Home | Feed aggregator | Sources

Swissinfo EN

Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
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).
Updated: 1 min 14 sec ago

Is the sustainable palm oil label on a slippery slope?

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 11:00
A recent spat between Swiss food giant Nestlé and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) highlights a growing rift over certification.  There is no such thing as bad publicity. Unless you are a multinational firm whose most recognisable product has been transformed into an object of revulsion via social media. This is what happened to Nestlé in 2010 when it was accused by Greenpeace of abetting deforestation in tropical countries by using unsustainable palm oil in its products. To drive the message home, Greenpeace created a gory YouTube video in the style of a Kit Kat advertisement that equated eating the chocolate bar with killing orangutan apes.  Nestlé still uses a lot of palm oil. According to the annual report it submitted to RSPO, the company sourced close to 460,000 tonnes in 2017. This is more than 15 times the amount imported by Switzerland where the company is based. However, around 20% of Nestlé's palm oil has been certified as sustainable by the RSPO: a ...
Categories: News EN

Why current air pollution limits only tackle half the problem

Wed, 08/08/2018 - 08:00
Switzerland-based scientists tell swissinfo.ch why a comparison between air samples from Swiss farmland and downtown Beijing suggests that setting pollution restrictions based on particle mass concentration alone may not be enough to protect against health risks. On June 1 of this year, Switzerland’s environment ministry enacted stricter controls on air pollution; specifically, on particles with diameters equal to or smaller than 2.5 micrometers. The new regulation reduces the maximum size of suspended particulate matter (PM) from 10 micrometers to better protect against extremely fine pollutants – which can lead to respiratory illnesses as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer – in accordance with World Health Organization recommendations. But recent research from EMPA, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, suggests that air quality control could be improved by accounting for regional differences in the chemical composition of these ...
Categories: News EN

How not to build your house for hot summers

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 17:00
Air conditioning is not very common in Swiss buildings or houses, but soon could be if hot summers like this one become the norm. Government studies have forecast that the average temperature in Switzerland could increase by up to 4.8°C by 2100. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is part of the administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A study by the University of Lucerne shows that current building codes fail to take into account prolonged heatwaves like this year’s. The authors of the study recommend that in the future houses must be built to deal with not only low winter temperatures but also hot summers, without resorting to traditional air conditioning. The study looked at both old and new buildings. Older houses were usually found to be poorly insulated while newer ones – including low-energy buildings with the “Minergie” label - heated up too quickly, often due to the use of large glass fronts.
Categories: News EN

Fish dying in the Rhine

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 11:24
With water temperatures exceeding 27 degree Celsius (80.6 Fahrenheit), large numbers of fish have died in the Rhine. The cold-loving grayling - a member of the salmon family - has been particularly hard hit in the Schaffhausen region in northern Switzerland. More than a ton of dead graylings has already been recovered from the Rhine, the fisheries administration of the canton of Schaffhausen told the media on Monday. A short distance away, at Lindli, lifeless fish drift on the surface of the river. The spike in fish fatalities suggests the rescue measures taken so far are proving insufficient. The temperatures are simply too high. The section between the lower part of Lake Constance and the Rhine Falls is the most affected.  Authorities across riparian cantons hope that the record temperatures of 2003 will not be repeated. The Swiss Fishing Federation is also concerned about the fate of fish in the waterways of the Central Plateau, another habitat for the graylings.  Under ...
Categories: News EN

In Europe, Nigerian prostitutes are held captive by ‘black magic’

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 11:00
Major European cities – including those in Switzerland – are playing host to a mysterious trend in which Nigerian migrants, convinced they are bewitched, are enslaved as prostitutes by networks of traffickers. Social worker Gifty Amponsah, who is originally from Ghana but now lives in Biel, canton Bern, has met with several such women. Of the strategy honed by traffickers to enlist and hold young Nigerian women to a life of prostitution in Europe, she says: “The traffickers have found a way to always have girls. It’s a kind of strategic marketing”. Amponsah works with Act212, a Swiss association dedicated to combatting human trafficking and committed to trying to help such women. The association has developed courses aimed at educating social workers, or workers from other organisations who encounter prostitutes, about the specific problem relating to Nigerian women. Often, it is difficult for western sensibilities to comprehend. Stephan Fuchs, a specialist in Nigerian ...
Categories: News EN

