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Updated: 3 hours 14 min ago

Will Switzerland win the football World Cup?

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 08:00
Highly unlikely, agree all analysts. But can the boys in red and white reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1954? swissinfo.ch, which accepts no liability for any daft bets, assesses the probabilities provided by bookmakers, bankers and academics.  Let’s start with the bad news. Switzerland have a 1.8% chance of lifting the trophy in Moscow on July 15, according to an analysis by Swiss bank UBS that used econometric forecasting tools. This puts Vladimir Petkovic’s side in ninth position when it comes to winning the FIFA World Cup 2018, which kicks off in Moscow on Thursday.  The UBS predictions were based on a statistical model using the results from the previous five tournaments and adjusting for factors such as team strength and success in the qualification phase.  It calculated that Switzerland were most likely (39.6% probability) to come second in their qualifying group and then lose in the knockout Round of 16 (see box for an explanation of the World Cup format).
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High-achieving pupils still attracted to teaching

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 17:13
The teaching profession remains an attractive choice for talented young people in Switzerland, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report has found. The rate is higher than the OECD average. In all, 6% of all 15-year-olds answered “teacher” to the question “what kind of job do you expect to have when you are 30 years old”, according to the Effective Teacher Policies: Insights from PISA report that was released on Monday. This was more than the 4.2% average across OECD countries and more than the share of teachers in the labour force (2.4% OECD average). The rate was also higher than in some other top-performing PISA countries such as Finland (4.6%) and Singapore (4.4%). Like in other OECD countries, more girls in Switzerland opted for teaching (9%) than boys (3%). Best students And the students wanting to teach were among the best students. “…perhaps a reflection of the fact that the teaching profession in Switzerland is relatively well-paid, is ...
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Are you a Swiss expat? What kind of expo would you like?

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 17:00
In Switzerland, ideas for the next national exhibition are percolating. What role should the Swiss abroad play? Join the discussion! At the moment there are three concepts in development: Svizra 27 In northwestern Switzerland, several business associations want to initiate a show on the subject of the "working world". When? In 2027 Nexpo The ten largest cities in Switzerland have put forward an idea for a decentralized expo on "Living Together in the Switzerland of the 21st Century". When? In 10 to 15 years X-27 Personalities from the fields of communication, architecture and culture want to launch a process-oriented future laboratory at Dübendorf airfield near Zurich. When? In 2027 The community of the Swiss abroad often has a special role in these concepts. That's why we're launching this survey to initiate a debate with expats. Dear Swiss abroad: What kind of expo would you like? Write down your ideas, wishes and visions in the comments section below, or send an email ...
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The enigma explorations of Bruce Nauman at Schaulager

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 11:00
Dedicated to the American Bruce Nauman, the 2018 exhibition at Schaulager Basel celebrates the creativity of an elusive artist who for 50 years has explored art as an experiment. For five months, the ambitious Disappearing Acts retrospective runs alongside Art Basel and showcases works that trouble, amuse, shock and delight. Since 2002, Schaulager Basel has staged some of the most enigmatic and powerful artists of our times and this year’s edition is no exception. Bruce Nauman is the Houdini of the art world and arguably one of America’s most respected contemporary artists. The aptly named Disappearing Acts retrospective in Basel does him justice as it seizes his constant state of flux.  Nauman has the tireless mind of a scientist who explores answers to questions that have not yet been asked, and proposes art works as both answers and new questions. It comes as no surprise that he first studied mathematics and physics, before turning his explorations into an artistic process. ...
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How direct democracy has grown over the decades

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 10:12
Just like neutrality and federalism, direct democracy is part of the Swiss identity. The number of issues put to vote has increased considerably since the 1970s, as shown in these graphics, which present more than 600 nationwide votes since 1848. World champions of the polls, Swiss citizens can participate directly in political decision-making by expressing themselves up to four times per year on diverse and varied themes. The graphics below present the three main tools of Swiss direct democracy, and the evolution of their use over time. Note: The interactive graphics are optimised to be viewed on a computer or tablet. Select an area on the graph, or pinch to zoom. Move your cursor over a square to learn more about a vote. People’s initiatives allow citizens to propose changes to the constitution by introducing new provisions, or by amending or repealing existing provisions. For an initiative to be submitted for a verdict at the polls, its proponents must gather at least 100,000 ...
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‘Patriotic fans are a very tough group to control’

