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When Switzerland went on strike

Sat, 11/03/2018 - 12:00
With war raging in neighbouring countries, and Spanish flu, revolutions and poverty - it is hard to imagine what life was like in Switzerland during the 1918 General Strike. This gallery provides a photographic snapshot of the period.  At first glance a photograph might seem like definite proof of a factual event or time. But photography is always subject to cultural influences, prior information and expectations.  Historical photographs are particularly challenging. Dates, names and information can be missing and hard to track down. For this 1918 General strike gallery, we gathered information from different archives and experts.  If you look at the first picture, for example, we see fourteen children, most of whom are carrying buckets. They are wearing dark stockings, so it could be cold. The buildings and wall made of large stone blocks on the right suggest an urban environment. And the mischievous smiling boy in the middle sets a cheerful tone.  Commentary by Zurich ...
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Almost 100 teachers are on schools’ black list

Sat, 11/03/2018 - 12:00
There are currently 95 people on a teaching black list in Switzerland, most of them primary school teachers, banned for offences of a sexual nature. But not all cantons are reporting their cases. Some details of the list, kept by the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK, in German), were revealed by the SonntagsZeitung earlier this week, after it battled for eight months for the right to access the text. The list was launched 15 years ago by the conference and has been obligatory for all cantons – who are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland – since 2008. It is aimed at stopping people with paedophile tendencies, addictions or suffering from a mental illness, who are banned in one canton, from applying for a job in another. The list shows that one in three teachers are from canton Zurich. Other cantons with double figures were St Gallen (15), Bern (14) and Lucerne (11). In all, 43 of the 95 people on the list are primary school staff, with 24 from ...
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A high-speed Ticino road advances at snail’s pace

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 12:00
A long-awaited highway project is finally in the works in the Swiss canton of Ticino, a victim of delay by direct democracy. It’s a story typical of Switzerland and the process of uniting competing interests. This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. Lying on the sun-soaked southern side of the Alps, Locarno is one of the most renowned tourist resorts in Switzerland. Each year, the region notches up more than a million overnight stays. While arriving by train is unproblematic, the road is another story. Drivers often face stop-and-go traffic on the 20-kilometre-long (12.4-mile-long) stretch from the north-south motorway exit to Locarno. “Locarno is the only big agglomeration in Switzerland that is not connected to the national road network,” says Claudio Zali, president of the Ticino cantonal government who is responsible for the department of construction and environment in the region. The road, which is partly dual ...
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Spending All Souls’ Day with 25,000 skulls

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 12:00
In late October and early November the dead seem to return and mingle among the living around Switzerland. For the more adventurous, it’s a chance to visit the ossuaries of Valais.  In the Catholic parts of the country the dead are traditionally honoured on November 2, All Souls’ Day. This is often confused with All Saints’ Day on November 1, during which the Catholic Church honours all its saints.  Whatever their reason, many Swiss people visit cemeteries at this time of year to pay their respects to their loved ones, even though this tradition is becoming less popular. The graves are covered in flowers, usually chrysanthemums.  It is perhaps in the German-speaking part of canton Valais that the presence of the dead is the most noticeable. The region is home to 20 or so ossuaries, rooms in which the bones of the dead are placed. One of the most impressive is the charnel house at Leuk, where no fewer than 25,000 skulls have been carefully stacked.  But other imported customs ...
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Wanted: politicians with liberal, European profile

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 16:40
A recent advertisement in two leading Swiss newspapers has caught public attention and caused considerable puzzlement. A political movement is actively looking for candidates ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. The notices in the prestigious Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and the Le Temps newspapers were posted by the group Operation Libero. The non-partisan organisation is casting its net to see whether it can find potential candidates willing to promote and defend the values of political openness and liberalism. It is also calling for people who like to engage in debates about political and social reforms across party lines. Operation Libero is pleased with the response to the ad which was published on October 19, according to spokesman Silvan Gisler. “We have had quite a few reactions from people who showed an interest,” Gisler says. No political party He confirms that Operation Libero has no plans of becoming a political party. “We don’t want to cannibalise ...
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European firms add to global air quality problems

