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News and information from Switzerland about Switzerland: direct democracy, education, science, business, living in Switzerland and a lot more – current, informative, in depth and in 10 languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Russian).
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Transport, terrorism, and dual-nationals

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 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 4.6 million The number of vehicles in Switzerland, according to the Federal Statistical Office. With a population of around 8 million, this makes more than one car for every two inhabitants, and a hefty contribution to the environment; in 2016, transport (excluding international flights) accounted for 38% of Swiss carbon emissions.  Tuesday 2 Following a decision in Parliament, the question of cabinet ministers holding two (or more) passports was brought to a close, with politicians deciding that multiple nationalities is fine. The vote came after a debate last year in which some claimed that more than one nationality could lead to divided loyalties.  Wednesday 3 Terrorist gunman Cherif Chekatt killed three and injured 12 others when he opened fire at the ...
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Switzerland after sundown

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 12:00
By day, photographer Dominic Büttner works with light to capture the best shots for his clients. By night, however, he seeks out darker corners, as his Dreamscapes project shows. Büttner, who works for various well-known Swiss companies and organisations, is until now the only photographer – along with his colleague Béatrice Devènes – to have twice take the official annual photo of the Swiss government. When the sun sets, Büttner moves onto other things. He seeks out “non-places”, places we don’t even notice during the day. In darkness, he sets up his equipment, hits the automatic button, and walks off into his own picture, lamp in hand. But of the photographer himself, all that we are left with is a ghost-like pair of boots. With these paintings of light, we are never sure if we are in a wonderful new land, or if we are in a nightmare. Casting shadows Büttner has also found dreamlike backdrops in Japan, Germany, and Italy. But his non-places are always that – non-places, ...
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Where Swiss development aid meets migration

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 18:00
Controversial and currently on hold in Switzerland, the UN Migration Pact strives to help people live in peace and follow their dreams in their own countries. But many Swiss-supported projects already pursue these goals. Earlier this week the international community - but not Switzerland - formally adopted an international agreement in Morocco that promises a better, more coordinated approach to migration. The Swiss government said on Friday that it had instructed the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to prepare, by the end of 2019, a simple federal decree enabling the Swiss parliament to decide whether or not Switzerland should sign the pact. The country already supports several key projects in the area of migration. It has formed five partnerships with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Nigeria, Serbia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia. The content of a migration partnership is flexible and varies from country to country, taking the particular context and the different interests of the ...
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Switzerland sets legal foundations for blockchain industry

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:25
The Swiss government has announced a wide-ranging blockchain strategy that aims to create a legal foundation for the new technology. The reports suggests amending existing laws, rather than creating new legislation, in a bid to enhance Switzerland’s status as a blockchain-friendly country. The main focus of the strategy is to incorporate decentralised digital tokens into the Swiss business infrastructure, particularly the financial sector. One proposal is to clear away regulatory hurdles for trading securities (such as shares, bonds or real estate) on blockchain platforms. This would create a new regulatory category along the lines of recent fintech laws, which allow certain financial activities to be carried out by tech start-ups without a banking license. Switzerland has rapidly established itself as one of the world’s leading blockchain hubs, attracting both start-ups and hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. The technology, which started off as a means to replace ...
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Do we need clinics for internet and sex addicts?

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:00
One in ten people in Switzerland suffers from some form of behavioural addiction: they cannot live without the internet, gambling, sex or shopping. An expert from the new Centre for Dependency Disorders in Basel gives his view on the issue. Hours and hours spent playing on the computer or searching for porn, excessive sexual behaviour or the irrepressible impulse to buy - it seems that in many cases, the internet and modern society are to blame. + Why the WHO recognised video games addiction as a disease To tackle these ‘new’ disorders, the Basel University Psychiatric Clinics have opened Switzerland’s first clinic specialised in the inpatient treatment of behavioural addictions. “With this service we are entering a new field,” says clinic director Gerhard Wiesbeck. swissinfo.ch: I spend hours watching television and check my mobile phone dozens of times a day. Does this mean I am addicted? Gerhard Wiesbeck: We should not confuse a bad habit or passion, for instance for ...
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Tale of Swiss-based Syrian torture survivor highlights Dublin flaws

