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'Explosive' Swiss artist Roman Signer turns 80

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 13:58
Roman Signer is best known for his exploding landscape performance pieces. His art is playful, full of humour and of brutal (yet quiet) poetry. Now the trailblazing Swiss performance artist turns 80. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Signer grew up in Appenzell. After an apprenticeship as a draftsman, he became a sculptor and finally continued his artistic education in Warsaw in the early 1970s. He gained international recognition for his performances in public spaces. Today, Signer lives in St Gallen. His performance art gave him a name as a demolition expert. But this reputation does not do justice to Signer’s work. He is not interested in the blast, but in the transformation of things that is triggered by it: not the destruction, but the many possibilities that can result from an explosion. Roman Signer is not a physicist – as he’s stated in the past, he doesn’t seek to explain the laws of nature. He tries to make his work intuitive. What does he like? As he told Swiss Public Television, ...
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Anja Wyden Guelpa: taking democracy to today’s youth

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 11:00
Anja Wyden Guelpa is considered one of the most active and innovative players when it comes to promoting democracy in Switzerland.  She has made it her mission over the past 11 years in her senior government post to interest the young generation in politics and show them what impact political decisions have on them. Who is the 45-year old? swissinfo.ch paid her a visit.  She served for served for two full terms, until the end of April 2018, as the first woman Chancellor of Geneva. Born in the German-speaking mountain region of the Rhone valley, she might not seem to fit the stereotypical idea of a government administrator in a French-speaking canton. When she ran for the post at 36, she wanted to talk to people as equals, face to face, without patronising them. Young people and children are especially close to her heart. Her ambition was to show them how political decisions shape the neighbourhoods, the city, the canton and the country where they live. Pitching in The ...
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Fifty years of fitness in the forest

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 08:00
On May 18, 1968 the world’s first outdoor fitness trail, better known by its Swiss moniker Vita Parcours, opened in Zurich. The idea for a trail came when a men’s gymnastics club decided to start training in the forest using natural obstacles, such as tree stumps and logs. But forest workers would clear the paths and the men would return to find their trail dismantled. So they approached the community with a proposal to create a permanent fitness trail, or parcourse. The idea was accepted and the trail found a sponsor, an insurance company by the name of Vita (now Zurich Insurance). Today there are 499 Vita Parcours in Switzerland. The average trail extends for about two kilometres and has 15 stations equipped with various exercise equipment. The exercises suggested at each stop promote strength, endurance and agility. These have been simplified over the trails’ 50-year history to allow families and non-athletic types to also enjoy the trails. In 1993 the "Vita Parcours" ...
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Why Andrea avoids animal products

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 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.  Some people say the hardest thing about being vegan, a person who does not eat or use animal products, is dealing with the antagonism and harassment they face. This includes interrogation-style conversations, sarcastic comments, put-downs and not-so-funny jokes.  Andrea Monica Hug says that she's typically told that vegans are all "malnourished" and that they're "always tired and weak." In fact, she says, since becoming a vegan, she feels much fitter. In this interview, she lets off steam over how poorly informed people are about veganism. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)    
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Will Facebook influence the 2019 Swiss elections?

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 15:05
Online social network Facebook is allegedly planning to deploy its controversial “I’m a voter” button in Switzerland ahead of parliamentary elections next year. The Swiss authorities have not been officially informed by the US company, according to Swiss media reports.  Republik, a Swiss online news magazine, on Wednesday quoted a report in the Schweiz am Wochenende newspaper last month that Anika Geisel, manager of Facebook’s politics and government outreach team in Berlin, had met 20 politicians from all parties in Zurich on April 11.  “The topic of the meeting was how candidates could benefit from Facebook’s campaign tools. It was intended as a promotional event for the technology company,” Republik.ch wrote. “One participant asked a question that had nothing to do with the marketing tools. Would Facebook be deploying its well-known ‘I'm a voter’ button in Switzerland? Yes, Geisel answered, the company was working on it.”  According to Republik, the election button is to be ...
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Research questions the fabric of our universe

