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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: 6 weeks 2 days ago

The day Palestinian militants attacked Zurich Airport

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 15:24
Fifty years ago, an airplane about to take off from Zurich for Tel Aviv was attacked by four armed Palestinian militants. The dramatic events shocked the public and had a major impact on Swiss foreign policy.  February 18, 1969: Zurich woke under a blanket of snow. That afternoon a white VW Beetle parked near the runway at Zurich’s Kloten Airport. Inside the vehicle were three men and a woman.  At 5.30pm, a Boeing plane belonging to the Israeli company El Al taxied into position as it prepared to take off for Tel Aviv. Suddenly, two people jumped out of the VW car and fired an automatic weapon at the cockpit. The pilot, Yeram Perez, was shot in the stomach and died from his injuries five weeks later in a Zurich hospital. Six passengers were injured.   Mordechai Rachamim, an armed Israeli security officer, ran out of the plane and climbed over the fence separating the runway from the attackers. He shot and killed one of the militants, Abdel Mohsen Hassan. Minutes later, the ...
Categories: News EN

Older jobless struggle to find work

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 12:12
The long-term unemployed have a tough time finding a new job, especially if they're over 50. An estimated 100,000 people in Switzerland are jobless and no longer qualify for unemployment benefit, so they're on welfare. According to newly-published figures from the International Labour Organisation, between the 4th quarter of 2017 and the 4th quarter of 2018, the number of long-term unemployed in Switzerland increased by 9,000. The figures are based on those who have been unemployed for one year or more and include people who are not registered at their local Regional Employment Centre (RAV), which provide placement services. The proportion of long-term unemployed among all jobless people increased by 3.4% over the past year.  People who lose their jobs generally receive up to 70% of their former wages in benefits. To receive these, they need to report to the RAV. The unemployment insurance scheme entitles the jobless to between 200 and 520 daily allowances within a two-year period.
Categories: News EN

Meet the woman who investigates domestic violence and political assassinations

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 12:00
What’s it like to be an expert investigator on international crimes? We talk to Laurence Boillat, a Swiss prosecutor who likes to get things done.  Boillat, 48, invited me to meet her in her “pied à terre” in Lausanne, where she now works as a prosecutor for canton Vaud. She hails from the Jura – the hills of western Switzerland – and likes to go back there at weekends. It was late afternoon and she was just entering her apartment. She smiled and invited me in.  “I have just finished my working day,” she says, “which is exceptional, because I am usually in the office until much later.”  She handles all kinds of criminal cases in the French-speaking canton, ranging from domestic violence to street fights, theft and “all kinds of fraud”.  “Criminal law has always interested me, because it is quite well-defined and you can feel that you are contributing something, especially for victims of the crimes,” she says.  Boillat likes to be operational, she tells me, including on the ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss solutions to wealth tax conundrums

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 10:07
Switzerland is a particularly interesting laboratory because each of its local governments imposes its own rate of wealth tax. Why do Swiss cantons not engage in a race to the bottom on wealth taxes to attract wealthy people? This was one of the big questions on my mind when I went there last week to explore. It is obviously far easier to flit from one canton to another once you are based in Switzerland than it is to move between countries. So if wealth tax competition can be contained here, it surely cannot be a big challenge at the international level. Swiss national law prevents cantons from abolishing the wealth tax altogether, but they are free to set any rate they want. As a result, both income taxes and net wealth taxes vary significantly, depending on cantonal politics. Yet the data show little effect of these variations on wealth differences across cantons. One reason why these differences can be maintained is that while it is easy to move within Switzerland, the ...
Categories: News EN

World remembers Bruno Ganz

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 13:19
The death of Swiss acting star Bruno Ganz has made the headlines across the globe. While the international press praises his unique acting talent, Swiss media have concentrated on Ganz as a person. “Swiss cinema has lost its biggest star in Bruno Ganz,” said the SonntagsZeitung. But Ganz never forgot his humble Zurich roots, the newspaper wrote. The NZZ am Sonntag wrote how Ganz, in an interview, had talked of needing a strong will to succeed when you came from humble background. On his talent, the NZZ am Sonntag defined him as a character actor who could, in his heyday, live his roles so completely that you forgot that he was world famous. And he was a star. “The big problem that the Swiss film industry talks about nowadays of not being able to break through abroad what not something that applied to him,” the newspaper noted. Thank you, Bruno Ganz “Thank you, Bruno Ganz,” was the title on tabloid Blick’s front page, which devoted six pages to the actor. It revealed in an ...
Categories: News EN

