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Updated: 9 hours 46 min ago

How recycling trash could help Africa

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:00
When she visits African countries, Swiss parliamentarian Isabelle Chevalley asks to be taken to rubbish dumps. She believes helping Africans to recycle waste, create jobs and clean up the environment can help African countries learn from the mistakes of the West and “go faster” along the path to sustainable development. “I need to see what they are putting there in order to propose a solution,” she says. Obviously, that sometimes causes a stir, like in Liberia where the government insisted on giving her bodyguards and a nice car with smoked-glass windows. “You should have seen the face of the rubbish dump director!” she says. “I am sure he is still talking about how a white woman came here and wanted to photograph the rubbish!” Chevalley, 45, is a member of the Swiss federal parliament for the centrist Liberal Green Party. When she is not in parliament or campaigning for a nuclear-free Switzerland, she is often in Africa. She thinks Western countries should embrace recycling ...
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Which European countries attract the most immigrants?

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:00
The free movement of people accord is in the line of fire as Europe battles with its migration crisis. But which European countries have more people leaving than arriving? We took a look at the data. It has been over 15 years since the free movement of people accord between Switzerland and the European Union came into force. Thanks to this deal, Swiss and EU citizens can study, work and retire in any EU country and in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) zone of Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. The free movement of people is one the EU's four basic rights guaranteed by the accord, along with that of goods, finance and services.  Now Switzerland and the UK are both grappling with referendum results requiring immigration curbs. As the last installment of this migration series showed, more people migrate from within Europe than from Africa, something spurred on by the free movement of people.  As the chart below shows, the migration surplus differs by region.
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‘New Zealand is robbing us of our Swiss pensions’

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 18:00
Swiss expats living in New Zealand want to use Automatic Exchange of Information (AIE) to get a fair distribution of pensions in their adopted country, and they’ve persuaded one chamber of Swiss parliament to take up their cause. For many people who have spent their lives grinding away at a job in Switzerland, the idea of retiring at 65 and heading for an island where the cost of living is low and a Swiss pension goes far is highly appealing. But in some parts of the world, the reality is less than rosy. In New Zealand, for example, foreign retirement income is deducted from the local pension that a retiree receives.  “If you’ve lived here [in New Zealand] for at least ten years, you automatically have the right to receive a federal pension,” explains Peter Ehler, a dual citizen of New Zealand and Switzerland. “Whether you’ve ever worked even a single day or paid a single dollar in taxes is irrelevant.”   But the system works against many foreigners on the island – ...
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How to stop a ‘skyrunner’ in his tracks

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 17:54
During the summer of 2017, myself and two friends ‘ran’ the Chamonix to Zermatt Glacier Haute Route. On our last day, we left the Cabane de Bertol in the early morning darkness so as to beat the summer heat on the rapidly melting crevasse bridges. While crossing the Glacier du Mont Miné, we stopped to watch the first light on the Dent Blanche. While I was trying to figure out my own photo, I saw Pascal Egli, one of Switzerland's top skyrunners, taking photos with his phone and realized that this was my shot. It's a reality these days that when shooting people doing what they do, they are often taking photos with phones. For the last 18 years, I have had countless moments like this and always enjoy interpreting the scene and deciding how to photograph what I want to show from any given experience.  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 ...
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‘It’ll take ages for Bosnia to be mine free’

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 12:00
More than 20 years have passed since the end of the war in Bosnia, but the country is still contaminated with landmines and cluster bombs causing fatal accidents. The Swiss government and the Swiss foundation “World without Mines” (WoM) has supported the war-ravaged country in its fight against this vicious legacy of war for years.  The barking of dogs produces such noise that it’s impossible to hear your own voice. We are at the Global Training Centre for Mine Detection Dogs in Blagovac, in rural Bosnia, about 10 kilometres north of the capital Sarajevo.  + Read about the Ottawa Convention, banning landmines Fourteen people are currently looking after 60 dogs on these vast premises. The dogs have names like Panzer, Amor, Luna, Irony, Jala or Brick. They are all Belgian Shepherds.  “This breed is healthy, active and not as lazy as, say, a Labrador,” says Goran Šehić, the deputy programme manager. Starting early As soon as the puppies are about eight weeks old, they are ...
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Swiss banks step up reports of suspicious activity by Saudi clients