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 11:00
Experts at two different Swiss institutions have recently published research that challenges the standard model of the cosmos and its properties. What does this mean for space…and for science? For over a decade, André Maeder has been retired from his position as a professor in the University of Geneva’s Department of Astronomy, where his research focused on the physics of stars. But that hasn’t slowed his pursuit of cosmological conundrums. In fact, he now has more time than ever to devote to the questions that have been bothering him since the very beginning of his career: questions like, “do we really need dark matter to help explain the universe?” “I worked on this for a few years when I was a young assistant. But at that time, it wasn't in the research line of the [Geneva] Observatory,” Maeder says.  He spoke recently with swissinfo.ch at the same Observatory, located in the bucolic Swiss plateau several kilometres outside the bustling city of Geneva. Forty years ...
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Cut-throat cobalt drama will leave Congolese people the losers

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 09:05
Gertler, Gécamines and Glencore sound like the founding fathers of a crusty old law firm. In fact, they are among the principal actors in a cut-throat drama that will help determine not only the price of cobalt and electric car batteries, but also the political future of the not-so-Democratic Republic of Congo. Who are they? Dan Gertler is an Israeli billionaire who, over two decades, has made himself the gatekeeper of Congo’s mineral wealth thanks to his close relations with the president. Often under a cloud of suspicion, Mr Gertler was put on a sanctions list last year by the US Treasury, which said he had “amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals”. Mr Gertler has always denied any wrongdoing, saying he deserves the Nobel Prize — presumably for peace, not fiction — for bringing billions of dollars to the Congolese people. Gécamines is Congo’s state-owned mining company, without whose say-so few mining ...
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AI has ‘enormous’ potential to transform health sector

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 16:42
Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are a “force for good” which could transform the health sector, say experts gathered in Geneva at the 2nd AI for Good Global Summit. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), is convinced the technology can help advance the issue of universal health coverage.  “Artificial intelligence can greatly improve our response to disease outbreaks through enhanced early warning, forecasting epidemics, improved decision-making for outbreak response and simulation tools,” he told delegates at the opening of the conference in Geneva. “There are clear opportunities to use AI to make health services both more accessible and more effective. By making data collection and triage more efficient, AI can reduce the costs of care, making services more affordable for patients,” he added. Marcel Salathé, the head of the Digital Epidemiology Laboratory at Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), is leading ...
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When a saliva sample changes your life

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 11:00
A Swiss couple undertook DNA testing as a matter of fun but ended up solving a rather serious, trans-Atlantic family mystery. As more people turn to genetic analysis to unlock the Pandora box of the past, Switzerland is sharpening its laws to cut through some of the thornier legal and ethical issues. "I have been waiting for this information for a long time! At last I have some answers to an enigma that I have carried around with me all my life." When Damien (pseudonym) read the e-mail message above, he was thunderstruck. He would never have imagined that what started as a game would affect his entire existence. "I have discovered a family secret," the Swiss computer security specialist tells us. Damien, who requested to remain anonymous to protect his privacy, says it all started as a bet with his wife. "We wanted to know which one of us was the most closely related to the Neanderthal," he recalls. "Whoever lost had to treat the other to a good steak." The Lausanne couple ...
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Switzerland needs to acknowledge colonial past to be real friends

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 08:00
"There was a colonial history behind the India-Switzerland Friendship Treaty that the Swiss public is not aware or doesn't want to talk about."  70th anniversary Newly independent India and Switzerland entered into a Friendship Treaty on August 14, 1948 that was signed by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Swiss ambassador to India Armin Daeniker.   Besides promising “perpetual peace and unalterable friendship” the treaty also granted Swiss citizens and businesses the right to ply their trade in India at an uncertain time. Today, the Treaty has become a talisman of historically good ties between the two nations. Opinion is divided over whether it is a gesture of friendship or made to appear as one to serve the needs of diplomats, politicians and businesses.   For me the Friendship Treaty from 1948 and the celebration of it in 2008 and now in 2018 has been a platform for different political and economic actors to serve their interests. In 1948, the ...
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India and Switzerland: We do matter together

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 08:00
"The connections of democracy, lively voice of the people and leveraging the best of cultural and human diversity is what makes the India and Switzerland old and good friends." 70th anniversary Newly independent India and Switzerland entered into a Friendship Treaty on August 14, 1948 that was signed by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Swiss ambassador to India Armin Daeniker.  Besides promising “perpetual peace and unalterable friendship” the treaty also granted Swiss citizens and businesses the right to ply their trade in India at an uncertain time. Today, the Treaty has become a talisman of historically good ties between the two nations. Opinion is divided over whether it is a gesture of friendship or made to appear as one to serve the needs of diplomats, politicians and businesses. When India was born, its leaders were drawn to the ideals of peace and neutrality– two words that are entrenched within the Swiss heartbeat. This led to the ...
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Why is the pope visiting the Geneva-based World Council of Churches?

