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Updated: 10 hours 49 min ago

‘Iranians crave European culture’

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 11:00
As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pays an official visit to Switzerland, a former Swiss ambassador to Tehran explains Iran’s complicated relationship with the West, how the international nuclear deal changed everyday life – and why Donald Trump is disastrous for the region.  Philippe Welti was Switzerland’s man in Iran from 2004 to 2008. In a recent interview with Schweizer Illustrierte, a Swiss weekly magazine, he remembers how the Swiss were trying to defuse the conflict in Iran just as the pre-Obama United States wanted the opposite.  He also discusses Switzerland’s reputation in Iran and, rather unreassuringly, why “everyone should be afraid”.  Mr Welti, when was the last time you were in Iran?  Philippe Welti: In February, as president of the Swiss-Iranian chamber of commerce. It was the first meeting of the mixed committees. It was a very good meeting.  What was it about?  P.W.: How to implement the trade agreement with Switzerland – which I was involved in creating.
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What family means to Roger Federer

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 18:00
Roger Federer, No.2 in the ATP world tennis rankings, is the favourite to win Wimbledon, which starts on Monday. The 36-year-old Swiss insists it's his love of family that continues to drive his competitive spirit.  The "King of Green" enters the Grand Slam tournament having missed the clay court season to be fresh for the grass. Federer's record eighth Wimbledon men's singles triumph in 2017, and his 20 grand slam singles titles, the most in history for a male player, confirmed his place as not only the greatest tennis player of all time but also one of the best athletes. Crying for joy Moments after his most recent Wimbledon victory, he wept when he found out that his twin sons, Leo and Lennart had unexpectedly been courtside alongside twin daughters Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, his wife Mirka, mother Lynette, father Robert and sister Diana. In January 2018, while competing in the Australian Open, he told a local TV channel how he felt about his wife, former tennis player ...
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How the government is regulating Airbnb in Switzerland

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 17:00
A new proposal could make it easier for tenants to sublet using online accommodation platforms such as Airbnb. But other regulations continue to clamp down. The pattern is familiar: a new technology or innovation appears; public enthusiasm drives it beyond the scope of regulators to keep up; it grows more dominant; associated problems arise, competitors kick up a fuss; the public cools, politicians belatedly try to impose some order. Many pioneers of the tech economy – from Uber to Facebook – have seen themselves chased by regulators in recent years. All the more surprising, so, that in Switzerland – a country where change is often slow – legislation recently proposed at the federal level appears to facilitate Airbnb’s growing foothold in the accommodation market. On July 3, a three-month consultation process launched by the government comes to an end. It proposes (link in French) relaxing a current rental law that obliges tenants to ask permission from their landlord each ...
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Bird diplomacy, urban mining and tricky tongues

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 12:00
Here are the stories we'll be following the week of July 2, 2018: Monday Swiss involvement in an Israeli project to control rats using barn owls has become much more than just scientific cooperation. By expanding to neighbouring Jordan and the West Bank researchers hope the enigmatic birds will also help to build dialogue despite political tensions in the region. Tuesday Blockchain startups are denied basic banking services in Switzerland due to banks’ fears of potential fraud and money laundering. Can setting up minimum standards for such startup companies encourage banks to deal with cryptocurrency firms? Wednesday We visit what is arguably the most environment-friendly student apartment in the world. Made from recycled materials “mined” from urban environments, the flat itself is designed to be dismantled in five years. Thursday As the new president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Swiss Senator Liliane Maury Pasquier has her work cut ...
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‘Science is the brain, but photography is the heart’

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 11:00
Nature photographer Daisy Gilardini, originally from Ticino, now lives in Canada, where this year she was appointed “photographer-in-residence” for the magazine Canadian Geographic. The 50-year-old works especially with animals from polar regions. swissinfo.ch: When and why did you leave Switzerland? Daisy Gilardini: I left Switzerland in 2012 for… love. I married David McEown, a Canadian watercolour artist, and moved to Canada. swissinfo.ch: Was it a one-way trip, or are you planning to return to Switzerland some day? D.G.: I love Switzerland and, in my heart, I will always consider it home. However, Canada is also a great place to live, especially for my job. I doubt that I’ll return for good, but I never miss my yearly visit. The points of view stated in this article, especially about the host country and its politics, are the interviewee’s points of view and are not necessarily in line with swissinfo.ch’s position. swissinfo.ch: How did you get into your line of work? D.
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Double-headed eagles and medieval skeletons

