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Updated: 3 hours 25 min ago

Are Swiss strikes on the rise again?

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 11:51
This year, Switzerland marks the 100th anniversary of the 1918 General Strike. Although strikes were non-existent for years in the land of labour peace, Vania Alleva, president of Switzerland’s largest union UNIA, says the strike is making a comeback. And on Tuesday, employees at the Swiss News Agency went on indefinite strike over a management restructuring plan involving a staff cut of nearly 25%.  In Switzerland, strikes aren’t just part of the history books. Since the early 2000s, collective labour disputes have been on the rise, affecting sectors that had not previously used such tactics. A three-day general strike In November 1918, Switzerland was affected by a general strike – the culmination of violent social conflict that took place near the end of the First World War in several European countries. On November 12, nearly 250,000 people – including many railway workers – responded to a call launched by the Comité d’Olten (“Olten Committee”), an action group of Social ...
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Why Swiss schools have a say in sex education

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 12:00
Teachers should be able to react to children’s questions about sex in an age-appropriate way when necessary, Beat Zemp, the head of the Federation of Swiss Teachers, says. His comments follow a European court decision that a child in Basel should not be exempt from sex education lessons. In a ruling released on January 18, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg rejected the Basel family’s application that their child should not attend sex education classes in primary school. The court argued that the early years of sex education were complementary and not systematic and that teachers “merely had to ‘react to the children’s questions and actions’.” The case has provoked an emotional debate in Switzerland about sex education in schools. For teachers, lessons are all about preventing abuse, but more conservative circles think they promote early sexualisation. This is not the first time parents have resorted to the justice system for school-related issues.
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Patricia Kopatchinskaja: Who is the award-winning violinist?

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 11:48
Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who won a Grammy on Sunday for best chamber music in a small ensemble performance, immigrated to Switzerland when she was 21. Kopatchinskaja took home the coveted award along with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for "Death and The Maiden". Last year the violinist won the Swiss Music Prize. Born in 1977 in Moldova, she came to the Swiss capital 20 years ago to complete her music studies. From September 2019, she will be artistic director of the chamber orchestra, Camerata Bern.  Grégoire Maret Harmonica musician Grégoire Maret from Geneva went away from the Grammys empty handed. As guest soloist with the American big band, Chuck Owen und The Jazz Surge he was up for an award in four categories. Kopatchinskaja's Grammy was Switzerland's fourth:  In 1987 harp player Andreas Vollenweider was honoured with an award, and three years later it was the turn of music ethnologist, Marcel Cellier. The Swiss-Liechtenstein producer came away with a Grammy in ...
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Controversial Indian movie plays to packed halls in Switzerland

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 18:32
The Swiss premieres of the Bollywood movie Padmaavat – based on a fictional tale involving a Hindu queen and a Muslim king – were sold out partly due to the threats and violence against the movie’s makers and actors in India.  First released on January 25 as in India, the movie was shown at private screenings in Swiss cinemas and was attended largely by the Indian diaspora.  “There are 20 to 25 screenings planned in the German-speaking part of the country and five screenings in French part in the first week,” Betsen Baby, one of the organisers, told swissinfo.ch. “The controversy made people curious and brought in a lot of Indians.”  Even while the movie was being filmed, the director was attacked and the sets vandalised by groups who wrongly believed the heroine Padmavati – a legendary Hindu queen – would be shown being “dishonoured” by Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji (played by Ranveer Singh who was roped in last year as Switzerland Tourism’s brand ambassador). Four Indian states ...
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Cleaner Swiss streets and US-Swiss health check

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 13:00
Here is a selection of stories we're looking ahead to in the week of January 29, 2018.  Tuesday One hundred years after the 'General Strike' that paralysed Switzerland and was put down violently, we look at the recent rise in labour unrest by talking to a union leader.  Wednesday  We'll introduce you to new technology that promises to make Swiss streets cleaner than they already are. Learn how the 21st century "sanitation engineer" can detect up to 40 different categories of waste as small as two centimetres (0.8 inches).   Thursday  We'll wrap up our series comparing the Swiss and American health care systems by answering more of the questions you've submitted over the past few months. They've ranged from queries about premiums to how antibiotics are prescribed and malpractice insurance. Friday   Unlike in many democracies, the winner does not take all in Switzerland. In our latest article looking at direct democracy, we hear how the Swiss approach to government ...
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Are Swiss-funded Christian NGOs unwelcome in India?

