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Updated: 3 hours 19 min ago

Media sees a political tsunami in Italy

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 15:20
The Swiss press has pointed to the huge challenges facing its neighbour Italy, after two anti-establishment parties made huge gains in Sunday’s election. The Swiss media is sceptical as to whether these parties will deliver on their promises. “A political tsunami in Italy” is how the Aargauer Zeitung/MLZ titles its opinion piece on Tuesday. “Nothing will ever be the same again after this election,” writes Dominik Straub from Rome.  “It’s difficult not to see this as a populist tidal wave,” wrote the French-speaking Le Temps, continuing the water theme. “More than one in two Italian voters voted for an anti-establishment and anti-Europe party. The northern half for the xenophobic League (Lega) of Matteo Salvini. The southern half for the Five Star Movement of Luigi Di Maio.” Both papers said that the traditional parties had been swept away. The once strong Democratic Party has suffered its worst result in history, wrote Straub. And for ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, ...
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What happens when you flush the toilet at Europe’s highest railway station?

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 09:00
swissinfo.ch went behind the scenes at one of Switzerland’s highest tourist attractions, the Jungfraujoch, to find out what it takes to keep over a million visitors hydrated, fed and breathing.    It is a little after 7am on a dark January morning but the Grindelwald railway station is already packed with excited Korean tourists wanting to take the first train to Jungfraujoch. At 3,454 meters it is billed as the “Top of Europe” experience.  Visitors pay a small fortune (about $200) to ride the train the ten or so kilometres up the mountain from the village, and back down again. It’s the price they pay to take pictures of the unparalleled views, have a snowball fight or eat a curry lunch at Switzerland’s high-altitude Indian restaurant.  Technician Toni Eilert makes the journey almost every day, and for free. The 57-year-old takes the first train up from Grindelwald with the tourists. swissinfo.ch followed him around to see what his job entails.  With the bunch of keys he ...
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Why is Steve Bannon coming to Zurich?

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 18:00
Looking ahead to a speech by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon in Zurich on Tuesday, political scientist Daniel Warner deconstructs the media buzz surrounding the visit of the self-proclaimed founder of alt-right America, and what it means for Swiss politics. Following the Swiss frenzy during an otherwise politically uneventful trip by President Donald Trump to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last January, Swiss media are now focusing on a March 6 visit to Zurich by Trump’s former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon. Trump’s fly-by had politicians, business leaders and the usual WEF crowd falling over themselves to see, hear and photograph the American president. Bannon’s visit is also attracting considerable attention: his speech has been moved to the Oerlikon Event Center (a traditional host to rock concerts) from a smaller venue to accommodate a sold-out crowd of 1,600. Security will be airport-tight, and the predictable protesters are scheduled outside ...
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Famous Chillon castle faces funding shortfall

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 18:00
Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva is one of the most impressive and most visited medieval castles in Europe, but its managers are now worried about its upkeep. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)  Last year, it attracted over 400,000 tourists, a record number. Now the municipality of Veytaux has raised taxes on ticket sales by 40%, increasing the castle's tax burden by CHF100,000 ($107,000) per year. Veytaux says it is in dire financial straits and has no choice but to raise taxes.  The castle will now pay more than CHF250,000 in ticket taxes per year: more than they receive from the canton for the upkeep of the castle. Managers are wondering whether they will still be able to afford the constant renovations necessary to maintain such a large historic building.  The rock island on which the castle was built has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was both a natural protection and a strategic location to control the passage between northern and southern Europe. It was a profitable toll ...
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Press calls for reforms following licence fee vote

