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Combating the spread of wartime rape

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 11:00
The Swiss non-governmental organisation Trial International, supported by Swiss diplomatic efforts, is campaigning to put an end to rape as a weapon of war, and the impunity which protects the perpetrators. “Today there is not a single conflict in the world where rape is not used. As a weapon of war it is extremely effective, with multiple repercussions which affect the victims, their families and their communities. And it is used all the more because impunity is the rule for the perpetrators of these atrocities.“ This is the summing-up of the situation from Céline Bardet, founder of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) “We are not weapons of war”.  Along with about fifty other activists, Bardet was attending a meeting organised by TRIAL International on June 18 and 19 in Geneva to mark the 15th anniversary of the Swiss NGO. Susannah Sirkin, of the NGO Physicians for Human Rights, takes a similar view: “The first thing needed is prevention. One of the things to do is to put an ...
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Family separation under US immigration law has a long history

Thu, 07/12/2018 - 11:00
The US government’s separation of children and parents at the Mexican border has sparked disbelief around the world. But as Alexandra Dufresne explains, the separation of parents and children has been a part of US immigration law for a long time. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that between the fiscal years 2009 and 2013, possibly as many as 500,000 parents of American children were deported. Separations stemming from everyday detention and deportation are more mundane perhaps than those in recent news. But the harm these separations inflict on children is nonetheless significant.  From 2003-2005, I worked as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Detention Attorney at Boston College Law School. My students and I, along with a colleague from a local nonprofit, were responsible for giving “Know Your Rights” presentations to the roughly 1,000 immigrants and refugees detained in four local jails. We also represented as many individuals in Immigration Court as we could, ...
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A new model for Swiss innovation

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 17:00
​​​​​​​ On Tuesday, the World Intellectual Property Organization named Switzerland the most innovative country for the eighth year in a row. André Kudelski, president of the newly rebranded Swiss innovation agency Innosuisse, spoke earlier this year with swissinfo.ch about how the country can avoid complacency, and why taking risks is a sure path to success. Traditional Swiss excellence in the areas of trademark filings, scientific publications and education spending, as well as emerging strengths in mobile app creation and green technologies, all helped the alpine nation claim the top spot in WIPO’s 2018 Global Innovation Index of 126 countries. + WIPO crowns Switzerland as world’s most innovative nation The report was published a little over halfway into the inaugural year of Innosuisse, which in January replaced the government’s executive Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). Since 1996, CTI had been responsible for providing consulting services and financing to ...
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Glencore: an audacious business model in the dock

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 11:43
In a sleepy Swiss town 30km from Zurich sits one of the companies that keeps the global economy ticking, supplying the raw materials that touch every facet of modern life from mobile phones to automobiles and petroleum. Since its creation 44 years ago Glencore has become the biggest commodity trader in the world. But with that has come notoriety and this week the attentions of a US Department of Justice investigation into bribery and corruption that some believe will force the Switzerland-based group to change its business model. As well as being a major miner, it is the ultimate middleman, moving millions of tonnes of commodities across the globe, linking the suppliers of raw materials - often in developing countries - with consumers in wealthy and fast-growing ones, earning wafer-thin margins on large volumes along the way. But what sets Glencore apart from its peers is its appetite for risk, at times pushing the limits of what is allowed in the modern global economy.
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From Serbia to the Swiss Alps: a bear's adventure

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 11:15
Serbia’s last circus bear recently left his temporary home for the biggest adventure of his life: a 1,400km trip to Switzerland. Napa the bear will become the first resident of the Arosa Bear conservation centre (Arosa Bärenland) in the eastern canton of Graubünden. In 2016, officials rescued the brown bear from a cage in a circus ground, and took him to the Palic Zoo in Serbia. Curator Kristijan Ovari says he was in a poor state, "His fur and teeth were in bad condition. He kept pacing up and down. He had to learn to trust the keepers". A protein-rich diet allowed him to build up muscle and he was in a good condition when he left the zoo in July. Ovari says the keepers were sad to see him go, "It was hard for us to part with him as we had grown to like him. He is very intelligent, very curious. He’s always the first there to see what’s happening". Moving country His transfer to Switzerland was orchestrated by the Four Paws animal rescue foundation, which is providing five ...
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Meet a Neanderthal woman from one of Europe’s oldest cave sites

