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Updated: 2 days 17 hours ago

Deals, no deals and avalanche warnings

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 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. Monday 5 Following several deaths and injuries, the highest avalanche risk rating of “level 5” was declared for important winter tourism areas like Davos, Klosters, Grindelwald, Engelberg, Andermatt and Disentis.   Tuesday 1831 VoteInfo was launched. The government app helps users learn about upcoming votes and check the results over the course of a vote day. It’s also possible to explore archives that go back as far as 1981 at the federal level and even further in the cases of some cantons: 1831 for Zurich.  Wednesday 493 The number of merger and acquisition deals involving Swiss companies hit a record high of 493 in 2018.   Thursday 57 Around 57% of the Swiss population are middle-class. Wages are the main factor when deciding whether someone is ...
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Swiss Guards get a 21st-century headgear update

Sat, 01/19/2019 - 12:00
The Swiss Guards, who have protected the Pope for 500 years, are about to receive new headgear: PVC plastic helmets made with a 3D printer. The guards’ traditional medieval armour is hand-forged in Austria, but the 2-kilogramme metal helmets worn at mass and ceremonial receptions are to be replaced by 3D-printed plastic headgear manufactured in Switzerland, near Stans. Marcus Risi, owner of a 3D printing company, was heavily involved in the development of the project. To make one of the new helmets, the 16th-century original is scanned, and the digital data is reworked on a computer before being printed. It takes approximately one day to produce a new hat. The new hi-tech helmets weigh just 570 grams, protect against ultraviolet rays and are fitted with air vents. But they are not cheap: each costs CHF900-1,000 ($911-1,012) to produce, though this is still cheaper than their predecessors, which also took almost 130 hours to make. The 3D printer makes a PVC helmet in one-sixth ...
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Swiss youths strike for climate protection

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 18:18
Thousands of young people from schools and universities around Switzerland went on strike on Friday to demand greater action to combat climate change. Their protest was inspired by Greta Thunberg, who began a solo climate protest by striking every Friday in Sweden in August 2018. She was invited to address last year's climate summit (COP24) in Poland, where she accused world leaders of behaving like irresponsible children by not doing enough to address climate problems. Thunberg tweeted that she will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos from January 23 to 25.  Thousands of students have followed her lead, striking in Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the US and Japan.  On Friday, Switzerland was the stage for the latest protest, where organisers said more than 20,000 students from schools and colleges in 15 cities took part in the action.  Organisers have said another strike is planned for February 2.  The video below was taken in the Swiss capital Bern, ...
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Why gifted pupils need more support

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 18:00
Not all gifted children are receiving the support they need in Swiss schools, with an estimated up to one in five not fulfilling their potential. Time to take more action, the Federation of Swiss Teachers (LCH) says. The Swiss state school system runs along an integrative model to include a wide range of learners, but the focus often goes on children with special education needs, explained Beat A. Schwendimann, a board member at LCH, which represents teachers in German-speaking Switzerland. + Find out more about inclusive education in Switzerland here But gifted children also have special needs and require support. “Gifted education is often seen as an optional add-on,” he told swissinfo.ch via email. But it’s the school’s mission to develop the talents for all children, he added. Studies show that 15% to 20% of pupils would be capable of performing above the class average. That is why the LCH has drawn up a position paper, recently highlighted on its website, calling for ...
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Time flies: iconic Swiss railway clock turns 75

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 14:21
The clocks in Switzerland's railway stations with their particular modern look have become an icon of Swiss design. The clock is the brainchild of Hans Hilfiker, an engineer with the Federal Railways, and was used for the first time in 1944. The timepiece remains eye-catching 75 years on. Hilfiker was inspired by the Bauhaus movement, a German art school noted for a synthesising technology, craftsmanship and design aesthetics. Instead of numbers, the clock face shows simple vertical lines as indicators and a rotating red second hand reminiscent of the traditional signalling disc of the station masters. Despite its age the design looks as young and fresh as ever. It served as a model for the clocks on the tablet computers which Apple introduced in 2012. In a bid to avert a legal dispute, Apple agreed to pay CHF20 million ($20.1 million) to the Swiss national railway company in exchange for the rights to use the clock design. It disappeared from iPads soon afterwards, when Apple ...
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‘The EU will not renegotiate the framework treaty with Switzerland’

Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:00
As the signs within Switzerland increasingly suggest that a framework agreement with the European Union is heading for failure, a political analyst warns that Brussels will not budge and will not return to the deal, which aims to determine the two parties’ long-term relations. Is the framework deal heading for a premature death? Recent comments by several top Swiss politicians suggest so. “We need to renegotiate significant points for the deal to have a chance of being accepted – that’s my view,” said Ueli Maurer of the conservative right, anti-EU Swiss People’s Party as he took on the rotating Swiss presidency for 2019. These comments generated considerable reaction, although the government has yet to take a position and is currently carrying out a public consultation on the agreement proposed by the European Union in December. In the meantime, Christian Levrat, president of the leftwing Social Democratic Party, has called for talks with the EU to be reopened. “The ...
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New calendar forces watchmakers to choose between fairs

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 13:52
The decision by Switzerland’s biggest watch fairs - the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and Baselworld – to run back to back next year has made life complicated for watchmakers.  On the penultimate day of the SIHH watch fair in Geneva an uninterrupted stream of Japanese, Chinese and European watch distributors and retailers keep the watch brand stalls busy.  The latest collections are unveiled to them in private rooms attached to the stalls. If sufficiently impressed, the international buyers will make the orders that will keep the Swiss watch industry afloat – that is until they have to do it all over again at Baselworld in March.  However, from 2020 onwards both fairs will be held back-to-back: SIHH from April 26-29 in Geneva, followed immediately by Baselworld (April 30 to May 5 in Basel). This new arrangement will continue until 2024. “We have sought dialogue with the SIHH and together have found a solution, which benefits visitors, the media, and the ...
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Keeping slopes safe is risky work

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 18:11
What does it take to keep ski areas safe? Following the death on Monday of a snow patroller caught in an avalanche, Swiss Public Television, RTS, takes a closer look at the dangerous work. The 24-year-old Swiss victim and a colleague were working in ​​Crosets in the Porte du Soleil ski area in canton Valais when an avalanche was triggered at 1,970 meters. One of the patrollers managed to escape from the snow mass on his own, and dug out his colleague, buried under 1m 40cm of snow, but the victim was dead by the time a helicopter arrived to take him to hospital. Snowfall is currently at record levels in the Swiss Alps, making off-piste skiing particularly dangerous. A 20-year-old Swedish skier lost his life in an avalanche on Tuesday. It's the patrollers' job to try to limit the danger for the public, but they put themselves in the way of great danger by doing so. A television crew found out more about the profession from patrollers working in the resort of Ovronnaz in Valais.
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Getting the Swiss back on skis

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 12:00
Switzerland has always thought of itself as a nation of skiers, but there is a whole section of society that is not tempted by the white stuff. Many of them would rather spend the winter holidays on a beach than on a mountain slope. In general, fewer people are skiing in Switzerland. A report published in 2018 by the Swiss Tourism industry shows ski days were down 23% between the 2008/9 season and 2017/18. This reflects a general world trend. Swiss researcher Laurent Vanat publishes an annual international report on snow and mountain tourism. He writes, "It is the global Western skier market that is flattening, although this is not reflected in the number of skiers worldwide, which is growing thanks to developing markets such as China”. The latest report from Swiss Mountain Railways, the association of ski-lift operators, notes that about two-thirds of skiers on Swiss slopes are locals. These are mainly younger people up to the age of 30, and baby boomers, aged 50 or over. The ...
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Switzerland's oldest cookbook whets modern appetites

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 11:48
Want to whip up a storm in the kitchen just like the Swiss did 400 years ago? The oldest surviving German-language cookbook in Switzerland has been republished, and what once fed the clergy of the diocese can now be served up in your own home. It's a weighty book, not just in terms of its many pages, but also in terms of the dense recipes found inside. "Ein schön Kochbuch" (“A beautiful cookbook”) dates from 1559 and contains 515 recipes. The handwritten original was found a few years ago in the attic of a house near Zurich. The owner donated it to Swiss historian Walter Letsch, and today the original is stored in the Cantonal Archives of Graubünden.   Fancy beaver's tail or pike liver? However, cookbooks don't really belong in archives, but in kitchens: and so, Letsch edited the book and translated it into modern German. The newly-published book, available in Swiss bookstores, not only contains the recipes but also additional explanations on the dishes and ingredients as well ...
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20 years of fighting the white death

