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Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
News and information from Switzerland about Switzerland: direct democracy, education, science, business, living in Switzerland and a lot more – current, informative, in depth and in 10 languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Russian).
Updated: 6 weeks 2 days ago

Swiss concerned about the deepening crisis in Venezuela

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 15:02
Venezuela needs a government that acts with public spirit and cracks down on widespread corruption to overcome the current crisis, says Pierino Lardi an expatriate Swiss who has been living in the South American country for two decades. Lardi, a former banker, was president of the Swiss-Venezuelan chamber of commerce until 2016. The 70-year old Lardi represents Venezuela in the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Lardi agrees that Venezuela needs more democracy beside a policy for the public good. Lardi says there are clear indications that the government of Nicolás Maduro is under pressure, challenged by the parliamentary leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself president earlier this week. “The question is which one of the two presidents has control over the armed forces and police,” Lardi told swissinfo.ch, adding that the Maduro government has a lot to lose and is unlikely to give in easily. “But it was a strong signal that the ...
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WEF delegates chew over the future of food

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 13:50
​​​​​​​ The future of food has been on the menu at the World Economic Forum (WEF) this week. The central question: how can the world feed 9.8 billion people by 2050 and save the planet? Inequality is an important part of that puzzle. Nearly 800 million people are undernourished, two billion are deficient in vitamins and minerals, and another two billion are either overweight or obese. More than 820 million people are struggling to feed themselves. So how do we get out of this? Change in diet Rising to this challenge requires dietary changes combined with improved food production and reduced food waste, according to the EAT-Lancet Commission report, which drew on 37 experts from 16 countries with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and political governance. Large multinational companies, including many in Switzerland from agribusiness to consumer goods and insurance, need to be at the table alongside smaller producers, ...
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Colourful impressions of the World Economic Forum 2019

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 12:15
As the annual general meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) draws to an end in Davos, we reflect on a hectic week of networking, brainstorming, protesting – and queuing.  The 3,000 or so statesmen, business leaders, scientists and activists from around the world will be packing up on Friday and heading off to do their moving and shaking elsewhere. Some 500 journalists will do the same.     WEF 2019 didn’t have the big political names of previous years – domestic woes meant US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron all pulled out – but princes, popstars and the (paying) public all rubbed shoulders without incident in the Swiss mountain resort, attending debates, workshops and presentations.  swissinfo.ch was also there, of course, reporting on a wide range of issues including gender equality, the role of technology in the future of food and pharmacology, and environmental pollution.  What were the highlights (or ...
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The pharma holy grail: drugs for you, designed by you

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 10:50
In the age of sensors, wearables, and artificial intelligence (AI), almost everything can be customised to a person’s unique preferences and behaviours. The next frontier is healthcare, according to discussions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Digitisation presents pharma companies with what Genya Dana, who heads precision medicine for WEF’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, calls the “holy grail” in medicine: the right drug for the right patient at the right moment. Imagine that the wearable step tracker on your wrist isn’t just keeping you fit but also sending countless amounts of data to pharmaceutical companies to develop potentially life-saving treatments. This is at the heart of one of the most exciting, albeit thorniest, developments in healthcare. Big pharma companies like Roche and Novartis are combining advances in technology with access to real world data and genetic sequencing to develop drugs tailored to an individual’s unique biomarkers. ...
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The low-down on a high-energy atom smasher

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 18:09
It's the future. It's circular, It's a collider. A giant particle accelerator, set to be built at the Geneva-based particle physics research centre, CERN, will be almost four times longer and ten times more powerful than the centre’s present atom smasher.  The plan is for the Future Circular Collider, with its circumference of 100 kilometres (62 miles), to unlock even more secrets of matter and the universe in the coming decades. Part of the tunnel for the electron-positron collider would be built under Lake Geneva and the machine could start operating in 2040. It would sit next to the current 27-kilometre Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is perhaps best known for helping confirm the subatomic Higgs boson in 2012. Pricey project The collider project, cooked up by a research consortium of over 1,000 scientists, would cost an estimated CHF9 billion ($9 billion). The plans have been submitted to an international panel of particle physicists, who are preparing a new European ...
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Youth demo demands ecology and equality of the Davos elite

