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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

More and more people opting to die at home

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 16:27
The treatment and comfort offered dying people in Switzerland could yet be improved, according to newly-published research.  In a new report (“Death in Switzerland: individual and societal perspectives”) the researchers found that four out of five people die in hospitals or care homes – places often ill-equipped for treating the dying, and which do not always take account of their needs. More and more people wish to pass away at home, the researchers found: the demand for home care is rising strongly. But such care can be costly and is not reimbursed by basic insurance coverage. The families of those who die at home often end up exhausted. The overall conclusion of the study was that palliative nursing facilities need to be boosted, without forgetting that the end of life period can only be planned and controlled to a certain extent.  “Timely palliative treatment should be a given for the care and treatments planned during the end of life period,” the researchers write.
Categories: News EN

Religious groups advocate ‘conversion therapy’ for homosexuals

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 13:25
Even in modern Switzerland, homosexuals are being bullied into undergoing conversion therapies to change their sexual compass.  Thomas Lauber grew up in a strict Swiss religious community and was forced to deny his sexual orientation. He took part in seminars in which he was told that his homosexuality was a demon, from which he must free himself. He has since come out as gay, and is president of the Fribourg LGBT group, Sarigai.  In Geneva, also, there is a self-help group called Le Lab, which helps people reconcile their homosexuality with their spirituality. (RTS/swissinfo.ch) 
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Should academics be taking the plane for short trips?

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 12:00
The University of Basel is considering a proposal that students should take the train rather than fly for short-haul academic trips, as a way of cutting CO2 emissions. It’s not the only Swiss university looking at cutting down academic plane travel. There has been much talk in recent years, in international circles, about the paradox of researchers needing to collaborate and network but racking up many polluting air miles as they jet to conferences and events. This was what was behind the “1,000-kilometre principle” discussed at a recent University of Basel Senate meeting and put forward by students. Under the proposal – the first of its kind in Switzerland – those studying at the university would take the train rather than the plane for university-organised trips under 1,000 kilometres (such as to Brussels or London) if there are “adequate train and travel links”. It would not affect professors’ research travel, according to the meeting’s minutes.   The university agreed with ...
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Can the city of peace stop the arms race?

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 18:00
Last week on the train to Geneva, I heard the tell-tale wail of sirens. That time of year again: to dust off the bunkers that every upstanding Swiss household has, test those blast-proof doors, and make sure those sirens can still howl in unison.  For so many years, Swiss civil defence was treated by many of us as a bit of a joke; I remember doing a very tongue-in-cheek report which included a scene in which my neighbour and I drank coffee in her bunker, surrounded by skis and bottles of wine.  No one, the jokey message suggested, ever expected those bunkers to be used for their original purpose…but they were awfully useful as wine cellars, ski depots, or at a pinch, ‘I want to be alone’ spaces for truculent teenagers.  But, just a couple of days after that annual siren test, an information sheet from the ICRC fluttered into my inbox, asking: ‘Is the world ready to face a nuclear war?’  The word ‘NO’ springs to mind faster than the speed of, well, one of those inter-ballistic ...
Categories: News EN

Should Switzerland end its ban on blasphemy?

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 12:00
​​​​​​​ According to the European Court of Human Rights, the Prophet Mohammed may not be called a paedophile. This kind of statement also risks a fine in Switzerland, but some say the article behind it is outdated. When the Christian Asia Bibi became the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, the country’s blasphemy laws became the focus of international attention. Although she was recently acquitted, critics said the laws were being used to repress Christian minorities or to get rid of undesirables. Pakistani Islamists in turn argued that it was the duty of every Muslim to kill blasphemers. Blasphemy is also an offence in Switzerland. Offenders may not be at risk of execution, like in Pakistan, but they could still face a fine. Article 261 of the Swiss Criminal Code says that “Any person who publicly and maliciously insults or mocks the religious convictions of others, and in particularly their belief in God, or maliciously desecrates objects of ...
Categories: News EN

