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Updated: 3 hours 13 min ago

Celebrating avenues of Swiss trees

Sat, 05/05/2018 - 11:00
Like dutiful guards, the trees stand at attention. The peace, the play of shadows and the rustling of the leaves make it a special nature experience. A new book features the tree-lined avenues of Switzerland.  Avenues have been significant and versatile components of cultivated landscapes for centuries. Their history goes back to antiquity. They were created for reasons of aesthetics, protection, timber production and landscaping. Switzerland adopted the concept of ​​the landscaped avenue from France.  In the 17th century, avenues made their way into the German-speaking world as tree-lined shade paths became a typical part of Baroque gardens. In addition, rows of elms were planted in the open countryside, and their wood was used to produce military wagons. From the 18th to the early 20th century, leafy streets conquered the landscape.  Not even half remain But countless trees fell victim to the widening of old streets and the construction of new ones. According to a study by ...
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Swiss prosecutors have power to hand down verdicts

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 11:00
Over 90% of sentences in Swiss legal cases are handed down by a prosecutor rather than a judge. How is this possible? The Swiss system relies heavily on “sentence orders” – a controversial but cost-effective procedure.  “Office of the Attorney General sentences Islamic State supporter”. This recent Swiss news headline may have surprised some foreign observers. Under the separation of powers principle, shouldn’t a federal prosecutor investigate and press charges, while a judge delivers the final verdict?  Switzerland is much more flexible in this regard. Under Swiss law, prosecutors, including the Office of the Attorney General, have the power to impose prison sentences of up to six months, as well as fines and penalties. The Office of the Attorney General even has the right to seize unlimited financial assets. Verdicts are issued in writing and without justification. Around 90-98% of criminal cases are settled in this way. Owing to the lack of exact figures, law professors Marc ...
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The murder of the commander of the Swiss Guard

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 07:36
On May 4, 1998, Alois Estermann was named commander of the Pope’s Swiss Guard. A few hours later, Estermann, his wife and another Swiss Guard were found dead in Estermann’s flat in the Vatican City. swissinfo.ch looks back at what sounds like the start of a Dan Brown novel.  The Estermanns were shot by 23-year-old Swiss Guard Cédric Tornay, who then turned the gun on himself. That, at least, is the official Vatican version of events. It concluded that Tornay had acted in a moment of rage because he had been denied military decoration.  But a book published in 2002, “Assassinati in Vaticano” (Murdered in the Vatican) by French lawyers Luc Brossollet and Jacques Vergès, disputes this theory. When the book was published, Brossollet explained to swissinfo.ch’s Isobel Leybold-Johnson why they believed Tornay was killed and the scene set up to look like a murder-suicide:  Not everyone agrees with the murder-suicide hypothesis. Other theories – all either unsubstantiated or ...
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Survey predicts ‘sovereign money’ initiative will fail

Fri, 05/04/2018 - 06:00
A sweeping reform of Switzerland’s monetary system, proposed by a group of economists, financial specialists and entrepreneurs, is unlikely to win a majority in a nationwide vote on June 10. The so-called ‘sovereign money’ initiative has the backing of just 35% of respondents, according to survey carried out by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation seven weeks ahead of the vote. For more details see graphic below. “Supporters may have valid arguments in favour of the initiative, but the approval rate is too low at the start of the campaign to turn things around in time for the vote,” said Martina Mousson, a political scientist and project leader at the research institute. The initiative aims at limiting the scope of commercial banks while boosting the role of the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in creating money. Supporters argue the reform of the country’s monetary system would restore stability to Switzerland’s financial ...
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Swiss farmers dig in against South American trade deal

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 18:00
Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann hopes to tie up a free-trade agreement this week on his tour of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. While the size of agricultural production in those countries strikes awe in some people, it strikes existential fear in others. The Swiss delegation visited an agricultural fair in Brazil, where the scale of production became clear. Christof Dietler, director of farming umbrella organisation Agrar-Allianz, was impressed by the 40-metre-wide spraying and sowing machines and the size of the fields. “It’s another world when it comes to farming,” he said, explaining that he wanted to learn on the trip whether little Switzerland could compete on such an agricultural market. Agrar-Allianz is committed to sustainable farming and has yet to announce in detail its stance on the free-trade plans with the four Mercosur countries. The Swiss Farmers’ Union, on the other hand, has made its position very clear: it is against a free-trade deal.
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The lighter and darker sides of being nearly blind

