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  • Sun, 15 Dec 2019 10:00:00 +0000: How Swiss tunnel technology is controlling pollution a continent away - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Throughout Latin America, pollution from transport and machinery has been adding to greenhouse gas emissions while causing growing health issues. A Swiss programme based on technology developed for trans-Alpine tunnels has helped Chile become a leader in addressing vehicle smog.  On a recent afternoon in a suburb of the Chilean capital Santiago, a group of government experts met at a construction site. They were there to see an excavator fitted with a filter to reduce ultra-fine particle emissions, or black carbon. A new measuring device was about to give its first precise readings on the filter’s performance.  “Look at that number,” exclaimed Stamios Pothos of TSI, the US manufacturer of the measuring device. The excavator, he said, was now outputting fewer particles than the background pollution level in the air, meaning that the filter was “doing a good job”.  The filter is part of a Swiss-supported programme known as CALAC+  which aims to lower emissions in four Latin ...
  • Sat, 14 Dec 2019 10:00:00 +0000: The Swiss are building empty homes in the suburbs - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    There are enough of them, but in the wrong places – this is the apartment and housing market in Switzerland. Photographer Sophie Stieger has documented the paradox. In the heart of cities like Zurich, Geneva and Basel, it’s not unusual to find hundreds of people queuing to visit a flat that’s been put up for rent. But in rural areas, it’s more common to find newly built housing developments sitting empty. In peripheral regions of the country, such as cantons Jura or Ticino, entire villages have fallen into disrepair. Two phenomena explain why the housing vacancy level is relatively high in Switzerland. Firstly, people move away from economically poor peripheral regions in search of jobs, and in the more extreme of such cases, homes remain empty for so long that they become ruins. Even in the economically prosperous region of central Switzerland, new developments sprout up in the rural areas only to remain half empty. Occupants are so hard to come by that landlords try to ...
  • Fri, 13 Dec 2019 15:52:00 +0000: ‘Where is the action?’ Swiss youth leaders frustrated as climate talks end - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Empowered by having put climate issues at the centre of recent parliamentary elections in Switzerland, youth leaders who travelled to Madrid to attend the United Nations climate talks say they are frustrated – and tired – following discussions by negotiators.  “Over the past two weeks, there have been lots of empty words,” said Lena Bühler, a 16-year-old high school student from the Swiss capital Bern. She notes that the most action on climate change in the past year has been taken by young activists from the Fridays for Future movement launched by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, and by indigenous peoples who are increasingly impacted by the effects of global warming.  After the 2015 Paris Agreement pledged to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius on average, international negotiators at the COP25 have been discussing ways to implement the pledge amid current predictions of a three-degree increase by the end of the century. These include the use of carbon credits ...
  • Fri, 13 Dec 2019 15:15:00 +0000: What you can do right now to help the climate - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    As the COP25 climate conference wraps up with another set of national pledges to reduce carbon emissions, what can individuals do to help? Four Swiss research institutions and energy companies weighed in. Fly less, stay longer “The single most important individual contribution of Swiss people to climate change relates to flights. Swiss people are extremely active travellers, thus ‘flying less’ can make a big change in the individual climate footprint,” says Nino Künzli, deputy director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, which last week hosted a two-day symposium on the effects of climate change on health. The importance of reducing air travel is echoed by the CEO of myclimate, a Swiss foundation that promotes emission-reducing climate protection projects. Its online calculator helps people figure out their carbon footprint and suggests how much they could donate in order to compensate. “Flying is not a human right. It is a luxury that we gave gotten used to ...
  • Fri, 13 Dec 2019 10:51:00 +0000: UK election: ‘A goal in extra time is not a good way to do politics’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    What does the latest election result in Britain mean for the state of the country’s democracy?  Political analysts Patrick Emmenegger and Bruno Kaufmann have observed numerous referendums in Switzerland and abroad. They weigh in on next steps for Britain and the British political system following Thursday’s general election, which many have labelled another referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union.  swissinfo.ch: Where does the planned EU exit leave the large number of people who voted Remain and who campaigned for a second referendum? Where will they voice their democratic concerns in future?  Patrick Emmenegger: The result is clear. The large number of people who would like to remain in the European Union can express their dissatisfaction from the opposition seats in Westminster or in the media. Yet, the Conservative majority will move on with Brexit. However, Brexit won’t be over in January. Numerous questions about Britain’s future relationship with the ...
