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Updated: 3 hours 25 min ago

Counselling on health and food made her famous

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:00
Launching herself into the fitness sector has been the best investment of her life, says Doris Hofer. The Swiss expat lives in Turkey and has become an expert on health issues. She reinvented herself after her divorce, and, not least through social media, notably Instagram, the 42-year-old Hofer has made a name for herself in Turkey giving advice about fitness and healthy food. swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland? Doris Hofer: I left the country in 2004 because of love. I was married to a Turkish man for almost ten years and we have two children together, Zoe and Noah. swissinfo.ch: Did you plan to leave Switzerland for good or do you intend to come back one day? D.H.: I’d like to visit Switzerland more regularly and cooperate with Swiss companies. But as a patchwork family we are unlikely to move back. The father of my children lives here in Turkey and I don’t want my children to grow up without him being around. The views expressed in this article are solely those ...
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When the Alps' longest glacier spreads out at your feet

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 10:00
The Aletsch Glacier is the longest in the Alps, and only hardy alpinists, like Swiss photographer Dan Patitucci, get to see it from this angle. We'd been on the Berner Oberland ski tour for three days as an assignment for a magazine that an American writer had come to the Alps for.  When we arrived to the Konkordia Hut, we had yet to see anything other than the tips of our skis. GPS's and mountain skills had gotten us this far.  I knew what views the writer was missing, but he had no idea. So when the clouds briefly parted everyone dashed outside to get a glimpse of the Konkordiaplatz and all that surrounded us. At work and play We are fortunate to call the mountains our workplace and still marvel at what we get to do on any given work day, be it in the Alps or Himalaya.  After all these years, the passion we have for life as mountain sport athletes and photographers hasn't faded. Experiencing the Alps on so many levels keeps us motivated for what comes next. Grandiose ...
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By the numbers: public purse bulges while e-cars are on the rise

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 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 1,200 Kurds living in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe gathered in the centre of Lausanne to protest the Turkish bombing of Afrine, a Kurdish enclave in Syria. The 1,200-strong group walked in several stages to Geneva, where they demonstrated in front of the United Nations a few days later. Tuesday 10,078 The number of new members who joined the euthanasia organisation Exit last year. In 2017, 734 people ended their lives using Exit’s services.  Wednesday 2.8 billion This was the healthy surplus – in Swiss francs – announced by Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, compared to a forecast deficit of CHF250 million. The difference was due mainly to higher-than-estimated tax revenues.  Thursday 100 The number of foreign spy agencies with whom the Federal ...
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Team is high in mountains but low in league

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 12:00
Tucked in the Leventina valley at the foot of the Gotthard mountain, the villages of Ambrì and Piotta are home to a professional hockey club with a cult following beyond Switzerland. An imposing structure with a vaulted roof stands out from all other buildings in tiny Ambrì: it is the “Pista la Valascia”, the hockey stadium and home of HC Ambrì-Piotta. The venue is all the more remarkable for seating 7,000 spectators, or several times the population of the entire municipality of Quinto, where Ambrì is located. The impressive size of the arena is no accident. HC Ambrì-Piotta – or the white and blues, as they’re affectionately known – has fans in all of Switzerland and across Europe, too.  When the club meets its arch rival from the southern Swiss town of Lugano, supporters from as far away as German-speaking Schaffhausen in the north of the country make the pilgrimage to cheer on their team.  On just such a night, fans fill the local restaurants before the game to enjoy a pizza.
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How does Switzerland spend its taxpayers' money?

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 17:10
After the government revealed a large surplus in Switzerland's public finances earlier this week, we wondered how the country spends its money.  +Read about Switzerland's large CHF2.8 billion surplus Spending on social welfare remains the single largest expenditure, which cost taxpayers nearly CHF23 billion ($25 billion) last year, and was an increase of 1.6% on 2016. The rise was mainly due to pension payouts and high health costs. The biggest growth was seen in spending on education and research (+5.7% to CHF7.6 billion), in part due to additional funding needed to keep Switzerland part of the European research programme, Horizon 2020.  The government had to set less aside for transport, with spending dropping year on year 0.6% to CHF9.1 billion.
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Parag Khanna gives his prescription for democracy