UN torture rapporteur on the millions at risk

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 16:15
What’s it like to be the UN ‘Special Rapporteur’ on torture? I meet Nils Melzer of Switzerland, the man who carries the current title, and am surprised to learn that his biggest concern is the world’s millions of migrants. Our meeting produces other surprises, and a few days later I also learn that Melzer is running as a candidate to be the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He has agreed to meet me at the UN in Geneva. I arrive early and go for a coffee with a colleague, but as we are walking, my sandal catches on something and I fall, causing a bloody knee and a bit of a stir in the coffee bar. A trip to the UN medical unit sees me with a large bandage on one knee, making the wound look worse than it is. And my skirt doesn’t cover my knees as I sit back in the coffee bar waiting for Nils Melzer. So when he arrives, I decide to recount my little adventure. He smiles and expresses  sympathy, saying he has two small daughters of five and eight who are always falling over.
Categories: News EN

As trust declines globally, can Switzerland remain an exception?

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 11:00
Switzerland is one of the most trusted countries despite being home to some of the largest companies in the most distrusted sectors. There are, however, signs that trust is waning in the wake of the Panama Papers and corporate scandals that hit close to home.  We are living in an era of distrust according to global surveys. Edelman’s Trust Barometer in 2018 showed that globally, trust in general has plummeted in the last few years with little sign of recovering. Twenty of 28 markets surveyed lie in distrusted territory, up one from the previous year, and the United States experienced the steepest decline in trust ever recorded.  The Barometer attributed a big part of the drop in trust to persistent references to “fake news” and the failure of key institutions such as government to respond to events like the refugee crisis, major data breaches, and corruption scandals.  Switzerland is one of the rare exceptions among peers when it comes to public trust of key institutions ...
Categories: News EN

Vintage aircraft crash kills 20 people

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 10:43
A vintage plane crashed at altitude in the Swiss Alps on Saturday, in eastern Switzerland. All 20 passengers lost their lives in Switzerland's worst air tragedy since 2001. At a sombre press conference in the town of Flims on Sunday, a day after the accident, Graubünden cantonal police announced that all passengers on board – 17 passengers, two pilots, and a flight attendant – lost their lives in the crash. It's the worst accident in Swiss aviation since the crash of a Crossair plane at Bassersdorf, canton Zurich, killed 24 in 2001. All of the passengers and crew members were Swiss, except for a couple from Austria who were also on board with their son. The plane went down on the western side of the Piz Segnas mountain on Saturday afternoon (see map), at an altitude of 2,540 metres (8,330 feet). It was travelling between Locarno and Dübendorf when it crashed for unknown reasons. A large-scale salvage operation, which included the deployment of five helicopters, continued on ...
Categories: News EN

Zurich’s mysterious underground reservoirs

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 08:00
Zurich Water Provision is this year extinguishing 150 candles. As part of this anniversary, various events are taking place throughout the year. The city of Zurich is granting an insight into underground reservoirs and springs which are normally off-limits to the public. (Images: Dahai Shao) Some 70% of Zurich’s water comes from Lake Zurich and 15% is spring water. The rest is groundwater. In addition to the city of Zurich, drinking water is provided to 67 municipalities and 900,000 people in the region.  Zurich Water Provision’s 280 or so staff ensure that top-quality drinking water flows from every tap and the city’s 1,224 wells all year round.  Only very few people are aware of the extraordinary spaces located 120 metres underground. The Lyren reservoir is the largest in Switzerland. Its doors were opened to the public for several days in June, when concerts given by the Camerata Schweiz symphony orchestra and a light show created an unforgettable experience.
Categories: News EN

Vintage Ju-52 aircraft crashes in Swiss Alps: 20 dead

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 17:45
A vintage plane crashed at altitude in the Swiss Alps on Saturday, in eastern Switzerland. All 20 passengers lost their lives in Switzerland's worst air tragedy since 2001. At a sombre press conference in the town of Flims on Sunday, a day after the accident, Graubünden cantonal police announced that all passengers on board – 17 passengers, two pilots, and a flight attendant – lost their lives in the crash. It's the worst accident in Swiss aviation since the crash of a Crossair plane at Bassersdorf, canton Zurich, killed 24 in 2001. All of the passengers and crew members were Swiss, except for a couple from Austria who were also on board with their son. The plane went down on the western side of the Piz Segnas mountain on Saturday afternoon (see map), at an altitude of 2,540 metres (8,330 feet). It was travelling between Locarno and Dübendorf when it crashed for unknown reasons. A large-scale salvage operation, which included the deployment of five helicopters, continued on ...
Categories: News EN

