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Updated: 11 hours 59 min ago

Swiss National Day: twinkling eyes and crackling fires

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 11:00
On Swiss National Day, August 1, it is above all children who enjoy all the Chinese lanterns and fireworks. A historical photo album shows what the celebrations were like in the 1940s and 1950s.  Whether their childhood was spent in Switzerland or abroad, many Swiss have fond memories of Swiss National Day. In the first half of the 20th century the celebrations were often quite modest, especially in rural areas, with just a bonfire and a speech. Lanterns and sparklers came later.  Today, fireworks are often seen and heard, particularly in cities. However, many municipalities no longer put on an official party. Swiss National Day falls during the summer holidays and many people either are away or use the day off work (the case since 1994) to go on a family excursion.  August 1 has been celebrated every year since 1899, when all that happened was some local bell-ringing. From a historical point of view, the date is controversial: no firm evidence exists for a particular anniversary.
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Swiss president: ‘States not only competitors, but also partners’

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 08:00
In an address to the Swiss Abroad on the country's national day, President Alain Berset says Switzerland is "dependent on rules-based international relations". The Swiss president traditionally records a message to Switzerland's expat community as part of the country's August 1st celebrations. Currently, about 752,000 Swiss citizens live abroad, and maintain voting and other key rights. Berset used the occasion to highlight the importance of global stability and significance of ties with the European Union. Switzerland is currently embroiled in negotiations with the EU over a new framework agreement on Switzerland's continued access to the 28-nation-bloc's single market.
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Cast of students helps launch Locarno Film Festival

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 17:00
For ten days in August, the charming southern Swiss city of Locarno is abuzz with international filmmakers and movie fans. It is host to one of Europe's most significant film festivals, which owes part of its success at least to local film students who work behind the scenes. With the festival now in its 71st year, the filmmaking tradition is firmly rooted in this otherwise quiet, Italian-speaking town on the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, making it a fitting home for the CISA Academy of Audiovisual Sciences, which moved from Lugano in 2017.  What does the school stand for and what's unique about it? This is the story of its relationship with the festival, told in six fitting film titles.  Help! (Beatles film from 1965) For the past 12 years, CISA has been helping the festival throughout the ten-day event. In 2018, the school became an "academic partner". CISA director Domenico Lucchini says this has given them a marketing boost, “We can say CISA is the festival school, ...
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From Serbia to the Swiss Alps: a bear's adventure

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 10:32
Napa the rescued circus bear has taken his first steps outdoors in his Alpine enclosure at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Graubünden, which opens to the public on August 4. This video records his early moments of feeling the grass beneath his paws. He's one of five rescue bears that will be housed there. The 12-year-old is part brown bear and part polar bear. He was born in a zoo in 2006 and it's thought that he was sent to the Corona circus in Srbobran, Serbia, when he was young, and made to perform there. In 2009, circuses in Serbia were banned from using animals. Kristijan Ovari, the curator of Serbia's Zoo Palic ​​​​​​​first spotted Napa at the circus in 2012 and started making plans to free him and bring him to the zoo. The rescue operation was carried out by the Four Paws animal protection foundation and the Serbian ministry of the environment in December 2016. From the zoo to the Alp Zoo Palic was just a temporary home for Napa. Four Paws helped to set up the Arosa Bear ...
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How to simplify Swiss customs with new app

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 11:00
Queuing at a Swiss border post to fill out paperwork and clear excess goods you want to bring into the country can be laborious. The new “QuickZoll” smartphone app aims to simplify the process for holidaymakers and cross-border shoppers, but it has certain limitations.  Since Easter, private individuals crossing into Switzerland can declare any purchases abroad at customs – over the official CHF300 ($302) duty-free limit – by downloading the Federal Customs Administration’s (FCA) free “QuickZoll” app.  The authorities want to make life easier for residents of Switzerland when making purchases abroad, but also hope to reduce their own costs. Every day, 750,000 people, 350,000 cars and 20,000 lorries cross Swiss borders. Innovations like the QuickZoll app aim to cut costs and improve efficiencies. The administrative burden of customs-related work is estimated at CHF470 million a year. The FCA estimates it should be able to save CHF125 million a year for cross-border goods traffic ...
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Nostalgia, cross-border shopping and the Locarno Film Festival

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of July 30: Monday An appy ending? Queuing at a Swiss border post to fill out paperwork for excess goods you want to bring into the country can be laborious. The new “QuickZoll” app aims to simplify the process for holidaymakers and cross-border shoppers.  Tuesday It’s lights, camera, action at the Locarno International Film Festival. The city on Lake Maggiore is also home to the CISA Academy of Audiovisual Sciences. This is the story of the film school’s relationship with the festival, told in six fitting film titles.   Wednesday “Whatever happened to…?” To mark Swiss National Day, we asked you to get nostalgic and think of anything that reminded you of Switzerland from when you were young(er). Here are the results.  Thursday More Locarno: it’s the final festival for artistic director Carlo Chatrian. We asked him about this year’s event and the most difficult moment during his time in charge.  Friday ...
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How America’s genealogy obsession touches Switzerland

