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Updated: 3 hours 13 min ago

Confiscated heroin and a buried hatchet

Sat, 05/12/2018 - 14:00
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 14 Swiss police seized 14 kilograms of heroin worth over CHF2 million during a cross-border investigation carried out with the German authorities. Tuesday 41 For the first time, Switzerland’s Federal Tax Administration (FTA) sent details on advance tax rulings to its partners in the spontaneous exchange of information deal. The FTA said it had transmitted a first batch of reports to 41 countries. Wednesday 20 The number of gigabytes stolen during a cyberattack on the Ruag technology company in 2016. The defence ministry was criticised for its response to the theft. Thursday 104 The 104-year-old Australian scientist David Goodall ended his life at a Swiss clinic. He had drawn international attention to his right-to-die campaign. Friday 3,220,000,000 ...
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The Swiss artisans behind the Palme d’Or

Sat, 05/12/2018 - 11:00
In a Geneva workshop, eight skilled craftspeople labour to transform a very big block of crystal and some ethically sourced gold into one of the world’s most sought-after cinematic awards. The Palme d’Or, a golden palm tree branch on a crystal base, is the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, which wraps up on May 19, and has been made by the same jewellers, Chopard, for the past 21 years. A blue wax Palme is created and buried in plaster. It is heated in a furnace overnight to melt the wax away and leave a hollow plaster mould. The 2018 edition is made from 118 grams (4.16 oz) of 18-carat yellow gold. The molten metal is poured into the mould, which is then dipped in cold water to break the plaster and leave behind a golden Palme. Extensive sanding, cleaning and polishing take place before the Palme is deemed fit to sit on the crystal base created by stonemasons. Two trophies are made in case there are two top prize-winners. Five smaller ones have also been commissioned ...
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Curtain falls on Schmidheiny era

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 17:00
The decision of Thomas Schmidheiny to stand down this week from the board of Lafarge-Holcim marks the end of an era for the most important Swiss industrial dynasty of the 20th century. The 72-year-old billionaire is one of the principal shareholders of the world’s largest cement company.  It was great-grandfather Jacob Schmidheiny who got the ball rolling in 1867, when he took charge of a small brickyard in eastern Switzerland and successfully expanded it.  His sons, Ernst and Jacob II, continued the business. Ernst invested in cement manufacturing, which would later develop into Holcim. The third generation, Ernst’s sons Max and Ernst II, focused on the production of cement and passed on the business to Max’s sons Thomas and Stephan in the 1970s.  These two would attract much admiration during their business careers but also a lot of criticism.  Thomas, a qualified machine engineer, worked his way to the top of the company. His brother, two years younger, qualified as a ...
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Threat of referendum ‘sword’ keeps politicians in check

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 11:00
It’s the people who have the final say in Swiss politics, be it for constitutional amendments or for new laws. This veto is a crucial pillar of Switzerland’s Swiss political system. This “pledge” in the hands of voters may be tedious for politicians and make the legislative process more complex. But as a permanent threat, it provides sustainable and broad-based solutions. A popular anecdote may be useful to understand the importance of the referendum tool in direct democracy and help illustrate the situation when voters threw out a reform of the old age pension scheme last year. A mountain farmer in a remote region of the country is asked about his voting behaviour. He replies: “I always vote no - and have fared well with it so far.” Democracy Toolbox Switzerland is an indirect democracy. But its direct democracy mechanisms are stronger than those of any other jurisdiction. This is shown by the nearly 620 nationwide votes. Lukas Leuzinger analyses the most important tools, ...
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This is what it's like to have cancer

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 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.  Gabriel has had cancer twice and in this interview, he talks openly about what it was like. He says he never spoke explicitly about death with other cancer patients. Conversations were more focused on who had what kind of treatment, with some patients trying to outdo each other. He says when he was a teenager he was very self-critical, but having been a cancer victim, he has come to accept and appreciate what he's got. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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How Afghans see their homes in paintings of the Alps

