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Hidden parts of Switzerland revealed

Sat, 06/23/2018 - 11:00
What do a pink “pacification cell” in a high-security prison, the Federal Council’s secret meeting room, Dignitas’s room where people carry out assisted suicide and the research station inside the Jungfraujoch mountain ridge have in common? They are all inaccessible to most people.  As part of the art project HIDDEN, art historian Catherine Iselin and photographer Kostas Maros looked into what makes hidden places so fascinating. They found 25 places across Switzerland that are closed off to most people, unknown or known but unphotographed.  Iselin and Maros say they hunted for the unusual, the strange and the unique. The resulting images have been displayed in an exhibition and a book.  All of the locations share the quality of arousing curiosity or leaving a deep impression.
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Project shows the other side of Nairobi

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 17:00
A Swiss man has come up with a unique project in the Kenyan capital: hiring local tour guides to show the harsh realities of city life. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) Gianmarco Marinello from Zurich studied psychology in Switzerland and worked in the private sector before giving it all up to go and work as a youth developer in settlements in South Africa. He moved to Nairobi in 2016 to study social innovation management at the Amani Institute, where he met his project co-founder Sriram Damodaran from India. In Nairobi, many of the estimated 50,000 street children end up scavenging in dumps for scraps to sell, others turn to crime. Marinello and Damodaran wanted to implement social change and find a new business idea for disadvantaged young people, so they set up Nai Nami, "Nairobi with me" in Kiswahili, offering tours with the young people themselves as city guides. The idea is to use their existing skills to create sustainable income. Swiss public television, SRF, visited the home of one ...
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Holidaymaker becomes village chief

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 10:08
Heading the local council seems to have lost its appeal in the mountain village of Tujetsch. That’s why it took a headhunter to find Beat Röschlin, a former company manager who owns a holiday flat in the village.  “When I agreed to take on this position, I had no idea what to expect. No clue at all,” Beat Röschlin says. Clad in a grey polo shirt with his collar turned up, he sits in his wood-panelled office in the local community building in Sedrun, the main village of the spread-out commune of Tujetsch in canton Graubünden. The big window behind him offers a view of a green meadow with high snow-capped mountains towering above it. A manager, not a politician Unlike many other local politicians in Switzerland, the 64-year-old comes across strong, direct and ambitious. It is rare to find a man of this calibre serving as a mayor. “I’m a manager. I’ll never be a politician,” he notes. It is no secret he draws on management principles to govern his community. But how does a ...
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Pope Francis makes rare visit to Switzerland

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 21:23
Pope Francis has visited the Swiss city of Geneva – a centre of Protestantism – on a whirlwind one-day tour to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and to promote Christian unity.  The pope flew into Geneva – historically known as the “Protestant Rome” for its links to John Calvin – on a hot Thursday morning for a packed schedule that began with a meeting at the airport with Swiss government officials.  After a 20-minute tête-à-tête, Alain Berset, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, told reporters that he shared the pope’s commitment to peace and human rights.  Berset said the pope had urged Switzerland to use dialogue to help prevent conflicts around the world. The two leaders also discussed the issue of immigration and refugee boats from north Africa that were being blocked by Italy. The previous papal visit to Switzerland was in 2004, when Pope John Paul II came to Bern and Geneva not long before he died.  + How much does ...
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ShapeShift aims to reinvent Swiss banking privacy

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 10:08
If cryptoassets are ever to fill the gaping hole left by the now-defunct Swiss banking secrecy system, then look no further than the ultra-discreet exchange platform ShapeShift, which has quietly operated out of Zug’s Crypto Valley for the last three years. ShapeShift offers services to anyone with a hankering to convert their bitcoin into ether, litecoin or a host of other cryptotokens. No annoying ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) paperwork. No awkward questions asked. In that respect ShapeShift resembles an old-school Swiss private bank. But it differs by only accepting small transactions and never touching fiat money or securities, thus flying under the radar of heavy-duty regulation. It also refuses to hold customer assets on deposit – one type of cryptoasset is simply traded for another, usually in a matter of minutes. The company says this cuts out the risk of clients losing their money if the exchange gets hacked - as has happened elsewhere on several infamous occasions, ...
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Has yoga lost its soul in the West?