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 16:20
Around 100 demonstrators, gathered by the youth wing of the Swiss social democratic party, protested in Davos on Thursday against the inequalities and environmental damage they claim are exacerbated by the global elite. In January 2018 their request to demonstrate was turned down by local authorities: “too much snow”. Exactly a year later, however, the youth social democrats of Switzerland (JUSO) did make it onto the streets of Davos, staging a peaceful protest on Thursday afternoon to voice their opposition to the capitalist programme of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Under banners and chants calling for ‘system change not climate change’ or ‘degrowth rather than collapse’, the 100-odd demonstrators gathered on the main square of Davos to highlight three major gripes: persistent (sometimes burgeoning) economic inequality; looming environmental catastrophe; and a resurgence of extreme-right politics. Much anger was also directed towards newly-inaugurated Brazilian president ...
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Swiss president wants to do business with Saudi Arabia

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 16:18
Comments by Switzerland’s president, Ueli Maurer, about normalising relations with Saudi Arabia, despite its alleged involvement in the killing of a prominent critic last year, have caused irritation among politicians and in the media. Asked about the issue by journalists at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, Maurer, who holds the finance ministry portfolio in the Swiss government, said the case of the killed Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was not raised in talks with his Saudi counterpart Mohammed al-Jadaan. “We have long since dealt with the Khashoggi case. We have agreed to resume the financial dialogue and to normalise relations,” Maurer said. He added that Switzerland had made its position in Khashoggi case clear in previous contacts with the Saudi government. In fact, the Swiss government in October stressed the “the need for a detailed, rigorous, and transparent inquiry”, following the killing of the Saudi critic allegedly by agents ...
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Are companies and consumers ready to shun plastic?

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:35
The massive amount of plastic pollution has ignited public concern as well as debate in Davos, but the real work is still to come. The more than eight million tonnes of plastic leaking into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute – is a serious concern for countries like Japan. Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would call on fellow G20 leaders at the upcoming summit in Osaka to end-micro plastic pollution. Abe told a packed audience in Davos on Wednesday that, “At the deepest spot of the Pacific Ocean we now find something terrible going on. The bodies of small sea fleas down at the bottom of the ocean hold toxic PCB contaminants in very high density. Some say that microplastics are the cause.” It is not just our oceans. As Scientific American reports, the majority of plastic waste ends up in ten rivers – many of which are in Southeast Asia. In Switzerland, rivers and lakes are also affected.
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Cop Shiva: School dropout, street vendor, policeman and artist

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 12:00
​​​​​​​ Born into a poor farming family in southern India, Shivaraju had to leave school to support his family. A job in the police force gave him financial stability but it was photography that helped him redefine his place in Indian society and gain recognition abroad.  It is a cold winter morning in Zurich. The Rote Fabrik arts centre along the lakeshore appears deserted. The only sign of life is a homeless man muttering to himself and scrounging the area for discarded cigarette butts to smoke.  Appearances can be deceptive. Inside, a few artists are at work in their studios in the red brick building that was formerly a factory earmarked for demolition. One of them is Indian photographer Banikuppe Siddaramaiah Shivaraju, aka Cop Shiva. The cavernous studio appears messy. There are strewn bits of paper everywhere. Shivaraju, who is colourfully dressed in a yellow shirt, red Nehru jacket and green shoes, explains that the mess was nothing but remnants of a public performance he ...
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Governments won’t fund sustainable development. Will private finance step in?