  • Fri, 13 Dec 2019 10:00:00 +0000: Is Switzerland a utopia of wealth distribution? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    While discussions about the increasing rift between the rich and the poor are ongoing in many countries, an opinion piece in the New York Times has hailed Switzerland for its high levels of wealth distribution. Switzerland is a less socialist but more successful utopia than Scandinavia, it wrote. Is there any truth in this? Series: Social inequality in Switzerland In recent years, social inequality has been a popular topic in research, media, politics and even everyday conversation. It is also a hot issue in Switzerland. One notable sign of this has been the Young Socialist party’s “99% Initiative”, which demands that capital income like interest or dividend payments be taxed at a higher rate than earned income. The initiative aims to “achieve justice and trim the privileges of the superrich once and for all”, the youth group says. Is Switzerland a paradise of equality? However, in an opinion piece headlined The Happy, Healthy Capitalists of Switzerland, published in the New ...
  • Fri, 13 Dec 2019 07:08:00 +0000: UK election: ‘The hard work is only just beginning’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    “Britons face a rude awakening”, “Brexit drama simply goes to the next round” – Swiss newspapers agree that while the Conservative Party’s election victory was impressive, a reality check awaits voters hoping that the messy divorce is finally over.  “Brexit Boris has done it and secured an absolute majority in parliament. He can finally ‘get Brexit done’ and lead the country out of the EU on January 31,” said tabloid Blick. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party won a resounding election victory on Thursday night – claiming a string of Leave-supporting seats from Labour in the opposition party’s heartlands of Wales and northern England – that markets believe makes an orderly British exit from the European Union all but certain.  “But Britons face a rude awakening,” Blick warned. Why? “Johnson’s Brexit deal isn’t enough! Leaving the EU means the hard work is only just beginning.”  Johnson now faces the task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU, possibly in ...
  • Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:49:00 +0000: When trees defy gravity - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    If you’ve been reading my newsletters of late, you could rightly accuse me of having an obsession for land and rockslides as well as avalanches. At least I have been straight up about it. I even titled my last column, “The slippery slope of Alpine farming”. I’ve also tried to explain why the rapid melting of glaciers matters to us all, and described how researchers have wired the Matterhorn to measure the formation of cracks that could lead to deadly rockfall. It all started this spring when I thought it a good idea to inform you of the huge efforts made to keep unstable slopes stable in the Alps, and therefore people, livestock and infrastructure safe. At the risk of putting myself on a very slippery slope, I have come across new research that may prove to be very useful to prevent landslides and avalanches. The study authors, interpreting data collected from over 750 landslides in the Alps and pre-Alps over a 20-year period, have for the first time been able to clearly define ...
  • Thu, 12 Dec 2019 14:00:00 +0000: Can Swiss business and human rights co-exist? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland performs a delicate dance when it comes to promoting business interests, maintaining neutrality and defending human rights. Daniel Warner looks at recent examples and the stakes at play. Doing business with other countries and promoting human rights can and do go hand in hand, Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Pascale Baeriswyl recently told swissinfo.ch. According to Baeriswyl, the future Swiss Ambassador to the UN in New York and the woman in charge of writing the country’s foreign policy strategy for the near future, “you cannot sustainably have good business and economic relations if a country is in dire domestic shape. In most cases economic relations do not contradict other foreign policy goals”. What is the relationship between business and human rights? In a transactional world – the world as conceived by Donald Trump – the economic benefits of business far outweigh human rights concerns. At best, business cooperation can lead to better ...
  • Thu, 12 Dec 2019 10:00:00 +0000: Is bullying on the rise in Switzerland? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Bullying, especially physical harassment, seems to be on the increase in Swiss schools, according to data from the latest global PISA study. But how big a problem has bullying become in Switzerland? The 2018 PISA survey from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), published earlier this month, looked at the academic performance of 15-year-olds around the world. As we reported, the Swiss results were varied. + Swiss PISA 2018: down for reading, good at maths The study also looked at pupil wellbeing - and here it found that 22% of pupils in Switzerland said that they had been bullied at least a few times a month, close to the OECD average of 23%. But the Swiss national report on PISA 2018, commissioned by the federal authorities and the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), took a deeper delve into these statistics – and paints a more nuanced picture. It shows a rise in school bullying since the last PISA survey of 2015, with the ...