Wed, 01/16/2019 - 10:27
Heavy snowfalls in recent days have prompted the authorities to issue the highest level of avalanche risk warning in the Swiss mountains. Similar dangerous levels were reached in the winter of 1999. What has changed in avalanche protection since then? (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Because of the heavy snowfalls over the weekend, the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos resorted to the seldom issued "level 5" warning of avalanche risk in some parts of the country.  Affected were the eastern areas of the Bernese Oberland, central Switzerland, the Glarus region and large parts of the southeast.  On Tuesday, the SLF expected slightly better conditions thanks to less snowfall. The avalanche danger, however, remains at level 4, the second highest and applies to practically the entire Alpine area. The conditions rekindle memories of the winter of 1999, when over a dozen people were killed by avalanches. At the time, in just over a month, the Alps saw over five metres of snow ...
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Brits in Switzerland wonder about their rights amid Brexit countdown

Tue, 01/15/2019 - 09:00
Can British citizens in Switzerland feel reassured about their post-Brexit situation following a complicated deal between Switzerland and the UK? Embassy officials are working to clarify the situation, but several issues remain unresolved.  A citizens' rights deal between Switzerland and the UK, agreed in December, is said to “broadly” protect the existing rights of UK citizens living in Switzerland, and vice versa, after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on March 29. The agreement – which will apply even if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal – also takes into account some 2,600 British cross-border workers who commute into Switzerland from neighbouring countries (they will still have to comply with residency rules in the country where they live). Jane Owen, the British ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, spoke to swissinfo.ch ahead of a series of “roadshow” events being held across Switzerland to answer Brits’ questions about Brexit. She discussed ...
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Swiss bank crypto services ‘tip of the iceberg’

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 17:31
The worlds of crypto-assets and traditional finance have been brought closer together by Swiss bank Vontobel’s Digital Asset Vault. More banks are expected to follow suit, often in combination with technology firms to bring cryptocurrencies to the masses. Digital Asset Vault is a plug-in platform that enables other institutions to both store and trade crypto-assets on behalf of their clients. It combines Vontobel’s trading know-how with the expertise of Swiss crypto-company Taurus to solve two problems in one stroke. The vault allows people to trade cryptocurrencies without the technological hassle of holding their own encrypted private keys. It also lets banks keep cryptocurrencies off balance sheets, which would otherwise force them to hold large amounts of capital in reserve to insure against potential losses. The aim is to provide a fully regulated corridor to trading in crypto assets that appeals to institutional investors. The platform will focus on cryptocurrencies, such ...
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Why debt collection is booming in Switzerland

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 13:30
The number of debt collections has doubled over the past 20 years. Fewer Swiss are paying their taxes, health insurance bills or online purchases on time. "Only the Greeks are less punctual,” claimed the headline in the newspaper, the SonntagsZeitung, in a story at the end of last year. It was referring to a report by debt collection company Intrum, in which about 25,000 people in 24 countries across Europe were surveyed about their attitudes towards paying bills. Of the Swiss who were polled, 54% stated that they had failed to pay at least one bill on time in the previous 12 months. This put Switzerland second to last, just ahead of the Greeks. The comparison website, Comparis, came to a similar conclusion, stating that one in four people in Switzerland had failed to pay punctually, and the indebtedness of one in seven had landed them in the debt collection register. Another indication that the situation has got worse is the nearly annual increase in the number of debt ...
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Is there life elsewhere?