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 11:00
Golbedin Husseini, Verena Meuli, Christine Thielmann and Mohamed Ewaz Baba are four strangers in a strange place.  I meet them on a clear spring evening at an exhibition they have curated.  Golbedin and Mohamed are from Afghanistan while Verena and Christine are Swiss but weren’t born in Aeschi, the alpine village that is the setting for this encounter. The four of them first got to know each other in Aeschi three years ago.  This should have been an easy story to tell: a story of how art – particularly paintings of mountain landscapes - can facilitate a dialogue between asylum seekers and local residents.  “We looked for people who lived in the mountains, and I thought it would be very interesting to ask people who are not here voluntarily - people who’ve been sent here. The other idea – although not new – is that art can bring people together to talk,” explains Rut Reinhard, an art educator at the Fine Arts Museum in the nearby town of Thun.  Uphill Reinhard’s task was to ...
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Australian scientist’s final words in Switzerland

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 15:52
David Goodall, a 104-year-old Australian scientist who ended his life in Switzerland on Thursday, said that choosing how and when to die should be a right.   Goodall left Australia last week and arrived in Switzerland on May 7, after visiting relatives in the French city of Bordeaux.   Speaking to reporters at a hotel near Spalentor Gate in Basel on Wednesday, the day before he took his life, Goodall stressed he was happy to have the chance to do so in Switzerland but would have preferred to do so back home.  "Everyone over middle age should have the right unquestioned to end their lives as and when they choose, but we have quite a way to go in Australia for that," he said. Goodall, who celebrated his 104th birthday on April 4, was not terminally ill but found his quality of life unacceptable because both his eyesight and hearing were failing him.   The scientist was granted a fast-track appointment at the Life Circle clinic in Basel. Switzerland is one of the few countries ...
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Del Ponte settles old scores with UN

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 15:49
Carla Del Ponte, the Swiss former prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal, has strongly criticised the international community – and the UN in particular – of thwarting any efforts to bring war criminals to justice. In her new book, Im Namen der Opfern (In the Name of the Victims), she describes her time as a member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. She says she was deeply frustrated and quit the UN panel last August. “We never really investigated. We only listed the crimes that were committed,” she says. “The UN, notably the Security Council, failed to set up a special tribunal on Syria.” The Swiss lawyer, who made a name for herself for taking on the mafia in Italy, also said she had never seen atrocities more heinous than in Syria. She says crimes against humanity are committed by all sides in the Syrian conflict every day. But the brutality and intensity of these crimes – the torture in prisons and violence against women and ...
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UN body nominee decries child abuse in Switzerland

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 14:00
Switzerland is proposing Philip Jaffé as an independent expert for the monitoring body of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. swissinfo.ch meets with the psychologist in Geneva ahead of election day. Jaffé is a psychotherapist by training and specialised in legal psychology. He is currently the director of the Interfaculty Center for Children's Rights Studies based in the southwestern Swiss city of Sion. In the 1980s he worked in the United States, serving as the clinical director of Bridgewater State Hospital, a high security establishment near Boston for criminals requiring psychiatric treatment. He returned to Switzerland to teach at the University of Geneva, and then directed the children rights department at the Kurt Bösch University Institute in the city of Sion. Jaffé hopes to put his experience at the service of the 18-member United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. swissinfo.ch: How is your election campaign going? Philip Jaffé (PJ): Good. It is a ...
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The short, dazzling career of Switzerland’s first pilot

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 11:00
​​​​​​​ On a spring day on May 10, 1910, Swiss aviation history was made by a young man who gracefully took off and landed in the first plane built in Switzerland. swissinfo.ch looks at the birth of aviation in Switzerland through the remarkable but brief life of Ernest Failloubaz. Failloubaz, the self-taught poster boy of Swiss aviation, may have achieved great heights as a pilot but his life was punctuated by sharp lows. His father passed away when he was four years old, then his mother six years later. The orphan grew up in the care of his grandmother and an aunt in Avenches, a small town in western Switzerland which was once the capital of Roman Helvetia. He used the small fortune left to him by his father, a prominent wine merchant, to indulge a powerful passion for speed and mechanics. Failloubaz bought one of the first motorbikes in Switzerland and then a car. By the age of 18, in the autumn of 1910, he had shot to fame at the Aviation Days in Bern. He broke a flight ...
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Why do Swiss artists struggle at Eurovision?

