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Updated: 11 hours 55 min ago

Swiss enjoy more and more paid annual leave

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 17:00
Swiss employees have more and more holidays: within a period of 20 years the average annual quota has gone up by half a week. Even a 2012 national referendum, which saw two-thirds of voters reject the proposal of increasing statutory leave to six weeks, didn’t stop the trend. At that time, the reasons for rejecting the people’s initiative were mainly economic: business groups feared that accepting the proposal would lead to job losses and would cost the economy billions. Currently, the legal minimum number of holidays in Switzerland is four weeks (20 days) per year, or five weeks for those under the age of 20. However, contracts – individual or collective – can, and often do, provide for a higher number of annual days. Employees over 50 years of age are often granted more paid leave. Teachers on top According to recent data (in German) provided by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), the average annual figure in Switzerland is now 5.1 weeks – half a week more than when ...
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Nest boxes and neutrality: Middle East barn owl project seeks Swiss participation

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 11:00
Swiss ornithologist Alexandre Roulin is helping farmers in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian West Bank fight rodent infestations using avian predators instead of pesticides. The project, which aims to restore the ecosystem and cross-cultural dialogue, hopes Switzerland will play a leading role. With their distinctive heart-shaped white faces, onyx eyes and honey-coloured wings, barn owls can be found on every continent except for Antarctica. Their exceptional vision and hearing and almost soundless flight – not to mention their powerful talons – make them formidable nocturnal hunters. But these aren’t the only reasons that Alexandre Roulin has been fascinated by barn owls – scientific name Tyto alba – since he was a teenager. “Eagles kill their siblings like Cain and Abel, but the barn owls help each other,” Roulin told swissinfo.ch in his office at the University of Lausanne, where he is a professor in the department of ecology and evolution. “The barn owl has all the ...
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‘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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