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 18:00
Jalal last saw his youngest son was when the boy was a baby. Now Hamude is almost five. The asylum seeker from Syria is caught up in a complicated international case based on the Dublin accord, a regulation that Switzerland applies more strictly than any other country in Europe, according to critics.  Jalal has been living in limbo, unable to plan more than a few months in advance, since 2014. “I spent five years in a Syrian prison and now I have spent [almost] another five years in an open prison,” Jalal told swissinfo.ch in November.   The father leads an isolated life in a tiny studio on the outskirts of Lucerne in central Switzerland. Hamude, along with his mother and two siblings, live equally isolated in a rundown caravan camp a couple thousand kilometres away in Greece. Their relationship unfolds largely over Whatsapp. Living with no sense of when or where they will all see each other again has both parents on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Despite the efforts of ...
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OK Google: what the Swiss search for

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 17:48
Football, football and football, in particular the Swiss national squad is what the Swiss looked for, due to it's appearance - and at times questionable performance - at the 2018 World Cup.  Top spot went to Swiss star, Xherdan Shaqiri, who was in the spotlight for celebrating a victory over Serbia by making hand gestures of an Albanian national symbol, the double eagle. Second position went to Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic. Switzerland now has royalty, at least as far as sports are concerned, when footballer Valon Behrami married ski star Lara Gut. The bride came fourth (second to the groom). She now speeds down the slopes burdened with a multisyllabic name, Lara Gut-Behrami. Still gut, German speakers may wonder. Fifth position went to still single Adela Smajic, the daughter of former professional footballer, Admir Smajic. Adela starred in the reality TV show, Bachelor. Controversial academic Tariq Ramadan was the sixth most searched person by the Swiss this ...
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Men appointed to boards because it’s ‘easier’

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 15:00
Few women sit on company boards in Switzerland - and the rate is low compared to other European countries. While parliament on Tuesday put off deciding about quotas, the business world has clear ideas about what should be done. The Senate on Tuesday threw out a revision of Swiss Company Law, that would have included the issue of female quotas for company boards. It has now gone back to committee stage to be revised. The most important duty of a company board is to oversee top management – and to have a 360-degree view of what should be done. That’s why members should preferably bring diverse skills and experience to the table, says Rudolf Meyer, founding member and honorary present of Actares, an organisation representing small shareholders that promotes sustainable company policies. But most Swiss boards are dominated or are completely made up of men. There are in fact only 16% women in the boards of the 100 largest Swiss companies. “This is despite the fact that everybody ...
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What now for Syria?

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 12:00
“It is really playing with a gigantic powder keg in the middle of three million civilians”. These were the words of Jan Egeland, the United Nation’s humanitarian advisor for Syria, on his final day in office last month after chairing his last meeting of the UN’s humanitarian task force.  He was talking about Idlib, the last Syrian city still in rebel hands. The buffer zone created around the city by Russia and Turkey was starting to fray: there had been artillery and air attacks, armed incursions, and tension was rising.  Idlib, many still believe, could be the last, and possibly bloodiest battle in Syria’s long and bloody war. When Aleppo fell, and then again when Eastern Ghouta succumbed, many opposition figures and their families escaped to Idlib fearing, with some justification, possible brutal reprisals by the Syrian government. Now government forces are closing in, and Idlib is home, it’s believed, to around 30,000 fighters and those three million civilians Jan Egeland ...
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Climate change is a reality we need to confront; so is denialism

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 18:00
Global warming is real, but there are five phases of denial among those who question it, explains a political scientist from the University of St Gallen. The three major scientific reports about global warming that came out this year were truly alarming. In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that limiting the global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would save us a lot of trouble. Yet it also warned that the international community has increasingly lost sight of the goal it agreed to in Paris. To reach it, CO2 emissions would need to drop by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by about 2050. But if states continue business as usual, the 1.5-degree limit will only be reached between 2030 and 2052. In November, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) followed up with its national climate assessment. Prepared by 13 different federal agencies, its conclusions were no less clear. Climate ...
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Venezuelan ex-minister hoarded money in Switzerland

