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Updated: 2 days 17 hours ago

A village gets a luxury transformation

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 12:00
Once an ordinary mountain village, an Egyptian billionaire’s vision to construct Switzerland’s largest tourist resort changed the landscape of the central Swiss town of Andermatt and the lives of the people there. Two photographers have highlighted the area's humbler roots.  The mega-resort was billed to be different from other Alpine holiday destinations: more luxury, up to six top-class hotels, 500 apartments, and even a congress centre with an indoor pool. A ‘grand deluxe suite’ at the Chedi Hotel, which opened in 2013, will set you back by about CHF1,700 ($1,710.00) per night, depending on the season. To date, around CHF1 billion have been invested so far, and the resort is still not fully finished.  A military history In 2004 the Swiss military was pared down and the specialist training centres, through which a steady flow of recruits once passed, were reduced in number, for instance in Andermatt. For decades, the Swiss army had been a source of wealth for the village in ...
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Cheesy study helps find the perfect fondue

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 10:00
Swiss researchers have been busy testing the texture of cheese fondue – more specifically, how it flows. Or not. “There is no bigger shame in Switzerland than serving a fondue that is too liquid, gummy, or even phase-separated, and many myths without scientific base persist in Swiss kitchens on how to prepare the perfect fondue,” say scientists from the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health at Swiss federal technology institute, ETH Zurich. The typical fondue is made with Gruyère and Vacherin cheeses mixed with corn starch and white wine. Even novice cooks can guess that more starch will yield a thicker fondue, while more wine will thin it. But the Swiss researchers wanted to explore the viscosity in detail. “The flow behavior or rheology of fondue is crucial for mouthfeel, flavor release, and the tendency of fondue to cling to the bread,” points out the study, which has been published by the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Omega. The Swiss researchers spent weeks ...
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Left behind and locked out of Swiss democracy

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 12:00
Democracy bases its legitimacy on the promise to adequately and appropriately represent the population. However, a look at Switzerland’s system reveals some shortcomings: women, young people, foreigners and the low-qualified are often absent from political institutions. #Dear Democracy This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. Democratic rights don’t fall from the sky. They are the achievement of brave people who demanded and fought for political rights for themselves and for their fellow citizens. Such efforts fighting for equality were also seen in Switzerland. Almost 100 years ago, the social and political situation in the country was explosive, and many were dissatisfied with living and working conditions; factory workers, in particular, felt politicians had abandoned them. This resulted in a ...
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Credit Suisse freezes bonus pool after tough year of rebuilding

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 09:27
Credit Suisse has frozen its 2018 bonus pool while awarding its top executives double-digit pay rises, as it tries to keep investors onside when it reports higher annual pre-tax profits next week. The Swiss bank’s overall pool of bonuses will remain flat at about CHF3.2 billion ($3.2 billion) in the latest pay round as the board seeks to balance distributions to shareholders with pay for employees, according to people with knowledge of the decision. However, its top executives are set to receive a significant pay boost worth tens of millions of francs after removing a voluntary cap on their pay imposed in the past two years. The move comes despite an almost 30% fall in the bank’s share price in the past year. Credit Suisse has attracted controversy before over pay. The bank, led by chief executive Tidjane Thiam, was criticised by investors for boosting bonuses 3% in 2017 and 6% in 2016, despite making more than CHF3 billion of annual losses during a painful restructuring over ...
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Why Swiss women don’t sue their employers

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 14:46
Few women in Switzerland sue their employers for wage discrimination – with good reason. It seldom works out. Over the past four decades, 167 individual women and nine men – as well as 61 groups – have taken an employer to court. But despite the persistent wage gap in Switzerland, the number of wage discrimination lawsuits is on the decline. In addition to the inherent expense and awkwardness of suing the company that issues one’s paycheck, potential plaintiffs are put off by the fact that the chances of winning are slim. As University of Geneva law professor Karine Lempen told Swiss public television, SRF, it’s very difficult to prove an employer’s guilt. So instead, victims are more likely to approach the problem via an arbitration authority – with a greater likelihood of success. This method results in a settlement 69% of the time, whereas in court it’s 12%. Equal pay for equal work is a constitutional requirement in Switzerland. Yet according to the most recent ...
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Brexit’s ‘toxic uncertainty’ impacts Swiss and UK scientists

