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  • Sun, 26 Feb 2017 11:00:00 +0000: On the map: Two Swiss cities seek global attention - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Here are some of the stories we’ll bring you the week starting February 27. Monday In an interview with swissinfo.ch, this year’s Swiss president Doris Leuthard says Brexit and the election of Donald Trump are two reasons she feels there is ‘a lot more uncertainty’ in the world today.   Wednesday The new United States’ administration is challenging the legitimacy of the United Nations. We take a look at the potential threat to UN institutions in Geneva and America’s closely interwoven history with the international Swiss city.  Thursday How certain are you that the medicines you buy are not fake? Counterfeit drugs are a billion dollar business in Europe alone, and taking them can endanger your life. We look at efforts to combat counterfeits in the pharma industry, including the Swiss super cops hired to investigate illegal activity.  Friday We meet the man whose dream is to bring the Winter Olympics to ...
  • Sun, 26 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: The art of capturing a tragedy - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    A Swiss artist is tasked with telling a story about coal, indigenous tribes and a civil war. But he must do it blindfolded.
  • Sat, 25 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: A carnival bridging two towns - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Once a year the Swiss and German sister towns of Laufenburg are connected with a carnival. Napoleon split the town in two back in the 1800s and they have been separated by the River Rhine ever since. It is dark and cold at five o'clock in the morning. From a distance you hear the rhythmic, monotonous and metallic clanking of the "Tschättermusik". The eerie music gets louder until you reach the middle of the procession in which the revellers use saw blades on old pans and other metal objects. It's Thursday, the so-called "3 Faissen", the day the carnival officially opens. The madcap cross-border procession has for centuries connected the twin German and the Swiss towns of Laufenburg. It's a unique occasion. As part of the pre-Lent Swabian Alemannic Carnival celebrating folklore in Switzerland, southern Germany, Alsace and Vorarlberg, the carnival was included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list in 2014. Today it is one of the oldest carnivals in southern German region ...
  • Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:00:00 +0000: Dicing with debt: a guide to government overspending - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    No country can function without debt. But with countries such as Greece and Italy continuing to give economists and politicians sleepless nights, swissinfo.ch explains the causes and potential consequences of being seriously in the red. Tax income alone is not enough to build roads, hospitals and schools, so nations issue bonds to borrow money from the financial markets. However, some economists fear the world is growing dependent on a growing mountain of debt – and it could end badly. The European Union considers the safe limit of state debt to be no more than 60% of a country’s annual economic output. But many countries have gone way over that limit. In fact non-EU Switzerland is one of few European countries under it, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As shown below, the most-indebted countries are largely “rich” economies. As in real life, the more money you have, the more you can borrow. Also, rich countries are mostly ...
  • Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:11:00 +0000: The pastor of the homeless turns 90 - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland’s best-known pastor, Ernst Sieber, is celebrating his 90th birthday. For decades he has worked tirelessly for the poor and those on the edges of society, driven by a vision for a fairer world with greater solidarity. At the beginning of the 1960s Sieber converted a bunker into a shelter for the homeless. In the 1980s he launched a crusade against drugs in Zurich that paved the way for him to become a member of the House of Representatives for the Protestant Party from 1991 to 1995. At the peak of his activities, Sieber’s social programme included shelters, homes and meeting places in four cantons with 215 workers. Rocked by a financial scandal, his social work foundation risked bankruptcy at the end of 2004 but was saved by intervention from the state and church and by donations. Sieber was forced to resign as head of the foundation but he stayed on as honorary chairman. Ernst Sieber lives in canton Zurich with his wife and their eight children, four of whom are ...
  • Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: One person, one vote? – not in Switzerland - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Thanks to federalism, Donald Trump is the American president, although Hillary Clinton got more votes. In Switzerland, votes also have varying weights depending on the canton. After the election, the news that Clinton had received about 2.9 million more votes than Trump was a sensation. Switzerland also has such mechanisms. Here are two elements that give the small cantons more weight than their populations would yield: Senate: This 46-seat chamber of parliament has two representatives from each canton and one representative from each half-canton, regardless of population. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is population-based and has 200 seats. Both chambers have equal power. Majority of cantons: Amendments to the constitution must be supported not only by a majority of the voters, but also by a majority of the cantons. Sometimes, a popular majority agrees to a proposal, but not the majority of cantons – which takes the matter off the table.