Rethinking art in the context of global turmoil

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 12:00
How do you make art more inclusive and reflective of current political and social realities? This was the subject of the recent Verbier Art Summit, which gathered together leaders in the art world. “We look at current politics and we look at current cultural phenomena and they seem to be speaking totally different languages,” Jochen Volz, the German director of the Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo and co-organiser of the Verbier Art Summit, told swissinfo.ch. Entitled, “We are many: art, the political and multiple truths”, the event at the Swiss mountain resort had artists and curators discuss the need to appreciate and integrate various “knowledges” and experiences - often of a political nature - from different cultures. A common theme among speakers was that better inclusion in art may help address social and political turmoil. Summit founder Anneliek Silbrandij said social change was the aim. “Art plays such a powerful role in society because people don’t trust politicians any ...
Categories: News EN

Historian casts doubt on Swiss reverence of direct democracy

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 20:17
Even if the symbolic value of citizen participation in decision-making should not be underestimated, the actual importance of direct democracy in Switzerland is often exaggerated, claims leading Swiss historian Thomas Maissen. An interview with the Paris-based academic, published in in a German-language Sunday newspaper in Switzerland last month, prompted two days of considerable reaction by readers before fizzling out. Traditionalists and other unconditional supporters of direct democracy may have bristled after reading the article’s headline: “The Swiss overrate direct democracy.” In the interview, Maissen is also quoted as saying that “direct democracy is more symbolic than we admit.” Another perceived provocation might be Maissen’s reference to nationwide ballots on seemingly minor issues, including the initiative aimed at promoting cows with horns, rejected by Swiss voters last November. In the wide-ranging interview, the 56-year old historian with an academic career at ...
Categories: News EN

Aerial photography, ‘voice phishing’ and quotas for Brits

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 18:00
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 some of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 158,000 Swiss researchers found that around 158,000 cubic kilometres of ice are home to the world's glaciers, with the exception of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. This is significantly lower than estimates made a few years ago.  Tuesday 1,204 The Swiss assisted suicide organisation EXIT helped a total of 1,204 people end their lives in 2018, a sizeable jump on the previous year.   Wednesday 3,500 The number of Britons who will be allowed to enter Switzerland every year to live and work if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal on March 29.  Thursday 2,000,000 A woman was charged for allegedly persuading dozens of people to give their online banking details over the phone, stealing more than CHF2 million, in a scam known as ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss film legend Bruno Ganz dies

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 12:20
Bruno Ganz, Switzerland’s best-known actor, has died in Zurich, his management has announced. He was 77. "It is with a heavy heart that we confirm our client Bruno Ganz passed away on February 16 at his home in Zurich after his battle with colon cancer," his agent Patricia Baumbauer, told swissinfo.ch in a written statement. "He was in the loving company of his family at the time. We will forever cherish the memories and celebrate his remarkable contribution to the world of cinema and theatre." Ganz has played an angel (Wings of Desire), Hitler (Downfall), a grandfather more than once (in Swiss films Heidi and Vitus), a vampire (Nosferatu the Vampyre), a waiter (Bread and Tulips) and many, many other characters. His roles gained him an international reputation. He was born in Zurich on March 22, 1941. His Swiss father was a mechanic and his mother came from northern Italy. He discovered acting while at school and started his career on stage. In film, he worked with directors ...
Categories: News EN

The woman who guards a Swiss town

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 12:00
The small town of Schaffhausen, on the border with Germany, is being guarded by a woman for the first time in the centuries-old history of the Munot fortress. Karola Lüthi has been the guardian of the Munot fortress for two years. She is an active woman in her fifties. "I already wanted to do this job 20 years ago. But at the time, I couldn't make my wish come true. A female guard? Never in a million years," she says, sitting in her apartment located inside the tower.  Three years ago, she saw an ad for the much-coveted position. She had to first discuss it with her husband, because it was advertised as a job for a couple. "I wrote the application letter of the century because I absolutely wanted to have this position," she says. Her application managed to stand out from around 80 others and she was selected for the job. Call of duty The circular fortress of "Munot" was built in the 16th century and became the emblem of Schaffhausen. The building was mainly used to keep an ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss cancer research yields breast-saving fat, better detection

