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Swiss farmers divided over removal of cows’ horns

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 12:00
The question of cow horn removal, up for a vote in Switzerland, has revealed sharp divisions within the country's agricultural community. A visit to two farms reveals why. Supporters of the cow horn initiative are calling for the Swiss constitution to be amended to introduce subsidies for farmers who do not remove the horns of their cows. The leading Swiss Farmers Association has declined to take a position, preferring to leave the issue to a free vote. Two dairy farmers living in different parts of French-speaking Switzerland have starkly differing views on the issue. “I remove my milking cows’ horns to prevent them from breaking and to avoid the animals injuring each other,” says dairy farmer Laurent Tornay who, together with his sons, runs a farm near Orsières in canton Valais. Perched on a mountainside at 1,100 metres above sea level, Tornay’s farm La Rosière is accessible by a road that winds up an ever-increasing slope punctuated by breathtaking views. “It is ...
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The 50-year-old intern

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 12:00
Even though he's over 50, Andreas Büttiker has been working as an intern. Is it a success story that could serve as a model for others? Büttiker originally trained as a broadcast technician, but was working as a production manager when he lost his job. He realised that years of work experience weren't as useful as he might have hoped in helping him find a new job, as he didn't have a diploma which officially recognised the skills he had accumulated in the workplace. As part of a project set up by canton Solothurn, he was able to work for a new company for a three-month trial period, which led to permanent employment. Instead of wages, he received a daily allowance from the unemployment insurance scheme during his trial period.  The over-50s in Switzerland particularly struggle to find a new position if they become unemployed. Although they have years of experience, younger applicants have a different education and other skills. Some job advertisements in Switzerland even specify ...
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A Swiss revolution that started in a pulpit

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 18:00
Switzerland nowadays might be known for being a peaceful and neutral country, but that hasn't always been the case. The nation has also had its share of civil wars and revolutions. One of them was brought about by the reformer, Ulrich Zwingli.  Throughout history, thousands of men and women have shaped Switzerland's territory and society. The stories of who they were, the battles, revolutionary ideas or quiet but significant changes have been handed down through generations, and now fill the pages of Swiss history books. The traces of this rich heritage are many, some hidden and unknown. In this series by Swiss Public Television, RSI, seven places have been chosen that are linked to historical events or myths and legends, that are part of the country's cultural heritage. In this first part of the series, the story of Zurich of 500 years ago is evoked - and with it the deeds of a man who changed the country's social landscape forever: the reformer Ulrich Zwingli. (RSI, swissinfo.ch)
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Tyler Brûlé says Switzerland has ‘lost a bit of its coziness’

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 12:00
Monocle magazine editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé first visited Switzerland as a teen. Now the Canadian is running his media empire from a new office in Zurich. Though his love affair with Switzerland continues, he sees the need for some tweaks.  It’s a big day and Tyler Brûlé is ashamed of his haircut, the handiwork of a Tokyo barber. “I look like freaking Monchhichi,” he complains, meaning the fuzzy-headed Japanese toy monkey launched in the 1970s.  On top of the involuntary buzzcut, he seems uneasy about a welcome speech running longer than expected. As a local politician tells the audience what Zurich has to offer, Brûlé stands awkwardly at the other end of the stage – flicking through notes and murmuring to a colleague – so intently that he nearly misses a compliment.  “… in 2002, Tyler designed the ‘new look of Switzerland’ – with the SWISS design,” says Carmen Walker Späh, head of canton Zurich’s department for economic affairs. She’s referring to Brûlé’s branding of the new ...
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How easy is it for international students to land a Swiss job?

