We take a look back at how Steck, who died at the age of 40 while climbing near Everest, transformed himself into the phenomenal “Swiss Machine”. Wednesday Driven by a handful of big companies, Switzerland filed the highest per-capita number of applications at the European Patent Office last year. On Wednesday, we explore the country’s prominence at intellectual property – including whether Swiss really have an ...
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Vanessa, Rihanna and Hedi - first, second, third!

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 11:00
Michael Rüegsegger, an auctioneer, gazes into his computer screen. The compressors of the high-pressure cleaners puff up, a group of brown cattle stands wet in the spray mist, while another truck drives forward and the last group of cattle prepares to unload. "I'm Michael," he says, briefly. "Today will be a long day!" The Juchhof farm, part of the city of Zurich's leased farm estates, plans to grow all of its produce organically in the future and stop raising animals as of 2018.  More than 60 dairy cows and the same number of cattle will be taken out of production together with five employees. The animal caretakers can continue to work at other city farms, but the animals are to be auctioned. The auction takes place at the Vianco Arena in Brunegg. It is unusual that so many animals from the same farm come under the hammer on the same day. Buyers from all over Switzerland are expected to attend. The whole day is in anticipation of the evening's big event. Several additional ...
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Bird's-eye view - as precise as never before

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:19
New aerial images record details of Switzerland with an accuracy of 10cm - thanks to the latest technology deployed by the Federal Office of Topography. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The federal office has come a long way since the days - more than a century ago - when the first topographical surveys of Switzerland were made by mounting cameras on pigeons. Since aircraft have been used, the quality of images has continued to improve with every technological advance. The latest camera the topography office has installed in its airplane can record details with an accuracy of 10cm. It will photograph all of western Switzerland in the coming months, with the results expected to be online by the end of the year. 
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Crises that can strengthen democracy

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 11:00
From the United States to Europe, wealthy and captivating populists such as US President Donald Trump and Swiss People’s Party backer Christoph Blocher pose a challenge for democracies. In a Q&A, Hanspeter Kriesi, a prominent Swiss political scientist, surveys the situation. This article is part of #DearDemocracy, the platform for direct democracy of swissinfo.ch. swissinfo.ch: A major factor behind the Brits' surprising Brexit decision was a figure taken out of the air, namely the GBP 350 million that Great Britain was said to transfer to Brussels. Per week. How could the EU's populist opponents win such an important referendum with such a barefaced lie? Hanspeter Kriesi: The figure was fake, certainly, but I doubt whether it carried the day. The vote wasn't won on the basis of one set of lies or another. The Brits – elites included – have always been Eurosceptics. The decisive factor was that the Tories, the governing party, were split. swissinfo.ch: In 1992, ...
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When Switzerland walks the red carpet

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 11:00
Besides celebrating the world of cinema, this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival will commemorate its 70th anniversary. Here is a look back at the Swiss presence at the prestigious festival, including luminaries such as Ursula Andress, Jean-Luc Godard and Bruno Ganz. (SRF, swissinfo.ch)
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“There is big resistance to the energy transition in Switzerland”

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 16:31
Psychologist and aviator Bertrand Piccard has twice made memorable global circumnavigations: first, in a balloon, and more recently with Solar Impulse, a plane powered by the sun. Our only limitations are in our minds, he tells swissinfo.ch. swissinfo.ch: You have lived an eclectic life since childhood. Your grandfather Auguste and father Jacques were renowned inventors and adventurers of the skies and of the ocean depths. How did this background affect your course in life? Bertrand Piccard: My father and grandfather influenced me, but also all the people I met through them during my youth: astronauts, explorers, divers, and environmental activists. They all had a desire to get out and discover the world, to go beyond what is known, to go beyond the limits. It was then I realised that the impossible is only in our minds, not in reality. swissinfo.ch: Some experiences can change us forever. Surely, you were not the same person after completing your ...
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Non-smoking apartments sell out in Zurich

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 14:57
A non-smoking apartment block has been built in Zurich, the first of its kind in Switzerland. (RTS/swissinfo.ch) All 40 apartments in the block, built by the Schönheim housing cooperative, have been sold. Tenants sign a contract agreeing not to smoke, while their guests are also banned from lighting up. If they break the rules, they can be evicted. Meanwhile, other specialised housing units are emerging in the city: including one for carless owners.  Not everybody likes the idea. Tenants associations such as ASLOCA are up in arms, saying that it is an intrusion into people's private affairs to impose a non-smoking policy, and that it opens the door to all types of discrimination.  Patrick Rérat, from the urban geography department at the University of Lausanne, disagrees. He thinks there's plenty of room in such a saturated market to provide special types of living space for niche clients. 
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What our food says about us

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:29
Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland – to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. She meets up with her friend Zoe, born in Switzerland to Greek parents, to find out whose mum is the best cook. In a toss up between Swiss rösti, Sri Lankan curry or Greek gyro, which one comes up trumps? (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)
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Rainbow families start to colour Swiss media

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:00
Gay or lesbian parents are almost non-existent in the Swiss mainstream media, unlike in the United States where they play central roles in several award-winning series. But many same-sex parents have welcomed a ground-breaking short scene in one of Switzerland’s most popular television programmes.  A male circus clown chokes to death on stage. It looks like foul play, but whodunit? An investigator rounds up various members of the troupe and asks a small girl standing between a female knife-thrower and a female dancer whether the clown was her father. No, these are my parents, she replies, referring to the two women.  This brief exchange, broadcast earlier this year on Swiss public television, SRF, appeared in the fifth series of Der Bestatter (The Undertaker), a successful Swiss crime drama in which a copper-turned-mortician helps clear up mysterious deaths.  Swiss tabloid Blick devoted an article to the episode since it was one of the first in mainstream Swiss ...
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Switzerland has a second stab at Digital ID

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 05/17/2017 - 22:27
Amid much fanfare, Switzerland’s digital identification concept has been rebooted after a faltering start. The launch of SwissID has raised both expectations and a series of tantalizing questions as Switzerland tries to catch up with other countries who have marched ahead with their own models. There is little doubt among observers that Switzerland is crying out for a properly functioning and user-friendly digital ID system. With more and more services going digital, consumers require a single point of entry that bypasses the need for multiple registrations and passwords. Digital ID could eventually be used not just for e-shopping, but for a range of other services such as applying for a mortgage, submitting tax returns or voting. "Switzerland needs SwissID: the service simplifies access to the online world and paves the way for future services such as electronic voting,” said Marcel Dobler, digital entrepreneur and director at SwissSign, the company that will run ...
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Making Swiss trains handicapped accessible proves a challenge

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 05/17/2017 - 17:00
The Swiss public transport network must become more accessible for people with disabilities by 2023, but it is unlikely to hit its target.  With six years to go before the deadline, it has become clear that not all trains and stations will manage to make upgrades originally passed by law in 2003. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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