  • Fri, 24 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: The Swiss love things that go bump in the night - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    It’s not only the famous Basel Fasnacht that is an eerie sight, with its gruesome costumes to scare away the spirits of winter. That’s just a small taste of Switzerland’s passion for the macabre. There are many examples of this lust for gruesomeness. The Moulage Museum, part of University Hospital Zurich, exhibits wax replicas of people who have died from horrible diseases. They would not be out of place in the bars opened by sci-fi artist H.R.Giger, who was responsible for the spine-chilling sets in the Alien, Poltergeist and Prometheus movies. In Chur and Gruyère, you can enjoy an earthly drink surrounded by his out-of-this world creations. A completely different world also presents itself down in the dark and clammy caves of the “Höllgrotten”. Their name, “Hell Grottoes”, is just about right for the limestone caves full of shadows lurking behind stalactites and stalagmites. Appenzell hosts a very strange festival to herald the New Year. The ritual known as "Silvesterklaus” ...
  • Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:00:00 +0000: ‘Erdogan wants to set an example in Switzerland too’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Turkey has called on Switzerland to arrest, and sentence if necessary, critics suspected of defaming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Swiss journalist Fabian Eberhard explains what is behind Ankara’s requests for legal assistance. The autocratic regime of Erdogan keeps tightening the screw, cracking down on its opponents. In one of the latest moves on February 8, the government sacked nearly 4,500 civil servants, most of them working in education. Following the failed coup against Erdogan last August, the regime has also been trying to extend its reach to Switzerland. The Swiss justice authorities have received several requests for legal assistance from Ankara, as the SonntagsZeitung newspaper revealed last month. A spokesman for the Federal Justice Office confirmed to Eberhard, a specialist on Turkey, that “half a dozen” requests were filed by Ankara. It is not clear how Switzerland will respond. During a visit to Bern last November, the Turkish ...
  • Thu, 23 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: Behind the scenes of an Oscar-nominated film - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The Swiss stop motion animation “My Life as a Courgette” involved months of work and painstaking attention to detail. Every second of the Oscar-nominated film was carefully created, and even the puppets had their own costume designer. (RTS, swissinfo.ch, cp) The animated film by French-Swiss director Claude Barras tells the story of a nine-year-old boy who is sent to a children’s home after the unexpected death of his mother. There, he finds a new group of friends he can rely on. The film used 54 puppets and took ten months to complete. It was made using stop motion animation, which involves capturing one frame at time, and editing the images together afterwards. It means that physical objects, such as puppets, have to be moved for each frame, thus creating the illusion of movement when the sequence of captured images is played together at speed. The puppets used for “My Life as a Courgette” are about 25cm high (10 inches) and made by hand from different materials like latex ...
  • Wed, 22 Feb 2017 12:34:00 +0000: Switzerland and Russia go back a long way - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    When it comes to Russian history, Switzerland might be most remembered as the place where Lenin took refuge before returning home to lead a revolution. But the two nations share a surprisingly rich history. Here’s a round-up of ties linking them. 1. First contact in the 17th century Already in 1667, the Republic of Geneva and Moscow’s foreign ministry were doing official business together. Thanks to its academic reputation, Geneva was a hotspot for Russia’s high society. Zurich-based Russian author Mikhail Shishkin cites “the strict customs in Calvin’s city, the deep knowledge of its professors and the easy-to-understand local language” as key attractions for the Russian aristocracy. 2. Czar Alexander I gave Switzerland 100,000 roubles According to Thurgau historian Rolf Soland, in 1817 Czar Alexander I sent 100,000 roubles to badly-hit eastern Switzerland when he heard about the Swiss famine. He gave Canton Glarus 66,000 roubles to improve the soil and help the ...