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 10:00
Like in the US or UK, Swiss immigration regulations restrict non-European graduates from embarking on a professional career in the country. However, recent developments give them a fighting chance.  Foreign nationals holding a degree from a Swiss university and wanting to find work in the Alpine nation got some help from the law in 2011. An amendment to the Foreign Nationals Act came into effect that allows them to remain in the country and look for a job for up to six months following their studies. The law puts these graduates on the same footing as their Swiss counterparts when applying for a job that is “of high academic or economic interest”.  During that six-month period, graduates can work for up to 15 hours each week and must show they have housing and sufficient financial resources. The six-month limit for finding a job does not affect EU/EFTA nationals, who benefit from freedom of movement under bilateral agreements.  International students in the UK are also ...
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While US politics remains divisive, direct democracy is proudly at work locally

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 23:19
While much of the focus of this past US election night was on the high-profile congressional and governor races, US citizens in many states also participated in thousands of ballot measures initiated by the people themselves. Voting results show that direct democracy is working at a local level in contrast to the divisive politics in Washington. Election days in the US offer a fascinating wealth of insights into the state of democracy in America. The procedures and practices of modern direct democracy by initiatives and referendums are a very important part in most American states and cities. On November 6, 158 state-wide votes took place across 37 US states. Additionally, several thousand local initiatives and referendums were on the ballot with the most in California where 540 such votes were registered. The results of these popular votes offered a welcome respite from the divisive and reactionary politics in Washington. Voting to let convicted felons vote In Florida voters ...
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A marathon, not a sprint: what the midterm elections mean for American democracy

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 20:43
Many people in Switzerland are deeply concerned about the state of American democracy. Why? Because what is happening in the US is not just about the 325 million people who live there. It is about values that the US and Switzerland hold in common: democratic norms, respect for the rule of law, freedom of the press, a commitment to human rights, peace, stability, environmental protection, and international cooperation, and basic norms of human decency.  And, for better or worse, the decisions of voters in the US have an enormous impact on people all over the world. For example, Trump’s election radically altered our perception of what is “normal,” giving oxygen to racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamaphobic and misogynistic words and deeds usually considered taboo in polite company and emboldening far-right populist movements and autocratic leaders around the world. Almost one hundred years after Armistice Day, one has the strange feeling that we are hurling towards a ...
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Threat of gridlock spoils Democrats’ ‘revenge’ in US midterms

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 10:54
What do the results of the US midterm elections mean for the country and the world? Swiss press reactions suggest it all depends on what President Trump does next: will he double-down his attacks on the Democrats and any other perceived enemy, or consider seeking compromises?  Democrats seized the House majority from Trump’s Republican Party on Tuesday in a suburban revolt that threatened what’s left of the president’s governing agenda. But the Republicans gained ground in the Senate and preserved key governorships, beating back a “blue wave” that never fully materialised.  “Relief was palpable in both parties that their worst fears hadn’t been realised,” said the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. “Only one thing could be said with certainty after these midterm elections: the Republican Party has definitively given itself over to Donald Trump. Thanks to him it wins where he’s strong – and it goes down where voters reject him.”  Whereas college-educated voters in the nation’s suburbs ...
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Swiss pension funds feel society’s pull

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 10:21
The fallout from the deadliest garment factory accident in history shows the role that investors can have in changing business practices. Pressures have mounted on traditionally conservative Swiss pension funds to make an impact of their own. In April 2013, more than 1000 factory workers died when the Rana Plaza garment factory complex in Bangladesh collapsed. After the tragedy, a coalition of 200 institutional investors called on fashion brands, including Basel-based Tally Weijl,  to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety – a legally binding treaty to address worker rights in the garment supply chain. By most accounts, the effort has been a success. It has led to a massive increase in inspections, worker trainings, and building safety measures. And in 2017, long after the consumer outcry and media attention had faded, investors successfully called for an extension of the treaty with more protections for workers. Among those investors were some Swiss pension ...
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How social media is changing science

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 12:00
In this edition of the Swiss Connection, we look at how the internet is changing science funding – and revolutionising the way scientists interact with the public and each other. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.
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It's survival of the biggest for Swiss mountain resorts