Geneva: Switzerland’s most cosmopolitan canton

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 11:32
New statistics underline Geneva’s status as the Alpine nation’s most international canton: almost two-thirds of residents hold a foreign passport.  According to cantonal statistics published at the beginning of February, the percentage of dual nationals (Swiss people with at least one other nationality) out of the total Geneva population almost doubled from 16% in 2000 to 27% for the 2014-2016 period.  The number of permanent foreign residents without a Swiss passport also rose two percentage points to 37% of the total population of 372,471.  Meanwhile, the percentage of people with Swiss citizenship only fell from 49% to 36% over the past 15 years, the office said. Of these, 86% are Swiss from birth. The figures relate to residents aged 15 and over and do not include international civil servants and asylum-seekers. The growth in the number of dual nationals can partly be explained by the recent rush to secure a Swiss passport before naturalisation changes came into force at ...
Categories: News EN

Swiss dismiss freeze on construction zones

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 18:30
Voters in Switzerland have thrown out a proposal aimed at curbing urban sprawl. The initiative from the youth chapter of the Green Party failed to attract broad support. Final results show 63.7% of voters and all 26 cantons on Sunday rejecting the proposed freeze on construction zones across the country. Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the outcome showed that the initiative had too many flaws and that existing legislation was better suited to regulate building activities. Admitting defeat, Luzian Franzini, co-president of the Green Party's youth chapter, said it was difficult to counter misleading arguments made by a broad alliance of opponents. "The clear result is disappointing, but at least we were able to launch an interesting debate," he told Swiss public radio SRF. The initiative's supporters argued that additional legal steps are needed to protect and preserve green spaces and arable land against rampant urbanisation in Switzerland. The proposal ...
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A village gets a luxury transformation

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 12:00
Once an ordinary mountain village, an Egyptian billionaire’s vision to construct Switzerland’s largest tourist resort changed the landscape of the central Swiss town of Andermatt and the lives of the people there. Two photographers have highlighted the area's humbler roots.  The mega-resort was billed to be different from other Alpine holiday destinations: more luxury, up to six top-class hotels, 500 apartments, and even a congress centre with an indoor pool. A ‘grand deluxe suite’ at the Chedi Hotel, which opened in 2013, will set you back by about CHF1,700 ($1,710.00) per night, depending on the season. To date, around CHF1 billion have been invested so far, and the resort is still not fully finished.  A military history In 2004 the Swiss military was pared down and the specialist training centres, through which a steady flow of recruits once passed, were reduced in number, for instance in Andermatt. For decades, the Swiss army had been a source of wealth for the village in ...
Categories: News EN

Cheesy study helps find the perfect fondue

Sat, 02/09/2019 - 10:00
Swiss researchers have been busy testing the texture of cheese fondue – more specifically, how it flows. Or not. “There is no bigger shame in Switzerland than serving a fondue that is too liquid, gummy, or even phase-separated, and many myths without scientific base persist in Swiss kitchens on how to prepare the perfect fondue,” say scientists from the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health at Swiss federal technology institute, ETH Zurich. The typical fondue is made with Gruyère and Vacherin cheeses mixed with corn starch and white wine. Even novice cooks can guess that more starch will yield a thicker fondue, while more wine will thin it. But the Swiss researchers wanted to explore the viscosity in detail. “The flow behavior or rheology of fondue is crucial for mouthfeel, flavor release, and the tendency of fondue to cling to the bread,” points out the study, which has been published by the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Omega. The Swiss researchers spent weeks ...
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Left behind and locked out of Swiss democracy

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 12:00
Democracy bases its legitimacy on the promise to adequately and appropriately represent the population. However, a look at Switzerland’s system reveals some shortcomings: women, young people, foreigners and the low-qualified are often absent from political institutions. #Dear Democracy This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. Democratic rights don’t fall from the sky. They are the achievement of brave people who demanded and fought for political rights for themselves and for their fellow citizens. Such efforts fighting for equality were also seen in Switzerland. Almost 100 years ago, the social and political situation in the country was explosive, and many were dissatisfied with living and working conditions; factory workers, in particular, felt politicians had abandoned them. This resulted in a ...
Categories: News EN

