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Updated: 10 hours 35 min ago

Is adoption in Switzerland on its way out?

12 hours 36 min ago
The boom days of adopting children from abroad are over – nowadays hardly anyone is adopting in Switzerland. There are several reasons for this. The airplane was full of children, Elena, Tom and Rhea (all names changed) can recall it clearly. But Myra was too small to remember. All four were adopted by Swiss parents in the 1970s. Their own parents could not or did not want to care for them anymore. Around 1,200 children from South Korea were adopted in Switzerland during this time. Many of them still meet up at the Dongari association, where they can talk freely about their experiences. Members Elena, Tom, Rhea and Myra have agreed to speak about their adoptions to swissinfo.ch. Although they have been through a lot, they can still have a laugh together – such as over their experiences of South Korea. “I am not that fond of Koreans,” said Myra. “I am Swiss and express my opinion. Koreans mostly don’t. And all this macho behaviour….” The others laugh and seem to know what Myra ...
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Support wanes for abolition of public broadcast fee

17 hours 36 min ago
A proposal to scrap the mandatory licence fee for services of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) has lost more ground, according to a major opinion poll. The survey, published on Wednesday ahead of a nationwide vote on March 4, found that nearly two out of three people will reject the initiative. The initiative was launched by the youth chapters of the two major parties on the right of the political spectrum. Support for the initiative dropped 5% compared with a previous poll carried out by the leading GfS Bern research institute on behalf of the SBC in January. “The long-running debate has been losing steam and chances of the initiative gaining the upper hand are waning,” says GfS political scientist Martina Mousson. Discussions about the initiative began last October, triggering emotional campaigns and broad coverage in the following month both by traditional and social media. “The involvement of civil society against the initiative led to heated debates, pushing ...
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Charities and NGOs trial new technology to enhance performance

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:00
When working under difficult conditions in underdeveloped or volatile parts of the world, charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) face challenges to ensuring that their efforts achieve the best results. Some groups are experimenting with the new digital technology blockchain to maximise their impact. Blockchain is sometimes referred to as ‘second-generation internet’ that promises to store and transmit encrypted data more efficiently and with greater transparency than the current digital system. It’s still in the experimental phase, with actors ranging from finance and business to governments and NGOs trying to figure out different applications. The UN World Food Programme is one such actor: it’s testing out a blockchain system to help hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees at the Azraq camp in neighbouring Jordan. The system combines biometric data, credits stored in digital wallets, and direct payments to food retailers. It also sidelines intermediaries, both ...
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Swiss Icon: a symbolic expression of Switzerland

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 10:00
What comes to your mind when you think of Switzerland? Chocolate, banks, luxury watches? These omnipresent images are not only indispensable products in everyday Swiss life. They are also considered symbols of Swiss tradition by people all around the world. However, they are presented across cultures in very different ways. A few years ago, Chinese artist Ying Xu moved to Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland. Her daily life and discussions with Swiss friends about linguistic differences and the misunderstanding of images and symbols from different cultural perspectives provided her with ideas and subject matter for the “Swiss Icon” series. It has now become a major creative project for her. The “icons” Xu chose are typical “Made in Switzerland” products such as fondue, edelweiss or yodelling and brands which probably haven’t been widely recognised internationally, for example Grittibänz, Tiger-Finkli and Ricola. During the creative process, Xu gradually developed her own way of ...
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Celebrating the ‘fifth season’ Swiss-style

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 14:43
During carnival, the photographers of the Swiss picture agency Keystone are often in action at unusual hours, documenting wild celebrations in all their local forms across the country.  The last big event in the annual carnival calendar in the “Morgestraich” in Basel. At 4am, masked people playing piccolos and drums set off through the city.  + More information on Swiss customs and traditions The collection of images presents a short – and obviously far from complete – stroll through Switzerland’s carnival traditions. Not everywhere puts on massive events – in many places carnival consists simply of smaller parties and masked get-togethers in local pubs.  (All images: Keystone; text: Thomas Kern, swissinfo.ch)
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Aid agencies in the eye of the storm