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 09:00
Who are the Russians? How much do they care about football? And is it all going to kick off at the FIFA World Cup, which begins in Moscow on Thursday? Ulrich Schmid, professor of Russian society and culture at the University of St Gallen, gives his opinion.  This is a shortened version of an interview Schmid originally gave to the St Galler Tagblatt newspaper.  Is there still such a thing as a Russian soul?  Ulrich Schmid: The Russian soul is an invention of the West. People have always liked to romanticise the spiritual people in Russia, whose soul reflected the expanse of the landscape. But Russia is an old European ‘Kulturnation’ [a community of people who feel connected by language, culture, traditions and religion] which has been significantly influenced by various artistic periods, such as the avant-garde and modernism.  In the current tense political situation, there is of course a deviating strategy of nationalistic self-portrayal. The Kremlin claims Russia is a ...
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Scent of success for Contexa’s liquid dosing robots

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 11:00
Home to two of the world’s largest manufacturers of flavours and fragrances, Geneva has also developed a vibrant ecosystem of innovative SME servicing them: one such company is Contexa, world leader in automated liquid dosage machines. Located in Lignons, in the shadow of Europe’s longest row of buildings at more than a kilometre in length, is the Contexa headquarters: a small, faded pale pink two-story building. Here in a maze of offices, some thirty employees work on research, quality control and after-sales service. The warehouse where the company’s high-tech machines are assembled, however, is practically deserted.  “We have just delivered our last three dosing robots to clients in Europe and Asia,” comments Daniel Schupbach, founder and head of Contexa since 1999.  Despite their high price – between CHF500,000 and CHF3 million each – the machines made by the Geneva business, which are named after animals such as Cobra, Fox and Colibri, are increasingly in demand from ...
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Globalists vs Tribalists: The false debate over ‘Switzerland First’

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 10:23
Parliamentarians have been battling over the question of whether national law or international law should have primacy in Swiss affairs. Can the recognition that we now live in a globalized world be reconciled with tribal, patriotic emotions? “Who should have the last word concerning laws within our country? Swiss citizens and the cantons or international organizations and foreign judges?” asked Roger Köppel of the conservative right People’s Party during a recent heated debate in the Swiss parliament. “One puts the law of the European Union above our constitution!” exclaimed a scandalized Hans-Ueli Vogt of the same party. “Why so much hatred?” responded a left-wing politician.  “Five thousand commercial treaties were not submitted to the people for votes,” added a colleague. He argued that a People’s Party initiative seeking to establish the priority of national law over international law would cause enormous insecurity and call into question Swiss trustworthiness. The ...
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‘Foreign judges’ initiative: fact checking the parliamentary debates

Mon, 06/11/2018 - 10:13
As the Swiss parliament gets set for a final debate on an initiative aimed at giving domestic law precedence over international law, swissinfo.ch checks the accuracy of some of the statements heard so far in both chambers.  The initiative "Swiss law instead of foreign judges", backed by the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, proposes making the Swiss constitution the country's primary legal source. The initiative would prevent Switzerland from entering into international obligations that contradict the constitution. Where such conflicts exist, the country would have to change or terminate agreements, although treaties that have been subject to a national referendum would continue to be applied by the courts. “We are not under the thumb of international law. We can terminate a treaty that we entered into at any time […] Switzerland can cancel any contract at any time. If we wanted to, we could even terminate the European Human Rights Convention tomorrow. We just need to ...
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Voters give clear thumbs up for reform of Swiss gambling law