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:00
Twenty-five years ago, two Swiss astronomers made the first discovery of an extrasolar planet in the Pegasus constellation – a milestone in astronomical research. What have we learned since then? Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz were the first to discover a planet outside our solar system back in 1995, establishing the University of Geneva as a global centre for exoplanet research. The giant planet they found was in a four-day orbit around the nearby star 51 Pegasi. Since then, astronomers around the world have discovered thousands of exoplanets. Today's telescopes are capable of detecting different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, cosmic rays, neutrinos or gravitational waves. And Queloz has continued his involvement, searching and finding extrasolar planets as part of the Astrophysics Group of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and at the University of Geneva. In this video he tells swissinfo.ch what we've discovered so far, and how future ...
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How ice fishing became cool in the Bernese Alps

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 11:25
The imposing mountain backdrop at Lake Oeschinen attracts hundreds of fishermen – young and old. Swiss Public Television, SRF, met mountain guide Fritz Loretan, who works for the commune of Kandersteg and makes sure the ice is at least 10cm thick and therefore safe for people to fish.  This is home to rainbow trout, Canadian trout and char, but if they're not 25cm long, the fishermen have to throw them back in. You need a license to fish and on peak days, 150 to 200 are sold.  Thanks to pictures being shared on social media, ice fishing from the lake is becoming more popular.  (SRF/swissinfo.ch) 
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China wants to seduce the world with culture

Mon, 01/14/2019 - 10:54
The Beijing Opera has performed twice at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva. Such a spectacle goes beyond just a simple cultural event. For the Chinese authorities, it is also a means to win hearts and minds abroad. A true classic in the literary tradition "Sun Wukong's Fantastic Journey" combines singing, music, dance, theatre and martial arts with to bring stories from Chinese folklore to life. The central theme of the story is that of the rebellion of the monkey king against the power of the emperor. By showcasing its rich culture, China is exercising its soft power like the US does through film and music. Cultural activities help to give a more positive image of a country. Beijing spends around 10 billion dollars a year on image building. 
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A challenging time for ski resorts, Brexpats and Swiss-EU relations

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 13:00
Here are some of the stories we’ll bring you the week of January 14: Monday Twenty-five years ago two Swiss astronomers made the first discovery of an extrasolar planet in the Pegasus constellation – a milestone in astronomic research. What have we learnt since?  Tuesday As the UK parliament prepares to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, are Brits in Switzerland ready to become non-EU citizens overnight on March 29? We speak to the British ambassador and find out how life continues for the British in Switzerland.    Wednesday Many Swiss 30- to 50-year-olds would rather spend the winter holidays on a beach than on a mountain slope. What does the dwindling number of Swiss skiers mean for resorts – and what can be done? We attend a “learn to ski in three days” course.  Thursday Self-taught Indian photographer Cop Shiva got his first international break in Switzerland. The former policeman had his work cut out to break into the art establishment.   Friday An impatient ...
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‘These women never gave up on their dreams’

Sun, 01/13/2019 - 12:00
​​​​​​​ On their trips around the world, two longtime friends found something missing from travel guides: women. So, the Swiss duo wrote a different kind of travel book featuring ground-breaking females in places like Tanzania, Myanmar and Switzerland.  When Carin Salerno and Elisabeth Thorens launched "The World of Women" travel book series, they wanted to tell readers more than just where to stay and what to eat. Salerno, who has worked all over the world for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), contributed volumes on Tanzania and Myanmar, while Thorens, a vocational teacher and author in Lausanne, drew on her experiences to help with the book on Tanzania and author an edition about Swiss women.  Each book does include information for travellers on customs and traditions, lodging and dining. But at the heart of the series are local women's stories, such as the three that follow. As diverse as the women featured in the books are, they share a common trait, ...
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Snow dumps and ice-skating injuries

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 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. Monday 73 Winter has come! Many Swiss regions were covered in the white stuff, with a high of 73 centimetres of fresh snow recorded in the village of St Antönien, situated at 1,510 metres above sea level, in eastern Switzerland.  Tuesday 2.6 The unemployment rate in Switzerland averaged 2.6% in 2018, a ten-year low. Just over 118,000 people were registered with regional job centres during 2018 – 17.5% fewer than the previous year.  Wednesday 15 billion The Swiss National Bank says it expects to report a loss of about CHF15 billion ($15.3 billion) for 2018, mainly because of a weak performance of foreign currency positions.  Thursday 3,600 Some 3,600 ice-skaters require medical attention every year in Switzerland, with almost nine out of ten injured people ...
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