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Updated: 3 hours 26 min ago

When Switzerland put its hang-ups on hold

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 14:16
Several decades on, the effective HIV prevention strategies put in place in Switzerland in the 1980s are considered models of excellence. A new book describes how the road was paved by those who fought prevailing conditions to push for change. In the 1980s fight against the HIV epidemic, none of the normal, if clichéd, Swiss reserve and modesty was on show. Using words of unusual clarity and suggestive imagery (see gallery), the contamination risks associated with HIV were laid out to citizens across the country. Just as it was in the fight against drugs, Switzerland was a pioneer in the race to halt the aids epidemic. Not without success: thanks to prevention campaigns, the number of new infections plummeted. The three rules of protected sex, developed by the Swiss alongside the slogan “Stop SIDA” were quickly taken up around the world, as Constantin Seibt outlines in his recently-published book ‘Positiv: Aids in der Schweiz’. Heidi and Polo join the fight How was it done?
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Who shows us how to live – Federer or Ronaldinho?

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:24
In January, Roger Federer won his 20th Grand Slam at the age of 36. It was his third title in a late-career comeback that beggars most sporting comparisons, leaving you to reach for Philip Roth’s 1990s revival as a truer parallel. Now free of injury, the Swiss could soon become the oldest number one in the history of the men’s tennis rankings, which he first topped in the week that Facebook went online. Also in January, Ronaldinho retired from professional football at 37. There was no autumnal resurgence for him, just the prolonged winding-down of a luminous gift. A decade has passed since he was central to the world game. Europeans who recall the Brazilian’s mid-noughties miracles for Barcelona might have assumed that he had quit long ago. The two most lavish talents of their sporting generation, certainly the only two who had it in them to make me involuntarily laugh, stand for different ways of going at life. Federer is what students of decision-making call a maximiser, ...
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‘No Billag’ initiative has many opponents, few supporters

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 12:00
The No Billag initiative, which seeks to abolish the licence fee used to finance public radio and television, is supported by a relatively small number of parties and organisations. The main official supporters include the Swiss People’s Party and the Swiss Arts and Crafts Union. Most other parties and organisations advocate rejecting the initiative. Political parties in favour  Swiss People’s Party  It is the only party in government that supports "No Billag". Its members have been clear in their support for the initiative.  Young People’s Party, Young Radical-Liberals  The youth sections of the Swiss People’s Party and the Radical-Liberal Party were among the earliest supporters of the initiative.  Organisations in favour  Swiss Union of Arts and Crafts  The umbrella organisation of small and medium enterprises supports the initiative and expressed this decision by a two-thirds majority.  Initiative Committee  At the heart of the initiative are young Swiss people who ...
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Ski resort staff say bosses made false promises

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 18:00
Staff at a mountain restaurant near Gstaad have told Swiss public television that they were lured to their workplace on false pretences. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) In an interview with the consumer programme, Kassensturz, Landislav Schwartz and Karim Essakal, both waiters, said they were promised 100% employment, but were actually only able to work about five hours a day, so they ended up earning much less than they expected.  Their work hours were curtailed at short notice when the weather was bad, as their bosses needed less staff when there were fewer visitors. Schwartz also complained about the size and cost of his accommodation, rented from his boss.  Carlo Mathieu from the Syna trade union believes the Kappeler Gastro group that runs the Horneggli restaurant was in breach of contract. He told Kassensturz that workers should have been paid for the work scheduled, even if their shifts were cancelled at the last minute.  Samuel Kappeler, director of the Kappeler Gastro group, ...
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Public broadcasting, Olympic dreams and the Swiss flag

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 13:00
These are some of the stories we’re looking ahead to in the upcoming week on swissinfo.ch.  Tuesday  Money to help lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty is drying up, even as private investors are looking for new opportunities in a zero-interest environment. Switzerland is well poised to assume a leadership role in linking the two. We take a look at the phenomenon of so-called “development impact bonds” and their investment potential.  Wednesday  As voters prepare to head to the polls in Switzerland to decide the fate of license fees funding the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – the national public broadcaster and swissinfo.ch’s parent company – we take a look at how public broadcasting works in other countries around the world through a collection of in-depth reports.  What are the arguments for and against the people’s initiative over license fees, up for a nationwide vote on March 4? Two perspectives on the issue.  Thursday  Can the Olympic Games, beginning ...
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Swiss in Austria spends his life sheltering animals