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 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.  Yves has a problem: his vision is reduced to 2%. But he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He says, "I have a lot of traits and one of them is that I don't see well. But that's just a small part of me." He feels that more could be done to make life easier for the visually impaired. For example, websites should be more accessible. When it comes to finding work, he says it's tricky for visually-impaired people because many bosses in Switzerland are prejudiced against them. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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Swiss city fights sexual harassment with humour

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 13:32
A number of associations have been fighting sexual harassment for years, but now Swiss cities are also getting involved in the campaign to stamp it out. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The city of Lausanne commissioned a survey among women aged 16-35, which established that 72% of them had been harassed over the past year. Of these, 88% were whistled at, 63% were insulted, 42% were followed and 32% were fondled. The survey found that 77% of harassment takes place in the night, 46% in parks, 18% in bars, restaurants and discos, and 11% at railway stations. You must be kidding Using humour as a way to address perpetrators and their victims, the city produced a video starring local comedian, Yann Marguet, and set in a virtual museum. In the video, a bearded Mona Lisa puckers up at passers-by. Other cities are also doing their bit to address the menace. In Zurich, the police have launched a campaign with billboards and a “Live experience projector” at large events in the city. In Bern, the ...
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What will new asylum seeker integration funds be spent on?

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 13:00
Cantons are set to receive CHF18,000 ($18,000) for every refugee or asylum seeker allowed to stay in Switzerland. The money should go towards their integration into the labour market. How will it be spent? swissinfo.ch asked the authorities of canton Bern.  The Swiss government has agreed to triple its financial contribution to help speed up the integration of refugees into the labour market and to ultimately save on welfare spending. It is estimated that about 11,000 people will benefit from the new schemes which will be phased in from spring 2019. The goals include everyone securing a basic knowledge of a national language within three years. Two-thirds of 16- to 25-year-olds should be in basic vocational training after five years, and half of the adults should be integrated into the labour market after seven years.  + The nuts and bolts of integration How will canton Bern spend this new federal money to achieve the goals? It is not very clear right now. In Bern, various ...
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Will price volatility be the death of bitcoin?

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 11:00
The dramatic price volatility of bitcoin could be solved by accepting the cryptocurrency into the established financial system. That’s the opinion of Jon Matonis, a founder of the Bitcoin Foundation. But it’s also a view that flies in the face of bitcoin critics.  Over the past year the price of a single bitcoin raced from around $1,000 (CHF996) to $20,000; it now trades for around $7,000. On April 12, the price suddenly shot up to $8,000 in the space of an hour, probably due to the activities of a large trader.  At present a relatively small number of bitcoin hoarders, known as ‘whales’, or larger-scale traders can send prices rocketing in one direction or another. But were governments to add bitcoin to their reserve currencies or if mainstream exchanges were to allow bitcoin to trade alongside dollars, euros and francs, the story would be different, Matonis argues.  + Has Switzerland blown its cypto-opportunity? “Volatility results from inadequate liquidity on exchanges.
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Plastic: How can the Swiss use so much and recycle so little?

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 11:00
Switzerland consumes three times as much plastic as other European countries, but recycles 30% less. Bans on plastic in the EU and China may change that.  The Swiss appetite for plastic is considerable. Each year, Switzerland generates nearly 100kg of plastic waste per capita – more than three times as much as the European average.  Over 75% of the 1,000,000 tonnes of plastic consumed in Switzerland is disposable packaging material, and there’s debate over whether it makes more sense to recycle or burn it. Switzerland stopped burying rubbish in landfills in 2000, which means that whatever’s not recycled is incinerated to generate energy.  According to a report from industry association PlasticsEurope, Switzerland recycles about 25% of its plastic waste, lagging well behind Norway and Sweden (over 40%) as well as Germany, the Czech Republic, Ireland and Spain (over 35%).  Plastic (in)action  To reduce plastic pollution, many African countries, as well as Bangladesh and ...
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Why don’t the Swiss recycle more plastic?

