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  • Tue, 23 Jan 2018 13:03:00 +0000: Massive Swiss snowfall levels buck the trend - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    This week, the Swiss resort towns of Andermatt, Zermatt and Davos have all seen record or near-record snow levels. But it's an outlier in a years-long trend of declining snowfall totals. 2012 was the last time in the past decade that so much snow fell in a single day. In Davos and Zermatt, the snow level as of yesterday eclipsed that total. As a result, the whole area is on high alert for avalanches, and several towns have been cut off from transport networks. But on the whole, snowfall levels in all three resorts have been on the decline in the past several years, as the darker colours on these graphics show.  Scenes from Val d'Anniviers in canton Valais, north of Zermatt, show what record snowfall looks like for the people living there.  ​​​​​​​
  • Tue, 23 Jan 2018 11:13:00 +0000: The human brain in machine form: a matter of when, not if - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    How close are scientists to recreating the human brain? What happens when machines become as intelligent, or more intelligent than humans?  Pascal Kaufmann, founder of the Swiss AI firm Starmind, shared his thoughts on those questions at an event hosted by Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology ETH on the fringes of WEF Davos. Mankind has made a mess of the planet and needs artificial intelligence to survive in the future, he argues. And he thinks the holy grail of unlocking the fundamental secrets of the human brain could be achieved in our lifetime. To this end, the Mindfire Initiative aims to gather the best talent in Switzerland to crack this code. "I think it would be awesome if we could somehow harness the talent we have in Switzerland to create a breakthrough," he says. "Unite the talents in the world, invite them to Davos, put them in a Swiss chalet and let them crack the brain code."   Once the code is cracked, the world needs to have systems already in place to ...
  • Tue, 23 Jan 2018 10:00:00 +0000: How the Swiss abroad keep up-to-date with news from home - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Satellite television, internet, the main Swiss newspaper sites, free or behind a paywall: swissinfo.ch asked its Facebook followers how they are keeping informed about the forthcoming vote on abolishing the licence fee for public service broadcasting. The poll can’t claim to be representative, but it gives a sense of how the Swiss living around the world use domestic media to inform themselves, only six weeks ahead of a nationwide vote on a proposal to scrap the mandatory licence fees that fund the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), of which swissinfo.ch is a part. We posted an appeal on our Facebook page in several languages. Here’s a selection of responses from our readers in German, French and English. The German-language public SRF channel is praised by internet users. B.B., a Swiss expatriate in Thailand, is enthusiastic. “SRF is the best channel, notably because of its sports coverage. With Euro.tvasia we can get about 30 different channels in German, including SRF, ...
  • Tue, 23 Jan 2018 07:26:00 +0000: Swiss abroad fear for their future in the UK - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom are close, but the prospect of Brexit has cast a dark cloud over Swiss citizens living in the UK, who are uncertain about what the future may hold.  We talked to three delegates from the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), to find out how their lives might change when the UK is no longer an EU member. Nathalie Chuard is brand manager at Mondelez in Uxbridge, north London. She has worked for the multinational confectionery, food, and beverage company for seven years altogether, first in Switzerland and then in London. She fears that Brexit could threaten the performance of companies like hers. Fellow OSA delegate, Vincent Croset, is a researcher in neuroscience at Oxford University. He told swissinfo.ch why he thinks academics are generally against Brexit. Franz Muheim is a professor at the Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics at the University of Edinburgh, and has lived in the UK for 19 years. He fears that ...
  • Tue, 23 Jan 2018 06:59:00 +0000: Federal taxes: billions of francs and muted opposition - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Swiss voters will have the final say in March on the government’s right to tax its citizens and companies, including value added tax (VAT). This is a unique feature of Switzerland’s political system of direct democracy and federalism. At stake is an impressive amount of money: two-thirds of the government’s tax revenue, or CHF43.5 billion ($44.4 billion) in 2016. But the vote is not so much about the financial volume, but the legal justification which was enshrined in the country’s constitution 60 years ago. The system has to be submitted to parliament and voters at regular intervals. The most recent such ballot took place in 2004. As the licence will expire by 2020, voters are called on to renew it for another 15-year term. There is virtually no opposition to the proposal, and discussions during the parliamentary debate focused on calls by the political right to shorten the term to ten years or to make it an unlimited licence as demanded by the left. Following discussions ...
