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Updated: 2 days 17 hours ago

Support for environmental initiative drops away

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 07:00
A people’s initiative to curb urban sprawl in Switzerland has lost backing ahead of next month’s nationwide vote. Pollsters expect a majority of voters to reject the proposal by the youth chapter of the Green Party. The latest survey, which was published on Wednesday, found the initiative losing 16% compared with a previous poll carried out by the leading GfS Bern research institute a month earlier. It currently has the support of 47% of respondents. For further details see chart and info box below. Lukas Golder, GfS Bern director, says opponents of the initiative currently only have a slight edge over supporters with 49% but all indicators point to more than 50% of No votes on February 10. “The changes from the first to the second poll are quite significant and rejection of the initiative is likely,” the political scientist added. Pollsters found respondents close to leftwing parties and parts of the political right coming out in favour, typically also women and residents ...
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Zinke ditches ‘hateful’ politics for blockchain future

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 12:00
Former United States Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says blockchain holds more future promise than politics, in an interview with swissinfo.ch during a recent visit to Switzerland. Two weeks after leaving the Trump administration, Zinke was appointed Managing Director of US investment firm Artillery One. The company is active in Switzerland, having tried unsuccessfully to buy digital payments firm Monetas, a deal that acrimoniously collapsed last year. Zinke’s two-year tenure in high political office attracted criticism for his environmental record and allegations of cronyism. Artillery One founder Daniel Cannon has also courted controversy during his career in finance. swissinfo.ch fintech coverage  Fintech is changing the face of global finance. From bitcoin to blockchain, the Swiss financial centre is gearing up to the challenges and opportunities of the new wave of digital technology. The blockchain innovation is touching practically every industry, from logistics to ...
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Zinke ditches ‘hateful’ politics for blockchain future

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 12:00
Former United States Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says blockchain holds more future promise than politics, in an interview with swissinfo.ch during a recent visit to Switzerland. Two weeks after leaving the Trump administration, Zinke was appointed Managing Director of US investment firm Artillery One. The company is active in Switzerland, having tried unsuccessfully to buy digital payments firm Monetas, a deal that acrimoniously collapsed last year. Zinke’s two-year tenure in high political office attracted criticism for his environmental record and allegations of cronyism. Artillery One founder Daniel Cannon has also courted controversy during his career in finance. swissinfo.ch fintech coverage  Fintech is changing the face of global finance. From bitcoin to blockchain, the Swiss financial centre is gearing up to the challenges and opportunities of the new wave of digital technology. The blockchain innovation is touching practically every industry, from logistics to ...
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How the Swiss National Bank will raise interest rates

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 18:00
Voices in Switzerland criticising the monetary policy of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) are getting louder. In particular, many economists consider negative interest rates – reserved for the worst crises – increasingly absurd. Yet raising interest rates is not without risks. A cunning plan is needed – and fortunately one exists.  The last time the SNB raised interest rates was back in 2007. And it will do it again, probably in 2020. But the question is not when but how, since it will be complicated.  Fabio Canetg is a macroeconomist at the University of Bern. He wrote this article with the support of Daniel Kaufmann. Before the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the SNB guided interest rates with so-called repurchase agreements (repos). These instruments were effective because commercial banks were in a structural liquidity deficit. This means that banks had to borrow money from the SNB to fulfil their minimum reserve requirements. The price of money, the interest rate, was ...
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The treasures of the Swiss Federal Art Collections

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 16:33
As part of its art sponsorship programme, the Federal Office of Culture has acquired thousands of works of art. Until now, only a few had access to the collection. A large portion will soon be made accessible in digital form to the public. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Of the 11,500 objects in the Swiss Federal Art Collections, approximately half are housed in the Bern Collections Centre.  Of the collection, around 6,500 works are on permanent loan to Swiss museums while around 4,500 decorate the chambers of parliamentarians, the Federal Administration and the Swiss embassies abroad. Since the end of 2018, the Federal Office of Culture has started to make available online works from the Federal Art Collection and the Gottfried Keller Foundation Collection on the online platform "E-Pics" of ETH Zurich. The digitalisation work will be completed in 2020.
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Did terrorists once plot to blow up the Swiss government? 

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 12:00
Was it a real anarchist conspiracy or a fabrication by a lone German hairdresser? In the first part of a four-part series telling the little-known story of anarchist attacks in Switzerland, we look at a 19th century plot to blow up the federal government in Bern.   As Swiss president Karl Schenk sorted through his mail on January 26, 1885, he got a big fright. An anonymous letter warned that anarchists were planning to "blow up the government buildings during a plenary session of the federal cabinet".  It said that 17 men had volunteered to "do the terrible job", there were supplies of dynamite and a timer in place, and that there were enough explosives on hand "to destroy Bern".   The writer, who signed himself "Number 5", was apparently a repentant terrorist. "I am horrified at the thought of being an accomplice to this terrible crime,” he wrote, “so at the urging of my dear wife, I am making this confession." He finished with this recommendation: "Have the government building ...
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Anarchy, war crimes and militias