The Swiss village that wants to become a hotel

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 17:00
Only 12 inhabitants now live in the village of Corippo in the Verzasca Valley, southern Switzerland. To survive, it is becoming a hotel resort for tourists looking for a different vacation experience. Corippo, one of Switzerland’s smallest villages, mainly consists of empty stone houses. Once upon a time, more than 300 people lived there. Today, only 12 are left and almost everyone’s retired. The remaining inhabitants want to bring the village back to life – at least in the summer. The Corippo Foundation has set itself the task of reviving the village as a tourism project. Fabio Giacomazzi, architect of the foundation, recently presented the concept: the village restaurant will become the reception, the village square the lobby, the streets will be the corridors and some of the houses will be the hotel rooms, which can be booked from the summer of 2019. About CHF3.25 million ($3.27 million) is earmarked for the first construction phase. By 2020, Corippo will become part of the ...
Categories: News EN

Trust issues, 'black magic' and low voter turnout

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of August 6: Monday Bucking international trends, the Swiss report relatively high levels of trust in public institutions. Yet there are signs this trust is on the wane following recent corporate scandals that have hit close to home, experts tell swissinfo.ch.  Tuesday Much human trafficking and enslavement happens through coercion or deceit, but some Nigerian women brought to Europe end up in a life of prostitution through a mysterious "black magic" ritual that has caught the attention of social workers in Switzerland. Wednesday Is certification the best way to ensure food corporations are sourcing sustainable palm oil? The fall-out between Nestlé and a major certification coalition reveals cracks in the system and the need for big brands to take responsibility for their supply chains. Friday Should the Swiss be worried about an average voter turnout below 50% in a land where citizens get to decide several ...
Categories: News EN

From orderly Switzerland to the chaos of Nepal

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 11:00
Never content to be in one place for very long, naturalized Swiss citizen Billi Bierling divides most of her time between the capitals of Switzerland and Nepal. She feels at home in both places. swissinfo.ch: You were born abroad, yet you are Swiss as of this year. How did that come about? Billi Bierling: I have lived in Switzerland since 2001 and even though I love my home turf of Bavaria, becoming a Swiss national was quite important to me. I have worked as a communications expert for Swiss Humanitarian Aid since 2006. In this job, I represent the Swiss government in many different countries and it always felt odd doing that as a German. It also required a lot of explaining! Switzerland is also where I live, work and pay my taxes.  As a Swiss resident with a C permit I had a lot of rights but was never allowed to take part in popular votes on things that also concerned me. Now I am able to do it and can enjoy Switzerland’s direct democracy to the full! swissinfo.ch: You ...
Categories: News EN

Why it counts to heed the authorities

Sat, 08/04/2018 - 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 13 That's how many Swiss were trapped on the Rinjani volcano on the Indonesian island of Lombok, when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck. Within a day, rescue services were able to evacuate the hundreds of tourists stuck on the volcano.  Tuesday 4 Four-legged creatures got some help from the Swiss police when the force in Zurich launched a campaign to encourage dog owners to either carry their pet or make them wear booties to protect their paws from the hot asphalt. The Hot Dog campaign is in response to this summer's soaring temperatures. Wednesday 1 August 1 is Swiss National Day, a public holiday when people gather to barbecue, listen to politicians' speeches and watch fireworks. However, this year, due to the hot, dry weather, firework displays were banned ...
Categories: News EN

The enchanting ‘inferior work’ of Leonard von Matt

Sat, 08/04/2018 - 11:00
Leonard von Matt (1909-1988) became well-known through his work on art in antiquity and his photo albums on Italy in the 1950s. He learnt and experimented with photography at home in canton Nidwalden, central Switzerland.  His early works originated between 1936 and 1946. He had a fine feel for taking portraits of local people and culture and his work documents a long-gone and almost forgotten world. He himself described the images as “inferior work” or “practice sessions”.  Von Matt taught himself photography, studying books on technique and following the work of colleagues like Paul Senn, Jakob Tuggener, Gotthard Schuh and Man Ray.  He loved the single frame, so he was more of a careful observer than a storyteller. The early photographs shown here are taken from a photo album and are on display at an exhibition at the Nidwalden Museum Winkelriedhaus until October 14. The exhibition will then continue to Arles, Paris, Berlin and Engelberg. (Images: © Madeleine Kaiser-von Matt, ...
Categories: News EN