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 09:59
Just over three years ago, the UN launched its Sustainable Development Goals to push world leaders into addressing problems such as poverty, hunger and climate change by 2030. It sounded admirable, and these days those SDGs have become a useful framework for discussing global development. They have also spawned an eye-catching rainbow lapel pin that government officials and business leaders often wear as a virtue-signalling device. “The SDGs are a great road map,” enthuses Paul Polman, former Unilever chief executive. But there is one gigantic catch: money. Since the SDGs were launched, the World Bank has estimated that it will take about $4 trillion (CHF4 trillion) of annual investment to create the infrastructure needed to achieve the goals. Various UN bodies put the price tag at between $5 trillion and $7 trillion each year. However, the World Bank also reckons that western governments only provide an annual $150 billion of “overseas development assistance” - or aid. Even ...
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Ice-skating robots showcase Swiss innovation

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 17:44
Ice-skating robots have proven a popular ambassador for Swiss innovation on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. While companies and innovators are excited about their tremendous potential, the rise of robots is a source of anxiety for many who worry their jobs will disappear. The WEF’s Future of Jobs Report 2018 notes that machines and algorithms will do more current tasks than humans by 2025. The same report, which assesses the outlook of 20 economies and 12 industries, predicts the robot revolution will still create 58 million net new jobs in the next five years. swissinfo.ch spoke to Professor Stelian Coros, who leads the Computational Robotics Lab at federal technology institute ETH Zurich, about the potential of the technology underpinning these robots and innovation Ice-skating robots, which get top marks for their cutting-edge cool factor, are paving the way for next generation mobile robots that can be enlisted for service, assistive care and social ...
Categories: News EN

The ‘winter of terror’ that changed Swiss avalanche prevention

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 15:49
In the extreme winter of 1951, more than 1,300 avalanches across Switzerland destroyed 1,000 buildings and killed 98 people. It was a disastrous moment in Swiss history that became known as the ‘winter of terror'. In our series #swisshistorypics we travel back in time to look at photographs which document past life and culture in Switzerland.
Categories: News EN

Closing the gender gap: a Swiss view at WEF

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 12:11
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, IKEA Switzerland CEO Simona Scarpaleggia offers her view on what it will take for the global gathering in Davos to achieve a 50-50 gender balance among participants. Scarpaleggia joined Sylvie Durrer of the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality, and Suba Umathevan of Plan international Switzerland at a WEF side event session on gender equality in Switzerland hosted by The Female Quotient – a female-owned business focused on workplace equality. IKEA Switzerland is one of the few companies, globally and in Switzerland, that has achieved a 50-50 gender balance in management. Italian-born Scarpaleggia called for an end to the part-time work taboo, which she views as one of the key barriers to increasing the pipeline of young talented women. “In Switzerland, it is really seen as a stop to a career but we [at IKEA] see it as an opportunity…why should we lose out on talent?” Under Scarpaleggia, IKEA Switzerland has established two ...
Categories: News EN

The Swiss police are kind - even to offenders

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 11:57
An encounter with the Zurich police left Arasan questioning their attitude towards law and order.  As a student on a tight budget, I hunted for part time jobs extensively. However, I was not able to land one despite my best efforts.  Luckily, a friend of my relative took over a kiosk in the infamous Langstrasse and I was able to work there.  Langstrasse is the abode of most of the illicit businesses in Zurich. You will find people howling, lying down on pavements, squabbling, etc. It is a place where you can easily forget you are in Switzerland.  Soon the happiness of finding a job faded away. I found it very troublesome to work with people living on the margins of society. Our main clientele are sex workers, drug peddlers, homeless people, asylum-seekers and party goers. I would have never known poverty existed in Switzerland if not for this place. People beg for 10 Rappen (around 10 cents) from every passer-by to buy a single cigarette (since the last six months we have ...
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Good neighbours: Liechtenstein turns 300

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 09:00
The Principality of Liechtenstein is marking its tercentenary. But 2019 is also 100 years since its rapprochement with Switzerland. Since 1919, links have been so close in certain areas that one could almost consider Liechtenstein a Swiss canton.  On January 23, 1719, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI united and upgraded Vaduz and Schellenberg to the rank of imperial principality under the aegis of the Liechtenstein dynasty. This date marks the birth of the sovereign state of Liechtenstein, even if the principality didn’t technically become an independent state until the fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.  Wednesday’s commemorations mark the triggering of a series of events that will be held throughout the year.  “This jubilee is not only the chance for the residents of Liechtenstein to reflect on their history, but also to attract the attention of many tourists and visitors,” the principality said on its website for the festivities.  Liechtenstein was very close to the ...
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Klaus Schwab: Switzerland’s openness is being put to the test