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 12:00
With his provocative theses and books, the Indo-American political scientist Parag Khanna is omnipresent on television and on stage. Whether on CNN, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, or in TED Talks, Khanna is an intellectual superstar. #DearDemocracy met up with him in his adopted homeland of Singapore. I meet the father of two in the lobby of a hotel in the centre of the city, a meeting place that seems common, almost boring. However, the location as well as my interview partner are anything but common. The lobby of the Oasia Hotel, which opened a year ago, is 12 floors up and offers a glimpse into the future. Here, the high-rise building, which is covered in plants and lies at the heart of the city-state, opens into a bright urban atrium of big lawns, fountains, waterfalls, and seating area. “What a wonderful place. I have never been here before,” Parag Khanna says. The 40-year-old has just returned from a four-month trip to Germany where he was undertaking research ...
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Anita - World Champion in Natural Bodybuilding

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 17:35
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice. They answer questions that nobody else dares to ask directly. This week, we speak to Anita, a world champion in "Natural Bodybuilding", a movement for bodybuilders who abstain from performance-enhancing drugs. She tells Swiss Public Television, SRF, that just because she's a bodybuilder, it doesn't make her any less feminine. (SRF, swissinfo.ch)
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New Swiss development network to tackle UN goals

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 16:55
Government officials and development specialists have been gathering in Bern to discuss how the United Nations’ ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be successfully implemented in Switzerland.  Some 250 decision makers, including solar adventurer Bertrand Piccard, met in Bern on Thursday to discuss the Swiss implementation of the SDGs. The conference was organized by the new Sustainable Development Solutions Network Switzerland (SDSN) under the theme "Where Society, Science and Politics create solutions”.  Adopted unanimously by UN member nations in September 2015, the 17 non-binding SDGs and 169 associated targets are designed to tackle by 2030 a range of the world's most troubling problems, such as hunger, jobs, education, gender inequality, sanitation, justice and peace.  The SDGs aim to go further than their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), notably by being more inclusive; unlike the earlier goals, the SDGs will also apply to wealthy states.
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Should voting rights of Swiss expats be curbed?

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:00
Swiss citizens living across the world still have the right to decide on national – and in some cases local and cantonal – issues. One critic asks whether it is time for stricter rules. Political consultant Claudio Kuster is the man who instigated the latest debate about voting rights for Swiss expatriates. He was also one of the driving forces behind a people’s initiative aimed at capping managers’ salaries, approved by Swiss voters in 2013. His latest campaign challenging the suffrage of Swiss citizens living abroad has triggered plenty of opposition. He tells swissinfo.ch about his motivations. swissinfo.ch: Are you simply trying to provoke a debate? Claudio Kuster: I can understand the negative reaction from those affected directly. Perhaps I broke a taboo. Because, at first glance, it is as if somebody was calling to abolish suffrage for women. However, I regularly won support for my demand when I explained to people that Swiss citizens who live abroad and have never ...
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The future of universities in a digital era

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:00
As the digital revolution transforms society, what is the role of universities as “intelligent” machines begin to ask and answer the questions of the universe. Monasteries – the guardians and sanctuaries of knowledge – once maintained huge collections of manuscripts that formed the foundation of current knowledge. The Abbey of St. Gallen, whose architecture, school, and even its herb garden served as a blueprint for many monastic communities, not only preserved their livelihood, but also fostered learning. While the monks worked in the scriptorium copying time-honored Christian texts – some scribes barely able to understand their content - the revolutionary ideas recorded in Roman manuscripts (such as Lucretius’s tract) rotted in the cellars of abbey libraries until Poggio, an “enlightened” former papal secretary roaming the country on a donkey, no less, came across the treasure trove. The historian Stephen Greenblatt regales Poggio’s’ tale of discovery of De Rerum Natura. For ...
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Growing number of people sign up for assisted suicide