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 17:00
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 25,000 The total sum, in francs, that three Swiss footballers were fined by FIFA for “unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play”, referring to their “double-eagle” hand gesture during a match against Serbia at the World Cup.  Tuesday 29 Canton Bern’s Office of the Attorney General opened a criminal investigation into suspected irregularities surrounding the funding of Switzerland’s merchant navy, which comprises 29 ocean-going cargo vessels.  Wednesday 125,000 The numbers of signatures collected by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party for an initiative to stop the free movement of people between Switzerland and the European Union. The signatures still need to be validated (100,000 valid ones are required), but it look like the issue will at ...
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Swiss traditions captured by a Sri Lankan refugee

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 11:00
Sasi Subramaniam, a refugee from Sri Lanka, has completed a photography diploma, which includes a thesis on Swiss traditions. For his project he has photographed 16 festivals across the country, shooting local customs and rituals.  Before being forced to flee Sri Lanka in 2008, Sasi Subramaniam was a war reporter in his country. On his arrival in Switzerland, the authorities sent him and his wife to canton Glarus, where he currently lives and works.  "I was never interested in popular cultures and rituals," he told swissinfo.ch in Glaris. "I don't even know the customs of my people. I was obsessed with politics.”  In 2010, he was hired by a publishing house to contribute photographs to a book on Glarus’ traditions. By then, he had already worked as a freelance photographer for regional newspapers. This work made him realise how much he enjoyed observing people and their rituals with his camera.  "This helped alleviate the pain that burned in my chest and gave me access to this ...
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Urbanisation poses challenge for Swiss development aid

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 17:00
Switzerland is adapting its international assistance policy to put more emphasis on aiding the urban poor in developing countries. Never before in history have so many people lived in urban areas. The number is expected to grow from four billion today to five billion by 2050.  Rapid growth coupled with inadequate urban planning, as well as weak financial structures or mismanagement make cities the biggest polluters. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), along with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), want to help prevent urbanisation from leading to more inequality and pollution. The challenges of urbanisation for the benefit of all are enormous in developing as well as emerging countries. Their cities are growing so rapidly that planning can hardly keep up. The number of people living in African and Asian cities 60 years ago was about 15% of the total population. By 2050 it's expected to be between 60 and 65%. "Developing urban and rural areas ...
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The lasting appeal of picture book characters

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 17:00
Swiss picture book characters that have inspired generations of readers are in the spotlight again at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. A new exhibition features Lisa Wenger‘s Joggeli, Pitschi the kitten, who's been popular for 70 years, the children from the Maggi song book, a teddy bear who sets off for Tripiti, and Globi, who started life as an advertising slogan and became a children’s story character. Thanks to their illustrations, some Swiss artists became known outside their country, such as Ernst Kreidolf, Felix Hoffmann or Hans Fischer. Political caricaturist Hans-Ulrich Steger had a poke at Switzerland through the teddy bear he created. "Reise nach Tripiti" ("Journey to Tripiti", 1967) was one of his most successful children's books and has been translated into various languages, including Japanese.  The interactive exhibition, which continues to mid-October, allows young visitors to hide under the bed and pull pears off trees, in reference to the century-old ...
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Globus Riots: When the Swiss youth took to the streets

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 13:41
Clashes between protestors and police in the centre of Zurich 50 years ago are seen as a watershed moment in recent Swiss history. The so-called “Globus Riots” marked the beginning of an anti-establishment youth movement in Switzerland in the wake of similar protests across Europe, notably in neighbouring France.  The violent confrontation on June 29, 1968, was preceded by clashes with security forces following rock concerts by Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, two icons of the young generation, earlier in the year.  The demonstration and the ensuing pitched battles brought public transport in the usually peaceful Swiss city to a standstill. More than 40 people, including police and firefighters, were injured. Police detained nearly 170 protestors. More than 30 people, including one policeman, ended up in court.  The demonstration focused on demands for a self-governed youth centre in a warehouse of the upmarket department store Globus near Zurich’s main railway ...
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What asylum seekers learn about life, work and love in Switzerland