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 08:43
Aerial, Bikram, Yin, Baby, Dog, Goat, Tantrum, Karaoke, Ganja and even Beer yoga: Are faddish yoga trends harming the integrity of the discipline?  “Yogic practice should be performed in a calm and quiet atmosphere with a relaxed body and mind,” states guidelines issued by the Indian ministry in charge of yoga (AYUSH).  However, the atmosphere at the Suburb Yoga studio in Zurich is anything but calm and quiet. It is 7pm on a Friday and instead of headbanging in a nightclub, 11 women and two men are tuning into the latest craze in the city: Heavy Metal Yoga.  There is definitely a market for yoga-induced relaxation or stimulation as in the case of Heavy Metal yoga. A Swiss Sport report published in 2014 estimated that 7.1% of the population between the ages of 15 and 74 practiced yoga, tai-chi and qi gong. The average practitioner is a 46-year-old woman who attends classes at least 45 days a year.  In the US, the biggest market for yoga, the number of practitioners more than ...
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Pope Francis’ Geneva trip in a nutshell

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 17:00
The pope is flying into Geneva on Thursday. Here is a brief guide to the pontiff’s one-day visit.   What is Pope Francis doing in Geneva? The pope is travelling to the Swiss city on June 21 partly to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC). He is expected to arrive at the airport at 10.10am, where he will be welcomed by Swiss government delegation, including president Alain Berset and ministers Doris Leuthard and Ignazio Cassis. After official talks with the Swiss leaders, the pope will make the short journey to the WCC headquarters for an ecumenical prayer session with local church representatives. After lunch at the Ecumenical Institute at the Château Bossey in neighbouring canton Vaud, he will return to the WCC for talks.  Why is the pope visiting the WCC? I thought the Roman Catholic Church was not a member of the Geneva-based organisation. Founded in 1948, the World Council of Churches (WCC) brings together the world’s ...
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When US migrant policy debates invoke the Bible

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 17:00
Many nations, including Switzerland, must grapple with the challenge of migration. The news of controversial recent border-security measures along the US-Mexican border has made headlines not only in North America, but in Europe as well. Almost 2,000 children have been separated from their parents between-mid April and the end of May in what many have denounced as a cruel and immoral approach to deterring unlawful crossings. The US administration has staunchly defended this heavy-handed policy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions even cited chapter 13 of Paul’s letter to the Romans to silence clergy who protest the sharpening of anti-immigration policies. This unusual twist in the raging political debate across the Atlantic inevitably struck a chord in me, a pastor and life-long student of the New Testament. I immediately thought of a scene in Eric Till’s 1999 biopic, Bonhoeffer – Agent of Grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian, had been detained in wartime Germany without ...
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'In the summer I have everybody's armpits at eye level'

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 13:46
"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.  Markus Hofmann finds himself having to constantly explain that as a person of small stature, you’re not physically impaired and as such, you can still basically do any job. Despite having a height of 146cm, he wouldn’t want to be even an inch taller. However, this has not always been the case. The 41-year-old actor had to learn the hard way to accept his height and stand up for himself. Today he is even convinced that his size brings as many advantages as disadvantages.
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Switzerland regrets US move to quit human rights body

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:26
The Swiss government has reacted with disappointment to the United States’ decision to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, defending the Geneva-based forum’s “key role” and “tangible impact”.  “Switzerland regrets the decision of the United States to withdraw from the Human Rights Council, which it sees as a core body in the promotion and protection of human rights as a whole,” the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.  The Swiss ministry said it remained committed to the 47-member forum, which has a "tangible impact on the ground, in particular by deploying fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry into situations of concern”.  After much speculation, the US confirmed on Tuesday that it was pulling out of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, calling it “hypocritical and self-serving” with chronic bias against Israel and lacking reform.  “Switzerland is convinced that the active engagement of the United States in the work of the ...
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Behind closed doors: where refugees call home in Switzerland