Sun, 06/10/2018 - 16:45
Offshore casinos will be banned from offering online gambling in Switzerland. Voters on Sunday endorsed an overhaul of the country’s gambling law that also includes measures against addiction. Final results show a 73% majority approving the law amid low voter turnout. "Voters prefer to continue the current policy, only allowing gambling under restrictions," Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told a news conference. However, the amended law, to come into force at the beginning of next year, will not set a precedent for blocking other websites, she added, in response to concerns that it would lead to internet censorship. Approval of the law is a "pragmatic decision by Swiss voters who want to continue funding civil society projects with revenue of the casinos and lotteries," according to Karl Vogler. The Christian Democrats led a parliamentary committee campaigning in favour of the law. Opponents who had collected enough signatures to challenge the regulations approved by ...
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Gorillas, GDP, and a guaranteed basic income

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 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.   2.4 The current unemployment rate in Switzerland, expressed as a percentage. The figure, announced Thursday by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), represents the lowest jobless rate Switzerland has seen since the 2008 financial crisis hit. 58 The age of Goma the gorilla, who died of natural causes on Friday at the Basel Zoo. In 1959, Goma became the first gorilla to be born in a European zoo, and the second to be born in any zoo worldwide. 130 The number of people who had to be evacuated on Wednesday by helicopter from the Titlis, a popular mountain top in the Swiss Alps, due to a technical problem with the cable car system.   1,913 The average gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, in euros, that Switzerland has gained annually thanks to ...
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Massive defeat for ‘sovereign money’ initiative

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 14:00
Voters refused to buy the 'sovereign money' initiative by an overwhelming margin. More than three quarters of votes went against a radical overhaul of the Swiss financial system. The initiative called on the central bank to take total control of money supply, which would have imposed much tighter controls on commercial bank lending. The margin of defeat was much higher than opinion polls had earlier predicted. These had suggested that a third of voters would support the plan, but this was highly optimistic. Only 34% of voters turned out on Sunday, showing a general lack of interest in the main votes. Swiss Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said voters had rejected risk to the financial system. He told reporters that despite several measures already taken to reduce volatility from the banking sector, the authorities would remain vigilant. The Swiss Business Federation economiesuisse hailed the rejection of a "risky experiment". "This may also be interpreted as a sign of confidence in ...
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Mousetrap: the Swiss whodunnit

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 11:00
She already has 90,000 dead to her credit and is hunting more. Kathrin Hirsbrunner is Switzerland's only professional mouse trapper. Hirsbrunner's target: voles that destroy farmers' crops. But her lethal skills are also in demand at airports. A sculptor by trade employed as a social worker, she wanted a change of scenery and to work outdoors. In 2003 she was inspired by a documentary she saw about Switzerland's last mouse catcher. Self taught, she revived the trade and started offering her services and lives modestly from the income. Hirsbrunner says that natural enemies of mice are not enough to regulate the population. A female can produce up to 20 offspring a year. Hirsbrunner's traps set in farmers' meadows catch and kill up to 200 mice a day. A further 50 are caught in orchards. Mice can also indirectly cause problems for planes, which is why her services are in demand at airports. The rodents attract birds of prey which can be a threat to aircraft during take off and ...
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Asian nations want industry and youth to embrace vocational training

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 18:39
With a median population under the age of 30 and high unemployment rates, Asian countries are looking to vocational education to prevent their demographic dividend from becoming a curse.  It is 10am and the entrance area at the Winterthur Theatre is abuzz with people. They are not here to watch a play but to take part in the 3rd International Conference on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) hosted by Switzerland. Coming from countries as far away as Indonesia and Tanzania, they are keen to see how the Swiss apprenticeship model can be adapted to their countries.  “We apply the dual education system that was brought by Jesuits from Switzerland in 1968,” explains Wahyo Nursanto, the operational director at vocational institute ATMI-APII Indonesia.  “The core focus is industrial activities with two-thirds in the form practical workshop training and the remaining third in the classroom,” adds the Indonesian native who stood out from the dark suited crowd with ...
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Motor racing returns to Switzerland via Formula E