  • Mon, 22 Jan 2018 16:00:00 +0000: More unauthorised tests uncovered in psychiatric clinics - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    From the 1950s to the 1970s tests with unauthorised drugs where carried out in all university psychiatric clinics in Switzerland. Sometimes, the tests were even done without the patients' permission. All over Switzerland 4,200 patients were affected in total (SRF/SDA/swissinfo.ch). The public were made aware some years ago that tests with unauthorised drugs were carried out at the Universities of Zurich and Basel. Documents now show that clinics in other Swiss cities, such as Lausanne, Geneva and Bern, also experimented with test compounds, sometimes resulting in severe side effects. This is according to investigations by the 'Schweiz Aktuell' programme from Swiss Public Television, SRF. In a similar case, in the 1970s the psychiatric clinic in Wil, St Gallen treated 60 patients with unauthorised drugs. Only in 1980 did canton St Gallen put extensive patient rights into the law. Previously, a patient's agreement was required for operations, but not for drug subscriptions.  The ...
  • Mon, 22 Jan 2018 10:00:00 +0000: Fringe players aim to upstage Trump in Davos - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    When arguably the world’s most divisive figure makes an entrance, the atmosphere is bound to charge up. What better way to kick off the World Economic Forum’s annual congress, entitled “Creating a shared future in a fractured world”, with the arrival of US President Donald Trump? “Our world has become fractured by increasing competition between nations and deep divides within societies,” said WEF founder Klaus Schwab at a pre-meeting press conference. By gathering together so many influential politicians, business leaders and civil society figureheads under one roof, WEF hopes to “overcome these fault lines” and “improve the state of the world”. This will be the 48th WEF annual meeting and the message from Schwab has taken on a familiar ring. Once again, WEF has awarded itself the seemingly impossible task of trying to untangle an endless shopping list of potential global disasters. What is WEF? The World Economic Forum started out life in 1971 as the European Management Forum, ...
  • Mon, 22 Jan 2018 09:52:00 +0000: Donald Trump heads to the magic mountain - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    What is the US President’s motivation for heading to WEF in Davos, a notorious playground for the global elite? Two perspectives on the question. Contributor Daniel Warner argues it’s a way for Trump to escape problems at home: German writer Thomas Mann came to Davos in 1912 to visit his wife who was suffering from lung complications. At that time, Davos was known for its sanatoriums. His visit became the basis of his classic novel, “The Magic Mountain”. Davos later became a famous ski area and home to the annual meeting of those “committed to improving the state of the world,” the World Economic Forum (WEF). More than 100 years after Mann visited his wife, US President Donald Trump is traveling to Davos as the major attraction of the 48th meeting of the WEF. While Trump is certainly not coming to Davos to visit his wife, or any person in whatever sanatoriums are left in the chic Alpine resort, one can easily question what the President of the United States and several ...
  • Mon, 22 Jan 2018 08:14:00 +0000: Trump calls the tune at Davos party - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    When the World Economic Forum (WEF) assembled in Davos last year, the delegates were in shock. Donald Trump had just been elected as president of the US and Britain had recently voted for Brexit. Globalisation’s steady integration of trade, markets and governance is embraced as inevitable and desirable by most of the Davos crowd, yet the very idea seemed under siege in the Trump-Brexit era. Steve Bannon, who was about to enter the White House as Mr Trump’s senior adviser, had styled his ideological enemies the “party of Davos”. A year later, the mood of the businesspeople, financiers, politicians and public intellectuals at Davos is likely to be rather different. Mr Bannon is now a non-person in the Trump White House. President Trump himself, meanwhile, is expected to speak at the WEF — the first time a US president has shown up since Bill Clinton in 2000. Markets are setting new records, against a background of strengthening economic growth, which will doubtless mean many ...
  • Sun, 21 Jan 2018 16:00:00 +0000: Self-disruption key to Swiss fintech success - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Swiss banks and insurers need to drop their dependence on tradition and adopt a disruptive mindset if the country is to challenge the world’s leading financial technology (fintech) players. That’s the view of John Hucker, President of the Swiss Finance and Technology Association. Significant strides have been made in recent years to establish a strong global hub for blockchain and cryptocurrency start-ups. And a constellation of fintech start-ups have emerged in Switzerland. But Switzerland will lag behind the likes of London, Singapore and New York until the traditional wealth management and insurance industries embrace radical change from within, Hucker argues. “For generations, Switzerland relied on banking secrecy to flourish. Now it has gone, the financial sector is seeking a new path,” Hucker told swissinfo.ch. “We are challenging the status quo, because there is no culture of risk taking." “In Singapore, the big banks are actively pushing the whole fintech story. There ...