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 13:30
Every year, thousands of people become members of Exit, the largest assisted suicide organisation in Switzerland. Last year was no exception, with 10,078 new members signing up. If they fulfil certain criteria, members can use the organisation’s services when they decide the time is right to end their life.Exit has 110,391 members in German-speaking Switzerland and in Ticino, and 26,205 members in French-speaking Switzerland. 734 people ended their lives using Exit’s services in 2017, compared to 723 the year before.  What is an assisted suicide organisation? The first organisations supporting people in exercising their ‘right to die’ were set up around 35 years ago in Switzerland. They include Exit, Dignitas, Ex International und lifecircle. The groups campaign for and directly support people who want to die at a time of their own choosing. What’s the law on assisted suicide in Switzerland? Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and ...
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A special school for special needs

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 12:00
At eight years old, Manarekha still has difficulty speaking and counting. She has a learning difficulty that is not always easy for her adoptive family to deal with. They are helped by a pioneering school in the Italian-speaking southern Swiss canton of Ticino. “Let’s see who can finish their milk first, OK?” Manarekha looks up at her father, his eyes still full of sleep. “Hurry up, the bus is arriving soon. Drink up, then we’ll brush our teeth.” It is 7am and the Di Costantino-Laudi family is gathered at the breakfast table in their little villa in Vacallo, a town near the Italian border. Mother Babita, father Massimo, teenage daughter Iris, little Manarekha. A multidisciplinary team  Launched in September 2017, the "welcoming class" project in Stabio is run with the participation of four teachers: Paola Klett Sala in the first grade class of 12 students; while Luca Canova, Patricia Castoldi-Ineichen, and Erika Guglielmo Ripamonti jointly manage the special school class, with ...
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Is global democracy in decline or development?

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 12:00
The Economist magazine’s Democracy Index 2017 sees “free speech under attack” and global democracy in “disturbing retreat”, but swissinfo.ch’s global democracy correspondent Bruno Kaufmann calls the findings into question. More than half the countries compared by British magazine Economist saw their democracy ratings drop last year – 89 out of 167 countries. The report, published last month, says that only 5% of the global population lived in “true democracies” in 2017, while nearly a third of the population was under authoritarian rule. The authors see “the biggest decline in years”. Switzerland is still among the top ten in the democracy rankings, but dropped from eighth to ninth position. Leading the table is Norway, followed by Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, Canada and Australia. Switzerland shares its position with Finland, while Chad, Syria and North Korea are bottom of the list. Financial transparency “Switzerland continues to struggle when it comes ...
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European banks break ranks over cryptocurrencies

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 10:01
A handful of smaller European banks are breaking ranks with the rest of the sector by giving investors access to cryptocurrencies and advising on initial coin offerings, despite an intensifying effort by regulators to clamp down on the area. Vontobel and Falcon Bank, the Swiss private banks, are among the lenders that are agreeing to handle cryptocurrency-based investments on behalf of their clients. Germany’s Fidor Bank and Liechtenstein’s Bank Frick are also providing such services.  “There are risks involved but there are also really big opportunities,” Edi Wögerer, chief executive of Bank Frick, told the Financial Times. “We know what to do from a security perspective so this is a big opportunity for banks like us.” He said bigger banks were “scared” of cryptocurrencies “because they don’t understand them, they feel threatened”.  Oliver Bussmann, president of the Crypto Valley Association in Switzerland’s canton of Zug near Zurich, said that because the largest lenders ...
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Big cats find love and habitat in Switzerland

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 10:00
Hunted to extinction in Switzerland in the early 1900s, lynx are doing well now – thanks partly to the successful matchmaking services of the Swiss government.  In 1971, the authorities imported two male and two female lynx from the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe – and dropped them off in the forest of canton Obwalden in central Switzerland. The big spotted cats with the tufted ears liked their new home and began breeding. Today there are about 300 lynx living in different parts of the country, enough for Switzerland to send animals to other countries for wildlife resettlement projects. Solitary – except in the March/April mating season – and territorial, a female lynx has a range of 50-150 km²; for males it’s 100-250 km². The standard litter, born in late May or early June, has two kittens who stay with their mother for ten months.  According to the Swiss-based Carnivore Ecology and Wildlife Management (KORA), roe deer and chamois account for 88% of the local lynx ...
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World Radio Day and some blasts from the past