Credit Suisse freezes bonus pool after tough year of rebuilding

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 09:27
Credit Suisse has frozen its 2018 bonus pool while awarding its top executives double-digit pay rises, as it tries to keep investors onside when it reports higher annual pre-tax profits next week. The Swiss bank’s overall pool of bonuses will remain flat at about CHF3.2 billion ($3.2 billion) in the latest pay round as the board seeks to balance distributions to shareholders with pay for employees, according to people with knowledge of the decision. However, its top executives are set to receive a significant pay boost worth tens of millions of francs after removing a voluntary cap on their pay imposed in the past two years. The move comes despite an almost 30% fall in the bank’s share price in the past year. Credit Suisse has attracted controversy before over pay. The bank, led by chief executive Tidjane Thiam, was criticised by investors for boosting bonuses 3% in 2017 and 6% in 2016, despite making more than CHF3 billion of annual losses during a painful restructuring over ...
Categories: News EN

Why Swiss women don’t sue their employers

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 14:46
Few women in Switzerland sue their employers for wage discrimination – with good reason. It seldom works out. Over the past four decades, 167 individual women and nine men – as well as 61 groups – have taken an employer to court. But despite the persistent wage gap in Switzerland, the number of wage discrimination lawsuits is on the decline. In addition to the inherent expense and awkwardness of suing the company that issues one’s paycheck, potential plaintiffs are put off by the fact that the chances of winning are slim. As University of Geneva law professor Karine Lempen told Swiss public television, SRF, it’s very difficult to prove an employer’s guilt. So instead, victims are more likely to approach the problem via an arbitration authority – with a greater likelihood of success. This method results in a settlement 69% of the time, whereas in court it’s 12%. Equal pay for equal work is a constitutional requirement in Switzerland. Yet according to the most recent ...
Categories: News EN

Brexit’s ‘toxic uncertainty’ impacts Swiss and UK scientists

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 12:00
Scientific progress in Switzerland, and for Swiss citizens, could be at risk if research and innovation are caught up in the politics of Brexit, say those affected in the Swiss and British research communities.  “There’s this uncertainty that is very toxic,” says Vincent Croset, a Swiss post-doctoral scientist exploring issues of memory at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour. “We won’t be able to do research in the conditions that we do at the moment.” Croset is one of about 34,500 Swiss citizens living and working in the UK. Funding for his project is provided by a European Research Council grant through Horizon 2020, the European Union’s framework programme to fund research and innovation. The UK may lose access to Horizon 2020 funds and its successor program, Horizon Europe, if it leaves the European Union without a deal.  While Croset is hopeful that the UK would make up for any funding lost after Brexit and the British government has promised ...
Categories: News EN

Why Swiss cities dominate the cocaine hit parade

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 18:00
In terms of European cocaine usage, half of the top ten cities are Swiss. Switzerland’s low regulation and high purchasing power offer ideal conditions for buying or consuming drugs, says national research centre Addiction Switzerland. Some five tonnes of cocaine are consumed each year in Switzerland – with revenues of around CHF330 million ($330 million) – according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Swiss cities take five of the top nine slots for European consumption. The cocaine comes mainly from West African networks, reports Addiction Switzerland. Heroin, meanwhile, is imported and sold mainly by Albanian groups, with the quantity in circulation estimated at 1.8-2.5 tonnes a year. “Illegal substances can be found in cities quickly and relatively easily,” notes the Addiction Panorama for 2019, which gives an overview of the consumption of addictive substances. “Legal products are also everywhere and cheap. They can be bought around the clock ...
Categories: News EN

‘Elections are the only solution for Venezuela’

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 16:02
Switzerland has expressed concern about the ongoing crisis in Venezuela but has not joined other countries in recognizing parliamentary leader Juan Guaidó as interim president. Yanina Welp of the Aarau Centre for Democracy Studies spoke to swissinfo.ch about the situation. swissinfo.ch: Most EU countries have recognised Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. Switzerland's official position is that it does not recognise governments, only states. What do you think of this position? Yanina Welp: I think it’s a mistake. While it may be true that international law is clearer on criteria for recognising a state than for recognising governments, I think a country like Switzerland that seeks not only to practice but also to defend democratic principles could speak out against government changes that violate those principles. Maduro’s government in Venezuela has been violating democratic principles for years. swissinfo.ch: Does support for Maduro or Guaidó reflect that what is at ...
Categories: News EN