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 20:38
Founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, says Switzerland risks falling behind other economies in the face of rapid technological change. The country dropped from first to fourth in the WEF’s latest economic competitiveness index, ranking poorly in areas such as market openness and tariff complexity. + read more about how Switzerland ranked on the latest economic competitiveness index While openness has been the secret to the country’s success, Schwab says that it is being put to the test and he cautions the country about erecting barriers given its high dependence on exports. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) 
Categories: News EN

As Chinese economy slows, Swiss seek greater access

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 16:00
The presence of China’s vice president at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum comes at a time of slowing economic growth at home and growing scrutiny of Chinese investments abroad, including in Switzerland. Gloom. Apprehension. Concern. China's Vice President Wang Qishan, currently attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, might want to skip the local papers. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a leading newspaper, decried "dark clouds over Chinese skies" in an article about the outlook of the Chinese economy. "China's economy is cooling, and the West is feeling the impact," the business newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft said, pointing to slowing sales of major international brands. Even 20 Minuten, a free tabloid distributed at major transport hubs, reported on unfavorable prospects for the world's second-largest economy. One reason for the gloom was the quarterly release of official economic growth figures in Beijing on Monday. The world's second-largest economy grew ...
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Corruption, inequality, tax fraud – and Switzerland

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 15:58
Anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth calls on Switzerland to be tougher on tax havens and says growing populism in many countries means that it will increasingly fall to the private sector to tackle corruption. swissinfo.ch caught up with the founder of the Basel Institute on Governance during his 12th visit to the annual general meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.  He recalled attending the WEF more than a decade ago to launch the Partnering for Anti-Corruption Initiative. Participants “thought my colleagues and I were clowns” for talking about corruption, he said. The initiative is now one of the longest-standing CEO-led collaborations at WEF.  But Pieth warned of new concerns in the fight against corruption, with the rise of populist governments in Brazil and elsewhere. People believe populist governments will solve all their problems, he tells Jessica Davis Plüss, but “the real tragedy is that many are the worst of crooks”. In this context, he said tackling ...
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How the Tezos blockchain could empower the poor

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 12:00
The Tezos blockchain is taking its first teetering steps following a difficult birth, marked by fractious rows and lawsuits. The Tezos foundation president has lofty goals for the platform, not least helping lift people out of poverty. But it first must deal with regulatory and investor demands. The Swiss-based foundation wants Tezos to be the premier blockchain platform for an anticipated decentralised social and economic revolution. To do that, the foundation - tasked with spending $500 million on the blockchain’s development – has to convince both the public and regulators of its merits. Foundation President Ryan Jesperson told swissinfo.ch that neither he nor the foundation have the power or the will to take over the controls. It’s up to the whole community of Tezos users to jointly shape its destiny, he says. However Jesperson, drawing on his Mormon background including two years spent on projects that “helped people lift themselves out of poverty”, has a personal vision ...
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Has the global labour organisation advanced workers’ rights?

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 11:30
As the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) marks its 100th birthday, experts reflect on the importance of the unique United Nations agency in today’s globalised world.  Back in 1919, the ILO’s unique tripartite structure, still present today, brought together governments, workers and employers with ambitious aims: to create a framework of worker rights, protection against exploitation and slavery, and to ensure the freedom to form unions.  One hundred years on, in a world of complex supply chains, insecure jobs, increasing global deregulation of the labour market and millions of people stuck in forced labour in factories, farms and fishing boats, is the ILO still relevant? For Sandrine Kott, professor of European contemporary history at the University of Geneva, the organisation still plays an important lead role defending social justice in the world of work. “But its weakness is that this discourse is not dominant right now, especially since the mid-1970s.
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