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 08:42
On April 30, 1988, Switzerland won the Eurovision Song Contest for the second time when an unknown Céline Dion pipped the British entry by a single point. But since reaching the peak in Dublin 30 years ago, it’s been downhill all the way for the Swiss. What went wrong?  “Ne partez pas sans moi,” the 20-year-old Canadian sang live in front of a television audience of 600 million. Don’t leave without me. The juries in 20 other countries didn’t care whether the song was about running for a bus or pleading with a lover, they knew talent when they heard it.  Apart from the jury of historic rival Austria, that is, which gave the Swiss “nul points” (Switzerland returned the favour and Austria finished last). Neighbouring France also felt the Swiss effort was worth only one point. Germany, on the other hand, along with Portugal and Sweden, awarded Switzerland the maximum 12 points. Geopolitics à la Eurovision.  “It was a very strange adventure for me,” Dion said in an interview in 2013.
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Integration key for Geneva University imam course

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 17:00
A training course for imams at Geneva University, introducing them to Swiss law and values, is yielding results. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The course organisers say Muslim communities are pleased that their representatives are being sent for training. As part of the "integration" course funded by the canton, nine imams are studying at the university.  The Geneva course is not the only one of its kind in Switzerland. In bilingual Fribourg (French and German-speaking), the conservative right Swiss People’s Party tried to stop the opening of the Centre for Islam and Society (SZIG), which provides courses for imams on Swiss culture and society. Experts agreed that such a ban was discriminatory because it was directed against the members of a single religion in breach of the Swiss constitution. The director of the SZIG, Hansjörg Schmid, says about half of the 200 imams thought to be practicing in Switzerland participated in the first 26 workshops. "With these workshops, we have made a ...
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Celebrating World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 11:06
On May 8, 1948, the first Red Cross Day was celebrated. swissinfo.ch delves into the archives and hears how the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has benefited people all around the world, plus the technical challenges of keeping in touch with overseas staff.  On May 8, 1958, the Swiss Short Wave Service (SWS), swissinfo.ch’s predecessor, produced “The Red Cross Around the Globe”, a 30-minute documentary which began with Henri Dunant’s experiences on the battlefield of Solferino in 1859 – which led to his founding the Red Cross – and then heard what the Red Cross was up to around the world.  In this heavily edited excerpt, journalist Lance Tschannen introduces correspondents who explain the progress made and challenges faced by the ICRC on all continents:  Keeping in touch with overseas staff has also been a logistical and technical challenge for the ICRC.  In this edited radio report from 1994, Swiss Radio International journalist James Nason visits the Geneva ...
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Helping young actors crack the foreign film market

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 11:00
How do actors get a break in the hyper-competitive film industry? An inside look at the European Shooting Stars programme, which aims to give Europe’s ten “most promising and internationally versatile” young actors a tailor-made career boost. “I was speechless! I got the phone call and for a moment I couldn’t say anything!” says a bubbly Luna Wedler, remembering when she was told she was one of ten Shooting Stars for 2018.  The 19-year-old from Zurich was the youngest of the “Class of ’18” who in February attended the Berlin International Film Festival to pick up their award and spend five days doing some serious personalised networking. “The Berlinale was so cool and the other nine Shooting Stars are so nice and so talented. It was really stressful because we had a hard schedule every day, but it was also great because I got to meet so many directors, producers and casting agents,” Wedler tells swissinfo.ch.  Criteria for the programme, organised by European Film Promotion ...
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How work has evolved for Switzerland’s women and men

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 11:00
Male midwives, female electricians... Professional stereotypes for both genders are hard to eradicate in Switzerland. Here is an overview of how gender dynamics have evolved in the Swiss labour market – or failed to do so – in the past five decades. A traditional family model, where the man works and the woman stays home to raise the children, has endured in the Alpine nation. Having stayed out of the world wars of the twentieth century, Swiss women were not pushed into the work force to fill in the labour gaps created by men going to the front. Although many professions have become more diversified in the past 50 years, gender segregation nevertheless remains widespread. The graphic below shows how gender dynamics play out in the 30 most common jobs in Switzerland. Venturing out of the kitchen? In 1970, women made up no more than a third of the workforce. Today, female participation in the labour market is 46 percent. They tend to continue working after they become mothers, ...
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VIPs get red carpet welcome in Geneva