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 18:12
The incidence of breast cancer in Switzerland is relatively high, but some local research offers hope – especially the finding that cancer cells can be converted into friendly fat. A recent study from the University of Basel found a way to convert malignant breast cancer cells into fat. In a nutshell, researchers at the university’s biomedicine department discovered that a combination therapy could force malignant breast cancer cells to turn into fat cells. “In experiments on mice, they succeeded in using a combination of two active substances to convert breast cancer cells, which divide quickly and form metastases, into fat cells that can no longer divide and can barely be differentiated from normal fat cells. This stops the tumor from invading the neighboring tissue and blood vessels, and no further metastases can form,” announced the university. The trick was to combine a cancer drug, Trametinib, with a diabetes drug, Rosiglitazone. Yet before cancer can be treated, it must ...
Categories: News EN

Can participatory democracy raise voter turnouts?

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 12:00
Biel (Bienne, in French) is best-known for being the capital of Swiss watchmaking and for being the biggest bilingual town in the country. But it has another claim to fame: its citizens are among the least likely in Switzerland to get out and vote. Local authorities want to change this with a more participative approach. We live in a golden age of popular rights and participation. Forums, roundtables, and politically-themed debates are constantly being organised in Switzerland and beyond – notably in neighbouring France. But while across the border the ‘gilets jaunes’ are demanding the right to initiate referendums, local leaders in Switzerland are trying to revive a sense of civic impetus in citizens. It’s needed: in Biel, over half of citizens have been losing interest in politics for some time now, and participation rates over the past 25 years are far from impressive. As a result, authorities in the bilingual city want to reform the municipality’s foundational document, its ...
Categories: News EN

Can participatory democracy raise voter turnouts?

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 12:00
Biel (Bienne, in French) is best-known for being the capital of Swiss watchmaking and for being the biggest bilingual town in the country. But it has another claim to fame: its citizens are among the least likely in Switzerland to get out and vote. Local authorities want to change this with a more participative approach. We live in a golden age of popular rights and participation. Forums, roundtables, and politically-themed debates are constantly being organised in Switzerland and beyond – notably in neighbouring France. But while across the border the ‘gilets jaunes’ are demanding the right to initiate referendums, local leaders in Switzerland are trying to revive a sense of civic impetus in citizens. It’s needed: in Biel, over half of citizens have been losing interest in politics for some time now, and participation rates over the past 25 years are far from impressive. As a result, authorities in the bilingual city want to reform the municipality’s foundational document, its ...
Categories: News EN

Can participatory democracy raise voter turnouts?

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 12:00
Biel (Bienne, in French) is best-known for being the capital of Swiss watchmaking and for being the biggest bilingual town in the country. But it has another claim to fame: its citizens are among the least likely in Switzerland to get out and vote. Local authorities want to change this with a more participative approach. We live in a golden age of popular rights and participation. Forums, roundtables, and politically-themed debates are constantly being organised in Switzerland and beyond – notably in neighbouring France. But while across the border the ‘gilets jaunes’ are demanding the right to initiate referendums, local leaders in Switzerland are trying to revive a sense of civic impetus in citizens. It’s needed: in Biel, over half of citizens have been losing interest in politics for some time now, and participation rates over the past 25 years are far from impressive. As a result, authorities in the bilingual city want to reform the municipality’s foundational document, its ...
Categories: News EN

Hackers wanted for Swiss e-voting system

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 18:00
Registration is open for those who want to help reveal cracks in Switzerland’s future e-voting system – and maybe earn a cash bounty. Critics say the test is a farce. In a public intrusion test, Swiss Post will allow hackers to legally attack its e-voting system from February 25 to March 24. The goal is to improve the system’s security. As of Thursday, nearly 2,000 hackers had registered here to participate in the test: with 26% in Switzerland, 15% in France, 7% in the US and 5% in Germany. Over the past 15 years several cantons have used e-voting on a trial basis with systems developed by Swiss Post or canton Geneva. Many Swiss voters – especially those living abroad – are eager to vote online. + Why Swiss expats are demanding e-voting Now Swiss Post and the federal government are harnessing the power of hackers to identify vulnerabilities in the new e-voting system before it’s used in real life. Over the course of a month, the international hacker community is encouraged to ...
Categories: News EN