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 07:45
There are 68.5 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide as a result of war, and natural or man-made disasters. Photographer Yvain Genevay’s photos show what temporary shelters look like for the small number of them who reach Switzerland. People seeking asylum in Switzerland may stay in the country while awaiting a decision from the authorities on whether their application has been successful. They receive temporary accommodation where they will stay during the first three months of their application. According to the State Secretariat for Migration, there were 18,088 applications for asylum in Switzerland at the end of 2017 and 6,360 people were granted asylum. Every asylum seeker arriving in Switzerland receives an N-Permit, proof that they have applied for asylum and are awaiting a result. A first impression In these pictures, Genevay makes a political comment about what some of Switzerland’s asylum seekers might see when confronted with their temporary housing for the ...
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Can research tame the excesses of the blockchain revolution?

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 17:00
The cryptocurrency craze has attracted hundreds of millions of francs in crowdfunding cash to Switzerland, often based on the flimsiest of concepts. The Crypto Valley Association (CVA) is banking on research to lay a more solid foundation for the industry in Switzerland. To this end, CVA has invited academics and researchers from around the world to rub shoulders with entrepreneurs at a three-day blockchain conference to be held in Zug this week. Switzerland’s appetite for blockchain needs a more balanced diet than speculation and fanciful notions, according to Alexander Denzler, head of blockchain research at Lucerne’s University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU). Research can add healthier, and more palatable, ingredients to the mix. There is a big need for a conference that focuses on technology rather than marketing for start-ups,” he told swissinfo.ch. “The blockchain hype of the last few years has resulted in a lot of heads being lost up in the clouds. We need to ...
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What to do when your friend talks about suicide

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:22
In Switzerland a young adult commits suicide about every three days. An innovative prevention campaign wants to encourage young people to seek help. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) One evening, an 18-year-old man receives a phone call from a friend who is upset over a girl and says he wants to kill himself. He passes the phone to his father who is successful at calming the friend down. This true story is one of the vignettes in a new suicide prevention campaign launched by Pro Juventute, a charitable foundation, supporting the rights and needs of children and youth. The campaign, “Talk, listen and get help” is also supported by the Swiss Federal Railways. The online campaign encourages young people to speak up to their friends. It presents  five first-hand stories to convince teenagers to address the subject of suicide when confronted with it. The campaign includes an app that recognises posters placed throughout Switzerland and redirects users to a website with the personal stories. It ...
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Experiments made in Zurich defy museum conventions

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 11:00
An eclectic selection of objects is on show on the ground floor of Hamburg’s Museum of Applied Arts (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe - MKG).  Among the discoveries in the exhibition “Mobile Worlds” are a Congolese figurine of a white missionary; a plaster model of an eighth-century Syrian sculpture of a goddess; a pile of rubber tyres; a beautifully painted pair of Indian doors; a football signed by Pele; and a collection of tsubas, Samurai sword mountings. Contemporary art rubs shoulders with ancient artefacts. Asian porcelain is juxtaposed with modern European fashion, Kurdish activists, and images of African hair art. Roger Buergel, the guest curator of the show (together with Sophia Prinz), likes to mix things up. “Mobile Worlds” is the result of curatorial experiments Buergel and Prinz have been carrying out in the Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich since Buergel took the challenge, in 2013, to revamp the old “Coffee Museum” set up originally in the mid-1980s by the ...
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What politicians can learn from Swiss cows