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:00
It’s the perfect storm. Aid workers – the world’s modern-day saints in many eyes – are suddenly portrayed in the headlines as the vilest of sinners. The scandal around mega charity Oxfam, in which senior staff members are alleged to have used prostitutes in Haiti in 2011, has attracted global attention – and global disapproval. The idea that people who have flown into a disaster zone, ostensibly to help the poorest and most vulnerable, should then engage in sexual exploitation, has disgusted many once loyal supporters of Oxfam and fuelled an already heated debate in Britain over the value of foreign aid. In Geneva, UN aid agencies – many of which use Oxfam as an implementing partner – braced themselves for the inevitable deluge of questions: “Who, when, how many, why didn’t you?”, etc. Dangerously confused debate And while the agency spokespersons in Geneva patiently addressed those questions, repeating over and over again the UN’s policy of ‘zero tolerance’ for any form of ...
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Record-breaking Federer returns to No. 1

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:20
Roger Federer is back at the summit of men’s tennis. At 36, the Swiss is the oldest man to make it since the ATP rankings came into being in 1973. More than 14 years after Federer first reached No. 1, swissinfo.ch looks at the complete history of all the top-ranked male players in one graphic.   Federer first became world number one in 2004, when he beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semi-final of the Australian Open before going on to take the title. On that occasion he stayed there for 237 weeks.  “The goal [this time] was to be world number one for a week, that’s plenty for me,” he said on Friday after beating Robin Haase in Rotterdam, a victory that guaranteed Federer would rise to number one for the fourth time in his career. “If it’s more, great, I’ll take it. If I play well, good things will happen. It’s the ultimate achievement in our sport to get the number one ranking, it just doesn’t come easy.”  Asked to compare the 22-year-old Federer to the 36-year-old model, he ...
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SoftBank seeks to join Swiss Re board

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:22
SoftBank, the Japanese tech-to-financial conglomerate, is seeking to join Swiss Re’s board to influence how the reinsurer manages its $161billion (CHF149.2 billion) in investments, as talks progress over the acquisition of a large minority stake. Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder and chief executive, will meet with Swiss Re chairman Walter Kielholz in the coming weeks as the two sides look to come to an agreement that would give the Japanese group a foothold in the global insurance industry.  Discussions now centre on a deal that would see SoftBank becoming an anchor shareholder in Swiss Re with a 20% to 30% and gaining multiple seats on the company’s board, according to people close to the matter.  By doing so, Mr Son — a perpetual dealmaker always in search of greater capital to invest with — would bolster his company’s presence in financial services and give it sway in how Swiss Re manages its $161 billion portfolio.  SoftBank, which is best known for its technology and ...
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Has Switzerland’s local democracy lost its soul?

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 18:00
Participation in town hall meetings has reached a new low, marking a 30-year decline in Swiss democracy at a local level. But all is not lost. Local democracy has been haemorrhaging for quite a while, reaching dramatic proportions. Research shows that only 4.6% of the population living in municipalities with between 2,000 and 5,000 residents went to town hall meetings in 2016. Such gatherings are often considered the cradle of the Swiss system of direct democracy: They decide about everything from local taxes, building projects and social issues and ideally reflect the way a community is organised. There are currently just over 2,550 municipalities with considerable political autonomy across the country. The research shows a striking pattern: The bigger the municipality the lower the rate of participation. While turnout at these meetings was 21.5% in municipalities with fewer than 250 residents in 2016, the figure dropped to a mere 2.1% in municipalities with 10,000 - ...
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Adoption, Blockchain, and Carnival

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 13:00
Here are the stories we'll be following the week of February 19, 2018: Monday The famous Basel Carnival, which runs from Monday until Wednesday, will kick off this morning with the ‘Morgestraich’ parade. The Basel ‘Fasnacht’ is Switzerland’s largest and most traditional carnival celebration, and the last of season. We’ll publish a photo gallery capturing the antics of Basel revellers, as well as images from other carnival celebrations throughout the country. Tuesday swissinfo.ch business correspondent Matthew Allen takes a look at the Swiss-based charities and non-governmental organisations, including the UN World Food Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, that are experimenting with blockchain to maximise their impact – especially in underdeveloped or volatile parts of the world. Wednesday Statistics show that adoption in Switzerland is on the decline – both within the country and in terms of adoption of children from abroad. We dig ...
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Counselling on health and food made her famous