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:00
Scientific progress in Switzerland, and for Swiss citizens, could be at risk if research and innovation are caught up in the politics of Brexit, say those affected in the Swiss and British research communities.  “There’s this uncertainty that is very toxic,” says Vincent Croset, a Swiss post-doctoral scientist exploring issues of memory at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour. “We won’t be able to do research in the conditions that we do at the moment.” Croset is one of about 34,500 Swiss citizens living and working in the UK. Funding for his project is provided by a European Research Council grant through Horizon 2020, the European Union’s framework programme to fund research and innovation. The UK may lose access to Horizon 2020 funds and its successor program, Horizon Europe, if it leaves the European Union without a deal.  While Croset is hopeful that the UK would make up for any funding lost after Brexit and the British government has promised ...
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Why Swiss cities dominate the cocaine hit parade

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 18:00
In terms of European cocaine usage, half of the top ten cities are Swiss. Switzerland’s low regulation and high purchasing power offer ideal conditions for buying or consuming drugs, says national research centre Addiction Switzerland. Some five tonnes of cocaine are consumed each year in Switzerland – with revenues of around CHF330 million ($330 million) – according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Swiss cities take five of the top nine slots for European consumption. The cocaine comes mainly from West African networks, reports Addiction Switzerland. Heroin, meanwhile, is imported and sold mainly by Albanian groups, with the quantity in circulation estimated at 1.8-2.5 tonnes a year. “Illegal substances can be found in cities quickly and relatively easily,” notes the Addiction Panorama for 2019, which gives an overview of the consumption of addictive substances. “Legal products are also everywhere and cheap. They can be bought around the clock ...
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‘Elections are the only solution for Venezuela’

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 16:02
Switzerland has expressed concern about the ongoing crisis in Venezuela but has not joined other countries in recognizing parliamentary leader Juan Guaidó as interim president. Yanina Welp of the Aarau Centre for Democracy Studies spoke to swissinfo.ch about the situation. swissinfo.ch: Most EU countries have recognised Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. Switzerland's official position is that it does not recognise governments, only states. What do you think of this position? Yanina Welp: I think it’s a mistake. While it may be true that international law is clearer on criteria for recognising a state than for recognising governments, I think a country like Switzerland that seeks not only to practice but also to defend democratic principles could speak out against government changes that violate those principles. Maduro’s government in Venezuela has been violating democratic principles for years. swissinfo.ch: Does support for Maduro or Guaidó reflect that what is at ...
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Mechanism sends ‘strong signal to perpetrators of crimes in Syria’

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 12:00
More and more European countries, including Germany, France, Sweden and Austria, are prosecuting people for war crimes in Syria. One of the tools at their disposal is the Geneva-based International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM). The body was created in December 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly and has been headed since summer 2017 by former judge Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France. This evidence-gathering body is at the service of these national jurisdictions and others that may be set up in the future, and safeguards a huge database with information for future trials. Is the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism fully operational? Catherine Marchi-Uhel: We have finished the preparatory work, but the mechanism started to be operational before that. After setting up our evidence management system and making it secure in May 2018, we were able to start gathering information, including some of the most sensitive elements. This evidence-gathering, ...
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Breastfeeding in Switzerland: myths vs realities

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 12:00
Some 95% of mothers breastfeed their newborns in Switzerland. But there are still many prejudices over if and how you should breastfeed. swissinfo.ch spoke to two experts to gain a bigger picture. Katrin Berger and Margrit Hagen are certified breastfeeding consultants and work at the Women's Hospital of the University Hospital of Bern (Inselspital). They are also midwives with more than 30 years of professional experience. They have first-hand knowledge of the feelings, thoughts and worries of mothers when it comes to feeding their newborns. Their experience has also helped them in their work as auditors for the Baby-Friendly Hospitals label. This defines quality criteria as drawn up by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for breastfeeding. There are now 27 hospitals in Switzerland using this label. swissinfo.ch: How does Switzerland comply with UN recommendations on the promotion of breastfeeding? Katrin Berger: 95% of ...
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Picasso’s early work on show in Basel