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 15:45
A Swiss expert warns that although Europe’s air quality has continued to improve over the past 30 years, European companies are contributing to dirty air in other regions like Asia or Africa by outsourcing heavily polluting industries.  Nino Künzli, deputy director at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, was one of the scientific advisers at this week’s World Health Organization (WHO) conference in Geneva on air pollution and health.  According to WHO data, more than nine out of 10 people on the planet breath dangerously toxic air. The problem is particularly bad in India, China, and in other cities in Asia and Africa, and children are at risk. The WHO says that every day, 93% of children under the age of 15 — a full 1.8 billion youngsters, including 630 million under the age of five — breath dangerously polluted air.  swissinfo.ch: Globally, air pollution is said to cause seven million premature deaths a year. But how much do we really know about the health risks ...
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When death is celebrated

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:20
The Mexican Day of the Dead is also celebrated in Switzerland. Together, Mexican expats and the Swiss prepare offerings to the deceased in several parts of the country, notably the House of Religions in Bern and the Museum of Ethnography in Neuchatel. As is tradition, the living and the departed gather on November 1st and 2nd for a celebration, which has been included on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List since 2003. It's a celebration that the Mexican embassy and community in Switzerland (about 3,000 people) are trying to maintain in the alpine nation. "At first, it was like a 'shock' for the Swiss. But we warned them that it was a different view of death. A party where the dead come to visit us and are with us," recalls Margarita Delalay, cultural events manager of the Association of Mexicans and Friends of Mexico (Amex), in the cantons of Vaud and Neuchâtel. Indeed, the Day of the Dead, with its nostalgic overtones, is above all a moment of joy, reunions, and recognition:
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‘Livable’ Swiss cemetery caters to all faiths

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 12:00
The Bremgarten cemetery in Bern is one of few in Switzerland offering people of diverse world religions and belief systems a final resting place. A tour of the grounds reveals many ways of honouring the dead. Two Somali boys died in a 2017 electrical accident caused by playing with a hair dryer in the bath. Their burial here should not have been allowed because they live outside the Swiss capital and the Bremgarten cemetary is normally reserved for those within the city limits. Walter Glauser, who oversees cemeteries in canton Bern, headed to the hospital to personally inform the boys’ parents that a Muslim burial would not be possible. But on his way there, Glauser realised that he wanted to make a funeral at the Bremgarten cemetery possible for this grief-stricken family. It is the only cemetery in the region where Muslim graves are available, and Glauser found a way around the city rules to make it work. Meeting requirements The Muslim burial ground has a noticeably high ...
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Bullet-proof bitcoin battles through first ten years

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 12:00
Ten years ago today, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto presented bitcoin to the world in a famous White Paper. In the intervening decade, bitcoin has seen boom and bust cycles, spectacular heists and fraud, has spawned thousands of imitators, a new way of financing start-ups and helped create an industry that Switzerland has wholeheartedly embraced. Many of the 600+ blockchain start-ups and support service currently operating in ‘Crypto Nation’ Switzerland owe their existence to bitcoin, which initially kickstarted the industry and set in motion a chain of innovation. Bitcoin itself remains an enigma. Its place in society is as hard to pin down as its dollar conversion value. The first bitcoin appeared in January 2009. The first transaction in 2010 saw two pizzas being purchased for 10,000 bitcoin. Last December 10,000 bitcoin were worth $200 million and they now fetch around $65 million. Volatility makes bitcoin an unreliable method of buying pizzas. As an investment, the ...
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How drones are shedding their military image and moving into cities  

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 12:00
As commercial drones become a greater fixture in our everyday lives, their association with their military ancestors will have to be set aside to foster better acceptance, writes international relations practitioner Francesco Bortoluzzi of swissnex Boston. The origins and evolution of drone technology have been a central question in the curation of Aerial Futures: The Drone Frontier at swissnex Boston – an event series that aims to connect the Swiss drone ecosystem to the United States. In our ongoing exploration, we surveyed experts in Boston’s research and technology scene to help us understand the origins of commercial drones.  A history of uneasiness and ambiguity Today’s drones trace their roots to the beginning of the aviation age, when any aircraft in the sky struck both wonder and worry in the hearts of people around the world. During the Second World War, when air power started to play a decisive role in combat, drones were first developed as radio-controlled ...
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Europe offers last line of defence for the Asiatic lion