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:00
Launching herself into the fitness sector has been the best investment of her life, says Doris Hofer. The Swiss expat lives in Turkey and has become an expert on health issues. She reinvented herself after her divorce, and, not least through social media, notably Instagram, the 42-year-old Hofer has made a name for herself in Turkey giving advice about fitness and healthy food. swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland? Doris Hofer: I left the country in 2004 because of love. I was married to a Turkish man for almost ten years and we have two children together, Zoe and Noah. swissinfo.ch: Did you plan to leave Switzerland for good or do you intend to come back one day? D.H.: I’d like to visit Switzerland more regularly and cooperate with Swiss companies. But as a patchwork family we are unlikely to move back. The father of my children lives here in Turkey and I don’t want my children to grow up without him being around. The views expressed in this article are solely those ...
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When the Alps' longest glacier spreads out at your feet

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 10:00
The Aletsch Glacier is the longest in the Alps, and only hardy alpinists, like Swiss photographer Dan Patitucci, get to see it from this angle. We'd been on the Berner Oberland ski tour for three days as an assignment for a magazine that an American writer had come to the Alps for.  When we arrived to the Konkordia Hut, we had yet to see anything other than the tips of our skis. GPS's and mountain skills had gotten us this far.  I knew what views the writer was missing, but he had no idea. So when the clouds briefly parted everyone dashed outside to get a glimpse of the Konkordiaplatz and all that surrounded us. 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 ...
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By the numbers: public purse bulges while e-cars are on the rise

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 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. Monday 1,200 Kurds living in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe gathered in the centre of Lausanne to protest the Turkish bombing of Afrine, a Kurdish enclave in Syria. The 1,200-strong group walked in several stages to Geneva, where they demonstrated in front of the United Nations a few days later. Tuesday 10,078 The number of new members who joined the euthanasia organisation Exit last year. In 2017, 734 people ended their lives using Exit’s services.  Wednesday 2.8 billion This was the healthy surplus – in Swiss francs – announced by Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, compared to a forecast deficit of CHF250 million. The difference was due mainly to higher-than-estimated tax revenues.  Thursday 100 The number of foreign spy agencies with whom the Federal ...
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Team is high in mountains but low in league

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 12:00
Tucked in the Leventina valley at the foot of the Gotthard mountain, the villages of Ambrì and Piotta are home to a professional hockey club with a cult following beyond Switzerland. An imposing structure with a vaulted roof stands out from all other buildings in tiny Ambrì: it is the “Pista la Valascia”, the hockey stadium and home of HC Ambrì-Piotta. The venue is all the more remarkable for seating 7,000 spectators, or several times the population of the entire municipality of Quinto, where Ambrì is located. The impressive size of the arena is no accident. HC Ambrì-Piotta – or the white and blues, as they’re affectionately known – has fans in all of Switzerland and across Europe, too.  When the club meets its arch rival from the southern Swiss town of Lugano, supporters from as far away as German-speaking Schaffhausen in the north of the country make the pilgrimage to cheer on their team.  On just such a night, fans fill the local restaurants before the game to enjoy a pizza.
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How does Switzerland spend its taxpayers' money?