Mechanism sends ‘strong signal to perpetrators of crimes in Syria’

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 12:00
More and more European countries, including Germany, France, Sweden and Austria, are prosecuting people for war crimes in Syria. One of the tools at their disposal is the Geneva-based International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM). The body was created in December 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly and has been headed since summer 2017 by former judge Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France. This evidence-gathering body is at the service of these national jurisdictions and others that may be set up in the future, and safeguards a huge database with information for future trials. Is the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism fully operational? Catherine Marchi-Uhel: We have finished the preparatory work, but the mechanism started to be operational before that. After setting up our evidence management system and making it secure in May 2018, we were able to start gathering information, including some of the most sensitive elements. This evidence-gathering, ...
Categories: News EN

Breastfeeding in Switzerland: myths vs realities

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 12:00
Some 95% of mothers breastfeed their newborns in Switzerland. But there are still many prejudices over if and how you should breastfeed. swissinfo.ch spoke to two experts to gain a bigger picture. Katrin Berger and Margrit Hagen are certified breastfeeding consultants and work at the Women's Hospital of the University Hospital of Bern (Inselspital). They are also midwives with more than 30 years of professional experience. They have first-hand knowledge of the feelings, thoughts and worries of mothers when it comes to feeding their newborns. Their experience has also helped them in their work as auditors for the Baby-Friendly Hospitals label. This defines quality criteria as drawn up by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for breastfeeding. There are now 27 hospitals in Switzerland using this label. swissinfo.ch: How does Switzerland comply with UN recommendations on the promotion of breastfeeding? Katrin Berger: 95% of ...
Categories: News EN

Picasso’s early work on show in Basel

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 11:37
A major exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler near Basel shows a young Picasso in search of his identity as a painter. It is the most elaborate and expensive exhibition ever shown at Fondation Bayeler. The works on display from the painter's early years are milestones on Picasso's way to becoming the most famous artist of the 20th century. Never before have they been presented together in such a dense and high-quality exhibition. Included are around 80 of the most famous paintings and sculptures in the world, borrowed for the most part only rarely from renowned museums in Europe, the US, Canada, Russia, China and Japan. Curator Raphaël Bouvier has chosen "Yo Picasso" (I Picasso), a self-confident self-portrait in vibrant colours, to hang at the entrance and start the show. At the age of just 20, aspiring artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973) embarked on a search for new pictorial themes and forms of expression. This search is also the theme of the exhibition, through ten rooms in ...
Categories: News EN

Half of Swiss to have higher education degrees by 2037

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 09:00
The Swiss population’s education level will rise even further over the next 20 years, says a government report. The reason – demand from employers. By 2037, almost half the population aged 25-65 is predicted to have a tertiary-level qualification – either a degree or an advanced professional diploma for those having done vocational education and training (VET). In 2017, 43% had an equivalent qualification, according to the government’s report on demographic development and education, which was published on Wednesday. The number of qualifications gained at other educational levels is expected to remain stable. More students Overall, demographic change – spurred on by a higher birth rate between 2003 and 2016 – will result in more people in education, including in schools (until 2030) and apprenticeships (from 2020). The number of students at Swiss universities and higher education institutions should “after decades of moderate growth, significantly increase (+21% between 2017 ...
Categories: News EN

Supporting local dancers at Prix de Lausanne

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 14:33
The world-renowned international ballet competition, Prix de Lausanne, is underway in western Switzerland – with 74 young dancers from 19 countries. In keeping with recent trends, many are from Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and China. “But we are also keen to discover talented local dancers,” notes Kathryn Bradney, the competition’s artistic and executive director and a former principal dancer from the Béjart Ballet Lausanne company. For example, the competition organizes free ballet classes for local dance students. And there’s also a special prize for local talent. The “Best Swiss Candidate Prize” goes to the best Swiss finalist or resident who has been training in Switzerland for at least two years. There are no Swiss candidates for this award, but there are three potential winners: two 18-year-old Japanese women living in Zurich: Sumina Sasaki (candidate #313) and Mio Sumiyama (#316), as well as Basel-based 18-year-old Bulgarian Georgi Kapitanski (#422). The ...
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