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:37
A major exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler near Basel shows a young Picasso in search of his identity as a painter. It is the most elaborate and expensive exhibition ever shown at Fondation Bayeler. The works on display from the painter's early years are milestones on Picasso's way to becoming the most famous artist of the 20th century. Never before have they been presented together in such a dense and high-quality exhibition. Included are around 80 of the most famous paintings and sculptures in the world, borrowed for the most part only rarely from renowned museums in Europe, the US, Canada, Russia, China and Japan. Curator Raphaël Bouvier has chosen "Yo Picasso" (I Picasso), a self-confident self-portrait in vibrant colours, to hang at the entrance and start the show. At the age of just 20, aspiring artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973) embarked on a search for new pictorial themes and forms of expression. This search is also the theme of the exhibition, through ten rooms in ...
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Half of Swiss to have higher education degrees by 2037

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 09:00
The Swiss population’s education level will rise even further over the next 20 years, says a government report. The reason – demand from employers. By 2037, almost half the population aged 25-65 is predicted to have a tertiary-level qualification – either a degree or an advanced professional diploma for those having done vocational education and training (VET). In 2017, 43% had an equivalent qualification, according to the government’s report on demographic development and education, which was published on Wednesday. The number of qualifications gained at other educational levels is expected to remain stable. More students Overall, demographic change – spurred on by a higher birth rate between 2003 and 2016 – will result in more people in education, including in schools (until 2030) and apprenticeships (from 2020). The number of students at Swiss universities and higher education institutions should “after decades of moderate growth, significantly increase (+21% between 2017 ...
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Supporting local dancers at Prix de Lausanne

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 14:33
The world-renowned international ballet competition, Prix de Lausanne, is underway in western Switzerland – with 74 young dancers from 19 countries. In keeping with recent trends, many are from Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and China. “But we are also keen to discover talented local dancers,” notes Kathryn Bradney, the competition’s artistic and executive director and a former principal dancer from the Béjart Ballet Lausanne company. For example, the competition organizes free ballet classes for local dance students. And there’s also a special prize for local talent. The “Best Swiss Candidate Prize” goes to the best Swiss finalist or resident who has been training in Switzerland for at least two years. There are no Swiss candidates for this award, but there are three potential winners: two 18-year-old Japanese women living in Zurich: Sumina Sasaki (candidate #313) and Mio Sumiyama (#316), as well as Basel-based 18-year-old Bulgarian Georgi Kapitanski (#422). The ...
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Geneva to vote on divisive secularism law

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 12:00
Citizens in Geneva will decide on Sunday whether to back a controversial new law aimed at better regulating relations between religion and state, whilst reaffirming the principle of secularism in the canton. Opponents say planned changes, which include a ban on visible religious symbols, go too far and target Muslim women.  Geneva is a cosmopolitan melting pot, with 40% of its residents of foreign origin.  The canton of Protestant reformer Jean Calvin is sometimes referred to as the Protestant Rome, but times have changed, and Geneva also has a diverse religious makeup. In 2016, 35% of its residents claimed to be Roman Catholic, while 10% said they were Protestant and 6% Muslim. In all, 400 religious communities are represented, but at the same time, 38% of citizens claim to be non-believers. Over the past five years, local officials and politicians have been battling to agree on a new secularism (laicité) law, driven by minister Pierre Maudet, that supporters say will bring ...
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Remembering Switzerland’s role in the American hostage crisis in Iran

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 18:00
A Swiss documentary shown at the recent Solothurn Film Festival looks at how Swiss diplomats found themselves at the centre of a geopolitical flashpoint 40 years ago – and how they helped broker a deal. There will be no celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the hostage crisis in Iran. From November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage in the US embassy in Tehran. The 444 days of captivity were the longest for this type of hostage in history and represented the beginning of hostile relations between the United States and Iran. The break-in of the embassy by 400 Iranian students and revolutionaries was a turning point in Middle East politics as well as the probable cause of Jimmy Carter’s defeat in the 1980 presidential election. Is there anything to celebrate about the crisis? While the word celebrate is too strong, there is certainly reason to at least acknowledge the outstanding diplomatic efforts by the Swiss foreign ...
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Albanian bears explore new Swiss sanctuary