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 12:00
Christian charities supported by foreign donors, including Swiss ones, are finding it increasingly difficult to operate in India due to administrative hurdles. They allege selective implementation of regulations and blame this on the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. “It is unfortunate, these days fundamentalism is growing in the country with our government itself supporting the ‘Hindutva’ agenda of the communal forces,” said Indian bishop Robert Miranda in his speech in the Swiss city of Fribourg in October 2017.  He was invited by Missio Switzerland, the Swiss branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies that are under the jurisdiction of the Pope. Miranda leads a diocese of around 8,000 Catholics in the small town of Gulbarga in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. In 1982, when he was first sent to the region, there were only three Catholics families and a few Methodists. The congregation quickly grew when Dalits, who belong to the lowest caste among Hindus, began showing an ...
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Sleet running above Interlaken

Sun, 01/28/2018 - 10:00
Swiss photographer Dan Patitucci took advantage of the moody, mild weather last week to capture this runner above misty Interlaken. It was day three of nonstop rain. We'd been in the office for too many consecutive hours building a new website when we realised we had pushed our day deep into afternoon.  If we didn't get out soon, we never would, and a day of exercise would be lost. Laziness and excuses would take over.  We stepped out into the sleet and started up above Interlaken. Two hours later we were back and feeling great, refreshed, and not once regretting being outside. 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: WEF weathers the storm

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 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 190 The estimated length in kilometres of the Hölloch cave network where eight men were trapped from Sunday to Friday. The cavers had planned to spend only a day exploring what is one of Europe's largest natural underground systems when they were pinned inside due to a sudden onrush of water from heavy rainfall. Monday 2 A2 is the number of the motorway that was closed when it was hit by a mudslide on Monday evening. The A2 is a key Swiss artery since it includes the Gotthard tunnel through the Alps, connecting northern and southern Europe. Tuesday 1,000 The number of anti-WEF and Trump protesters who took part in demonstrations across Switzerland, according to police. Left-wing organisers put the figure much higher, at 4,500. Tuesday 3,000 The number of ...
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Coming to terms with a tarnished Swiss wartime record

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 12:00
January 27, 2018 marks Holocaust Memorial Day, to remember the six million Jews killed during World War II.  swissinfo.ch looks back at Switzerland’s questionable wartime policies towards Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. After the war, in order to safeguard banking secrecy, Swiss banks refused to release details of dormant accounts held by Holocaust victims. This led to the government setting an independent commission of experts led by historian Jean-François Bergier to investigate specific aspects of Switzerland’s wartime behaviour. The work began in 1996 and took five years to complete.  It concluded that Swiss officials "helped the Nazi regime achieve its goals" by closing the country's borders to thousands of Jewish refugees, effectively sending them back to near certain death. During the war, a total of some 300,000 people crossed the borders from Nazi-occupied countries. Of the civilian refugees, around 30,000 were Jews. However, an estimated 24,500 civilians, mainly Jews, ...
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Sixty years of shooting stars

Sat, 01/27/2018 - 12:00
He snapped them all: the Rolling Stones, Andy Warhol, Prince, Louis Armstrong. On Saturday, Niklaus Stauss, Switzerland’s most famous celebrity photographer, turned 80.  Stauss has led a colourful and full life. He travelled around the world many times, learnt shop window decoration as a trade, worked as a graphic artist and devoted himself to his great passion: photography.  He opened a photo studio in Zurich and founded an advertising agency. From the 1950s he worked freelance for the photo agency Keystone.  Stauss has remained true to his tastes, art, music and culture all his life. His skill was to be at the right place at the right time, enabling him to document the rich and famous for more than 60 years.  He has photographed more than 50,000 celebrities and today owns one of the largest private archives of cultural and artistic images. 
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America is ‘open for business’, Trump tells WEF