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 15:26
As the US justice authorities investigate corruption among Venezuela’s former leaders, there is evidence that embezzled state funds flowed into Swiss bank accounts. The investigative newsletter Gotham City*, which focuses on white-collar crime, has traced how the so-called “Bolivarian bourgeoisie” – powerful Venezuelans with links to the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez – diverted more than $1 billion (CHF995.8) of public money to finance their opulent lifestyles in the United States. For example, Alejandro Andrade, the former Chavez bodyguard appointed finance minister in 2007, pleaded guilty to corruption on November 19. Court documents examined by Gotham City show how he and his peers trusted Swiss banks to hide money. Andrade alone had 17 accounts with nine Swiss banks, including HSBC, Julius Bär, Credit Suisse, Compagnie Bancaire Helvétique in Geneva and PKB in Lugano, Gotham City journalists found. The former Venezuelan minister, who owned a racehorse ranch in ...
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How to get a bachelor’s degree in yodelling

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 12:00
Yodelling has come a long way since it was used by herdsmen to call their animals or communicate between Alpine villages. People are expected to have singing lessons before applying to join a yodelling club. Now a university in Lucerne has gone one step further, offering a bachelor course majoring in yodelling.  The multi-pitched "yelling" that has become part of Swiss traditional lore and musical expression can be learned and finessed in workshops across the north of the country, offered by the Swiss Yodelling Association. swissinfo.ch visited a beginner’s class in Emmenbrücke, canton Lucerne, to find out how people learn to do it. This group has been training for five evenings as part of the course under the tuition of Ursula Gernet, a solo yodeller and choir director. Most of the students had a good grasp of the singing form before starting the course, having learnt it from their parents. Yodelling has also taken centre stage at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences ...
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Why do we need the Global Compact for Migration?

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 15:09
Over 160 United Nations member states have formally adopted an international agreement in Morocco that promises a better, more coordinated approach to migration. Why is such a pact needed? Why is it so controversial, and why is Switzerland, which helped shape the accord, not attending?   On Monday, heads of state and government ministers from 164 countries publicly confirmed in Marrakech their commitment to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a multilateral accord which was concluded under UN auspices earlier this year.  The final 31-page document, intergovernmental conference on December 10-11, and endorsement ceremony are the culmination of almost two years’ intensive negotiations, involving states, members of civil society and the private sector, and facilitated by the Mexican and Swiss ambassadors, Juan José Gomez Camacho and Jürg Lauber.  Why do we need a global migration pact? According to the UN, there are around 258 million migrants in the world ...
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Swiss offer a hand to friendless Brexit Britain

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 12:01
Just when British Prime Minister Theresa May thought things couldn’t get any worse, Britain is being openly mocked by the Swiss. A satirical video has a top tip on what to do if you’ve got no friends: team up with equally friendless Switzerland. (Deville, SRF) The British parliament had been set to vote on Tuesday on whether to accept May’s Brexit divorce deal with the European Union. Fearing a thumping defeat, May called off the vote on Monday and no one’s got a clue what will happen next.  Almost no one. Swiss comedian Domenic Deville says the obvious answer is to form the EUNEUM, the European Union of Non European Union Members. In a video in his show, Deville Late Night on Swiss public television, SRF, Deville sees a range of benefits to Brexit.  “Outside the EU you can do whatever you want,” he says, as a Toblerone appears on screen. “Like eat chocolate until your mouth bleeds.” Splitting from the European Union could also help unite the Brits and the Swiss by creating a ...
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The outsized, shifting power of the Swiss Senate

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 12:00
In view of next year’s parliamentary elections, everyone talks about the significance of the House of Representatives. But the most important political ballot will not take place in this first chamber of the Swiss parliament – the Senate will decide the outcome of the elections. With a mere 46 seats, the senate is the Swiss parliament’s second chamber, reserving two seats for every canton and one for every half-canton. Yet despite its small size, the outcome of the 2019 elections will be especially significant – even decisive – in this institution. Why? Firstly, some 14 senators have either decided to step down in 2019 or are seriously thinking about it. In addition, the senator who was elected to the cabinet on December 5 will also have to be replaced at the beginning of 2019. Adding this all up, one third of the senate may have to be newly elected, a new record since the turn of the millennium. And, now more than ever, such a scenario would be an opportunity for the second ...
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Glencore begins the changing of the old guard