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 09:49
Switzerland’s banks have begun reporting suspicious account activity among some of their Saudi Arabian clients to the Swiss Money Laundering Reporting Office, part of the federal police service, according to people close to the situation. Lawyers acting for the banks have submitted information over the past week and expect several dozen submissions to be made in total, two people involved in the process said. The exercise reflects the banks’ nervousness about being found in breach of rules governing money laundering and corruption. It follows the arrest last month of more than 200 people, including some of Saudi Arabia’s richest businessmen and princes. They were detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh as part of an anti-graft operation launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s powerful heir apparent. While Swiss banks strive to protect client confidentiality, they are obliged to report suspect transactions. So far the account reports have not led to ...
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Landmine ban: From Utopian vision to global accord

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 18:00
In Geneva this month there is a very special exhibition, highlighting a key moment in the history of disarmament, and the important role Geneva played in it.  On December 3, 1997, over 120 countries gathered in Ottawa, Canada, to sign one of the most far reaching arms control conventions the world has ever seen: the ban on anti personnel landmines.  The exhibition, which moves from Plain Palais to the Place des Nations on December 4th, traces the tireless work of campaigners who first brought their dream to the United Nations disarmament process, through the involvement of major humanitarian organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, to the adoption of the convention.  Many of us take the ban on landmines for granted nowadays that it may be hard to imagine just what a struggle it was to get the Ottawa Convention ratified.  “It was totally utopian,” remembers Paul Vermeulen, of Handicap International Switzerland. “Landmines were everywhere, all countries ...
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A historic vote and a hotel town

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 13:00
Here are the stories we’ll be following the week of December 4: Tuesday Credit Suisse is expected to release its Worry Barometer for 2017. Aimed at “providing information about the mood of the Swiss population”, the survey is compiled by the GfS Bern research institute on behalf of the Swiss bank and published annually. Last year's report revealed that three out of four Swiss supported bilateral accords between Switzerland and the European Union — a 20% increase over 2015. Wednesday On December 6, 1992, Swiss voters said no to Europe (the European Economic Area) – a decision that sent shockwaves through the continent. We talk to the two main protagonists – anti-Europe politician Christoph Blocher and former Social Democratic president Peter Bodenmann – and hear about the winner’s sleepless nights, and the loser’s still-held conviction that Switzerland’s decision was a mistake. Thursday The entire small mountain community of Corippo in Ticino is being turned into a ...
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Madeleine Weiss: ‘I love life in Indonesia’

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 12:00
Madeleine Weiss emigrated to Yogyakarta two years ago with her Indonesian husband and their two sons. The 31-year-old radio journalist and German teacher loves the easy lifestyle in a place that only knows one season.  swissinfo.ch: When and why did you leave Switzerland? Are you intending to go back one day?  Madeleine Weiss: On 30 June 2015, my husband and I took our two small children, who were aged three years and 22 months old, as well as four suitcases and boarded a plane to Indonesia. We did not take much. We had no idea how and where we would live and how we would earn our living. But we were full of optimism and energy, and were ready for a new adventure.  We intended to stay here for two years. We wanted to live in my husband’s home country, to grow to love it and to give our kids the opportunity to find out what life is like in their second home, far away from well-protected Switzerland. That was our plan. Two years have passed and we are still here. We still plan to ...
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Violence in childhood – also a Swiss problem