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 18:30
United States President Donald Trump told World Economic Forum (WEF) delegates on Friday that America is “open for business” under his leadership, while reassuring the audience that "America First does not mean America alone”.  In his highly-anticipated keynote speech, Trump said he had come to the Swiss mountain resort of Davos to deliver a simple message.  “It has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and grow in the United States,” he declared. “America is open for business and we are competitive again.”  He proceeded to vaunt the successes of the US economy and markets, saying the US had created $7 trillion in new wealth and 2.4 million new jobs since he became president in 2017. Trump also outlined his work to overhaul the US tax system and cut regulations.  “I believe in America. As president of the United States, I will always put America First. Just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first. But America First does not mean ...
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From Trump to Trudeau: a who’s who at Davos 2018

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 18:00
The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos has always attracted movers and shakers from a wide range of countries and fields. This year, however, the number of A-list guests was particularly high, with one attendee in particular happy to grab the headlines.  Presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens have all gathered this week in the mountain resort of Davos in eastern Switzerland, as well as economists and business leaders.  In addition to actual royalty, such as King Felipe of Spain and Queen Rania of Jordan, several members of the showbiz royal family have also been sighted, such as singer Elton John, actor Cate Blanchett and Shah Rukh Khan, arguably the world’s most famous Bollywood actor.  But it was the arrival of US President Donald Trump that really grabbed the attention of the media and other participants – not to mention the Swiss security services.
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The artist who did things differently

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 14:17
The Angoulême International Comics Festival in France has kicked off under the chairmanship of Swiss artist Cosey. His work is at the heart of a retrospective at the event. Last year he won the Grand Prix. Created in 1973, the Angoulême Festival is the main comics festival in Europe.  Cosey, whose real name is Bernard Cosendai, likes to give life to characters in search of themselves – like his hero, Jonathan, created in the 1970s. "I honestly thought my drawing was not extraordinary," says Cosey. His asset? "I introduced something new. I didn't fall into the pattern of the pure hero of the mid-1970s, nor did I produce the opposite, the anti-hero, the loser."  Jonathan is a "human" who travels through Tibet in the Himalayas and the United States. Cosey, from canton Vaud, says he's happy in the great Swiss outdoors. "In the mountains, I feel good. There are my friends the trees, we talk sometimes, it's always very nice."
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Showcasing the 1,000 best cleantech solutions

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 13:06
Solar Impulse pilot Bertrand Piccard has embarked on a new project seeking 1,000 cleantech solutions to help meet the goals of the Paris climate accord. Piccard made history when he flew his solar-powered aircraft around the globe in 2016. Now he has come back to earth with a new venture called The World Alliance For Efficient Solutions. This project has invited cleantech start-ups from around the world to submit their innovations. The best 1,000 will be presented at the United Nations climate change conference COP24 in Poland in December. The goal is to marry the most innovative cleantech solutions in the world with political and business leaders. “You have to link solutions for the environment with profit, job creation and economic growth, and the political will to implement them,” he told swissinfo.ch.
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Why are Swiss child services so disliked?