If you can’t stand the heat … head up a mountain

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 14:20
As the mercury climbs in Switzerland, so are many people – heading up mountains in search of lower temperatures and glaciers on which to ski or snowboard. This summer is the driest on record in Switzerland since 1921, with temperatures in cities set to peak at around 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) next week. Although the record of 41.5C (set in Grono, southeast Switzerland, in 2003) is unlikely to be broken this year, the heatwave is playing havoc with crops and water levels. The authorities have banned fires in or near virtually all forests – several cantons have banned fires anywhere outdoors – and the country’s nuclear power plants are struggling to keep cool. Not that everyone’s complaining. Lakes and rivers are teeming with overheated locals and tourists and owners of restaurants and bars are rubbing their sweaty hands. Those wanting to cool down without getting wet can head to the mountains, where the temperature is around a pleasant 19C at 2,000 metres (6,562 ...
Categories: News EN

As cities grow in power, Geneva tries to follow

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 11:00
More and more, cities and mayors are taking an active role in building global governance structures. A new paper looks at Geneva’s efforts to keep up. According to UN statistics, you’re probably not reading this in the countryside. The global urban population, it says, has risen from 30% in 1950 to 55% today; by 2050 it will be over two-thirds. You may even be reading this in a ‘megacity’ (over 10 million inhabitants), of which 43 will exist by 2030; though it’s more likely you live – along with half of all urbanites – in a settlement of fewer than 500,000 people. Asia and Africa will account for much of the growth. But that’s not to say Europe and the Americas are going the other way; it’s just that they’ve already urbanised to such a large extent. Some 82% of North Americans already live in towns and cities. The figure for Switzerland is 74%. Naturally such shifts have big implications for how we will live in the coming century. They also mean we need to rethink how we ...
Categories: News EN

‘Being overweight doesn't mean you don't have sex’

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 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. Alexandra is overweight. But no, she doesn't eat all day and she also works out. However, she prefers exercising in the woods rather than at the gym, where people often stare at her. In this episode she tells us what kind of clichés she has to deal with in her daily life and why having the right weight isn't easy. Alexandra questions whether the kind of people who hurl insults at her while she's out and about have ever considered how difficult it is to lose weight when facing so much hurtful criticism about her appearance. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
Categories: News EN

How the Swiss Abroad celebrated Swiss National Day

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 14:40
Around one in ten Swiss doesn't live in Switzerland, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less in the mood for a party when it comes to Swiss National Day on August 1. We looked at the Instagram stream with the hashtag #WeAreSwissAbroad and picked our favourite images and videos. South America: Brazil São Paulo is home to the “Colônia Helvetia”, where August 1 celebrations are affectionately held every year. You can see in the video that women swing the cowbells as well. A flag bearer leads the procession. In Switzerland, the risk of forest fires has resulted in a ban on fireworks in many places. This wasn't a problem in Brazil, so people could light a "mountain fire" in the Colônia Helvetia. North America: Toronto and Edmonton A Swiss flag was raised beside the Old City Hall in Toronto, Canada. A small ceremony took place at the same time. The ceremony, with traditional music, was organised by the Swiss Club Toronto. The Edmonton Swiss Society, also in ...
Categories: News EN

‘Shared laughter on the Piazza Grande – it’s wonderful’

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 11:00
As the lights, cameras and action get going at the Locarno Festival, outgoing artistic director Carlo Chatrian discusses his final line-up and some of the past and future challenges facing Switzerland’s most important film event. He also addresses the perceived lack of stars in Locarno and explains why the ten-day festival, which started on Wednesday, has dropped “film” from its name. swissinfo.ch: This year’s festival opens on the Piazza Grande with “Les Beaux Esprits” (Team Spirit) by Vianney Lebasque and closes with “I Feel Good” by Benoît Delépine. Do these titles reflect your personal emotional state? Carlo Chatrian: (Laughs) It’s not that profound. We just wanted to have comedies in prominent positions at the beginning and the end. And it was very easy to do, because we liked these films despite the fact that they are very different; they provide an appropriate frame for the Piazza section. If we really want to make a joke out of the title of the concluding film, all I ...
Categories: News EN