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 11:00
Integrating into Swiss society and understanding its unique culture, codes and rules can be complex, especially for people who have just arrived from countries like Syria, Afghanistan or Eritrea. A number of Swiss organisations are helping asylum seekers to familiarise themselves with their new life in Switzerland and deal with issues ranging from flat-hunting to sexuality. Canton Valais recently decided to make a sex education course compulsory for migrants. This is part of an introduction to Swiss basic rights. Among these is the right to sexual health.  According to Damian Mottier, general secretary of the Valais Office for Health, Society and Culture, under Swiss law each canton is obliged to set up a centre for sexual health offering advice on sex education and disease prevention. And by making sex education compulsory for asylum seekers, each region guarantees thus equal access to information for all. The sex education course has become “an essential part of their ...
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'Show us more love'

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 17:00
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly.  This week, Mrs Hof-Meier, born in Basel in 1924, talks about common prejudices against the elderly, and she doesn't mince her words. "Old people don't stink", she says. On sex she comments, "I don't have any desire for sex. Otherwise I'd be quite demanding." She reflects on why younger people are not interested in the elderly, "It means work for them. They can't do what they want or go out. That's why so many old people are lonely." Finally, Mrs Hof-Meier makes a heartfelt appeal for "more love" between the different generations.  After this interview was run by Swiss Public Television, SRF, people in the streets of Basel congratulated her. The famous Basel Läckerli-Huus, which makes chocolates and speciality biscuits, sent her a sack of goodies. The story of her interview appeared in the local paper and the video ...
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London fears it will be EU’s next capital markets target

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:24
A diplomatic stand-off between Switzerland and the European Union that may leave Swiss capital markets as potential collateral damage has fanned concerns in London that a similar fate awaits Britain. Switzerland’s Six Exchange recently decamped to a new modern-but-modest office in Zurich but behind the scenes its mood is anything but settled. Switzerland’s stock exchange faces the threat that the EU might be about to pull the plug on a large chunk of its business. Six has been caught in a clash between Brussels and Bern over the affluent Alpine state’s future relationship with the EU. The stand-off could result in the Swiss exchange losing the EU’s “equivalence” status, which allows cross-border financial markets trading. That has not escaped the attention of many in the City of London. Alasdair Haynes, chief executive of Aquis Exchange, a London share trading venue affected by the uncertainty, said: “Everyone is looking to see how much flexibility there is with equivalence.
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When the US adopted a Swiss war plane's twin

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:00
The US Air Force is currently considering introducing a version of the Swiss-designed Pilatus PC-9 to its combat fleet. Modified for ground attacks, the aircraft could be used in countries like Afghanistan. ​​​​​​​ Designed in canton Nidwalden, the Pilatus PC-9 could soon be on its way to Afghanistan. The Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, the American version of the Swiss aircraft, is indeed among the two aircraft currently being tested by the US Air Force for future combat missions. If selected, about 300 versions of this cousin of the PC-9 could join the US air fleet. Although the Pilatus aircraft is already used for training purposes in a dozen foreign air forces, the adoption being considered by the US would constitute a significant evolution: the AT-6 Wolverine is a variation designed specifically for ground attack missions. It would be used for counter-insurgency operations such as those conducted by America in Iraq or Afghanistan. Echoing old debates A potential second ...
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Why a village made it easy for foreigners to become Swiss

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 17:00
There’s something special about the small village of Schelten: only 36 people live there, but it is the 'Heimat' or place of origin for almost 3000 people, scattered across the globe.   This is because Schelten, a German speaking municipality in the majority French-speaking Bernese Jura, naturalised many foreign nationals before the First World War, to raise money in those difficult times. Proof is in the minutes of a village meeting from 1913, which state that many foreign families who had worked in Switzerland for a long time bought their Swiss passports in Schelten at a cost of CHF300 per family. The community used the money to support its poorer inhabitants.  Josef Stolz, the village chronicler, says the procedure was fast and "relatively cheap". According to historian Hervé de Weck, it meant the naturalised men did not have to risk their lives fighting in the French or German trenches. The villages of Beurnevésin, Bonfol, Roche-d'Or and Epiquerez, then in canton Bern, also ...
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Military grade Swiss bunker opens vaults to crypto investors