Changes ahead for homeschooling families

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 14:00
There are 1,000 children being homeschooled in Switzerland, 600 of them in the western Swiss canton of Vaud. But the rules there could be tightened, which will affect families like the homeschooling Bydes. In Switzerland, education is regulated by the cantons, which means there are differences across the country despite recent moves to harmonise the schooling system. Students taught at home have to pass regular tests in Maths and French or German. Inspectors visit their homes at least once a year to check that the children meet the standards set.  There are proposals to revise the law in canton Vaud, which might require homeschooling parents to have teaching qualifications in the future. Julien Schekter, a spokesman for the Vaud cantonal government, explained, "This revision will specify the framework within which homeschooling must be provided in order to ensure that sufficient basic education is provided". More will be known about these changes by the end of the summer. Meet ...
Categories: News EN

How you move a priceless 1.5-ton Buddha across continents

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 09:00
The loan of a three-metre tall, 2,000-year-old Gandhara-period Buddha statue proved to be a bigger challenge than anticipated for Zurich’s Rietberg museum.  Museum curator Johannes Beltz remembers when he first set eyes on the statue housed in the Peshawar museum, located near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.  “The museum was half empty as many exhibits were on their way to South Korea for an exhibition on Buddhism. The other artefacts were covered up as there was some renovation work going on,” he told swissinfo.ch.  Disappointed, Beltz asked for the largest statue to be unveiled. It was love at first sight and he was determined to bring the huge stone sculpture to Switzerland.  “It is probably one of the biggest Buddhas of that period of Gandharan art. It is almost perfectly intact which is very rare for such a massive sculpture,” he says.  The ancient state of Gandhara, located in the present-day Peshawar region, was known for its Indo-Greek art work and was one of the ...
Categories: News EN

Startup makes life-saving robots inspired by flies

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 12:00
The drones of Lausanne start-up Flyability can reach inaccessible areas, reducing not only costs but also the risk of a fatal accident. The flying robots have quickly become one of the success stories and symbols of Switzerland’s “Drone Valley”.  “After the earthquake in Haiti [in 2010] and the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima [in 2011] it became clear that robots weren’t able to penetrate difficult environments to examine the situation or to check for victims. We said to ourselves that it had to be possible to make a robot that could get into isolated places with many obstacles and tight spaces,” says Patrick Thévoz.  + Drones - the basics So in 2014 Thévoz and his cousin Adrien Briod founded Flyability in Lausanne. They had both recently graduated with a Masters in microtechnology from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). Thévoz then worked as a business strategy consultant and Briod did a doctorate in flying robots. These two experiences were perfect for ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss film producer honoured at Berlin Film Festival

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 10:56
Swiss producer Arthur Cohn was recently recognised for his career achievements with the Cinema for Peace award at the Berlin Film Festival. The 92-year-old has won numerous honours, including six Oscars. Cohn received the award on Monday evening from American actress Faye Dunaway and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. His best-known productions include Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini (1972), Black and White in Color (1976), Dangerous Moves (1984), Central Station (1998) and One Day in September (1999). In his acceptance speech, Cohn emphasised his productions have always been guided by the emotional side of history. He expressed his wish that today's cinema would contain less sex and violence, but more humanistic values. Cohn received a long standing ovation. The Cinema for Peace Foundation aims to promote "peace and understanding around the world. " Previous winners include U.S. actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron, the Dalai Lama, former Soviet ...
Categories: News EN

Using Swiss AI and drones to count African wildlife

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 08:40
After a promising first run in Namibia, a Swiss project could aid savanna conservation using drones and automatic image analysis. To get a sense of how many animals live in a given area, game counts are typically done in real time by sharp-eyed people in vehicles. The Savmap project, started at Swiss federal technology institute EPFL and involving scientists in Switzerland, Namibia and the Netherlands, uses drones and artificial intelligence (AI) to count wild animals more efficiently.  “Human eyes are very good at detecting animals, but not at screening countless images. Computers can process a lot more data,” explains Swiss geo-information specialist Devis Tuia, who received a personal grant from Swiss National Science Foundation to form a lab to develop data science-based solutions for the use of remote sensing data in the environmental domain. This can be used to improve wildlife monitoring methods in places like Namibia, for example.  During the four-year project, which ...
Categories: News EN

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