  • Sun, 21 Jan 2018 16:00:00 +0000: Self-disruption key to Swiss fintech success - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Swiss banks and insurers need to drop their dependence on tradition and adopt a disruptive mindset if the country is to challenge the world’s leading financial technology (fintech) players. That’s the view of John Hucker, President of the Swiss Finance and Technology Association. Significant strides have been made in recent years to establish a strong global hub for blockchain and cryptocurrency start-ups. And a constellation of fintech start-ups have emerged in Switzerland. But Switzerland will lag behind the likes of London, Singapore and New York until the traditional wealth management and insurance industries embrace radical change from within, Hucker argues. “For generations, Switzerland relied on banking secrecy to flourish. Now it has gone, the financial sector is seeking a new path,” Hucker told swissinfo.ch. “We are challenging the status quo, because there is no culture of risk taking." “In Singapore, the big banks are actively pushing the whole fintech story. There ...
  • Sun, 21 Jan 2018 10:00:00 +0000: Eva Witschi: invaluable professional experience in London - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Before eventually returning to Switzerland, where she would like to bring up her children, 25-year-old Eva Witschi wants to “have adventures in the big wide world for a while.” Since 2016, she has been living in Britain with her 26-year-old partner. She sees no risks to her career in advertising there, despite Brexit. swissinfo.ch: Why did you leave Switzerland? Eva Witschi: I left Switzerland in July 2016 with my long-term partner. We had both dreamed of living abroad for a long time. We wanted to go to an English-speaking country and Britain is the nearest. We lived in Birmingham for a year and then moved to London in September 2017. I wouldn’t rule out returning to Switzerland in a couple of years, but first I want to have some adventures in the big wide world. I felt I had reached a dead end in Switzerland because I didn’t know what I wanted to do professionally. In Britain, I found masters courses that don’t exist in Switzerland. They are more creative, relevant and ...
  • Sun, 21 Jan 2018 08:00:00 +0000: Alpinist shows true metal - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    When must a skier throw all his gear on his back and climb a rock face? If his bed for the night is at the top of the ladder, explains Swiss photographer, Dan Patitucci. It was day six on the Berner Ski Tour and we had yet to see the sun, or anything much beyond the tips of our skis.  Our last night was at the Oberaarjoch Hut where we were met by gale force winds that actually blew us all to the ground, scattering us like dominoes.  With each lull in the wind, one of us would charge up the ladder to the hut door.  The stories that come from ski touring in the Alps can be about so much more than skiing. 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 ...
  • Sat, 20 Jan 2018 10:00:00 +0000: The making of a classic - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Since 1930, the company 3R AG has been producing original Davos sledges. Keystone photographer Christian Beutler visited the workshop in Sulgen in canton Thurgau. Although the classic 'Davos Sledge' has its origin in the southeastern resort of Davos, it's been produced in a less well-known place in eastern Switzerland. Steam is used to heat the wood of the sledge runners' to make them bendable, before they are pressed into shape. There are well over 100 sledge runs in Switzerland. The other popular traditional wooden sledge is the 'Grindelwalder', named after the mountain resort in the Bernese Alps. There is little difference between the two types but the Davos sledge has wooden slats on the top, while the Grindelwalder has slats that are fitted into cross-sections of wood.
  • Fri, 19 Jan 2018 10:09:00 +0000: Is digital democracy too risky, or the chance of a generation? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Long dormant, the issue of digital democracy is picking up speed in Switzerland. Two camps are facing off against each other: those who wish to adapt democratic instruments to the realities of the 21st century, and an alliance of traditionalists and security experts. According to the The Economist’s Democracy Index, Switzerland is one of the most democratic countries in the world. It is also a world leader when it comes to IT infrastructure. On the corresponding index of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Switzerland ranks eighth. But Switzerland is struggling to combine technology and democratisation. There are several reasons for this, some related to security. Even some of Switzerland’s youth parties are rallying behind this argument, which is astonishing because technological advances have now brought secure democratic procedures within reach.   Myth of village square democracy The champions of traditionalism, who surface in all political camps, argue that online discussion ...
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