Mon, 03/05/2018 - 11:11
Commentators in the Swiss press have interpreted the overwhelming rejection (71.6%) of the ‘No Billag’ initiative on Sunday as a strong sign of support for a publicly funded Swiss TV and radio service. Nevertheless, they believe that the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) must downsize, and opinions vary widely as to how this could be achieved. Neue Zürcher Zeitung The Zurich-based newspaper argued that the “social foundation” for an annual licence fee for Swiss households – which currently sits at CHF451.10 ($482) – is “crumbling”, and that the corporation must therefore consider whether funds should come from the federal budget going forward. “The vote marks the end of an era for the [SBC]; they can no longer finance such a large variety of programs with publicly funded fees. The framework conditions for public broadcasting must be determined by politics,” the paper said. Tages-Anzeiger The Tages-Anzeiger, another Zurich-based German-language paper, noted that Sunday’s ...
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Attack on public broadcasting licence fee clearly fails

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 19:04
Voters have rejected a proposal to do away with the mandatory licence fee for Switzerland’s public broadcasters. Final results show 71.6% of voters throwing out the initiative, which was launched by the youth chapters of two major political parties on the right. All regions and 26 cantons rejected the proposal. Urs Bieri, director of the leading GfS Bern research institute, said the "no" voters were even in the majority in rural, traditionally more conservative regions. Only six of the country's more than 2,250 municipalities came out in favour of the initiative. “The result shows that voters want to maintain a public service broadcaster and that they are prepared to pay a licence fee,” Communications Minister Doris Leuthard said at a news conference on Sunday. She said the result was a verdict against a system with exclusively commercial radio and television programmes in Switzerland. Leuthard described the result as a fiasco for critics of a public licence fee and called ...
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Tax ‘total meltdown’ averted

Sun, 03/04/2018 - 17:17
More than 84% of voters have renewed the government’s right to tax its citizens and companies for another 15 years. This is a unique feature of Switzerland’s political system of direct democracy and federalism.   The issue was largely sidelined by the initiative on the public broadcasting licence fee. Yet a serious amount of money was at stake: two-thirds of the government’s tax revenue (including VAT), or CHF43.5 billion ($44.4 billion) in 2016.  Although highly unlikely, rejection would have been a nightmare for the government.  “This would be a total meltdown and I don’t even want to think about it,” said Finance Minister Ueli Maurer in January. “If voters were to say no, the Swiss government wouldn’t have enough funds and there’s no way we could find another source of revenue or introduce spending cuts of the same order.”  On Sunday, a relieved Maurer said the outcome wasn't a surprise but he was happy by the size of the yes vote, ten percentage points higher than the ...
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1970: Can votes be counted with a computer?

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 15:00
The possibility of using computers to count the votes of the Swiss population had been in discussion for some time before a large-scale experiment took place in a district of canton Zurich on February 1, 1970, with the help of the IBM Computer System/360. Although the Zurich city council had been operating small computers since 1965, the use of computers in administration was still in its infancy – and was highly controversial when it came to voting. Few media reports exist on the experiment, but it is known that for the vote on February 1, 1970 a ballot paper was developed which wasn't to be answered with a handwritten yes or no, but with a cross in the correct place. This particular vote was on the construction of a local hospital, money for school trips and road extension in Zurich. Voters were assured that ballots would first be counted by hand and then used by the computer as a test. The following day, the headline in the local Zurich newspaper, the Tages-Anzeiger, was ...
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Switzerland makes its stamp on the world

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:00
In 1843, Switzerland became the second country ever to introduce postage stamps; the UK was first in 1840. Early examples of Swiss stamps are therefore some of the most valuable and sought-after in the world. An exhibition showing off the delicate rarities is now running in Bern, as the nation marks 175 years of the Swiss postage stamp. The stamp collection at the Museum of Communication is worth several million Swiss francs. The 4-Rappen (4-cent) stamp, together with the 6-Rappen stamp – both of which can be seen in the exhibition – were the first to be issued throughout continental Europe. Today these are worth a small fortune. Inscribed with "Local-Taxe" at the bottom, the 4-rappen stamp was intended to pay for letters posted within a city, while the 6-rappen stamp, inscribed "Cantonal-Taxe", was used on letters posted and delivered within canton Zurich. Stamp art by Ferdinand Hodler They were both designed with a pattern of fine red lines behind the numbers, to discourage ...
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