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 11:57
To beat the competition, popular mountain destinations are investing in glitzy new infrastructure to pull in the punters. As the ski season begins so does competition to attract skiers to the slopes.  The largest ski resorts are investing large amounts of money on new infrastructure to expand and improve. A project costing CHF100 million ($100 million) on the Titlis resort was presented on Monday. It will comprise a building made of steel and glass and a re-purposed radio tower that will host a bar and a restaurant at 3,028 metres (9,934 feet) altitude. A new roof terrace on the summit station of the cable car will also be built as well as escalators taking visitors directly to a nearby glacier, according to the operators. “We have the ambition to combine practical objectives and aesthetics here on the Titlis,” said Pierre de Meuron of the renowned Swiss architecture firm, Herzog & De Meuronexternal, at a presentation on Monday. It’s expected to take up to six years to ...
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Moutier vote judged an embarrassment for Swiss democracy

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 10:54
“Shockwave”, “political earthquake”, “mess”: for the Swiss newspapers, the thwarted attempt by the town of Moutier to change cantonal allegiance via direct democracy has reignited the “Jura Question” and damaged Switzerland’s reputation as a smooth-running democracy machine.  In June 2017, almost 52% of voters in Moutier decided (by 137 votes) to leave canton Bern and join canton Jura. However, suspicions were aroused that some people had registered as eligible voters in Moutier without actually living there. On Monday the result was declared void.  “Who wins loses”, noted Le Quotidien Jurassien bitterly in an editorial headed “the claw of the prefect”, referring to the district official who had taken the decision on Monday. An accompanying cartoon showed the official manipulated like a puppet by a Bernese bear, which is forcing her to light the fuse of a barrel of explosives marked “Jura Question”.  The controversy is the latest twist in a long-running territorial dispute in ...
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‘Yes’ in the name of animal welfare

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 15:00
The health and well-being of animals is the main motivation behind a proposed constitutional amendment which calls for financial incentives to encourage farmers – though not to compel them – to have cows with horns. Green Party parliamentarian Michael Töngi fully supports the “cow horn” initiative. It is to be put to a nationwide vote on November 25. Cows and horns: they belong together. When cows appear on labels and advertisements in Switzerland, they always have horns. No advertiser would think of having hornless cows. But the reality on the farm is different from the world of advertising: more and more cows are routinely dehorned. A few weeks after birth, calves have their budding horns burnt away. Cow horns are not just an inorganic appendage, however: they have blood flow and nerves, and they grow throughout the animal’s life. They are important for the social behaviour of animals, their communication with each other, but also for hygiene. If animals are born with ...
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The initiative? No need to take the cow by the horns

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 15:00
The cow horn initiative is unnecessary and could stir up dissension among farmers, warns Pierre-André Page, parliamentarian from the conservative right Swiss People’s party and a farmer himself. For ten years, I bred horned cows. For the past 20 years, I have kept a herd of some 40 cows... without horns. So my views on the matter are based on my experience, which today makes me say “no” to the people’s initiative for the dignity of agricultural livestock. I say “no” to this initiative because there is no need to enshrine a text like this in our constitution. Our fundamental law must not become a kind of Noah’s ark, a long inventory of prescriptive measures. It must remain a document that sets out our legal principles. Already today, Article 104 of the constitution, in particular, provides for financial incentives for farmers who use especially animal-friendly methods. So why suddenly promote horned cows and put it in the constitution? This is unequal treatment... “Collateral ...
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FINMA sets tough restrictions on bank bitcoin trading

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 14:08
Cryptoassets like bitcoin should be risk weighted at eight times their market value when banks calculate loss-absorbing capital buffers, according to a confidential letter from the Swiss financial regulator seen by swissinfo.ch. The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has taken no official position on how to merge cryptoassets into Basel III capital requirements or liquidity ratios. But a letter to EXPERTsuisse, an association representing Swiss trustees and accountants, reveals the regulator’s current thoughts on the issue. “FINMA has recently received an increasing number of enquiries from banks and securities dealers holding positions in cryptoassets and are subject to capital adequacy requirements, risk distribution regulations and regulations for the calculation of short-term liquidity ratios,” the letter, dated October 15, starts. Until the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision makes global recommendations, FINMA is advising financial players that ...
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‘Fake news’: The thorny question of safeguarding elections