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 11:00
​​​​​​​ Over-the-counter DNA testing kits and genealogy websites have made the study of family ancestry one of the fastest growing hobbies in the US. One group of Californians has taken a more traditional approach in rediscovering their common Swiss-Italian roots.  The flags of Switzerland and its Italian-speaking canton of Ticino flap in the wind above three gazebos at Finley Park in Santa Rosa. This is where more than 120 people have gathered on a July weekend to find answers to questions about their forefathers, all who said goodbye to the rugged Maggia valley in the late 19th or early 20th century.  But, like any quest for answers, it often leads to more questions.  This holds true in the case of genealogy of families with roots in the valley. Troy Goss, part of the Cerini family who migrated to California from the village of Giumaglio in the 1890s, has spent every weekend for the past five years collecting, translating, and analyzing 15,000 parish records to build out his ...
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Fireworks, munitions exports and parched countryside

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 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 10 Men make up 10% of people seeking help who feel sexually harassed at work, according to the Zurich Office for Gender Equality.  Tuesday 2.5 The weight, in kilograms, of fireworks that you can import into Switzerland. If they’re legal. Fireworks are big business on August 1, Swiss National Day.  Wednesday 66 It was announced that Sergio Marchionne, former CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, had died aged 66 in University Hospital Zurich. Two days later, the hospital said it had been treating the Canadian-Italian for a “serious illness” for more than a year. Fiat Chrysler said it hadn’t been aware of that. Thursday 205,200,000 Switzerland exported weapons and munitions worth CHF205.2 million in the first six months of the year. Just over half went to ...
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Summer in Geneva: ten top tips

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 11:00
What do expats and international workers like to get up to in summer in Geneva? We’ve put together a list of ten ideas based on some of your suggestions.  Tens of thousands of people work for the city’s international organisations and multinationals, many of them expats here for a few years. They’ve visited the main local tourist attractions like the Jet d’Eau fountain, but after a while they discover the city has a whole lot more to offer.  If you’re on your way to Geneva, for work or play, here are a few tips that’ll take you off the beaten track. Nir Ofek of the Glocals expat site is a fan of La Terrasse for a cool beer La Terrasse is a relaxed summer lakeside bar on Quai Wilson next to the Bains des Pâquis. Here a mixed crowd – from bankers to interns - sip reasonably priced cocktails and beers by the port, and spill out onto the nearby grass to relax, catch up with friends and colleagues and enjoy the spectacular views across the lake towards Mont Salève, the Mont ...
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Compromise: the biggest asset in Swiss politics

Sat, 07/28/2018 - 11:00
Swiss politicians have a tough nut to crack this summer: the free movement of labour between Switzerland and the European Union. Brussels insists on the free market, including for wages, but Bern wants to keep high Swiss salaries at any price. It’s going to be fiddly, but there’s a tried-and-tested approach to finding a solution: more negotiations! The government wants to achieve three strategic goals by the next parliamentary elections in October 2019: -        An overhaul of the country’s corporate tax system, following voters’ rejection of a first proposal last year; -        To make progress on reforming the pension scheme. An initial set of proposals was also thrown out by voters last year; -        To secure the future of the bilateral agreements with the 28-nation EU, Switzerland’s main trading partner. These goals will be difficult to achieve, as there’s a disconnect between politicians and voters: both chambers approved the corporate tax and pension reforms, but both ...
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After an earthquake, drones to the rescue?

Fri, 07/27/2018 - 11:00
Davide Scaramuzza develops autonomous drones that rely on their own cameras and sensors to navigate dangerous and unpredictable search-and-rescue situations. He tells swissinfo.ch about some of the most promising applications — and risks — associated with autonomous drones. A personal mission There are two reasons why I work on autonomous drones. The first is personal: I come from the region of Umbria in Italy, which has been devastated by earthquakes. Several villages dating back to the Middle Ages have been destroyed in the last decades, like Amatrice. My hometown was fortunately not hit, but I always wanted to develop robotic technologies that can help save people's lives.  The second reason is because search-and-rescue is one of the toughest and most challenging problems in robotics: If you have a drone that can fly in such complicated environments, among rubble and other things, then you can solve many other robotics problems. I want to build drones that are very small ...
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What goes on within a sect?

Thu, 07/26/2018 - 17:00
Katharina spent her childhood in the Central American jungle as a member of the Lichtoase" sect, until she finally managed to leave aged 20. In "True Talk" she speaks openly about "mind hacking" and abuse within the sect. She says, "Often sects are harmless at first sight, but become destructive, exploiting their members and pressuring them to stay."
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How well do you know International Geneva?