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 12:00
Burnout led 42-year-old Emanuel Wenk to completely change his life: he went from working in restaurants to working with animals. He now runs an animal sanctuary in Austria, which is popular among children. The sanctuary, called Edelweiss, is located in Wildon, in Styria in the southeast of the country. Wenk says it’s a challenge to run the operation – money can be tight – but it is worth the fight. swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland? Emanuel Wenk: I left Switzerland in 2001 because I was going to have a baby with an Austrian woman who was a seasonal worker in Switzerland. I wanted to take advantage of my visiting rights and carry out my paternal duties. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. swissinfo.ch: Was it a one-way journey, or do you intend to return to Switzerland one day? E.W.: I didn’t envisage my move to be temporary; my only goal was to be as close as possible to my son.
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When skiers become sun worshippers

Sun, 02/04/2018 - 10:00
Swiss photographer Dan Patitucci had to go a long way up to get above the fog and take this stunning shot. In Interlaken, we woke to a sunny forecast but thick fog. It was a day to get up high for some much needed sun so we decided to ski up to the Faulhorn, via Bussalp, from Grindelwald.  We started with skis on our packs, not on our feet. Three kilometres went by before we finally stepped into our bindings. A couple hours and 1600 meters of vertical later, we made our way to the summit of the Faulhorn from where we looked down onto a sea of fog and out to endless views of the Alps. 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 landscapes Since December, ...
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By the numbers: Olympic athletes and patient commuters

Sat, 02/03/2018 - 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. Sunday 20 It’s score time! Swiss tennis player Roger Federer won his 20th grand slam title when he lifted the Australian Open trophy for the sixth time.   Monday 171 The Swiss Olympic Association has nominated a record 171 athletes for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, which begin on February 9.   Tuesday 13 On average 13 people are reported missing every day, but the Swiss authorities rarely initiate a public search.   Wednesday 9,600,000 The Federal Customs Administration this year expects to sell 9.6 million vignettes – CHF40 stickers which are needed to drive on Swiss motorways. A third will be bought by foreign drivers.  Thursday 14.8 The average commute in Switzerland increased in 2016 to 30 minutes or 14.8 kilometres.  Friday 20,000 ...
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Switzerland contributes funding to contested Kosovo tribunal

Sat, 02/03/2018 - 13:57
Is the Kosovo war crimes tribunal dead before it even begins? Parliamentarians close to the country’s President and Prime Minister are trying to sabotage it. Meanwhile Switzerland has granted it funding support. In January 2018, Switzerland granted funding of CHF200,000 ($214,750) to the tribunal charged with shedding light on war crimes committed in Kosovo between 1998 and 2000, particularly the disappearance of 500 mainly Serb civilians in the context of conflict between separatists and Serb forces plus a NATO military intervention. But numerous parliamentarians from the party in power in Pristina remain determined to put an end to this new tribunal which could threaten key people in power who were commanders of the former rebel movement UCK. So, Switzerland’s support is more important for the political message it sends than the amount of the funding. Ekaterina Trendafilova, president of the tribunal, understood this when she said the money will help “to disseminate knowledge ...
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Post-war Olympic camaraderie in St Moritz

Sat, 02/03/2018 - 12:00
Seventy years ago, Switzerland hosted the first Olympics since World War II in the alpine village of St Moritz. Japan and Germany were excluded due to their role in the conflict and the Soviet Union did not send any athletes to compete. But almost 700 athletes from 28 nations did take part in 22 events and in four different sports. The impact of the war was still felt throughout Europe. Athletes had been prevented from leaving their home countries or taking part in any competition for some time, and there had been no investment in sport. In order to boost morale, the post-war winter event, which took place at the end of January 1948, was named "The Games of Renewal". The International Olympic Committee chose St. Moritz as the venue for the 1948 Winter Games because of its well-maintained infrastructure, which had been built for the previous Winter Olympics in 1928. The problem of limited supplies of sports equipment was met with a sense of camaraderie, notably towards the ...
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French communes step up fight against ‘false’ secondary residents