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 10:51
The impending retirement of Glencore’s copper kingpin Telis Mistakidis marks the start of a generational shift at the top of the world’s most powerful commodity trader. While some senior executives have left the Swiss-based group since its 2011 stock market flotation, none of the inner circle surrounding the company’s workaholic boss Ivan Glasenberg have left — until now. The departure later this year of 56-year-old Mr Mistakidis signals the break-up of the so-called billionaire boys’ club, which built risk-hungry Glencore into the commodity industry’s dominant and most talked-about company, according to analysts, bankers and investors. The leadership changes come as Glencore faces a string of legal challenges, including a US Department of Justice investigation into possible corruption and bribery that has put its business model under the microscope.  “They are facing attacks on multiple fronts,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, executive director of Rights and Accountability in ...
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Parliamentarians reject proposal to tax plane tickets

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 09:18
The House of Representatives has refused to add a climate tax on plane tickets to Switzerland's greenhouse gas regulations. But the bill must still go before the Senate before a final decision is made. On Monday, the lower house of Swiss parliament decided not to introduce such a measure in a close vote of 93 against 88, with eight abstentions.   Supporters of the bill wanted to use the revision of Switzerland's CO2 law to add this tax, with the goal of creating incentives for citizens to limit their air travel.  "Flying has become extremely cheap; it defies common sense." Lisa Mazzone, Swiss Green Party "Flying has become extremely cheap; it defies common sense," said parliamentarian Lisa Mazzone. More and more Swiss are travelling by plane. The number of passengers increased by 60% between 2000 and 2017, according to the last federal mobility report (in French, German and Italian). That means significant consequences for the climate: international air transport ...
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Pope's hardening views lets down Swiss Catholics

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 18:29
For some Catholics in Switzerland, there's disappointment in the latest of the Pope’s stances on homosexuality in the clergy  and abortion.   The book, “The Strength of Vocation” was published in 10 languages at the beginning of December. It’s based on four hours of interviews, held at the Vatican in August, between Pope Francis and the Spanish-born missionary priest, Fernando Prado. Among the numerous themes touched in the 120-page-long book, the pontiff tackles, above all, the theme of vocation and the missions of the clergy. Homosexuality as a 'fashion' "In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church," the Pope is quoted as saying. The text goes on to reiterate the Catholic church's long-standing opposition to homosexual priests and nuns. At the beginning of October, at a general audience Rome's St Peter’s Square, the Pope also spoke sharply on the matter of abortion, comparing the ...
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'We recreate borders in people's minds'

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 14:03
The photographer Alberto Campi roamed the migrant trails to meet the people who have come to Europe seeking shelter. An exhibition highlights his work and challenges the notion of frontiers. Palavan has one of those uplifting smiles that can brighten the greyest of days. On his improvised swing, which looks much like a flying carpet, the Afghan refugee soars over abandoned warehouses in the Italian port of Trieste. A moment of hope on the often tortuous paths of migration, captured by the Geneva-based photographer.   "We could draw a curve of hope," notes Campi. The photographer recounts the intense stress of migrants at each border crossing, the hope for a better life that is reborn upon arrival in a new country. Then, this glimmer of hope  is gone, crushed by the obstacles along the waz. The winner of the 2012 Swiss Photo Award travelled across Europe from 2012 to 2017, immortalizing the situation of migrants. Her work includes an exhibition entitled "Beyond Borders: Migration ...
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Index groups face fight over controversial weapons

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 12:09
Index providers, including S&P Global, MSCI and FTSE 100 Russell, face pressure from a global coalition of investors that is demanding they strip out controversial weapons manufacturers from mainstream benchmarks. The Swiss initiative, led by Pictet and Swiss Sustainable Finance, secured the backing of more than 60 domestic asset owners and managers with assets of $2tn a month ago. That number has swollen to 80 signatories controlling $3tn after international investors joined the campaign. Candriam, the European asset manager, ING, the Dutch financial services group, and the Church of England are among the latest to sign up. Companies involved in cluster munitions, anti-personnel mines and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons should be excluded from main benchmarks, the group argues. No specific companies are named but those already sidelined by parts of the international community include Hanwha of Korea; General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman of the US; ...
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