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 17:45
Two bears transferred from a small zoo in Albania are adjusting to their new home in eastern Switzerland – the Arosa Bear Sanctuary – after a road trip through four countries. Last week, Amelia and Meimo were taken from a small enclosure near a restaurant in Albania after their owners asked the Four Paws international animal organisation to help find a larger home for the bears. As cubs, the animals had been rescued from poachers in 2006. They are said to be in good health and well fed. Preparing for a road trip Vets and specialists from Four Paws and the Arosa Bear Foundation travelled to Albania to retrieve the bears. They tranquilised the omnivores ahead of their long journey, which ended on Friday night. The last part of the odyssey involved a ride in a cable car and being pushed along by a piste bully normally used to groom the ski slopes. The sanctuary in Arosa in the canton of Graubünden is 2.8 hectares (6.9 acres) and 1,800 metres above sea level. Neighbours There ...
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Crypto bickering has set Switzerland back, says CVA president

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 15:13
The new president of the Crypto Valley Association (CVA) tells swissinfo.ch that months of in-fighting has damaged Switzerland’s status as a global blockchain hub.  Daniel Haudenschild was voted into office on Thursday along with a new board. The election followed a period of unrest that saw claims of profiteering and sharp practices.  Four board members from the previous regime, including ex-president Oliver Bussmann, declined to stand for re-election. Haudenschild’s priority is to heal divisions to prevent Switzerland losing any more ground to other countries that want to attract the world’s best blockchain projects.  The size of his task was made apparent by two standing CVA board members resigning last week. One of them objected to the new board being dominated by lawyers and consultants rather than grassroots blockchain entrepreneurs.  swissinfo.ch: The Swiss blockchain community has been in a state of civil war. What are your priorities for bringing CVA forward?  ...
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‘In three years, medical cannabis could be sold in Swiss pharmacies’

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 12:00
Tens of thousands of patients in Switzerland regularly use cannabis to relieve pain and discomfort. Most of them do so illegally, however. Rudolf Brenneisen, a leading expert on medical cannabis, talks to swissinfo about the current predicament and his hopes to see cannabis on chemists’ shelves. Switzerland’s national drugs policy is often cited as a pioneering, humane model. Twenty-five years ago, the small Alpine nation launched a project for the medical prescription of heroin and a four-pronged drugs strategy - prevention, therapy, damage limitation and repression. This pragmatic policy, introduced in 1991, was born out of the Zurich drug problems of the 1980s and 1990s.  However, a progressive approach has not been adopted for medical cannabis, says Brenneisen, chairman of the Swiss Working Group on Cannabinoids in Medicine (SACM) and a former consultant to the United Nations Narcotics Laboratory. swissinfo.ch: Should cannabis be banned as a drug or legalised as a medicine?
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FIFA poised to crown Gianni Infantino for a second term

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 09:53
Gianni Infantino’s job, the most powerful in international football, is theoretically up for grabs. But an election to decide whether Infantino should continue to run the world’s most popular sport will probably prove more of a coronation. Infantino faces no serious opposition in his bid for a new three-year term as president of FIFA, international football’s governing body. Days before candidacies must be finalised his sole likely rival – Ramon Vega, a former footballer – was struggling to win enough support to get on the ballot. The FIFA presidency is one of the highest-profile jobs in global sport and commands a wage of more than $1.5 million (CHF1.5 million). Candidates need support from just five of FIFA’s 211 national member associations and must show they have been involved in the game for five years. A person close to the organisation’s leadership said Infantino had secured 196 letters of support from national member associations. Vega was struggling to secure the five ...
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Outcry as Geneva keeps banning crossborder pupils

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 19:00
Canton Geneva wants to stop crossborder pupils from attending its schools, despite a court decision that went against this. The move has angered many Swiss living in neighbouring France, who feel this is discrimination. Rents are notoriously high in Geneva, which is why around 25,000 Swiss – 14% of the Geneva electorate – have opted to live in the departments of Ain or Haute-Savoie just over the border in nearby France. Most of them maintain close ties to their canton of origin, working there and paying a large part of their taxes to the cantonal authorities. But many expats are feeling disillusioned and abandoned by the canton, accusing it of considering them “second class” citizens. One of the main reasons: the canton’s decision, made last year, to limit access to Geneva state schools for their children. The move will be continued for the start of the next school year in summer 2019, according to the local newspaper Tribune de Genève. Better integration In fact, the rules ...
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