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 14:00
Most plastics carry a recycling label, but few are convenient to recycle in Switzerland. For 30 days, swissinfo.ch journalist Susan Misicka saved all of her plastic garbage. She filled four shopping bags, but found that not even half of the waste could be recycled. Is it as bad as it sounds? (swissinfo.ch) Currently, the Swiss collect 80,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling – mainly PET drink bottles, plus milk, shampoo, detergent and other high-quality bottles. In theory, Switzerland could recycle an additional 112,000 tonnes of plastic per year. Put another way, everyone in Switzerland could collect and recycle another 14kg of plastic per year. But there is no federal system and few processing plants for recycling plastic in Switzerland.  Still, consumers are eager to contribute to a circular economy, a point illustrated by the 83% recycling rate of PET beverage bottles. The nationwide campaign to collect these started in 1990; today there are more than 50,000 PET drop-off ...
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Canadian-Swiss chef trades grilled cheese for Gruyère

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 11:00
When she made the move to Switzerland as a young adult, discovering the country’s cuisine and writing a cookbook helped dual citizen Andie Pilot feel at home in a place at once foreign and familiar.  Pilot, now 34, was a child living near Calgary when she first tasted a grilled cheese sandwich at a friend’s house. In true North American fashion, it was a slice of processed cheddar cheese between two pieces of white “Wonder” bread. When she got home, she asked her mother to make her one.  “My mom got out her rye bread, dipped it in white wine and put some gruyère cheese on it,” Pilot remembers.  Instead of turning up her nose at this Swiss-inspired version of the sandwich, Pilot says she became aware of a “whole other world of food”.  As she grew up, exploring more European recipes helped her decide to train as a pastry chef, after which she decided to take advantage of her Swiss citizenship to move to the country and try to find work in a bakery. In the country of her ...
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A woolly tale of everyday Swiss culture

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 10:58
When a Swiss wool mill in Schaffhausen, northern Switzerland, spun an innovative advertising strategy into being 150 years ago, it put the company Schaffhauser Wolle on the map and made sure wool became entwined in Swiss culture. In 1867, Rudolph Schoeller founded the first worsted (a spinning technique that produces fine yarn) spinning mill near the River Rhine in Schaffhausen. The production of knitting yarn began the following year. Schaffhauser Wolle established itself as a leader in hand knitting yarns in Switzerland and many of its subsidiaries succeeded in selling its wool worldwide. Until 1974 it was exporting to 26 countries in over five continents.   But soon afterwards a slump in wool sales caused serious problems for the industry. Machine-knitted textiles and cheap imports from the Far East were beginning to boom, and demand for yarns to use in hand knitting dropped dramatically in the mid-1980s. Colourful advertising posters, designed by renowned Swiss graphic ...
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Swiss launch probe into PetroSaudi officials

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 08:47
Swiss prosecutors have launched a criminal probe against officials of a Saudi Arabian oil company in an escalation of the scandal at Malaysia’s 1MDB state investment fund that has dogged Najib Razak’s government. The investigation into two unnamed individuals from PetroSaudi for suspected offences including fraud, bribery and aggravated money laundering is part of a long-running wider inquiry into misappropriation of 1MDB funds, the public prosecutor’s office confirmed to the FT. News of the Swiss probe into the PetroSaudi officials is the latest damaging revelation for the Malaysian prime minister’s administration from several international investigations into the alleged misappropriation of billions of dollars from 1MDB. Mr Najib’s government is seeking re-election on May 9. The Swiss inquiry is also significant because it is the first officially disclosed criminal case targeted at employees of the Saudi company, a little-known but well-connected business co-founded by one of ...
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Do the Swiss really pay so little tax?

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 12:30
The percentage of personal income tax and social security contributions paid on wages in Switzerland is among the lowest of Western industrialised countries, according to a survey. However, the Swiss statistics must be put in context. Workers in Switzerland have on average more salary left over at the end of the month than in most other Western industrialised countries. This is one of the conclusions of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) annual flagship publication on taxes paid on wages in 35 countries. Switzerland tops all other European OECD states in this respect.  In 2017, a single Swiss resident without children paid almost 17% of their gross salary in taxes and social security contributions. The average for OECD countries was 25.5%. Workers in Belgium and Germany were taxed most (around 40%), while those in Chile (7%), Mexico (11%) and South Korea (14.5%) had the lowest total deductions for personal income taxes and social security ...
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Minister sets sights on Swiss free trade deal with Mercosur