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 12:00
As Americans vote in highly anticipated mid-terms, across the Atlantic there is growing concern over disinformation and manipulation derailing democratic processes. Will Switzerland be spared the onslaught of “fake news” campaigns ahead of next year’s general elections? It’s a scenario that has become increasingly commonplace, surfacing most recently in the lead-up to a referendum in Macedonia on changing the country’s name, a long-standing barrier to its entry into NATO and the European Union. Trolls, fake accounts and bots (automated accounts) peddle divisive narratives and false information on Twitter and Facebook, in this case to convince citizens to boycott the vote when a 50% turnout is needed to validate the result. In the end just 34% of the Macedonian electorate cast their ballot, and the outcome – an overwhelming yes – was null and void.  Ever since the highly contested US presidential election two years ago this month brought the problem into focus, “fake news” and ...
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Fake news, sustainable investments and graduate job hunts

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 18:00
Here are some of the stories we’ll be following the week of November 5. ​​​​​​​Monday As Americans vote in highly anticipated mid-terms, across the Atlantic there is growing concern over disinformation and manipulation derailing democratic processes. Will Switzerland be spared the onslaught of “fake news” campaigns ahead of next year’s general elections? Tuesday Our podcast looks at how the internet is changing science funding – and revolutionising the way scientists interact with the public and each other. Wednesday The fallout from the deadliest garment factory accident in history shows the role that investors can have in changing business practices. Pressures have mounted on traditionally conservative Swiss pension funds to make an impact of their own. Thursday Getting a job after graduating from a Swiss university can be tough for international students from outside the European Union. We compare restrictions and opportunities in Switzerland, US and Britain. Sunday ...
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Swiss women settlers have their stories told

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 15:00
A 12-year-old Syrian bride poses beside her husband, a man old enough to be her grandfather. A continent and several generations away, on the frigid Canadian prairie, a 15-year-old Swiss immigrant prepares to marry a soldier.  Both scenes have been staged but are based on very true stories. The video of actors playing the young Syrian bride and old groom is shot on a boardwalk in Lebanon as part of a campaign by an NGO to combat the practice of child marriages.  Such contemporary stories gave writer Therese Bichsel the idea to write a historical novel about forced marriages experienced by Swiss girls and young women nearly 200 years ago. In Überleben am Red River (Survival on the Red River), the novelist forgoes the classic approach of describing the fortunes and misfortunes of European settlers in North America through the eyes of men. Instead, Bichsel brings to light the largely untold stories of women. We’re sitting in the author's tidy flat in a leafy district of Bern. She ...
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Churches face an uncertain future

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 12:01
A visit to a cathedral near Basel reveals how one religious community practises its faith even as more people in Switzerland and across the West turn away from the church. The percentage of people in Switzerland who say they don’t belong to any religion increased by 13.5% between 2000 and 2016, according to the Federal Statistical Office. But in places like Arlesheim in northwestern Switzerland, churches and their services continue to be part of the community, despite certain challenges. Arlesheim’s cathedral was built in the 1680s as a satellite church for the one in Basel. It has become the town landmark, with its impressive exterior and interior architecture that was restored in the Rococo style of the late Baroque period. The church’s organ was made by renowned builder Johann Andreas Silbermann and is admired worldwide for its special sound. In mid-October, this parish and the one in the nearby town of Münchenstein both welcomed a new pastor. Reverend Sylvester Ihuoma ...
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Doctors’ wages, beggars and a political expenses scandal

Sat, 11/03/2018 - 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 billion Two Swiss-led initiatives have been selected for the first phase of the European Commission’s €1 billion (CHF1.1 billion) Future Emerging Technologies Quantum Flagship project.  Tuesday 257,000 The median wage of self-employed doctors in Switzerland is much higher than previously thought.  Wednesday 27.7 billion The amount Swiss companies invested in research and development (R&D) in 2018, down 10% on the previous year. Globally, R&D expenditure reached an all-time high.  Thursday 100 Beggars can now be fined up to CHF100 in canton Vaud. The sum could rise to CHF2,000 if someone is found organising begging rings or forcing minors to beg.  Friday 17,000 Five members of the Geneva city council have been heavily criticised by a report for ...
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