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 15:00
The recent death of 23 Asiatic lions in India – including three from the highly contagious Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) – has highlighted the risk of confining the species to a small part of the country. In a worst-case scenario, can captive animals in European countries like Switzerland help re-establish the species?  It is lunch time and the suburban neighbourhood of Zurichberg reverberates with the guttural call of a male lion. A 20-minute tram ride from Zurich’s main station, Zoo Zurich is by far the biggest attraction here, especially during the school holidays. Visitors flock to the lion enclosure, drawn to the sounds of the king of the jungle.  The four lions – one male and three females – do not belong to the African savannah but to deciduous forests of Gujarat state in northwestern India. Just over 600 Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) in the Gir Protected Area and surrounding region are all that is left of the wild Asiatic lion. The species once ranged from Greece ...
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Swiss non-profit aims to break taboo of women’s brain health

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 12:00
If depression is twice as common in women than men worldwide, does that mean we need to change how we think about gender, health, and science? That’s the argument of the Women’s Brain Project, which is calling for a precision approach to brain disease research and treatment. When scientists use animal models like mice in their experiments, standardisation is key: all animals must be kept in highly controlled conditions so that the study results are not compromised. But there is one very big difference that scientists might be ignoring: whether their subjects are male or female. “Most labs today use only male or female mice, depending on the field. For example, people doing behavioural neuroscience experiments tend to prefer to work with male mice because there’s an assumption that they’re more stable and less variable than females due the oestrus cycle, which is incorrect. Either way, this is a mistake,” Maria Teresa Ferretti, a group leader at the University of Zurich Institute ...
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French accident revives the hunting debate

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 03:00
The accidental shooting of a cyclist by a hunter in France has triggered fresh debate on the dangers of hunting and how to best regulate this potentially lethal activity.  In neighbouring Switzerland, this drama has also evoked strong emotions and reactions. In mid-October, a young hunter shot and killed a man who was riding a mountain bike in the Haute-Savoie – not far from the Swiss border. He claimed to confuse the cyclist with a deer. This accidental killing has rekindled heated debates on how hunting is conducted. For the 2017-2018 season, the French National Office for Hunting and Wildlife reported 113 accidents, including 13 deaths (3 of which were non-hunters.) The tragedy in France also shook up the Swiss hunting commmunity. Hunting is a very popular activity in Switzerland, where there are 30,000 active hunters, including about 1500 women, according to the Swiss Hunting Association. Regulation regarding hunting is the responsibility of individual cantons. Just ...
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Should the ILO maintain financial ties to the tobacco industry?

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 18:00
The Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) is once again facing pressure to review its relationship with the tobacco industry. This week the United Nations agency is set to decide on its partnership deals aimed at ending child labour in tobacco-growing countries and on future engagement with the sector.  On Wednesday, ILO stakeholders – employers, workers and government representatives – are meeting in Geneva to decide on a proposal for an “integrated strategy to address decent work deficits in the tobacco sector”..  The broad strategy proposed by the ILO secretariat is aimed at developing policy, strengthening dialogue with social partners, and helping tobacco-growing communities address problems such as child labour and the transition to alternative livelihoods.  But the wider issue to be decided is exactly how the UN agency should conduct business with the tobacco industry in the future, in particular with regards to accepting financial contributions.  The ILO ...
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Dear Swiss Abroad, tell us what you think

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 12:45
If you’re a Swiss living abroad, we want to know what you think about us. So we’re doing a survey to find out how we can best meet your needs. Have your say!  What values ​​do you associate with swissinfo.ch? As part of our efforts to be trustworthy, transparent and innovative, we’d like to hear your views.  Click here to participate in the survey, which should take about 20 minutes to complete. To avoid technical errors, please answer all the questions in one sitting, without interruption.  Are you wondering when Swiss banks will raise their account fees again? Do you want to know why Swiss politicians question dual citizenship?  To be able to report on the issues that matter most to the Swiss Abroad, we need to know your needs. And we want to know how you use swissinfo.ch and what you expect from us.  Thank you for your valuable feedback!
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Capitulation before revolution