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 17:10
After the government revealed a large surplus in Switzerland's public finances earlier this week, we wondered how the country spends its money.  +Read about Switzerland's large CHF2.8 billion surplus Spending on social welfare remains the single largest expenditure, which cost taxpayers nearly CHF23 billion ($25 billion) last year, and was an increase of 1.6% on 2016. The rise was mainly due to pension payouts and high health costs. The biggest growth was seen in spending on education and research (+5.7% to CHF7.6 billion), in part due to additional funding needed to keep Switzerland part of the European research programme, Horizon 2020.  The government had to set less aside for transport, with spending dropping year on year 0.6% to CHF9.1 billion.
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Parag Khanna gives his prescription for democracy

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 12:00
With his provocative theses and books, the Indo-American political scientist Parag Khanna is omnipresent on television and on stage. Whether on CNN, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, or in TED Talks, Khanna is an intellectual superstar. #DearDemocracy met up with him in his adopted homeland of Singapore. I meet the father of two in the lobby of a hotel in the centre of the city, a meeting place that seems common, almost boring. However, the location as well as my interview partner are anything but common. The lobby of the Oasia Hotel, which opened a year ago, is 12 floors up and offers a glimpse into the future. Here, the high-rise building, which is covered in plants and lies at the heart of the city-state, opens into a bright urban atrium of big lawns, fountains, waterfalls, and seating area. “What a wonderful place. I have never been here before,” Parag Khanna says. The 40-year-old has just returned from a four-month trip to Germany where he was undertaking research ...
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Anita - World Champion in Natural Bodybuilding

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 17:35
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice. They answer questions that nobody else dares to ask directly. This week, we speak to Anita, a world champion in "Natural Bodybuilding", a movement for bodybuilders who abstain from performance-enhancing drugs. She tells Swiss Public Television, SRF, that just because she's a bodybuilder, it doesn't make her any less feminine. (SRF, swissinfo.ch)
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New Swiss development network to tackle UN goals

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 16:55
Government officials and development specialists have been gathering in Bern to discuss how the United Nations’ ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be successfully implemented in Switzerland.  Some 250 decision makers, including solar adventurer Bertrand Piccard, met in Bern on Thursday to discuss the Swiss implementation of the SDGs. The conference was organized by the new Sustainable Development Solutions Network Switzerland (SDSN) under the theme "Where Society, Science and Politics create solutions”.  Adopted unanimously by UN member nations in September 2015, the 17 non-binding SDGs and 169 associated targets are designed to tackle by 2030 a range of the world's most troubling problems, such as hunger, jobs, education, gender inequality, sanitation, justice and peace.  The SDGs aim to go further than their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), notably by being more inclusive; unlike the earlier goals, the SDGs will also apply to wealthy states.
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Should voting rights of Swiss expats be curbed?

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:00
Swiss citizens living across the world still have the right to decide on national – and in some cases local and cantonal – issues. One critic asks whether it is time for stricter rules. Political consultant Claudio Kuster is the man who instigated the latest debate about voting rights for Swiss expatriates. He was also one of the driving forces behind a people’s initiative aimed at capping managers’ salaries, approved by Swiss voters in 2013. His latest campaign challenging the suffrage of Swiss citizens living abroad has triggered plenty of opposition. He tells swissinfo.ch about his motivations. swissinfo.ch: Are you simply trying to provoke a debate? Claudio Kuster: I can understand the negative reaction from those affected directly. Perhaps I broke a taboo. Because, at first glance, it is as if somebody was calling to abolish suffrage for women. However, I regularly won support for my demand when I explained to people that Swiss citizens who live abroad and have never ...
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The future of universities in a digital era

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:00
As the digital revolution transforms society, what is the role of universities as “intelligent” machines begin to ask and answer the questions of the universe. Monasteries – the guardians and sanctuaries of knowledge – once maintained huge collections of manuscripts that formed the foundation of current knowledge. The Abbey of St. Gallen, whose architecture, school, and even its herb garden served as a blueprint for many monastic communities, not only preserved their livelihood, but also fostered learning. While the monks worked in the scriptorium copying time-honored Christian texts – some scribes barely able to understand their content - the revolutionary ideas recorded in Roman manuscripts (such as Lucretius’s tract) rotted in the cellars of abbey libraries until Poggio, an “enlightened” former papal secretary roaming the country on a donkey, no less, came across the treasure trove. The historian Stephen Greenblatt regales Poggio’s’ tale of discovery of De Rerum Natura. For ...
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