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 17:58
Pope Francis is making a rare one-day visit to Geneva on June 21, where he is set to meet the Swiss president and hold a mass at the airport. But before that he’s going to the World Council of Churches (WCC) for talks. Why is he visiting this little-known religious body?  The last papal visit to Switzerland was in 2004, when Pope John Paul II came to Bern a year before he died. John Paul II had previously visited various international organisations in Geneva – aka the Protestant Rome - in 1984, including the WCC. Paul VI also went there in 1969.  Pope fever is mounting at the Geneva-based organisation, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Next month’s papal trip, which goes under the motto ‘Walking, praying and working together’, is the result of five years’ efforts by WCC officials following Pope Francis’ appointment in 2013. “The visit of his Holiness Pope Francis on this ecumenical pilgrimage to the WCC on our 70th anniversary is a historical milestone in the ...
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Switzerland’s delicate stances on Israel

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 11:26
Switzerland, one of the first countries to recognize the state of Israel, is alarmed by the level of violence in Gaza Strip. The Swiss Federal Council on Tuesday condemned the “use of force by Israel, which at this stage has caused the death of dozens of people, including children, and injured thousands.” Gaza on Monday witnessed the deadliest day since the 2014 conflict between Israel and Islamist group Hamas, which runs the coastal enclave. Israeli forces opened fire against demonstrators amassed along the Gaza border. The Gaza Health Ministry, cited by The Associated Press, said 59 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured.  The spike in casualties has revived international condemnation of Israel’s use of lethal force against unarmed protesters and amplified concerns for the prospects of Middle East peace. The violence coincided with the inauguration ceremony of the new American embassy in disputed Jerusalem, held on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of ...
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How to reconcile direct democracy and international law

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 11:00
The question of primacy between national and international law has been simmering for years in Switzerland. Here we give a run-down of some other options that could settle the wrangling over legal hierarchy. In recent years, several contentious popular initiatives in Switzerland – banning the building of Islamic minarets, for example, or expelling foreigners convicted of serious crimes – have raised the tricky question of how to reconcile domestic and international law. The issue is an emotive and fundamental one, touching on key ingredients of Swiss identity – direct democracy, strong sovereignty and a certain standoffishness from internationalist trends (Switzerland only joined the United Nations in 2002). On a purely judicial level, if the question itself is simple, there is no easy answer. At a recent panel event in Geneva, journalist and lawyer Denis Masmejan outlined for swissinfo.ch six of the most commonly cited paths out of the paradox. 1. “Here, it’s us who ...
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Do Swiss universities offer the best value for money?

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 10:16
Here is a meta-analysis by swissinfo.ch that combines the most popular university rankings to find out which ones are best. We also show which university offers the best value for the money. Spoiler: Switzerland, for once, is a good deal. The public, the media and the universities themselves have all embraced university rankings. They have been remarkably influential even though what they measure is often obscure.  We created a hybrid ranking of the "best" 500 universities by averaging the three longest established and most influential global rankings: QS World University ranking, Times Higher Education (THE) and the Shanghai ranking (AEWU). The map under shows the location of these 500 best universities. Little Switzerland punches above its weight with eight universities in the global top 500. The Alpine nation becomes even more competitive when comparing university ranking against tuition fees, as shown in the chart under.  The majority of our consensus top 50 ...
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Bern from a homeless perspective