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 07:55
Geneva boasts more protocol receptions and international conferences than any other city in the world. A team is dedicated to giving heads of state, princes and top diplomats a special welcome at the airport. A new photo exhibition takes us behind the scenes.  Last year, Geneva welcomed around 4,700 international VIPs, including 97 heads of state, 44 prime ministers, over 2,000 ministers and nearly 700 royal family members.  The local authorities boast that there are “more protocol receptions in Geneva than in New York and more international conferences than in any city in the world”.  In 2016, 2,831 international conferences were held in the city, which is home to the European headquarters of the United Nations and 37 international organisations, such as the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization.  Photographer Mohammed Zouhri has been covering the comings and goings of world leaders and diplomats in Geneva for the past 15 years. An exhibition of his ...
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Men and women at work, shooting stars, and Afghani art curators

Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:00
These are some of the stories we’re following in the week of May 7. Monday Despite women having made inroads in traditionally male-dominated professions over the last half-century, gender segregation in the workforce remains widespread. Data shows women filling primary school teaching jobs while men make up the majority in fields such as mechanical engineering and farming. Tuesday Swiss actress Luna Wedler has been named one of ten European Shooting Stars for 2018. We take an inside look at the programme designed to give Europe’s “most promising and internationally versatile” young actors a tailor-made career boost. Thursday We meet two Afghanis and two Swiss volunteers who curated an art exhibit as part of an innovative effort to facilitate dialogue between asylum-seekers and local residents. Sunday Ever wondered how surtitles at theatre performances are prepared? We go behind the scenes at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich and meet the woman who ...
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Maurine Mercier: ‘Journalism is a link between cultures’

Sun, 05/06/2018 - 11:00
Swiss journalist Maurine Mercier started to take an interest in the Arab-Islamic culture and its societies after completing her studies in international relationships at the Geneva Institute for International and Development Studies. The former war reporter wants to give Muslims a voice. Mercier did not have the slightest hesitation when the French-speaking arm of Switzerland’s public television station Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) offered her a job as a correspondent in Tunisia. Now the journalist from canton Vaud whizzes back and forth between Tunisia and Libya to report about the region. She usually reports between 6am and 9am. She provides listeners with background information about the events on the ground or interviews high-level people in both countries. Sometimes, she is on the radio between 6pm and 7pm and even as late as 10:30pm, depending on the events of the day. In 2014, the daughter of a Swiss and a Canadian from Quebec received the Swiss Media Award for the ...
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NASA's mission to Mars launches with Swiss technology onboard

Sun, 05/06/2018 - 10:44
Perrine Elise Huber of swissnex San Francisco explains the importance of the Insight mission to Mars that launched on Saturday, and Switzerland's role. You can feel the excitement in Domenico Giardini, Professor of Seismology and Geodynamics at ETH Zurich’s Institute for Geophysics, who is a Co-Investigator on the mission. “When I came to Switzerland as a Professor 21 years ago, I told the President of ETH Zurich that I want to go to Mars. It’s been a lifetime commitment of mine to get there,” says Giardini. NASA latest mission to Mars, known as Insight, launched on Saturday from California. While previous missions to the Red Planet investigated its surface and atmosphere, Insight is the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars with the aim to help scientists understand how all Earth-like planets formed. Alongside an international team, scientists from ETH Zurich have developed a key instrument that will be used to study the interior of Mars, a seismometer. Taking the ...
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Refugee spending, asylum center crimes and avalanche deaths

Sat, 05/05/2018 - 17:00
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 18,000 The maximum amount in Swiss francs the national authorities are willing to spend annually per refugee to boost their integration into the workforce and society. Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga announced on Monday the decision to triple government spending—allocating an additional CHF 162 million per year—on refugees and asylum seekers with temporary status. Tuesday 813 The number of sexual crimes committed in Swiss asylum centers last year. The Federal Statistical Office reported on Tuesday that the number of sexual offense rose by 60% compared to 2016. Wednesday 13,000 The total number of tracing requests that the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has received since the start of the Syrian conflict. The ICRC said ...
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