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Updated: 3 hours 25 min ago

How risky are flawed e-voting systems for democracy?

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 18:00
A leading data protection expert has warned of future security breaches if the government’s plan to introduce e-voting at a nationwide level goes ahead. Bruno Baeriswyl, data protection commissioner in canton Zurich, urged the authorities to give up plans, announced last April, for online voting across Switzerland. Speaking on the occasion of this year’s European Data Privacy Day at the end of January, Baeriswyl said that current technology could not guarantee that ballots remain secret in votes and elections. He and other cantonal data protection commissioners argued that digitalisation could undermine democratic principles even while online systems help to simplify procedures. “The current systems for e-voting override the secret ballot in votes and elections. But it is imperative that all transactions must always be verifiable in a secure system. As a result, either we have ballot secrecy or we don’t have a secure method,” Baeriswyl said. “And this is highly risky for our ...
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Australia's Ticinese have strong ties to a faraway home

Sat, 02/24/2018 - 12:00
In the mid-19th century, around 2,000 people left the Swiss canton of Ticino for Australia. More than 150 years later, the legacy of the “Swiss Italians” can still be seen in the state of Victoria.  In the regions of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, northeast of Melbourne, you will find a hotel Bellinzona, the Locarno thermal springs, the cricket grounds builder Tinetti and the Lavandula farm. They all bear witness to this large wave of emigration from the southern Swiss canton of Ticino to Australia. During the 1850s, droves of people left behind the poverty of the Ticino valleys and, to a lesser extent, the val Poschiavo in the adjoining canton of Graubünden to seek their fortunes on the other side of the world. Many were lured by the promise of gold in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. But most were bitterly disappointed. By the time they arrived, the gold rush was almost over. Many returned home empty-handed and with big debts to pay, or left straightaway for the ...
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What can the Swiss teach the US about guns?

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 16:03
In the wake of the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida, an American former police officer and current Swiss resident argues it’s time for the US to follow the example of Switzerland in regulating firearms. As an American living in Zurich, I’ve watched news cycle after news cycle reporting mass shootings, domestic violence-related homicides, and accidental gun deaths in the United States. While the issue of gun violence has impacted every American in some way, I have had a more close-up view than most. Although these days I work in academia, I was previously a police officer in a large city in the western US. I am also a gun owner and a liberal member of the Democratic Party, facts that many Americans consider mutually exclusive. I carried a gun every day as part of my job and routinely witnessed gun violence in the form of assaults, homicides, and suicides. I still have two guns (locked in a safe back in the US) and a host of friends working in law enforcement. I ...
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Why there are so few women in Swiss local politics

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:00
Getting Swiss women to take part in town hall meetings is a challenge, even in a place where the majority of the local government is female. What are the reasons? As a rule, town hall meetings across Switzerland are awash with bald heads, moustaches and checked shirts covering paunches – the mythical cradle of Switzerland’s direct democracy in its more than 2,200 municipalities is mostly a man’s world. The town of Steinhausen, about 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of Zurich, is slightly different: three of the five members of its local government are women. Barbara Hofstetter, who the mayor of the 10,000-person town, estimates that its town hall meetings tend to be about 40% women. “But nine out of ten citizens who speak at theses gatherings are men,” she says. No interest A quick straw poll in Steinhausen reveals that many women are not interested in local politics. “I’ve lived here for 30 years, but I have never been to a town hall assembly,” says a 55-year-old woman at a ...
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I wear a headscarf but I am not a terrorist!