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 11:00
Some 70,000 years ago, a Neanderthal woman about 40 years old died in a small cave in western Switzerland. Or if she didn’t die there, her body was brought there, - maybe by family, maybe by a cave lion or wolf. We know of her because her upper jaw with teeth still intact was found in the cave. Now you can see the exact spot where the woman was discovered. Since early June, this cave, “La Grotte de Cotencher” – just a short drive and walk from the town of Neuchâtel – has been open to the public for guided tours. The cave is the oldest archeological site in this part of Switzerland showing human habitation. The woman’s jaw was found on a little shelf of earth the size of a dinner plate.  “We call her ‘La Dame de Cotencher”, says archeologist François-Xavier Chauvière, who has been in charge of excavations at the cave since 2016.  But the discovery of La Dame is only one dramatic archeological pinpoint along the 700-century timeline of this small cave. Here, in the layers of earth ...
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How a behemoth crypto trading platform could impact Switzerland

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 17:00
swissinfo.ch asks what a new Swiss stock exchange, fusing the worlds of traditional and crypto finance, will mean for the burgeoning home-grown blockchain industry. What is the SIX Digital Exchange? It is a new trading platform to be rolled out in mid-2019 by the SIX Group, which runs the Swiss stock exchange. SIX says the fully regulated exchange will be the “first market infrastructure in the world to offer a fully integrated end to end trading, settlement and custody service for digital assets.” This means the platform will host all elements of trading under one roof, unlike other crypto exchanges that use third parties to execute parts of the chain. It will be run on a distributed ledger system (DLS) with similar properties to blockchain. Financial assets, such as bonds and equities, can be digitised and attached to a digital token to store their value and allow swift transaction between parties. Other stock exchanges are also looking at DLS technology. These include the ...
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Crypto-finance beyond the ‘boom’

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 17:00
Traditional financial players should not violate the core values of crypto-finance, such as decentralisation and community, as they delve deeper into the new digital world, argues Alexis Roussel, co-founder and CEO of Swiss crypto exchange Bity.com. Crypto-finance is coming out of the woods but governments, banks and industry players in the global financial system need to make sure they understand its core values. The skyrocketing bitcoin price at the end of 2017 got the financial world talking about the credibility of cryptocurrencies in finance.  Even traditional financial exchanges like CBOE, CME Group and Nasdaq, which began listing Bitcoin futures earlier this year, are capitalising on the unprecedented rise of the bitcoin price. But, they’re missing the point of bitcoin.  They criticise bitcoin for being a highly speculative investment, yet futures are essentially for speculation only, unless you are a miner or large consumer of bitcoin. There is more to the hype and ...
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Ballet teacher gives lessons in dance and fortitude

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 11:00
From children in diapers to aspiring professional ballerinas and eclectic choreographers, no-one leaves the Basel Dance Academy without a lesson in fortitude. The driving force of the academy, weaving together dancers of all ages to culminate in two annual performances, is Galina Gladkova-Hoffmann. The strong-willed brunette glides across vinyl dancefloors on a wheelchair as she instructs students how to plie, pirouette and polish their pas de deux. She guides with them with a combination of voice and hand gestures. Gladkova herself was a professional ballerina at the Basler Ballett before a horse riding accident paralysed her from the neck down and forced her to rebuild her life from scratch. swissinfo.ch meets her after a few hectic weeks preparing students to perform on stage at Theatre La Coupole in nearby Saint-Louis, France: a two-night performance in June that came off without a hitch, leaving proud parents and children full of a sense of accomplishment. Gladkova ...
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Choose judges by lot? How fair is that?