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 12:00
Nearly three out of four children worldwide experience some form of violence, a major international report has concluded. No country is spared, even Switzerland, where experts say corporal punishment at home is still widespread. The recently published, highly comprehensive study, by India-based advocacy group Know Violence in Childhood, found that an estimated 1.7 billion boys and girls suffer mental or physical abuse each year. Corporal punishment at home was the most common form of violence, affecting 1.3 billion children up to the age of 14, said the report, the findings of which were presented to Swiss experts at a Unicef Switzerland event in mid-November. Violence was prevalent on every continent. The annual costs of physical, sexual and psychological violence against children was estimated at $7 trillion (CHF6.9 trillion). “It’s very important for the rich countries of the world like Switzerland to recognise that one of the biggest threats to human progress or ...
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Swiss mark road tunnel anniversary

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 14:59
Switzerland inaugurated the first Alpine road tunnel entirely within its own borders 50 years ago on December 1.  Already known in Roman times, the San Bernardino is one of the oldest passes in the Alps and has been an important European junction.  Drilling began in 1962, and progressed slowly - an average of 115 metres per month were excavated on the south side and 95 metres a month on the north. After three years, the breakthrough came on April 10, 1965. The official inauguration - two years later - took place in the presence of representatives from five European countries: Austria, Italy, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.  The then Swiss home affairs minister, Hans-Peter Tschudi, told Swiss public television, RSI, that the 6.6km tunnel was a testament to the country's pioneering role in the construction of road and rail infrastructure across the Alps. "Geography and history gave Switzerland the task of opening up and securing the Alpine passes and thus entrusted it ...
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Despite recent setbacks, democracy is winning

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:00
Erdoğan and Hungary, populism and rigged elections: recent political events seem to suggest that democracy is in for troubled times. But the latest global research shows the opposite is the case, and most people want more opportunities to have a say. Despite a population of a mere 270,000, Strasbourg nevertheless became the world capital of democracy this November. With more than 1,000 participating experts from over 100 countries around the world, the World Forum for Democracy, held annually in the French city, has become one of the most important global conferences on democracy. This year, the Forum’s focus was on democracy’s weaknesses. “Populists of various political colours are a threat to our liberal and pluralistic societies.” These were the opening words of the host, the Secretary General of the European Council, Thorbjörn Jagland. He and many other participants warned of a “democratic retreat”, referring to recent developments not only in countries such as Turkey and ...
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UBS chief blasts regulators’ drive to curb banker pay

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 09:59
The head of UBS has lashed out against regulators’ efforts to rein in bankers’ pay, arguing that the push is fuelled by envy among less well paid officials and risked stoking the populist backlash against capitalism. Sergio Ermotti, chief executive of the Swiss bank, also complained that banking had been singled out for criticism over compensation in a way that other sectors, such as private equity and tech, had not. “I think this discussion is made by people who are maybe frustrated that they do not make that kind of level of money,” the UBS boss said at the Financial Times annual banking summit on Thursday. Mr Ermotti’s comments come amid renewed anti-Wall Street sentiment on both sides of the Atlantic where even mainstream politicians have taken aim at a sector that has returned to strong profitability as wages for average workers continue to stagnate. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party, on Thursday warned that he would strictly regulate ...
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Caring for those who cannot afford health coverage

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 18:00
Readers wanted to know how a lower income affects a patient’s ability to access health care, and whether help is at hand in Switzerland and the United States to stop people from falling through the cracks. In Switzerland, people with modest means may struggle to pay for basic health coverage for two simple reasons: insurance premiums are not adjusted to income, and they have doubled in price since 1996, while salaries have risen by just one-fifth. It comes as no surprise, then, that just over a quarter of the population needed government assistance to pay their premiums in 2014. The state offers subsidies to ensure that everyone can afford basic health insurance, which is compulsory in Switzerland. Eligibility criteria is set by each canton. For households obtaining such assistance, insurance premiums account for 12% of disposable income, double the national average. Families, young adults and the elderly are the main subsidy recipients. But this assistance does not reach ...
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Where there's a will, there's a way

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 18:00
(To view video subtitles in English, click on the gear icon and turn captions "on"). Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week she talks to Ola, who's 20, and fled the war in Aleppo, Syria, with her family a year ago. Since then, Ola has not only learnt German by taking free classes and practicing with friends, she has also set up and run a successful crowd funding campaign. Within five days she had raised the money needed to attend an integration course in order to become a biomedical lab technician. 
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Beer drinkers droop in Switzerland