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 13:00
Here are some of the stories out of Switzerland we'll be covering the week of January 28, 2019. Monday Switzerland has been home to numerous anarchist movements over the years. We begin a series about Swiss anarchy with a story about a plot against government buildings in the early 20th century. Tuesday In his first media interview since quitting the Trump administration, former US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tells swissinfo.ch why he left a "hateful, angry" Washington, DC to concentrate on the future technology of blockchain. Wednesday Lili Hinstin, the new director of the Locarno Film Festival, discusses her vision for the Switzerland’s premier cinema event. Thursday A lawyer with a Swiss body tasked with bringing suspected war criminals such as former Gambian minister Ousman Sonko to trial criticises the organisation’s lack of action so far. Friday Switzerland’s militia system is in crisis. We explain its history, how it works and what’s being done about it.
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The king of the jungle battles for survival

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 12:00
The last population of the Asiatic lion is under threat from a virus outbreak. Can Switzerland come to the rescue? Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.
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Embassy rents, private jets and swan shooting

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 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 the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. 1.2 million The amount of rent Switzerland pays out in Swiss francs every month for its embassy buildings around the world. Find out which are the priciest locations. 5 The number of years the central Swiss canton of Nidwalden has authorisation to shoot swans. They have been flagged as a risk to local flights. 1,500 An estimation of the number of private jets chartered for the World Economic Forum summit in Davos. This beats private jet traffic during other high-profile events like the Super Bowl and Champion League finals.  11,105 The number of purchasing power units (an artificial currency used for comparisons) Switzerland spends per capita on social welfare expenses. It is Europe’s biggest spender on this measure. 217 The number of kilos of ...
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National costumes show Switzerland's diversity

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 12:00
A traditional costume worn abroad is more than just clothing, it allows the wearer to feel closer to their home country. The "Foreign Colours" photo collection gives a flavour of the huge diversity of nationalities living in Switzerland, especially in canton Ticino. Foreigners make up around 28% of the population in the southern Italian-speaking canton. But the photographer Flavia Leuenberger Ceppi wanted to go further than the statistics and document the huge diversity behind the “foreigner” label. Her new series of portraits “Foreign Colours” (Colori stranieri) not only shows the most commonly found foreign nations in Switzerland (Italians, Portuguese, Germans and Serbians), but also focuses on minorities. This includes communities from Nepal, Iraq and Mongolia, who have, despite sometimes finding it hard, settled in Ticino. New country, new life “Adapting to a new world is not always easy. Some people have felt the need to return to their countries for a while; others have ...
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Women in Davos are more than a percentage

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 15:59
There is so much talk about the lack of women at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos that their stories and achievements often get lost. Numbers are important, but as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg showed today, it only takes one woman (or in this case girl) to inspire millions. “In places like Davos, people like to tell success stories, but their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. On climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed,” the young Swedish climate activist told reporters in the Swiss resort on Friday. Twenty-two percent of  participants at this year’s gathering in the Swiss resort were women, according to the WEF, higher than in the past. Women leaders at WEF range from award-winning filmmakers to activists fighting for justice for victims of torture. They are older women like wildlife champion and primatologist Jane Goodall and younger leaders like New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. While WEF is known for its sea of suits and ...
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You asked, we answer: what really happens in Davos?

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 15:11
We received numerous questions from readers that we investigated from the World Economic Forum (WEF). Here are answers to a selection of them. What’s the global economic outlook and the chances for a major asset crash to happen? On the evening before the opening of the WEF in Davos, the International Monetary Fund announced that the global economy was growing slower than expected. Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, compared the current economy to a cross-country skier who’s hit some bumps and is struggling to keep from careening off course. She said, “Does that mean a global recession is around the corner? No. You have an economic picture with a clear message – address remaining vulnerabilities and be ready if a serious slowdown materialises.” Climate change is a real and present danger. When are [WEF delegation] members going to stop lying and lobbying against the clear evidence? How much of an issue was this in Davos? Although climate change had a prominent place on the ...
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Swiss concerned about the deepening crisis in Venezuela

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 15:02
Venezuela needs a government that acts with public spirit and cracks down on widespread corruption to overcome the current crisis, says Pierino Lardi an expatriate Swiss who has been living in the South American country for two decades. Lardi, a former banker, was president of the Swiss-Venezuelan chamber of commerce until 2016. The 70-year old Lardi represents Venezuela in the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Lardi agrees that Venezuela needs more democracy beside a policy for the public good. Lardi says there are clear indications that the government of Nicolás Maduro is under pressure, challenged by the parliamentary leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself president earlier this week. “The question is which one of the two presidents has control over the armed forces and police,” Lardi told swissinfo.ch, adding that the Maduro government has a lot to lose and is unlikely to give in easily. “But it was a strong signal that the ...
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WEF delegates chew over the future of food

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 13:50
​​​​​​​ The future of food has been on the menu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week. The central question: how can the world feed 9.8 billion people by 2050 and save the planet? Inequality is an important part of that puzzle. Nearly 800 million people are undernourished, two billion are deficient in vitamins and minerals, and another two billion are either overweight or obese. More than 820 million people are struggling to feed themselves. So how do we get out of this? Change in diet Rising to this challenge requires dietary changes combined with improved food production and reduced food waste, according to the EAT-Lancet Commission report, which drew on 37 experts from 16 countries with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and political governance. Large multinational companies, including many in Switzerland from agribusiness to consumer goods and insurance, need to be at the table alongside smaller producers, ...
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Colourful impressions of the World Economic Forum 2019