Thu, 07/26/2018 - 11:00
Have you been following recent developments in International Geneva? Take our multiple choice quiz to test your knowledge. Over the past 150 years, Geneva has evolved into one of the foremost centres of global governance. How well do you know this unique international hub and its activities?  Find out by taking our quiz below. There are ten multiple choice questions. For each question choose a reply; the correct answer will be revealed. ​​​​​​​ How did you do? Share your result in the comments section below. 
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Maudet shares his vision for Greater Geneva

Thu, 07/26/2018 - 11:00
The time is ripe to properly organise the development of Greater Geneva – the extended Franco-Swiss region of just under one million people, Pierre Maudet, the new Geneva president, tells swissinfo.ch. Last year, the Geneva politician failed in his attempt to become one of the seven cabinet ministers that make up the Federal Council (executive body) in Bern. But unperturbed he was comfortably re-elected as cantonal government minister in Geneva elections last April. The centre-right politician was then chosen by his peers as cantonal president for the next five years. His new responsibilities include overseeing the development of the Geneva region and so-called “International Geneva”, alongside his previous security portfolio. In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Maudet expressed his confidence about Greater Geneva’s future (see infobox).  Geneva and France Switzerland’s second biggest city is at a busy crossroads with France and the Alps. Just under one million people live in ...
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Apprenticeships and their social status – your views

Wed, 07/25/2018 - 11:00
​​​​​​​ We asked readers whether apprenticeships were considered a good option for young people in their home countries. While there were many positive voices, many said “not always”. Earlier this month swissinfo.ch published an article about whether social status plays a role in young people’s career choices - i.e. apprenticeship or academic route - in Switzerland. It featured a study that found that apprenticeships had not actually lost their social status, like some had feared. + Here's the original article on social status and career choice Vocational training was still popular among the Swiss and migrants from neighbouring countries like Austria and Germany. It was another matter among foreigners with no strong apprenticeship tradition. Our -  non-scientific - polls on social media showed that swissinfo’s international readers were more or less split over whether apprenticeships were considered a good option in their home countries as well: on twitter it was 55% ...
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Swiss expat group turns up heat on banks

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 11:00
Swiss banks’ restrictive policy towards the Swiss abroad has been a major concern for nearly a decade. First steps have been taken to tackle the issue, but more progress is needed, says Remo Gysin, president of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). Many expatriate Swiss have complained about losing access to Swiss banking services and about unfair conditions, notably what they consider to be excessive fees. Parliament has discussed several proposals to improve the situation without agreeing on any political measures. Gysin does not mince his words criticising both the banking sector as well as the government. He also pledges to take a critical look at the strategy used in the parliamentary process over the past few years before the organisation decides on the next steps. The OSA represents the interests of the more than 750,000-strong Swiss Abroad community living mainly in neighbouring European countries – France, Germany and Italy - but also in North America. The ...
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Inside a Swiss blockchain factory

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 11:00
The leafy district of Rüschlikon on the outskirts of Zurich is home to many of the city’s well-heeled residents. It is also where researchers at an IBM facility churn out an array of blockchain projects that go way beyond the original cryptocurrency concept. For while the original blockchain was designed to store and transact bitcoin, it turns out that the technology could make its mark in a number of other ways.  This growing realisation has attracted some of the brightest researchers from the world’s top companies, such as IBM. In Rüschlikon they have been busy developing their own blockchain and making key contributions to the open source Linux Foundation Hyperledger Fabric project.  IBM is also working with an array of global companies, from banks to pharmaceutical giants to logistics firms developing blockchain solutions to enhance food supply chains and financial transactions. Along the way, researchers have developed blockchain solutions to tackle the scourge of fake ...
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How to save money in Switzerland

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 17:00
There’s no denying that Switzerland is pricey, but there are bargains to be had if you know where to look. We’ve crowdsourced tips from our Facebook community.   Readers often complain about how expensive Switzerland is, and we’ve done many stories on the topic, like when we compared the prices of shopping baskets filled at Swiss and French supermarkets.  But then we wondered: Is there such a thing as cheap Switzerland? So we reached out to our readers on Facebook and asked how they save money, and added our own two cents’ – or rappens’ – worth.  We’ve broken down the costs into areas that affect both visitors and residents.  Travel The cost of a public transit tickets can be startling, especially for people used to driving. Recommended by swissinfo.ch reader Sherwin, the Swiss Travel Pass is worth looking into. The price for a second-class Swiss Travel Pass is CHF225-485 ($228-491), and it entitles the holder to three to 15 consecutive days of unlimited travel on public ...
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Banking for Swiss abroad, apprenticeships and a quiz

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of July 23, 2018: Monday In Rüschlikon, on the outskirts of Zurich, researchers at an IBM facility are churning out an array of blockchain projects that go well beyond the original cryptocurrency concept. We go inside the blockchain factory to find out how the company is aiming to tackle everything from the scourge of fake medicines to counterfeit concert tickets. Tuesday As the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad prepares for its annual congress, swissinfo.ch sits down with its president to talk about what needs to happen next so that Swiss expats can gain greater access to banking services in their native country. Wednesday We asked and you told us: apprenticeships are a valid career choice in little more than half of the countries of our readers, as we take a closer look at how vocational training is perceived outside Switzerland. Thursday If you live in the Geneva region or happen to follow the work of ...
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Pensioners give their time to get time back

Sun, 07/22/2018 - 10:00
It's an idea that has caught on in smaller Swiss communities: sprightly seniors assist the elderly who are less able than they are with daily chores. In return the hours they invest are credited to their accounts which they can draw on when they too need help. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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