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 18:36
A Swiss people’s initiative has called for federal judges to be drawn by lot. Historian and legal scholar Lorenz Langer explains how Switzerland came to have its internationally controversial system of selecting judges. On the day that US President Donald Trump is set to announce his nominee for a lifetime position on the US Supreme Court, Langer also discusses the consequences of giving too much power to one person. swissinfo.ch: Why did Switzerland begin to take political parties into account in appointing judges, even though there is no legal requirement for this? Lorenz Langer: The fundamental question is how far the justice system requires democratic legitimisation, or whether applying the rule of law is a purely technocratic task that should be fully isolated from politics. In Switzerland, the conclusion reached was that there are certain connections to politics, and that perhaps there have to be. swissinfo.ch: So it was deemed desirable to have judges who represent a ...
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Why the Swiss dump their rubbish in France

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 11:00
French border towns are reacting after a slew of incidents of Swiss residents being caught dumping rubbish across the border in France. "When they come to shop at our supermarkets at the weekends, the Swiss bring their garbage and leave empty-handed," an outraged Bernard Mamet, mayor of Rousses, recently told francetvinfo.fr.  In 2017, customs for the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté on the northwestern Swiss border, intercepted nearly 10 tons of waste from Switzerland. In one year, around 140 Swiss were caught transporting or illegally dumping waste on the French side of the border – 20 more incidents than in 2016. That doesn’t include others who were not caught or identified.  + Find out what it costs to keep Swiss streets so clean Those apprehended leave with a fine of 150 euros and their illegal cargo in tow. "Of course, they have to return to Switzerland with their rubbish. Some protest and think paying a fine still gives them the right to leave their waste in France,” a ...
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From Serbia to the Swiss Alps: a bear's adventure

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 10:00
What you see in this video is the rescue of Serbia’s last circus bear, Napa. The brown bear was kept in a small cage, but is now embarking on an adventure with a very Swiss flavour. Napa was born in a zoo and it's thought that he was sent to the Corona circus in Srbobran when he was young, and made to perform. In 2009, circuses in Serbia were banned from using animals, but it wasn't until 2016 that veterinary inspections were allowed.  Kristijan Ovari, the curator of Serbia's Zoo Palic, says he first spotted Napa at the Corona circus in 2012 and started making plans to free him and bring him to the zoo. He explains, "Many organisations were involved. Thanks to the Four Paws animal protection foundation and the Serbian ministry of the environment, everything went well. There were many problems and complications, but we managed to rescue him and he was taken to Zoo Palic in December 2016." The video shot by Four Paws shows his release from the cage and transfer to the zoo in a bear ...
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A cave's ancient secrets, and efforts to fight rape and enslavement

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 12:00
Here are the stories we’ll be following the week of July 9, 2018: Tuesday From children in diapers to aspiring professional ballerinas and eclectic choreographers, no one walks out of the Basel Dance Academy without a lesson in fortitude. The driving force of these collaborations that weave together dancers from all ages is a former professional ballerina who now teaches from a wheelchair.  Wednesday Some 70,000 years ago, a Neanderthal woman about 40 years old died in a small cave in western Switzerland. Or if she didn’t die there, her body was brought there - maybe by family, maybe by a cave lion or wolf. We step inside the cave to reveal its ancient secrets. Thursday The Swiss NGO Trial along with Swiss diplomats are upping their efforts to stop the use of rape as a weapon of war in places like Syria, Myanmar or Libya. Friday Switzerland is one of the countries where Nigerian migrants - convinced they are bewitched - are enslaved as ...
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Young Swiss gearing up for Arctic mission

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 11:00
When your own carbon footprint is large, how do you convince others to change their ways to help reduce global warming?  This month, the Swiss Arctic Project will take five Swiss students on a three-week mission aboard a ship exploring the area around Svalbard, Norway. Advertised as the “coolest summer job” in the world, their main task will be to document signs of climate change in the region, and to share their impressions via social media.  But an inconvenient truth about the project is the long journey to get there. As one applicant calculated, the team’s flight from Zurich to Spitzbergen and back will generate 11.7 tonnes of CO2. Availing of train and bus service to Tromsö, and flying from there to Spitzbergen, would bring the CO2 down to 4.84 tonnes.  Not including plane or boat travel, the average Swiss generates about ten tonnes of CO2 per year, according to the Federal Office for the Environment. A round-trip economy flight from Zurich to New York releases 2.3 tonnes of ...
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Switzerland’s oldest man – and Roger Federer