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 11:00
A mission to South America led by Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann hopes to advance free-trade negotiations between South America’s Mercosur bloc and the European Free Trade Association ((EFTA). The trip that began on Sunday comes only three months after EFTA (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Mercosur representatives signed a joint declaration in Bern, understood by Schneider-Ammann as “the launching of negotiations between both blocs”. Upon welcoming swissinfo.ch into his office a few days before his trip, Schneider-Ammann had a cold, but joked that the importance of the trade mission would help him get over it. swissinfo.ch: Just a few days ago the European Union and Mexico announced the signing of a free trade agreement. Has this given your trip even more urgency for Switzerland?        Johann Schneider-Ammann: The goal of this trip is to allow representatives from diverse sectors of our economy to see what we are talking about when we want ...
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Geneva’s Armenian memorial shines light on past and present

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 10:01
Pierre Hazan, a specialist in post-conflict justice, argues why it is important to have erected in Geneva a monument remembering the Armenian genocide. After long years the “Streetlights of Memory”, a work by French artist Melik Ohanian, found a home in Geneva on April 13. It first needed the Geneva parliament in 1998 and then the Swiss parliament in 2003 to recognize the Armenian genocide. It then required the determination of those defending remembrance, the City of Geneva and especially the Municipal Fund for Contemporary Art (FMAC) to get a monument selected that evokes the Armenian genocide and the evil that man can inflict on man. Finally, the promoters of the monument had to overcome the reservations of several parties, often linked to fear of upsetting the Turkish authorities. Istanbul, which still refuses to recognize the Armenian genocide, made known its fierce opposition. But isn’t the history of every country made up of good and bad times? It is a good thing that ...
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Traditional Swiss dishes, a foreign correspondent and too much plastic

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 12:00
These are some of the stories we’re following in the week of April 30.  Monday Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann tells swissinfo.ch how he hopes to convince critics of his plans to open up Switzerland's agricultural market to competitors from abroad. A delegation of representatives from the government and the business community is on a week-long visit to Mercosur countries in Latin America. Tuesday How Canadian-born chef, Andie Pilot, began to feel at home in Switzerland when she discovered traditional recipes in the country of her ancestors. For instance macaroni and cheese from Glarus.  Wednesday Plastic is everywhere in Switzerland as the country is a leading consumer in Europe. But what needs to be done to boost the rate of plastic recycling? Thursday Jon Matonis is an economist and e-money researcher. His views often fly in the face of of bitcoin critics. The former executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation has been advocating the cryptocurrency ...
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Is Switzerland’s cross-border workforce at a crossroads?

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 11:00
Swiss salaries are a draw for cross-border workers. But Switzerland’s job market doesn’t always live up to expectations.   Thibault Torres used to work as a technician developing medical diagnostic equipment in the south of France. When he was fired because of budget cuts, he was unable to find a new job.  “In Montpellier, we have sunshine but no jobs,” he says.  Desperate, he left the coast’s warm weather to try his luck in Switzerland. For the past two weeks, he has been staying with a friend in the Swiss-French border town of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois. He spends his days applying for jobs, to no avail. ”I’d like to get a job in watchmaking because I enjoy all the beautiful mechanisms, but the employers all require previous experience,” he says. He’ll keep on looking for a while longer before giving up and returning to the sunshine. ”One of my friends ended up finding a job here, on the French side of the border. But she went back to Montpellier because it was not worth ...
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Who fares best at getting qualifications in Switzerland?

Sat, 04/28/2018 - 17:00
Nine out of ten pupils gain a qualification five years after finishing compulsory schooling in Switzerland, almost three quarters without any interruption. But your sex, origin and social background all influence how successful you may be. A study published by the Federal Statistical Office on Tuesday looked at 78,000 students in basic vocational education and training (VET) – such as apprenticeships – and at school from 2011 to 2016. In Switzerland, some two-thirds of pupils go into vocational training at around age 16, after compulsory school finishes. The study found that only one in ten of those in upper secondary education did not finish their course or had not obtained a qualification after five years. Of the 90% that successfully did so, 17% obtained their first qualification after taking a more roundabout route: by repeating a year, changing courses, failing an exam or having a break in their education. + Why some apprentices break off their training Those ...
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