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 12:00
Child protection authorities are among the most unpopular institutions in Switzerland, even after recent reforms. Why the backlash? Overshadowed by the dark past of so-called "slave children", Swiss child protective services were subject to sweeping changes in 2013. But their reputation has continued to suffer after a series of incidents, notably a mother who killed her two children to stop them from being taken into care. A popular initiative now in the pipeline aims to clip the wings of child protection authorities. Erika* de Winterthour was 16 when she got pregnant in the late 1990s. In Switzerland, the child of a mother under 18 is automatically put into care. Erika remembers there were discussions with the authorities at the time to see if someone in the family could be the guardian, but she said the family decided it would be better to have someone official from the child protection service. Erika was very pleased with the way the service represented her daughter in a ...
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Melting Arctic needs help from WEF high rollers

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 11:37
Transforming smoke-belching, river-polluting industrial dinosaurs into environmentally-friendly businesses is key to achieving the targets of the Paris climate accord, the World Economic Forum is hearing in Davos. “The good news is that this is the biggest business opportunity that we have ever seen, but it is only an opportunity if we are able to harvest it in time,” Christiana Figueres, who has switched from leading the United Nations' climate efforts to the NGO Mission 2020, told swissinfo.ch. “If we are too late is ceases to be an opportunity and becomes a burden on the most vulnerable populations.” Figueres and others, including Swiss Solar Impulse adventurer Betrand Piccard and former United States Vice President Al Gore, are lobbying Davos delegates to adopt greener strategies whilst encouraging cleantech start-ups to flourish. The Paris climate agreement to keep global temperature rises below at least two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels was hailed as ...
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What do the locals make of Trump in Davos?

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 18:24
US President Donald Trump has arrived in snowy Davos as this year's most-anticipated WEF attendee. What do the townspeople think of it all? A ski lift operator would gladly help the American leader on to the slopes, but doubts he'll venture that far from the WEF conference centre. Others are happy about the publicity Trump's visit brings for their corner of the world. And some take issue with the way he interacts with those around him. Thousands of security forces are spread out across town and vehicles are parked every which way. Helicopters buzz overhead and journalists rush after interviewees. Storefronts have been rented out to think tanks, companies and nonprofits, and lavish soirees book out restaurants and hotel ballrooms. But in general, the people of Davos are used to taking all of this - and the world leaders that descend on the event - in stride, year after year. This will be the 47th time the gathering of global movers and shakers has taken place in the Swiss town ...
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Bye bye and thanks for a great year!

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 18:00
Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. As she winds up her vlog series, Tama explains what she learned and shares some of her favourite moments. One highlight was meeting a small boy, Firaz, at a refugee centre in Aarwangen. Another was working with comedian, Tony aka Anthony Bighead, on the vlog about commuters, which she says was great fun. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)
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iCAN: Swiss should set an example on nuclear weapons

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 13:06
"If Switzerland cannot say, 'under no circumstances will we use nuclear weapons', how can we expect North Korea to do that?"  This is the question posed by Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (iCAN), speaking to swissinfo.ch from the WEF annual meeting in Davos. For Fihn, it's high time that Switzerland signed and ratified the United Nations' international nuclear disarmament treaty, adopted in July of last year and supported by some 50 nations - especially considering global nuclear threats that have caused the so-called Doomsday Clock to move two minutes closer to midnight. United States President Donald Trump, who arrived at the WEF meeting on Thursday, has famously boasted that his "nuclear button" is much bigger and more powerful than that of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. The two men have been swapping threats over the use of nuclear weapons for the past year, putting other countries' ...
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African Davos delegates plan Trump speech boycott

Thu, 01/25/2018 - 12:24
African delegates are planning to boycott United States President Donald Trump’s closing speech at the World Economic Forum’s flagship annual meeting in Davos on Friday. This follows leaks that he called African countries “shitholes” in a White House meeting on immigration this month. Trump arrives in Davos on Thursday where he will concentrate on boosting trade and business links between the US and other countries as part of his “America First” agenda, according to members of his cabinet who briefed the press. Trump will also meet Swiss President Alain Berset in Davos. But he may not receive as warm a reception as he would like from other quarters. Two-day visit The US President arrived in Davos shortly before noon on Thursday, having flown in by helicopter from Zurich International Airport. Trump will be making a two-day visit to the World Economic Forum, where he will deliver a speech on Friday. Business Leadership South Africa CEO Bonang Mohale, a Davos attendee, penned an ...
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