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 16:08
A ‘military-grade’ bunker in the Swiss Alps has opened its vaults to wealthy cryptoasset investors, corporations and institutions in search of a secure place to store their digital currencies. Swiss Crypto Vault is positioning itself as a quasi-private bank for bitcoin and other tokens at a time when traditional banks refuse to go anywhere near cryptocurrencies. Because the vault does not mix client assets with the company’s own balance sheet, it does not need a banking license to operate. The vault services a growing need from high net worth individuals (HNWI), hedge funds and family offices to more securely store large amounts of cryptoassets, frequently targeted by hackers. There have even been instances of criminals attacking bitcoin millionaires in their own homes demanding the digital private keys that open the doors to their crypto accounts. The innovation comes as a growing number of rich people and institutions are investing in blockchain start-ups via initial coin ...
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How 1968 changed Swiss schooling

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 11:00
In the years around 1968, young Swiss felt a desire for new models of society and designs for living. That went for education too. Authority was in a deep crisis, and this was a time when experimental private schools sprang up. In Switzerland it was primary teachers in training who started the student revolt. In March 1968 about 250 of them who were enrolled in the teacher training college in Locarno occupied a classroom there. They demanded a new direction for teaching and input from students to be allowed. After only three days the occupation was crowned with success. The education minister of canton Ticino met a delegation of the revolutionary students. The teacher training college in Locarno became the first institution in Switzerland to provide for input from students. In the summer of 1968 Marx, Engels, Freud, existentialist and anarchist thinkers were made part of the curriculum for the student teachers – but also Nietzsche and Tolstoy. The relationship between the ...
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Teaching a universal language to the very young

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 11:00
ETH Zurich computer scientist Bernd Gärtner explains why even youngsters should get to grips with computer science. Computer science is a part of general education. If we are to take this seriously, there are far-reaching implications – it means, for instance, we should teach it to our children in the same way as the other basic school subjects. One of which is, of course, mathematics – for who wouldn't want their child to be able to add two and two? I consider it just as important that our children don’t grow up illiterate in computer science. Much more than a computer and a screen Some people may be disconcerted: of course computer science is important, but why teach it to the very young? I believe one of the misconceptions is that many think immediately of computers and monitors. But for me, computer science is something else – it’s a school of thought that helps me to take problems apart and solve them step by step. If I have a solution in mind, I have to think it through ...
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Swiss football scandals through the years

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 13:52
Three Swiss footballers have been fined by FIFA for “unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play”. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not the first time the Swiss have had their wrists slapped by the authorities.  It could have been worse, Swiss fans told themselves on Monday. FIFA, world football’s Zurich-based governing body, could have banned Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and captain Stephan Lichtsteiner for making provocative hand gestures of an Albanian national symbol to celebrate World Cup goals against Serbia. As it turned out, they were fined up to CHF10,000 ($10,130) each and given a warning.  Alex Frei, however, was banned for three games for spitting at an opponent during Euro 2004. Frei, who went on to become Switzerland’s record goal scorer, took exception to England midfielder Steven Gerrard and spat on his neck.   Not only Frei but also the Swiss Football Association (SFA) came out of the sordid “Spuckaffäre” (spitting affair) badly. It was accused of ...
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Why urbanites in Switzerland give generously to mountain farmers

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 11:00
The Swiss Mountain Aid fund originated in wartime, when farmers’ families struggled to make a living from the land. Today, 75 years on, the foundation is still going strong. Why do the Swiss still feel so much solidarity with the Alpine farming community? Life in the Alps can be tough. The weather and the terrain don’t make farming easy. The people of the Alps lived for centuries in dire poverty. In the early 20th century many mountain farmers even sent their children out as seasonal workers on farms in Germany. In 1943, when most farmers were on active war service, and their wives, children and grandparents had to keep the farms going, a committee using the name "Mountain Aid" started collecting donations for the Alpine community. The idea was that those living in cities should help out their fellow citizens in the Alps. Then the committee became a non-profit society, which eventually turned into a foundation with the aim of improving the economic circumstances and living ...
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