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 17:00
The Surprise association, which publishes a magazine to help the homeless, is celebrating its 20th year. To mark the event, it has launched “socially aware” tours of the city of Bern, with guides who have personally experienced homelessness. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) Roger Meier tells his tour groups about his life and provides an insight into the institutions that helped him survive on the streets, visiting soup kitchens, shelters and charity shops. Guided tours of this kind already exist in Zurich, with the goal of fighting against prejudice. A team from Swiss Public Television, SRF, took a guided tour with Roger, who has been homeless most of his life since running away from an abusive foster father. Thanks to his job as a guide, he now has a roof over his head for the first time. But he says he has never been afraid of the streets, "It's the only place where nothing can happen to me. The only place where I know my way around." Surprise also recently received a social prize of ...
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A day in the life of a woman in the Swiss Army

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 11:00
Zoé Frei deems it unfair that Swiss men are liable for mandatory military service while women are not. She joined the army voluntarily and swissinfo.ch spent a day with Frei, one of the few female soldiers in the Swiss military. Taking large strides, Zoé Frei marches past pretty timbered houses, dozing horses and pristine looking vegetable beds in a farming village near Bern. She wears her uniform and does not seem to be cold even though it’s still a bit chilly at 5:45am on this early April morning. The young woman is walking from her hotel to join her unit. Military regulations stipulate that men and women have to stay in separate accommodation.  “Apart from emergency situations, showers and bedrooms always have to be separate,” Frei explains. She is the only woman in her unit. When in February this year they had to spend a night outdoors, she had to sleep in a tent which left her freezing cold. “The others were able to snuggle up,” she says laughing. “The officers in charge ...
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Swiss salaries, DNA tests and the structure of the universe

Sun, 05/13/2018 - 12:00
These are some of the stories we’re following in the week of May 14.   Monday How much does a Swiss banker earn? Are there big gaps between what Swiss nationals and foreigners are paid? And does it make a difference what kind of work permit you have? We will bring you the findings of a major survey on the structure of salaries to be published on Monday by the Federal Statistical Office.   Tuesday As the Swiss prepare to vote on June 10 on an initiative to change the country’s monetary and banking system, we hear from two opposing viewpoints. Monetary affairs specialist Sergio Rossi thinks structural reforms like the so-called “sovereign money” initiative are needed to help prevent speculative bubbles and world financial crises. But Lausanne University economics professor Philippe Bacchetta disagrees. Rather than prevent new crises, he thinks it would merely create uncertainty and compromise the competitiveness of Swiss banks.   Wednesday As technology advances, ...
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Woman puts words near actors’ mouths

Sun, 05/13/2018 - 11:00
How do you make theatre understandable for people who don’t know the language? A Zurich woman has spent the past 20 years perfecting the art of surtitles for the stage.  Dòra Kapusta pedals up to the Schauspielhaus theatre in a short black dress and high heels, her large handbag wedged into the bike basket.  She hurries inside into a world of plush red velvet: banister covers, curtains, upholstery, and the fat seat cushion that she grabs in passing.  We stop at a wooden door with a brass handle and the number “5” on it. This will be Kapusta’s domain for the next few hours: a private box overlooking the stage, furnished with a desk, chair and small lamp. She plugs in her laptop and removes her peach suede pumps.  “The annoying thing is that I still get nervous, at least for the first five to ten minutes,” confesses Kapusta. But not about the hundreds of slides that she’s prepared – which will distill what the actors say in German into easy-to-read English snippets. These will ...
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Battle of Gallipoli re-enactment raises eyebrows in Switzerland

Sat, 05/12/2018 - 17:00
A student re-enactment of Turkey’s 1915 Battle of Gallipoli staged in Switzerland has raised concerns over the use of Swiss schools for Turkish propaganda. The performance, held in the village of Uttwil in front of Turkish dignitaries and the diaspora, was first flagged this weekend by Swiss paper SonnstagsBlick. The scene at the heart of the controversy is one of school children exchanging fire with mock bayonets on a stage dominated by a giant portrait of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, flanked by the Swiss and Turkish flags. The re-enactment in Switzerland was perceived as an effort to promote nationalist Turkish propaganda among the expat community. The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915-16, also known Dardanelles Campaign, was an unsuccessful attempt by the Allied Powers to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during the First World War. Untested troops from Australia and New Zealand, former British colonies, met fierce resistance from Turks fighting to ...
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