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 18:00
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly. This week, we speak to Fathima, who wonders why she faces discrimination because she wears a headscarf. She says, "I am neither a radical, nor an Islamist, nor a terrorist. I am a Swiss woman." (SRF, swissinfo.ch)
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Swiss students, politicians work towards university access for refugees

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 15:31
Lack of information and money are keeping qualified refugees in Switzerland from studying at universities and launching careers. So says the Swiss Students’ Association, which has created a new information portal for refugee students. The organisation is also working with lawmakers to commit more funds to refugee education access.  Omar Aljundi came to Switzerland from Syria in 2013 as a war refugee. He was halfway through a bachelor’s degree programme in engineering when he left his home country, so he was keen to continue studying in his new home.  In Switzerland, he was sent to live in the French-speaking canton of Neuchâtel, where he quickly began learning the local language. At the same time, he was trying to gather information about all the requirements he needed to meet to apply to university and start his degree again on Swiss soil – a process that ended up taking him two years. He says he often didn't know where to turn and almost gave up.  “Understanding how the ...
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How the UN pushed to make business more responsible

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 12:00
For over 50 years, the United Nations has been urging companies to be more respectful of human rights. Political scientist Gilles Carbonnier examines the key UN processes and milestones in the slow acceptance of corporate social responsibility, as Switzerland prepares to vote on the issue in the coming months.  Corporate social responsibility has been around for years. According to a recent article by French historian Catherine Kikuchi, published on The Conversation website, the concept emerged in the late 13th century with the growth of powerful city states, merchants and international trade.  But the idea only really gained wider interest in the second half of last century. The creation of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964 played a key role. UNCTAD provided a forum where developing countries could discuss global efforts to reduce disparities with richer countries and put the spotlight on multinationals’ responsibilities abroad. Despite ...
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Bringing Swiss order to initial coin offerings

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:17
Switzerland, as a financial centre, has a double reputation. On the one hand, clockwork: practical, competent, reliable. On the other, chocolate: indulgent and dark. The country’s private banks are still living down their reputations as facilitators of tax evasion. It is natural, then, that there should be knowing smiles at the news that Switzerland is keen to become a hub for cryptocurrency finance, and initial coin offerings in particular. The Swiss have broken ranks with the many countries keen to curtail the proliferation of ICOs, in which digital or fiat currency is exchanged for digital “tokens” exchangeable for services or assets, or held for speculative purposes. ICO funds are typically used to fund the creation of a business. The Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma) has introduced a set of guidelines designed to facilitate an orderly, legitimate and growing market for ICO funds. The same question should be asked of the Swiss approach as should be asked of an ...
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1968: the kick-off of gender equality

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 17:59
Zurich Women’s Football Club (Damenfussballclub Zurich, DFCZ) was founded on February 21, 1968 – the first officially recognised women’s football club in Switzerland.  Ladies had been getting together for unofficial kickabouts in the French-speaking part of Switzerland as early as the 1920s, but the Swiss Football Association did not allow them to play official matches. Even after DFCZ's founding, until 1971/1972 female teams were allowed to play only if they were affiliated to a male club. Because of this rule, in the 1970-1971 season three-quarters of the DFCZ players joined the smaller FC Blue Stars ladies team. The rest joined FC Zürich. The first official women’s championship took place the same season, with 18 teams from three regional groups. DFCZ was one of them. The early history of Swiss women’s football is poorly documented and hardly researched, according to the FCZ Museum, which is currently expanding its archive, inviting the public to participate in their research.
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2018, a year of important Swiss anniversaries

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 15:00
What do Céline Dion, Switzerland’s fourth national language Romansh and Swiss television all have in common? 10 years ago: Switzerland and Austria were the hosts of the 2008 European Football Championships. The same year saw Kosovo declare its independence from Serbia. Switzerland was the first country to recognize Pristina and to start diplomatic relations with Europe’s youngest country. 30 years ago: This was the last time Switzerland won the Eurovision Song Contest. Responsible for this was one Céline Marie Claudette Dion, then a little-known singer from French-speaking Canada. Her song “Ne partez pas sans moi” helped the Swiss win the coveted trophy. 50 years ago: Students went out on the streets to protest. And Swiss public television broadcast the very first colour television pictures into people’s homes, from its studio Bellerive in Zurich. 80 years ago: On February 20, 1938, Swiss men (women only received the right to vote in 1971) voted by 92% in favour to make ...
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Is adoption in Switzerland on its way out?