  • Wed, 11 Dec 2019 14:22:00 +0000: Green Party bid for seat in Swiss government fails - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Parliament has re-elected all the members of the multi-party Swiss government for the next four years, rejecting a bid by the Green Party to win a seat in the seven-strong executive branch. Defence Minister Viola Amherd, Interior Minister Alain Berset and Finance Minister Ueli Maurer won the most votes – 218, 214 and 213 respectively from the 244 parliamentarians present – in a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday. As widely expected, the candidate from the Green Party, Regula Rytz, failed to win enough support to unseat the embattled foreign minister, Ignazio Cassis. a member of the centre-right Radical Liberal Party. The Green Party challenger received 82 votes, most likely from left-wing parliamentarians, in the secret ballot that produced 145 votes for Cassis. Stability Political experts say the overall election results reflect the will of right-wing and centrist parties to retain a stable political system in Switzerland. However, ...
  • Wed, 11 Dec 2019 11:36:00 +0000: Young activists inspire a Swiss audience on Human Rights Day - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    “I’m fed up.” “I don’t trust any of them.” “I don’t know what to believe.” These are the refrains, it seems, of 21st-century politics. And I’m not talking just about the United Kingdom and its never-ending Brexit misery, or of the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. I met an old Swiss friend out for a walk last weekend, and he said something similar, suggesting that truly inspirational leaders were nowhere to be found nowadays. Meanwhile around the world, from France, to Lebanon, to Chile, to Iraq, public discontent is rising. That ‘fed up’ feeling is bringing people out onto the streets, many of whom seem to share my Swiss friend’s frustration at the lack of brave, visionary leadership. But this week in Geneva, six young women proved the doubters wrong. To mark UN Human Rights Day, Geneva was host to a Young Activists Summit. Memory Banda, campaigner against child marriage from Malawi; indigenous rights defender Hamangai Pataxo from Brazil; Rebecca Kabuo from ...
  • Wed, 11 Dec 2019 10:00:00 +0000: Everyday life for a drug addict in Switzerland - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland’s progressive drug policies have not only caused the open drugs scene to disappear, they have also saved the lives of a large number of addicts. Heroin addicts have now disappeared from public view. How do they live today? A book gives insight into the day-to-day life of a drug addict. In the 1990s, Switzerland seized headlines worldwide with shocking images of the open drugs scene. The misery was so extensive, that starting in 1993 Switzerland dared to break a taboo and distributed heroin to addicts under state control. The goal was to enable addicts to lead a stable life and prevent theft, prostitution and contagious disease. The experiment worked. Thanks to Switzerland’s progressive drug policies, the open drugs scene disappeared. State-controlled heroin distribution saved the lives of many drug addicts. On the flip side, the most heavily addicted have largely disappeared from public view. How do drug addicts who have been dependent for years live? How does their ...
  • Wed, 11 Dec 2019 09:35:00 +0000: Business and human rights can go together, says foreign policy boss - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Doing business with other countries and promoting human rights can and do go “hand in hand”, says Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Pascale Baeriswyl. In an exclusive interview with swissinfo.ch, she talked about foreign policy strategy and her upcoming new post as head of Switzerland’s permanent mission to the United Nations in New York. Baeriswyl is charged with writing Switzerland’s foreign policy strategy for the coming years, inspired by a report from an expert group of which she was part. The group also included representatives from the business community such as Swiss Re insurance group and engineering giant ABB, as well as government representatives, academics and members of think-tanks.  Baeriswyl thinks the frequency of clashes between doing business and promoting human rights in the world is “overrated”. “Conflicts of interest can happen, and if they do, the decision has to go to the political level which then also has to take the responsibility for that ...
  • Tue, 10 Dec 2019 16:22:00 +0000: A pluralistic government built on consensus  - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    On Wednesday Switzerland’s new seven-member government will be elected for a four-year term. After the Greens surged  in recent elections, there has been much talk about a cabinet reshuffle. Here is a historical look at issues affecting the  multi-party government.   The seven-member executive is neither a majority nor a coalition government in the strict political sense. The Swiss cabinet is rather a pluralistic aggregation reflecting a will to reach compromises and to maintain the stability of the direct democracy system.   The current political mix of the Federal Council is the result of a long, slow process of integration. The strength of a political group is a determining factor – although not the sole factor – behind the attribution of a government seat. Strength is based on parliamentary representation and the ability to form majorities during popular votes.   This 2015 video explains how the seven seats on the Federal Council are divided up between the different ...