  • Wed, 22 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: Are the Swiss too strict about the Dublin accords? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland sends most asylum seekers back to neighbouring Italy, though they never registered there. A data analysis by swissinfo.ch shows Switzerland’s strict application of the Dublin accords. The regulations establish asylum procedures among 32 European states. "The smugglers told me, 'If you don’t get fingerprinted in Italy, you can continue to the north.' I wanted to go to Switzerland because my brother lives there with his family," says Semere*, a refugee from Eritrea who is 20 years old. "So I ran off as soon as I landed in Sicily. I took the train to Chiasso and applied for asylum. I thought I had done ‘everything right'. Instead, the authorities told me a few months later that I had to return to Italy." Eurodac allows EU and EFTA countries to identify asylum seekers. The migration authorities can use fingerprints to determine whether a foreign person has already applied for asylum in another member country of the Dublin accords or has illegally entered one of these ...
  • Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:00:00 +0000: ‘Don’t come to Switzerland’ – the anti-tourism campaign - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Debunking the myth of “Paradise Switzerland” and informing African migrants about the risks of travelling to Europe is the goal of a Swiss-funded television series set in Nigeria. The images are very far from the traditional tourist campaigns featuring sun, mountains, lakes and outdoor cafés. Living in Switzerland is not always easy – as Joshua’s story shows. The young Nigerian, denied asylum by the Swiss authorities and now living in Switzerland illegally, is the protagonist of “The Missing Steps”, a Swiss-Nigerian co-production made as part of the migration partnership signed by the two countries in 2011. The 13-episode series has a clear aim: to deter Nigerian migrants from searching for a better future in Switzerland. “We want to provide objective information on migration, showing that the crossing [of the Mediterranean] is dangerous and that the chances of Nigerians being granted asylum are low. We also intend to explain that life for illegal ...
  • Tue, 21 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: Pensions – what women need to know - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Many women in Switzerland work part time or not at all, often resulting in a small pension that is not enough to live on. Marianne de Mestral is one example. De Mestral is 80 years old and spent part of her early working life in the United States. She also worked part-time while her sons were young. The result: a modest pension. “When I was a young married woman, the place of women in society was different to today. We didn’t have the right to vote, a woman stayed home with the children and if she worked it was for pleasure,” she told swissinfo.ch. “The understanding that I was responsible for myself grew as I got older.” She became politically active after women received the right to vote in 1971. But she did not consider her pension or old age, as she was concerned with women’s rights and childcare, said de Mestral, who remains politically active, as co-president of the leftwing Social Democratic seniors wing, SP60+. Fortunately, women’s role in society has ...
  • Tue, 21 Feb 2017 09:37:00 +0000: Spreading Odebrecht corruption claims put Latin American leaders on notice - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    When Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski held a call with US President Donald Trump last week, one of his tasks was to ask whether his former boss could be extradited. Alejandro Toledo, president from 2001 to 2006, is wanted on suspicion that he received $20m in illicit funds from Brazilian group Odebrecht. Mr Toledo, believed to be in California, has rejected the claims. Two other former Peruvian presidents are also facing scrutiny for links with Odebrecht, while Mr Kuczynski is facing an investigation for agreeing a law that smoothed the granting of road contracts when he was Mr Toledo’s prime minister. But Peru is just one country rattled by the shockwaves from the admission by Latin America’s biggest construction company that it paid $788m in bribes in 12 countries in the region. Interpol has issued wanted notices for two sons of Ricardo Martinelli, former president of Panama. The case has already led to the Brazilian group agreeing a plea ...
  • Mon, 20 Feb 2017 10:00:00 +0000: Hunting wolves in the laboratory - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Wolves returned to Switzerland more than 20 years ago, but the debate about their presence doesn’t show the slightest sign of abating among politicians or the media. While talking about these animals is easy, it’s much harder working out their movements and exact numbers. Observing wolves is difficult, capturing them almost impossible. The study of how their populations evolve is based on the genetic analysis of the traces they leave behind, for example hair, excrement and saliva. This is the far-from-simple task that Luca Fumagalli, director of the Laboratory for Conservation Biology at the University of Lausanne, has been carrying out for the past 15 years on behalf of the Federal Office for the Environment. Every week, KORA, an organisation for carnivore ecology and wildlife management based in canton Bern, sends samples it has collected to the university laboratory. The first question Fumagalli and his assistants ask themselves is: Does the DNA in ...
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