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  • Thu, 20 Feb 2020 10:00:00 +0000: ‘You can’t say we progress quickly, but we progress well’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Johanna Gapany caused an upset when she became Switzerland’s youngest senator in 2019. But the 31-year-old doesn’t fall too far from the classic Radical-Liberal Party line. Last November, by just 138 votes (from 76,441 cast), Gapany became the youngest tenant of Switzerland’s 46-seat Senate, as well as becoming canton Fribourg’s first female senator. It was a surprise. The newspaper Le Temps, which published a glowing profile of Gapany in February 2019, had been less glowing about her “minimal” chances; in a region with a Christian Democrat tradition and a heavyweight Social Democrat candidate, it looked like “mission impossible”, the paper wrote. Even Gapany herself, though she always took her campaign “very seriously”, was coy about her prospects, saying later that such doubts were “normal” given the context. But it wasn’t impossible, even if it was tight, and four months later she is getting to grips with federal politics in Bern, where life is “busier” – she says she’s been ...
  • Wed, 19 Feb 2020 11:00:00 +0000: Non-German speakers can finally go to the theatre in Zurich - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Zurich’s playhouse has recently introduced English surtitles for all its plays, hoping to cater to the big potential audience of expatriates and broaden its reach beyond the German-speaking crowd.  The Schauspielhaus Zurich is one of the leading theatres in the German-speaking world, having put on productions by some of the greatest playwrights and directors, from Bertolt Brecht to Christoph Marthaler.  “However, these great works are limited by the language, for German is not exactly a lingua franca,” says Barbara Higgs, director of fund-raising and development. Higgs is responsible for the implementation of the surtitles, which are not under the stage but over it and to the sides. Facts & Figures Schauspielhaus Zürich, Switzerland's largest theatre, hosts around 140,000 guests annually, staging 500 events on five different stages in two distinctive theatre environments: - Pfauen, the historic original theatre, is located in the city centre near Kunsthaus Zürich. - ...
  • Wed, 19 Feb 2020 10:00:00 +0000: Geneva platform helps climate refugees around the world - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Climate refugees have grabbed international headlines and their stories resonate easily, mirroring those of conflict refugees. Yet the topic is extremely complex, say experts. The Geneva-based Platform on Disaster Displacement is one of the organisations working on this issue, seen as one of the biggest humanitarian challenges this century.  According to the Geneva-based International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is estimated that sea level rise associated with a 2°C warmer world could submerge the homeland of 280 million people by the end of this century.  Currently, many countries and regions are affected by disasters year after year. In 2018 alone, 17.2 million people were forced to leave their homes due to disasters in 148 countries and territories and 764,000 people in Somalia, Afghanistan and several other countries were displaced following drought.  “We have a good general understanding of the scale of problem in terms of the numbers of people being forced to leave ...
  • Wed, 19 Feb 2020 09:03:00 +0000: How Switzerland can benefit from a growing Indian pharma sector - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The life sciences industry is of enormous importance for the economies of both India and Switzerland. That said, there are certain differences in their strategies.  India is a price competitive market. It hosts global players like Dr. Reddy’s, Aurobindo, Biocon or Sun Pharma whose strength is in complex generics and biosimilars. Swiss multinational companies like Novartis, Roche and others focus on research and development of new medicines instead.     There also some similarities. For example, the approach to foreign direct investment promotion is very similar in India and in Switzerland. Both countries run outreach activities through their network of embassies and consulates on a national level. The cantons and states, respectively, support these national activities and reach out to international companies in a more targeted way.    Both countries also have their own pharma hotspots. The Genome Valley in the city of Hyderabad in Southern India has established itself as ...
  • Tue, 18 Feb 2020 18:30:00 +0000: A space boot camp in the Alps - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    A hand-picked group of international students spent a gruelling weekend at a space boot camp in Crans-Montana, in southwestern Switzerland. Though firmly on planet Earth, the aspiring astronauts were preparing for a space mission. The camp, set up on frozen Lake Moubra in canton Valais, is part of the Asclepios project, a space mission simulating a mission on another celestial body. The project is led by Space@yourService, a student association from the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). During the camp, researchers collected psychological and physical data to better understand how astronauts react in difficult and unfamiliar situations. Participants from several countries were chosen from among 200 candidates, mimicking the selection process of the European Space Agency (ESA). The young team called in specialists to help, including EPFL professor and former Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, French polar explorer Alban Michon and experts from the European Space ...