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 13:22
French communes bordering Geneva are stepping up their search for so-called “false residents” – around 20,000 undeclared Swiss, who allegedly pretend to live in Switzerland to avoid paying tax in France.  The Swiss public broadcaster, RTS, reported on Friday that the French commune of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois had recently sent a list of Swiss car number plates to the Geneva authorities to help track down false secondary residents living in neighbouring France. RTS said the commune wants to expand this list or to introduce systematic checks on false residents. The Geneva cantonal authorities told the broadcaster that more details were needed from the French authorities to handle such a request. It is thought there are around 20,000 undeclared Swiss or “false residents” in French regions bordering Geneva - Swiss who live most of the year in French communes and work in Switzerland, but who declare their French home as a secondary residence and claim primary residence in Switzerland.
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When political opposites govern together

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 12:00
Who would come up with the concept of a government in which all the main parties – from leftwingers to rightwingers – are represented? The Swiss! Switzerland has had this system, a direct consequence of direct democracy, for decades.  In May 2017, a political earthquake shook France: Emmanuel Macron was elected French president, winning two-thirds of the vote in a run-off against Marine Le Pen. Although Macron had won only 24% of votes in the first round, in the second round many voters saw him as the lesser of two evils compared with Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National. In France, and many other countries, the winner takes it all.  Four months later, the seven-person Swiss Federal Council (government) welcomed a new face after the retirement of Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Burkhalter, a member of the centre-right Radical Party.  Compared with neighbouring France, the election was much less spectacular: only one party was in the running. Nobody challenged the ...
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Lawsuits, drug coverage and antibiotics in the US and Switzerland

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:00
Our healthcare series answering reader questions about the US and Switzerland is coming to a close. Here, our journalists tackle some remaining questions about alternative medicines, malpractice, antibiotics and more. Does the Swiss health care system allow insurers to deny coverage for drugs or therapies prescribed by a doctor who believes such treatment is best for the patient? Insurers are obliged to refund the cost of drugs prescribed by a doctor under basic health insurance, provided that these prescriptions or their components are included on constitutional lists maintained by the Federal Office of Public Health. To receive a full reimbursement, patients must take the medication for treatments designated in the lists. For some medication, reimbursement is limited to a specified dosage. Your doctor must advise you if a drug is being prescribed for treatment other than the ones listed by the authorities, or whether the drug she's prescribing is in fact covered by basic ...
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Framing the terms for future Swiss-EU relations

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 18:06
On Wednesday, the Swiss government once again debated the potential institutional framework agreement between Switzerland and the European Union (EU). We look at the background to this controversial issue and its potential consequences for Switzerland. What's it all about? The EU is clear that participating in its single market requires a consistent implementation and interpretation of the market’s continually developing set of rules. Therefore, Brussels expects that the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU will continue to be adapted to any potential legal developments in the future. Since 2014, the two sides have been negotiating an institutional framework agreement with each other. Its purpose is to reorganize the selected bilateral agreements (in particular those agreements concerning single market access). But the procedure has raised various questions: How could it be ensured that the agreement is properly interpreted and applied?How could it be adapted ...
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Swiss cities: How clean is clean enough?

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 12:00
If you think Swiss streets are clean, meet the digital system that could make them even cleaner by counting and categorising different types of trash, paving the road for cheaper and more efficient urban sanitation both in Switzerland and abroad. Even in stereotypically tidy Switzerland, managing urban waste is not just a logistical burden – it’s also a strategic challenge. In the absence of a standard measure of cleanliness, Swiss cities must each work out their own approach to deciding how much time and money to invest in sanitation, and where. Authorities in the city of Zurich, for example, rely on inspections of streets carried out on foot. But this kind of approach is costly and time-consuming, and its subjectivity still leaves open the question: how clean is clean enough? Mohammad Saeed Rad and his colleagues in the Signal Processing Laboratory 5 (LTS5) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have partnered with a local start-up, Cortexia, as ...
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Young dancers in Lausanne compete for a ballet career