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 18:00
Zurich is hosting its first ever Formula E electric championship race on Sunday. This is the first time for 63 years that motor racing has been allowed on Swiss soil since it was banned. Swiss driver Sébastien Buemi is one of the favourites among the 20 drivers from ten teams taking part in Zurich in one of the final races of 2017-2018 Formula E season. One of the unusual characteristics of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship – the world’s first fully electric international single-seater street racing series – is that the races all take place in city centres. With this race, Zurich joins the big leagues. The other races of the season will be held in in Hong Kong, Marrakech, Santiago, Mexico City, Punta del Este, Rome, Paris, Berlin and New York. It’s an important event for the city. No fewer than 100,000 people are expected to attend the race on Sunday.  Swiss champion  The idea of a Formula E championship was born in 2002, on the initiative of the International Automobile ...
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‘I prefer dealers to a deserted street’

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 15:46
Can drug dealers and locals coexist peacefully? A study by Geneva University has analysed the phenomenon in parts of the city centre. The research was published as a drug-dealing controversy rages in neighbouring Lausanne.  “The dealers look pretty harmless a priori,” explains Marie, a 30-year-old who lives and works in Geneva. “I find that a neighbourhood where there are always people at any time of the day and night is more reassuring than a neighbourhood that’s deserted at night when you come home late.”  Marie was one of dozens of Geneva residents, shop and business owners, and West African street dealers interviewed in the central Pâquis and Jonction neighbourhoods for a study into urban co-existence by Geneva University sociologists Maxime Felder and Loïc Pignolo. Their research was published in the May edition of the Sociologie journal.  According to their study, certain inhabitants resented dealers standing around “on their own or in groups waiting for their customers, ...
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Zurich and its 14-item monster vote

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:00
Porsches, private banks, parties, cocaine – Zurich is in many ways a city of extremes. That is also true when it comes to direct democracy. On Sunday June 10, citizens will vote on no less than 14 issues. This marathon of democratic decision-making is not without its dangers. This text is part of #DearDemocracyexternal link, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. Contributors, including outside authors frequently share their views. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of swissinfo.ch. Many of the people you see strolling on the Bahnhofstrasse are carrying the signature shopping bags of fancy brands like Chanel, Bulgari, and Gucci. Others carry briefcases and wear expensive suits, grey being the preferred colour.  If Zurich is the world’s richest city, as a UBS study recently found, then Bahnhofstrasse may well be the priciest street in the world. Here designer boutiques are laid out one after another like expensive pearls on a string. Farther ...
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The war reporter who hates violence

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 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.  Meet Kurt Pelda. For over 30 years he has been working in the most dangerous places in the world. Pelda explains what his job entails and why so many people have prejudices against it. His first report from a crisis zone appeared as early as 1984, but it was his pictures from Afghanistan that marked the firm beginning of his career. Today Kurt Pelda is one of the best-known war reporters in the German-speaking world.
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An ‘ideas salon’ for the 21st century

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 17:00
Jet suits, flying cars, intergalactic microchips, and plenty of canapés were just some of the highlights at the recent World.Minds conference on mobility in Zurich. Richard Browning, a former marine officer, ultra-marathon runner, oil trader, and family man – and who is not yet 40 – has now invented a jet suit that can fly at speeds of up to 450 km/h. Why? Why not! As a backdrop video montage streams through the various trials and tribulations – and ultimate success – of his real-life Iron Man suit, he tells the 400-odd crowd in Zurich’s Kaufleuten theatre that he simply “likes a challenge”. Unfortunately, he hasn’t the permission to do a live demo in the venue. Neither was he allowed do so in the nearby Zurich main station. Apparently, 1,000-horsepower jet engines tend to “frighten commuters”, he says. But the audience is rapt as he runs through the sensations and callisthenic strength that are involved in teaching your body to fly. The suit may soon even be picked up by Red ...
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US education minister, DeVos, makes controversial Swiss visit

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 15:36
The attendance of United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at a vocational education conference in Switzerland is a sign the Trump administration still wants to collaborate over the Swiss apprenticeship model. “There is much to learn from our European counterparts as they continue to advance education options centred on the needs of individual students and focused on their ability to succeed in the modern economy,” said DeVos in a statement ahead of the third International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET). Her stop at the event in Winterthur is part of a ten-day tour to learn about education and vocational training in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. She continued the theme of learning from others in her keynote address to the congress, pointing out that apprenticeships in Switzerland were not just for welders and carpenters, which is common the US, but include many options in every sector of the economy, ...
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