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 16:29
My favorite was number 73. She had a certain dignity about her. When potential intruders approached her space, she gave off an aura of invincibility causing them to walk away. When potential enemies came too close, she chased them off with a simple flick of the neck. Those familiar to her stayed nearby, confident that if they were threatened she would come to their defence. There was no question; number 73 was a natural leader. When the Hérens breed of cows are put out to pasture in the mountains after the snow has disappeared, fights break out. Enclosed in a giant field, separated by ropes and painted with numbers according to their owners, the cows are initially kept in closures, pawing at the ground and bellowing for a fight. When the barriers are brought down at an exact Swiss time, the groups begin to separate, and then all hell breaks loose.  Inalpe is a special tradition in the canton of Valais. An organized version is often shown live on television with cows fighting ...
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Video games addiction recognised as mental health problem

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 11:16
Gaming disorder – addiction to playing video games – has been officially listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a mental health condition. In Switzerland, there are around 70,000 “problematic” internet users – a stable number for the past five years that includes hardcore gamers.  The Geneva-based UN health agency on Monday released the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) which now includes the condition gaming disorder. The ICD is used by practitioners worldwide to diagnose health conditions.  The WHO describes gaming disorder as a pattern of behaviour which is so severe that playing video games “takes precedence over other interests and daily activities”.   The health agency says studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only 2-3% of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities. But it warns that people who enjoy video games “should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to ...
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Refugees and locals learn to live together in Swiss town

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 11:00
If you check a map, you might think that Bex - pronounced without the X - is just a sleepy Swiss town known mostly for its salt mines. Look a little closer and you will see an African shop in the centre of town and faces of many colours on the street. This small town was one of the first places in the region to have an asylum-seekers’ centre - since 1982 - and some 33% of its 7,731 population are foreign, which is above the national average. So does it hold some lessons for elsewhere in terms of living together? “I have nothing against refugees, but we are a small town and many have been imposed on us when towns along the Lake [Geneva] don’t want them,” says one elderly resident who has lived in Bex all her life and preferred not to be named. “It’s too much. Sometimes when you step out on the streets, you wouldn’t even think you are in Switzerland.  We are at the bottom of the canton, it’s like we are the dustbin.” Coming by train from Lausanne, you reach Bex after glittering ...
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‘Fans’ Embassy’ hits the road in Russia

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 17:00
Any Swiss football fans who run into difficulties at the World Cup won’t have to deal with the problem on their own. The Swiss embassy in Russia is organising a “mobile consular service” – a minibus – to help them.  The red-and-white minibus, known as a “Fans’ Embassy”, will travel to the three cities – Rostov-On-Don, Kaliningrad and Nizhny Novgorod – in which the Swiss team is playing its three group matches.  The two or three embassy staff and their boss will help Swiss supporters who have lost documents or have questions about their visas or other issues. The exact locations (address and GPS coordinates) of the minibus can be found on the website of the Swiss embassy in Russia. Additional World Cup information is available in German, French and Italian.  These locations have been agreed with the local authorities, whom the consul-general and his staff met as part of their World Cup preparations. The embassy is also in touch with the Swiss Supporters Association, which has ...
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Ken Loach on wealthy Switzerland and how to film capitalism

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 17:00
British film director Ken Loach, known for his bleak social critiques, discusses his informative experiences and whether he's an 'angry old man'.
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Yoga's soul, the pope's visit and a polar summit

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 12:00
Here are the stories we'll be following the week of June 18, 2018. Monday Bex is a veritable melting pot of cultures: it was one of the first towns in western Switzerland to have an asylum centre, and a third of its 7,000 residents are foreigners. How does multiculturalism and integration work in practice? swissinfo.ch spoke with citizens new and old to get a sense of lessons learned. Tuesday Starting on Tuesday we’ll be in Davos - not for the annual WEF conference - but for the Polar2018 summit. Since the International Polar Year 2007-2008, it’s the first time that leading Arctic and Antarctic researchers are convening in one place. About 2,000 people are expected, with one main theme being how mountain research can be applied to the poles. Wednesday In preparation for Pope Francis' eagerly-awaited visit to Geneva on June 21 next, we run through what's to be expected – highlights, logistics, and debates – from the first papal visit to Switzerland since 2004.
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