  • Tue, 18 Feb 2020 14:15:00 +0000: Can Switzerland compel its citizens to do public service? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    A popular initiative and a move in parliament aim to make it mandatory for all Swiss to do civic duty that benefits the community and the environment. The goal is to save the militia system and plug staff shortages in key sectors. But the idea may just run counter to international law, which bans forced labour.  A Swiss association for the promotion of militia service called ServiceCitoyen.ch wants to launch a popular initiative in 2020 that would oblige every Swiss citizen to perform militia service. This could be done either as military service or as an equivalent service of civic duty. Parliament would determine the extent to which foreigners would be allowed to volunteer, outside the army.  In doing so, the initiators want to raise the profile of militia service, contribute to solving existing "collective ecological and demographic challenges" and "recognise women as full citizens".  In Switzerland, only men with a Swiss passport are currently obliged to serve in the military.
  • Tue, 18 Feb 2020 10:43:00 +0000: What to do when snow is a no-show? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    It’s a nightmare scenario if you’re a skier: you’ve taken time off work, booked a chalet or hotel in an alpine resort weeks if not months in advance, and when you arrive there’s little if any snow. It was the third warmest January in the Swiss Alps since measurements were first taken in 1864. And in many parts of the Alps, it was also the driest. It confirms what I see as I look at the green hills out my window, lends credence to my father-in-law’s exclamations that he’s never experienced such a dry winter in his eight-odd decades, and explains why the lifts of my local ski hill are closed until further notice. A quick check of the snow report of the Swiss tourist office shows half of the 93 small ski areas across the Alps and Jura hills not in operation, or at best running only a lift or two. Appenzell is an example. It’s been possibly the worst season on record for the companies operating the ski lifts in the northeastern area that consists of high hills and low mountains.
  • Tue, 18 Feb 2020 10:00:00 +0000: Could Switzerland help end the conflict in Yemen?  - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The war in Yemen has been raging for five years, at huge human cost. Some experts believe that neutral Switzerland, which is well respected in the region, might have a role to play in bringing peace.    Switzerland has good relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, which support opposing sides in the Yemen war. Its relations particularly with Riyadh have come in for criticism at home, especially regarding the sale of arms which have sometimes ended up being used in the Yemen war. In January, for example, it was reported that Saudi Arabia used anti-aircraft guns from Switzerland to try and protect its key Abqaiq oilfield from a drone attack by Yemeni Houthi rebels in September 2019.    Swiss exports of war materiel   Since the conflict escalated in March 2015, the Swiss government has banned exports of arms to Saudi Arabia that could be used to commit human rights violations in the context of the war. But an exception is made for spare parts for air defence systems, which Saudi ...
  • Mon, 17 Feb 2020 15:01:00 +0000: Smartwatches call time on the Swiss industry - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The watch industry has always displayed a strong streak of economic irrationality. After all, you can buy a Casio digital watch for £5 that will tell the time more reliably than a mechanical Patek Philippe Grand Complications costing 40,000 times as much. As the advertising slogan goes, every watch tells a story. And the story the watch industry tells is that millions of people will pay a massive premium for style over function. Or, as Ralph Lauren put it rather more poetically, a fine watch, like a well-designed car, is best appreciated as “moving art”. Still, economic irrationality has its limits. And the Apple Watch has been mercilessly exposing them by offering a radically different type of functionality and a very different kind of style. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, the Apple Watch, launched less than five years ago, now outsells the entire Swiss industry, which has been manufacturing wristwatches for 152 years. Last year, Apple increased sales by 36 ...
  • Mon, 17 Feb 2020 08:39:00 +0000: Who can collect Swiss unemployment benefits? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    If you lose your job in Switzerland, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. This is what you need to know. Every month, those with jobs pay into a fund to help those without. The contributions are split between employers and employees. In 2019, the Swiss unemployment rate was 2.3%, a new low. However, the national unemployment rate only counts people registered at regional job centres; those no longer eligible for benefits drop off of these rosters. In comparison, the International Labour Union calculates the unemployment rate as the number of unemployed people times 100 divided by the total labour force, which includes those with and without jobs. In Switzerland last year, 107,000 people received unemployment benefits. Who’s eligible? To apply for unemployment benefits, you must have Swiss residency and work permits, and you need to have been employed for at least 12 months within the past two years. Earnings must have been at least CHF500 ($519) per month.