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:00
The boom days of adopting children from abroad are over – nowadays hardly anyone is adopting in Switzerland. There are several reasons for this. The airplane was full of children, Elena, Tom and Rhea (all names changed) can recall it clearly. But Myra was too small to remember. All four were adopted by Swiss parents in the 1970s. Their own parents could not or did not want to care for them anymore. Around 1,200 children from South Korea were adopted in Switzerland during this time. Many of them still meet up at the Dongari association, where they can talk freely about their experiences. Members Elena, Tom, Rhea and Myra have agreed to speak about their adoptions to swissinfo.ch. Although they have been through a lot, they can still have a laugh together – such as over their experiences of South Korea. “I am not that fond of Koreans,” said Myra. “I am Swiss and express my opinion. Koreans mostly don’t. And all this macho behaviour….” The others laugh and seem to know what Myra ...
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Support wanes for abolition of public broadcast fee

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 07:00
A proposal to scrap the mandatory licence fee for services of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) has lost more ground, according to a major opinion poll. The survey, published on Wednesday ahead of a nationwide vote on March 4, found that nearly two out of three people will reject the initiative. The initiative was launched by the youth chapters of the two major parties on the right of the political spectrum. Support for the initiative dropped 5% compared with a previous poll carried out by the leading GfS Bern research institute on behalf of the SBC in January. “The long-running debate has been losing steam and chances of the initiative gaining the upper hand are waning,” says GfS political scientist Martina Mousson. Discussions about the initiative began last October, triggering emotional campaigns and broad coverage in the following month both by traditional and social media. “The involvement of civil society against the initiative led to heated debates, pushing ...
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Charities and NGOs trial new technology to enhance performance

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:00
When working under difficult conditions in underdeveloped or volatile parts of the world, charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) face challenges to ensuring that their efforts achieve the best results. Some groups are experimenting with the new digital technology blockchain to maximise their impact. Blockchain is sometimes referred to as ‘second-generation internet’ that promises to store and transmit encrypted data more efficiently and with greater transparency than the current digital system. It’s still in the experimental phase, with actors ranging from finance and business to governments and NGOs trying to figure out different applications. The UN World Food Programme is one such actor: it’s testing out a blockchain system to help hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees at the Azraq camp in neighbouring Jordan. The system combines biometric data, credits stored in digital wallets, and direct payments to food retailers. It also sidelines intermediaries, both ...
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Swiss Icon: a symbolic expression of Switzerland

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 10:00
What comes to your mind when you think of Switzerland? Chocolate, banks, luxury watches? These omnipresent images are not only indispensable products in everyday Swiss life. They are also considered symbols of Swiss tradition by people all around the world. However, they are presented across cultures in very different ways. A few years ago, Chinese artist Ying Xu moved to Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland. Her daily life and discussions with Swiss friends about linguistic differences and the misunderstanding of images and symbols from different cultural perspectives provided her with ideas and subject matter for the “Swiss Icon” series. It has now become a major creative project for her. The “icons” Xu chose are typical “Made in Switzerland” products such as fondue, edelweiss or yodelling and brands which probably haven’t been widely recognised internationally, for example Grittibänz, Tiger-Finkli and Ricola. During the creative process, Xu gradually developed her own way of ...
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Celebrating the ‘fifth season’ Swiss-style

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 14:43
During carnival, the photographers of the Swiss picture agency Keystone are often in action at unusual hours, documenting wild celebrations in all their local forms across the country.  The last big event in the annual carnival calendar in the “Morgestraich” in Basel. At 4am, masked people playing piccolos and drums set off through the city.  + More information on Swiss customs and traditions The collection of images presents a short – and obviously far from complete – stroll through Switzerland’s carnival traditions. Not everywhere puts on massive events – in many places carnival consists simply of smaller parties and masked get-togethers in local pubs.  (All images: Keystone; text: Thomas Kern, swissinfo.ch)
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Aid agencies in the eye of the storm