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 09:33
The 46th edition of the ‘Prix de Lausanne’ International Ballet Competition kicked off on Monday. This year, 74 young dancers from 16 countries are participating in the prestigious competition. The final will be held on February 3.  In this year’s edition, there are no Swiss participants. However, two Swiss-based candidates, a Japanese and a Belgian, both from the Ballet School Theatre in Basel, are taking part. An abundance of Asian dancers characterises the competition. Some 19 South Koreans, 10 Chinese, and 9 Japanese account for half of the overall participants.  Paths to becoming a professional ballet dancer in Asia are not plentiful. So, many young dancers from the region come to the Lausanne competition seeking an opportunity to study abroad at prestigious European ballet schools or with ballet companies.  "The Prix is about potential. Potential is not only where you will end up or what you will do, but it is also what you do with all that you have been prepared for,” ...
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Stolen art displayed in Switzerland will go to auction

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 18:00
Looted Nazi artefacts on display at the historical and folklore museum in St Gallen will be handed over to the true owners at the end of this month, and then auctioned at Sotheby's in London.  (SRF/swissinfo.ch)  The two 17th century ornamental silver and gold-plated ships were plundered from a German-American Jewish art collector. They were made in 1630 by the German craftsman Georg Müller from Nuremberg, and have been valued at over CHF1 million. The museum could not afford to buy them.  The ships are among 140 objects donated to the museum in 1967 by entrepreneur Giovanni Züst, who had started his silverware collection in the interwar period. They originally belonged to Emma Budge, a wealthy German art collector from Hamburg who took American nationality after marrying banker Henry Budge. She owned a collection of 2,000 artworks including furniture, textiles, sculpture, goldsmith’s work, paintings, porcelain and earthenware. When she died in 1937, the Nazis forced her ...
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Alpine flowers fight for food and space

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 16:47
Global warming is affecting the range of alpine flora – creating winners and losers, says a joint study from Swiss and Austrian scientists.  Alpine plants face increased pressure at higher elevations, researchers from the University of Vienna and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) have found.  As temperatures rise, so do the plants. That is, their range shifts and they begin growing at higher elevations. For this study, researchers analysed distribution data for 183 alpine plants found in Austria, Italy, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland. Since the first half of the 20th century, most species have expanded their range upwards by 20-35 metres.  The study, which appears in Monday’s edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS), found that the lower range limits were shifting faster than the upper limits – which narrows the zones where the plants can grow.  “As a consequence, at higher altitudes ...
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What do you think of Roger Federer?

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 15:03
“The secret to his success is his positive attitude.” Roger Federer, who on Sunday lifted his 20th grand slam trophy when he won the Australian Open for the sixth time, is loved by the Swiss.  Everyone is full of praise for the 36-year-old from Basel – from top athletes all around the world and the Swiss media to people in the street.  “Overpowering as if for the first time,” said the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on its front page. Le Matin said people will tell their grandchildren about the golden era of Federer “and have to find the right words to be able to do the legend justice”.  swissinfo.ch also asked people in the street what they made of Federer’s performance. “The efficiency and technique isn’t so easy to imitate,” said one passer-by. “I think one of the secrets of his success is that he’s supported by his family,” said another.
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Straight, curved, abstract – shooting iconic lines

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 14:36
The Beauty of Lines exhibition at the Musee de l'Elysee in Lausanne features 120 photographs from a rich private collection belonging to Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla - widely recognised as one of the world’s top photo collections. Over the past four decades, the couple has collected over 1,500 original signed prints by some of the greatest photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries which cover the walls of their five-story New York apartment and house in Georgia. The Lausanne exhibition features a cast list of 72 iconic artists, including Robert Doisneau, Robert Mapplethorpe, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rineke Dijkstra, Robert Frank and Nan Goldin. This is the first time their collection has been shown in Europe.  “This is not just any old photo collection – it’s one of the top five collections in the world,” Tatyana Franck, director of the Musee de l'Elysee, told reporters on Tuesday. Over 40 days, she and her team were ...
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