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 13:10
The amount of beer consumed in Switzerland declined last year, as it did for wine. Yet the number of specialist craft microbreweries continues to rise.  Between October 2016 and September 2017, the Swiss drank 461 million litres of beer (54.5 litres per person) – down 0.2% on the previous reporting period, according to the Swiss Breweries Association (SBA).  As shown in the chart below, the downturn in the Swiss beer market began in the 1990s.  The low point, in 2005, corresponds to when Switzerland lowered the blood-alcohol drink driving limit from 0.8 milligrams per millilitre to 0.5 milligrams.  This new limit had a significant short-term impact, said SBA director Marcel Kreber.  The general downward trend in beer drinking – and alcohol consumption in general – has been confirmed, he added.  “Our society seems to be more in a hurry. We have less time to share a meal with friends and we pay more attention to our health. Nowadays, alcohol and work do not go together. In ...
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Will the thousand-franc note become the cash of choice for crooks?

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:00
A government proposal that would see the Swiss CHF1,000 note – currently the most valuable banknote in the world – become valid for life has provoked the ire of transparency advocates and the political left. Swiss bank notes, including the CHF1,000 note, have a limited lifespan of 20 years once they have been pulled from circulation by the Swiss National Bank which issues new notes every 15 to 20 years. Finance Minister Ueli Maurer’s proposal to drop the limited validity for old banknotes would bring Switzerland in line with most industrialised countries which allow banknotes to be exchanged regardless of age. + Read why the Swiss government wants to keep the CHF1,000 note The government proposal to amend the law on monetary units and means of payments was presented in August. All banknotes issued between 1976 and 1979 – including the famous CHF1,000 note adorned with ants and all series that followed – would be relieved of the 20-year time limit on their exchange. During the ...
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How ready is Switzerland for a nuclear disaster?

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 12:00
  At the time of the Cold War, Switzerland took the threat of nuclear attack very seriously: in 1963, it undertook to provide bunker places for every citizen to take shelter in the case of an atomic attack. But how well prepared is the country nowadays?  “Considering recent threats such as North Korea, are there any proposed changes to bomb shelter laws?"  Where the threats are coming from Pyongyang is seeking to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States. 50 years after the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was signed (1968), there are still about 10, 000 atom bombs spread around the world, 93% of which are owned by Russia and the US. At the same time, a nuclear escalation cannot be ruled out between India and Pakistan.   This was a question sent in to us by Alex, one of our readers, when we asked them what sort of things they would like to know about Switzerland. Alex is not alone in fearing some kind of nuclear attack. In ...
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Would Switzerland say no to Europe?

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 09:00
It has been 25 years since the Swiss shocked Europe by saying no to membership of the continent’s single market, the European Economic Area. But what were the for and against arguments in the final weeks of the campaign, which ended in a “no” vote on December 6, 1992? In this report from the archives of Swiss Radio International – the predecessor of swissinfo.ch – journalist Peter Capella hears from some of the main protagonists including rightwing politician Christoph Blocher, whose popularity would soar after the vote. 
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Basel faces pressure to return Jewish art

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 12:00
Nine years ago, Basel rejected a claim for more than 100 artworks – including pieces by Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall – that had once belonged to the renowned Jewish museum director and art critic Curt Glaser and were purchased by the city’s Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts). Basel today faces mounting pressure to rethink its decision, both from within Switzerland and abroad. A lithograph of a nude in black, red and blue by Edvard Munch with the title “Madonna,” a watercolour showing two laughing blond girls by Max Pechstein, and a Chagall etching of a musician playing the cello are among the treasures in Basel’s Fine Arts Museum. They once belonged to the Jewish art historian and critic Curt Glaser who was the director of Berlin's Art Library and counted Munch and Max Beckmann among his friends. But months after the Nazis came to power in 1933, they introduced a law designed to rid the civil service of Jews and political opponents. Glaser was ousted from his post ...
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