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 12:00
It’s the perfect storm. Aid workers – the world’s modern-day saints in many eyes – are suddenly portrayed in the headlines as the vilest of sinners. The scandal around mega charity Oxfam, in which senior staff members are alleged to have used prostitutes in Haiti in 2011, has attracted global attention – and global disapproval. The idea that people who have flown into a disaster zone, ostensibly to help the poorest and most vulnerable, should then engage in sexual exploitation, has disgusted many once loyal supporters of Oxfam and fuelled an already heated debate in Britain over the value of foreign aid. In Geneva, UN aid agencies – many of which use Oxfam as an implementing partner – braced themselves for the inevitable deluge of questions: “Who, when, how many, why didn’t you?”, etc. Dangerously confused debate And while the agency spokespersons in Geneva patiently addressed those questions, repeating over and over again the UN’s policy of ‘zero tolerance’ for any form of ...
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Record-breaking Federer returns to No. 1

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 11:20
Roger Federer is back at the summit of men’s tennis. At 36, the Swiss is the oldest man to make it since the ATP rankings came into being in 1973. More than 14 years after Federer first reached No. 1, swissinfo.ch looks at the complete history of all the top-ranked male players in one graphic.   Federer first became world number one in 2004, when he beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in the semi-final of the Australian Open before going on to take the title. On that occasion he stayed there for 237 weeks.  “The goal [this time] was to be world number one for a week, that’s plenty for me,” he said on Friday after beating Robin Haase in Rotterdam, a victory that guaranteed Federer would rise to number one for the fourth time in his career. “If it’s more, great, I’ll take it. If I play well, good things will happen. It’s the ultimate achievement in our sport to get the number one ranking, it just doesn’t come easy.”  Asked to compare the 22-year-old Federer to the 36-year-old model, he ...
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SoftBank seeks to join Swiss Re board

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 10:22
SoftBank, the Japanese tech-to-financial conglomerate, is seeking to join Swiss Re’s board to influence how the reinsurer manages its $161billion (CHF149.2 billion) in investments, as talks progress over the acquisition of a large minority stake. Masayoshi Son, SoftBank’s founder and chief executive, will meet with Swiss Re chairman Walter Kielholz in the coming weeks as the two sides look to come to an agreement that would give the Japanese group a foothold in the global insurance industry.  Discussions now centre on a deal that would see SoftBank becoming an anchor shareholder in Swiss Re with a 20% to 30% and gaining multiple seats on the company’s board, according to people close to the matter.  By doing so, Mr Son — a perpetual dealmaker always in search of greater capital to invest with — would bolster his company’s presence in financial services and give it sway in how Swiss Re manages its $161 billion portfolio.  SoftBank, which is best known for its technology and ...
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Has Switzerland’s local democracy lost its soul?

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 18:00
Participation in town hall meetings has reached a new low, marking a 30-year decline in Swiss democracy at a local level. But all is not lost. Local democracy has been haemorrhaging for quite a while, reaching dramatic proportions. Research shows that only 4.6% of the population living in municipalities with between 2,000 and 5,000 residents went to town hall meetings in 2016. Such gatherings are often considered the cradle of the Swiss system of direct democracy: They decide about everything from local taxes, building projects and social issues and ideally reflect the way a community is organised. There are currently just over 2,550 municipalities with considerable political autonomy across the country. The research shows a striking pattern: The bigger the municipality the lower the rate of participation. While turnout at these meetings was 21.5% in municipalities with fewer than 250 residents in 2016, the figure dropped to a mere 2.1% in municipalities with 10,000 - ...
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Adoption, Blockchain, and Carnival

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 13:00
Here are the stories we'll be following the week of February 19, 2018: Monday The famous Basel Carnival, which runs from Monday until Wednesday, will kick off this morning with the ‘Morgestraich’ parade. The Basel ‘Fasnacht’ is Switzerland’s largest and most traditional carnival celebration, and the last of season. We’ll publish a photo gallery capturing the antics of Basel revellers, as well as images from other carnival celebrations throughout the country. Tuesday swissinfo.ch business correspondent Matthew Allen takes a look at the Swiss-based charities and non-governmental organisations, including the UN World Food Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, that are experimenting with blockchain to maximise their impact – especially in underdeveloped or volatile parts of the world. Wednesday Statistics show that adoption in Switzerland is on the decline – both within the country and in terms of adoption of children from abroad. We dig ...
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