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 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 300,000,000 The amount, in francs, that the Swiss Federal Railways is planning to spend revamping its intercity IC2000 fleet. The first completely renovated trains will be put back into operation in early 2019.  Tuesday 115 The age of Jafar Behbahanian, who was born in Persia in 1902 and died in Basel on July 3. He was Switzerland’s oldest man.  Wednesday 3,000 The number of Swiss patients treated with medical cannabis last year. The government has recommended the approval of the sale of cannabis for medical purposes.  Thursday 300,000,000 Same figure as Monday, but this time it’s the reported value in dollars of a new ten-year sponsorship deal between Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo and Swiss tennis star Roger Federer. However, NGOs aren’t happy about the ...
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The group that helps shape Swiss foreign policy

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 11:00
At a time of global upheaval 50 years ago, a group of politicians and leading members of civil society came together to form an association to help shape Swiss foreign policy.  Today, the Swiss Association for Foreign Affairs brings together people from across the political spectrum and non-profit organisations to promote interest in Switzerland's international relations.  When it was founded in 1968, global events such as student-led riots across Europe, the Prague Spring and assassination of Martin Luther King convinced the founders of the society that they had to become more active in foreign policy. The group's new president, Christa Markwalder, has told swissinfo.ch that the "autocratic tendencies" appearing throughout the world make the society's work more urgent than ever before. 
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Nestlé: Betting on big brands

Sat, 07/07/2018 - 11:00
Mark Schneider pours a can of cold brew Nitro Nescafé coffee in the company’s head office overlooking Lake Geneva, Switzerland. He points out the distinctive cream “head” on the dark liquid. “You see that foam building up!” he exclaims. Testing new products is the fun part of heading the world’s largest food and drinks company. More difficult for Nestlé’s 52-year old German chief executive is rebuilding sales growth and profits in an industry roiled by rapid changes in consumer tastes, increasingly severe cost competition and a plethora of mergers and acquisitions. With annual revenues last year of SFr90bn ($91bn), Nestlé is larger than Japan’s Sony and just smaller than Russian energy producer Gazprom. Its best-known brands include KitKat chocolate bars, Perrier bottled water and Purina pet food. But size per se is looking less attractive. Nestlé’s sales growth has slowed substantially , smaller rivals and start-ups have taken market share and the company’s shares have fallen ...
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Why the Swiss still speak in dialects

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 11:00
In German-speaking Switzerland, people who cannot speak dialect end up feeling left out of things. In French-speaking regions, however, speakers of patois are hard to find. Use of dialect differs in the different language regions of the country. The reasons are surprising. Phone conversation: "Kantoonspolizäi, Grüezi" (Cantonal police, morning) "Süddeutsche Zeitung aus München, Grüzi" (This is the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, morning) "Grüss Gott" (Hello) This dialogue, with its abrupt switch from Swiss dialect to High German (and for which there's no real English equivalent), took place on an emergency response line. The calls were recorded for research purposes and studied by a team at the University of Fribourg led by Helen Christen. According to Christen, the brief dialogue shows how German-speaking Swiss – even policemen – habitually begin any conversation with a stranger in dialect, and then, if they pick up cues that the person is not a dialect speaker, they switch ...
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'No, you can't touch my hair'

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 17:00
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly.  This week, Les talks about being a black African in Switzerland. "The same people who thought I was so cute as a child clutched their bags tighter when they saw me going out aged 18 or 19." He admits to being macho, "We have to put on a tough face because we're in the minority." Asked about the notion that black people have bigger penises, he replied: "I don't know. I've only seen my own and I'm happy with that".  (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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Swiss elected to lead Council of Europe body in tough times

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 11:00
Rocked by a corruption scandal which saw members accused of accepting bribes in exchange for votes and hampered by financial difficulties, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has elected Swiss Liliane Maury Pasquier as president to steer it through its current difficulties. The so-called “caviargate” scandal revealed a “strong suspicion” that Azerbaijan had attempted to bribe parliamentarians with gifts or cash to change their votes on a 2013 report denouncing that country’s treatment of political prisoners. Despite the results of this investigation and other measures taken by its members to insulate itself from corruption, Pasquier says the PACE has yet to recover the full confidence of the people in the wake of the scandal. Switzerland joined the 47-member state PACE in 1963. Rules of the Assembly stipulate that only parliamentarians duly elected in their home countries can be elected to the body. Pasquier is the fourth female to preside over the assembly ...
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