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 12:15
As the annual general meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) draws to an end in Davos, we reflect on a hectic week of networking, brainstorming, protesting – and queuing.  The 3,000 or so statesmen, business leaders, scientists and activists from around the world will be packing up on Friday and heading off to do their moving and shaking elsewhere. Some 500 journalists will do the same.     WEF 2019 didn’t have the big political names of previous years – domestic woes meant US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron all pulled out – but princes, popstars and the (paying) public all rubbed shoulders without incident in the Swiss mountain resort, attending debates, workshops and presentations.  swissinfo.ch was also there, of course, reporting on a wide range of issues including gender equality, the role of technology in the future of food and pharmacology, and environmental pollution.  What were the highlights (or ...
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The pharma holy grail: drugs for you, designed by you

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 10:50
In the age of sensors, wearables, and artificial intelligence (AI), almost everything can be customised to a person’s unique preferences and behaviours. The next frontier is healthcare, according to discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Digitisation presents pharma companies with what Genya Dana, who heads precision medicine for WEF’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, calls the “holy grail” in medicine: the right drug for the right patient at the right moment. Imagine that the wearable step tracker on your wrist isn’t just keeping you fit but also sending countless amounts of data to pharmaceutical companies to develop potentially life-saving treatments. This is at the heart of one of the most exciting, albeit thorniest, developments in healthcare. Big pharma companies like Roche and Novartis are combining advances in technology with access to real world data and genetic sequencing to develop drugs tailored to an individual’s unique biomarkers. ...
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The low-down on a high-energy atom smasher

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 18:09
It's the future. It's circular, It's a collider. A giant particle accelerator, set to be built at the Geneva-based particle physics research centre, CERN, will be almost four times longer and ten times more powerful than the centre’s present atom smasher.  The plan is for the Future Circular Collider, with its circumference of 100 kilometres (62 miles), to unlock even more secrets of matter and the universe in the coming decades. Part of the tunnel for the electron-positron collider would be built under Lake Geneva and the machine could start operating in 2040. It would sit next to the current 27-kilometre Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is perhaps best known for helping confirm the subatomic Higgs boson in 2012. Pricey project The collider project, cooked up by a research consortium of over 1,000 scientists, would cost an estimated CHF9 billion ($9 billion). The plans have been submitted to an international panel of particle physicists, who are preparing a new European ...
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Youth demo demands ecology and equality of the Davos elite

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 16:20
Around 100 demonstrators, gathered by the youth wing of the Swiss social democratic party, protested in Davos on Thursday against the inequalities and environmental damage they claim are exacerbated by the global elite. In January 2018 their request to demonstrate was turned down by local authorities: “too much snow”. Exactly a year later, however, the youth social democrats of Switzerland (JUSO) did make it onto the streets of Davos, staging a peaceful protest on Thursday afternoon to voice their opposition to the capitalist programme of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Under banners and chants calling for ‘system change not climate change’ or ‘degrowth rather than collapse’, the 100-odd demonstrators gathered on the main square of Davos to highlight three major gripes: persistent (sometimes burgeoning) economic inequality; looming environmental catastrophe; and a resurgence of extreme-right politics. Much anger was also directed towards newly-inaugurated Brazilian president ...
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Swiss president wants to do business with Saudi Arabia

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 16:18
Comments by Switzerland’s president, Ueli Maurer, about normalising relations with Saudi Arabia, despite its alleged involvement in the killing of a prominent critic last year, have caused irritation among politicians and in the media. Asked about the issue by journalists at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, Maurer, who holds the finance ministry portfolio in the Swiss government, said the case of the killed Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was not raised in talks with his Saudi counterpart Mohammed al-Jadaan. “We have long since dealt with the Khashoggi case. We have agreed to resume the financial dialogue and to normalise relations,” Maurer said. He added that Switzerland had made its position in Khashoggi case clear in previous contacts with the Saudi government. In fact, the Swiss government in October stressed the “the need for a detailed, rigorous, and transparent inquiry”, following the killing of the Saudi critic allegedly by agents ...
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Are companies and consumers ready to shun plastic?

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:35
The massive amount of plastic pollution has ignited public concern as well as debate in Davos, but the real work is still to come. The more than eight million tonnes of plastic leaking into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute – is a serious concern for countries like Japan. Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would call on fellow G20 leaders at the upcoming summit in Osaka to end-micro plastic pollution. Abe told a packed audience in Davos on Wednesday that, “At the deepest spot of the Pacific Ocean we now find something terrible going on. The bodies of small sea fleas down at the bottom of the ocean hold toxic PCB contaminants in very high density. Some say that microplastics are the cause.” It is not just our oceans. As Scientific American reports, the majority of plastic waste ends up in ten rivers – many of which are in Southeast Asia. In Switzerland, rivers and lakes are also affected.
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