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 12:00
November 2018 will see the centenary of the 1918 General Strike, a political event that brought Switzerland to the brink of civil war. Here is a summary of the events.  Switzerland has always been part of Europe. This is nowhere as obvious as in the developments that led to the General Strike and had an effect on Swiss politics for decades to come.  November 1918 marks the culmination of political and societal developments and situations that had prevailed in Switzerland for many years. It was a combination of a world war, revolutionary coups in Europe, anxious and strict military leaders as well as a starving lower class.  Those living in the working quarters in Zurich and other Swiss cities in 1910 had plenty of things to worry about. It was common that several families had to share a flat, which was often old and damp. One wage per family was barely enough to survive on. The common concept of having one breadwinner did not work. Men and women were both forced to find a job.  ...
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The female brain, a decade of bitcoin and Red River Swiss

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 14:25
Here are some of the stories we’ll be following the week of October 29. Monday A century ago, a General Strike over poor working and living conditions in Switzerland brought the country to the brink of civil war. We’ll look at the history of the monumental event and how it shaped the next 100 years of Swiss social movements. Tuesday The Swiss and international researchers behind the Women's Brain Project (WBP) argue that women's experiences with brain disease and mental illness are markedly different from men’s, both as patients and caregivers. An in-depth story explains those differences and the project’s goals in addressing them. Wednesday October 31 marks the 10th anniversary of the Satoshi Nakamoto White Paper introducing Bitcoin, the world’s best-known cryptocurrency. Since then, Switzerland has developed into a so-called Crypto Nation, spawning more than 600 start-ups and support services that use bitcoin's native technology, the blockchain. How did this come about, ...
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How an apprenticeship trumps college

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 12:00
While most of his peers opted for college, Simon Mitchell went for a Swiss-style apprenticeship at tech firm Bühler in North Carolina that allowed him to earn and learn – and left him with no debts. But these kind of apprenticeships are still rare in the United States. Mitchell and three fellow Bühler apprentices were at the company headquarters in Uzwil, eastern Switzerland, recently to celebrate their graduation. Recruited fresh out of high school, they were the first students to complete a funded four-year apprenticeship scheme at Bühler Aeroglide, near the NC capital Raleigh. The aim of the programme: to plug the growing skills gap in technical professions in the region. The welding apprentices had intended to fly over earlier in the month in time for Swiss Skills, a giant apprenticeship fair and competition, in the Swiss capital Bern. But hurricane Florence, which slammed into the southern US state mid-September, put paid to that, delaying flights for a week. But there ...
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The pioneers of a more open migration policy

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 09:00
Forty years ago, 3,000 people gathered on the square outside parliament in Bern. They demanded a more humane policy towards foreigners based on equal rights. How did the demonstration, organised by the national Mitenand (“together”) movement, come about?  In the 1950s and 1960s, Switzerland recruited hundreds of thousands of foreign workers. These “seasonal workers” were allowed to stay in Switzerland for a limited period, the idea being that during an economic crisis they could be sent home.  Those who were allowed to stay were told to assimilate. But the idea of new arrivals frightened some of the locals, and the fear of an excess of foreigners was exploited by politicians: in 1970, Swiss voters had their say on the Schwarzenbach Initiative, named after rightwing politician James Schwarzenbach, who wanted to limit the proportion of foreigners in each canton to 10%.  The initiative was rejected by 54% of voters, but it motivated many people to stand up against everyday and ...
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Big Brother on the doorstep?

Sat, 10/27/2018 - 17:00
Voters have the final say on November 25 on amended legislation which would enable private detectives working for social insurance agencies to carry out surveillance of people suspected of abusing the Swiss system. This measure is necessary to discourage fraud, parliament and government have decided. Opponents consider it a menace to the rule of law. They have challenged the reform to a nationwide referendum. Mr. A. had an accident at work. He suffers backaches as a result, and he has qualified for disability benefits paid by the Accident Compensation Fund. Officials nevertheless suspect that A. is pretending to be more incapacitated than he really is. His medical status is not really clear, and during interviews with officials he was evasive in his answers. For this reason the officials call in Mr. B., a private investigator, to watch A. and find out if his health condition is really what he claims it is.[i] Fraud in figures Between 2009 and 2016, the country’s disability ...
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