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 12:31
Today, on World Radio Day, we celebrate the power of radio and its role in bringing people together. It is also an occasion to look back at how swissinfo.ch began... with radio. Beginning in 1935, special programmes for the Swiss abroad were broadcast over short wave.  In 1939, the Short Wave Service got its own antenna, located at Schwarzenberg in canton Bern. Here is a sample programme from May 3, 1949, with a speech in Switzerland by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. And in this interview from 1958, we hear from legendary jazz trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong in relaxed mood. In 1978, the Short Wave Service was renamed Swiss Radio International (SRI). The radio broadcasts destined for a foreign audience reached their golden age during the Cold War. With programmes in eight languages, SRI reached an estimated five to ten million listeners around the world.  The decline of short wave began at the end of the 1980s. Political changes, such as the end of the ...
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Swiss small-business owners debate media fee

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 12:00
Switzerland’s Federation of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) supports a proposal to do away with mandatory licence fees for public service broadcasters, which will come to a nationwide vote on March 4. Two of its members sat down to discuss the issue.  The SME umbrella organisation is up against an alliance of most political parties, parliament, the government, trade unions and most sectors of the business community, who recommend voting against the initiative. But it is a political force to be reckoned with, representing about 300,000 companies grouped in 250 trade associations. The federation spearheaded a campaign to try to scupper a reform of the public radio and television funding system in 2015. It has also been at the forefront of political efforts to abolish public broadcast licence fees, but not all of its members toe the line.  Jürg Schär, who made a name for himself as a e-bike pioneer, is a chairman of several SMEs outside Bern. Konrad Rüegg, a former ...
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At 91, Switzerland's oldest politician is full of life

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 18:00
At 91, she's the oldest elected politician in Switzerland: Marlies Näf-Hofmann from Arbon in canton Thurgau. And she's still going strong. Swiss Public Television, SRF, looks back at an often controversial political career. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)  She represents the Christian Democratic Party in the Arbon local parliament, where she campaigns on behalf of the elderly, in particular. But she has changed her political allegiances several times.  For 20 years, Näf-Hofmann worked as a lawyer for the the rightwing conservative Swiss People's Party on the cantonal parliament of Thurgau, and was party member for 50 years. After a brief stint with the Liberal Greens, the lawyer joined the town parliament two years ago as a non-party member. In summer 2017, she officially changed to the Christian Democratic Party. 'Sharp as a whistle' Her pet subjects are accessibility of public transport and day care centres for people with dementia. She is described as persistent, passionate and quite ...
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When attitudes become photography

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 14:13
Balthasar Burkhard was in the right place at the right time: Bern in the 1960s. The city had a lively bohemian scene, and was a magnet for radical artists and ideas that culminated in 1969 in the anthological exhibition, "When attitudes become form" at the Kunsthalle Bern. That's also the moment in Burkhard’s five-decade career to which the Fotomuseum Winterthur is now dedicating a comprehensive retrospective (until 21.05.2018). Having learned the trade with Kurt Blum, one of the most important Swiss photographers in the mid-20th century, Burkhard started to travel in the bohemian circles of Bern. Soon, he was part of the entourage of Harald Szeemann, who directed the Kunsthalle Bern from 1961 to 1969. During those years, Szeemann captured the zeitgeist of radical political and social movements that also touched the arts, and Burkhard’s photography was closely connected to Szeemann’s work. The Kunsthalle Bern welcomed all those radical ideas, up to the point when Szeemann felt ...
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Swiss victim of crime abroad? Tough luck

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 12:00
Switzerland has one of the most generous, state-funded victim support services in the world. However, it doesn’t benefit everyone: Swiss people who live abroad and their relatives – as well as Swiss tourists – who are victims of crime are falling through the net. While assistance to victims in Germany, for example, is almost entirely dependent on donations, the system in Switzerland has been a public institution for the past 25 years. Victims of a criminal offence in Switzerland are supported in three ways, according to the so-called three-pillar model. Not only do they receive free medical, psychological and legal support, but they are also protected during the criminal proceedings and receive damages and remuneration if the perpetrator and insurance companies do not recompense them sufficiently.  Victims also have access to counselling without having to report the offender to the police, a rule which particularly benefits victims of domestic abuse. Direct democracy This ...
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