  • Sat, 15 Feb 2020 10:00:00 +0000: ‘The Swiss will do anything for the right price’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    It’s not just Swiss pundits and papers questioning how the “Crypto leaks” scandal affects Switzerland’s reputation. International media, as well as our readers from around the world, are also commenting on the affair. “Due to its political neutrality, Switzerland is considered an honest and reliable broker when it comes to mediating between two conflict parties. But this good and hitherto extremely profitable reputation of the country is now threatened with damage by the spectacular espionage affair,” commented the Frankfurter Allgemeine, a German newspaper. Crypto leaks in a nutshell Crypto, a Zug-based communications encryption firm which was liquidated in 2018, sold code-making equipment to Iran, India, Pakistan, Latin American nations and dozens of other countries. The technology was modified to let the CIA and German secret service (BND) break codes, as reported by The Washington Post along with Swiss public television, SRF, and German broadcaster ZDF. “I think that for ...
  • Fri, 14 Feb 2020 13:02:00 +0000: How can Switzerland get answers on the Crypto affair?   - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Revelations that a Swiss company was at the heart of a vast CIA spying operation has shaken Switzerland to the core. To shed light on the Crypto scandal, the country may set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry, something it has only done four times in its history.    The government announced on Tuesday that it was opening an inquiry in the wake of revelations by Swiss television SRF, German television ZDF and the Washington Post that Swiss-based firm Crypto AG was at the heart of a huge international spying operation. On Thursday, a parliamentary standing committee in charge of government oversight announced it was also launching an inquiry into how much the government knew at the time.  But left-wing parties are convinced that more is needed and that there should be a full parliamentary investigation, and other parties are not ruling it out. This is something which has only been done in exceptional circumstances – most recently 25 years ago.  However, on Friday, the Office ...
  • Fri, 14 Feb 2020 07:07:00 +0000: Has ‘Crypto Leaks’ exposed Swiss neutrality as a sham? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The spying affair surrounding the Swiss company Crypto has also touched the heart of Swiss identity: neutrality. Swiss politicians, historians and the media are debating the possible consequences of the manipulated cipher devices for the country’s credibility.  It is still unclear who knew what and when about the activities of the CIA and West German intelligence services with the Zug-based encryption company.  This is the key question, because Switzerland is not responsible under international law for the actions of private companies on its territory, as historian Georg Kreis explains in an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger. But the situation would be different, he added, if the government or the secret service had been informed. “Even the [Swiss] intelligence service must subordinate itself to the official doctrine of neutrality,” Kreis said. Otherwise, federal employees would have violated Switzerland’s neutrality – which appears to be the case.  For it is clear from the ...
  • Thu, 13 Feb 2020 17:00:00 +0000: Are Big Pharma’s big innovation plans what we need? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Our analysis of what the biggest global companies in Switzerland are up to. This week: Big Pharma's R&D plans, coronavirus impact, and #cryptoleaks. With the world in a panic over the coronavirus global health emergency, where are the pharmaceutical companies when you need them? Earlier this week, a BBC story asked why more pharmaceutical companies aren’t rushing to develop a global vaccine to tackle the coronavirus as the number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 climb. “One would expect the major pharmaceutical firms to make millions, even billions, by rushing to develop a vaccine,” the reporter writes. If only it was so easy. There are a host of challenges to developing a vaccine quickly in the middle of an outbreak and between the research and manufacturing costs combined with the approval process, it’s no wonder that some companies are inclined to stay away. Swiss companies aren’t the biggest players in vaccines, but some are bringing other parts of the business to the table.
  • Thu, 13 Feb 2020 14:00:00 +0000: Building bridges between society, business, and the environment - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland should take a leading global role on climate and environmental protection, Corina Gredig believes. The young, newly elected Liberal Green parliamentarian plans to push sustainable policies that could harmonise the often disparate interests of society, business and the environment.   “I was very positively struck by the first parliamentary session in December. It seems that deputies treat each other with mutual respect, even when their views differ, and that there can be discussion and expression of opinions beyond the barriers of party and language”, Gredig says.  The young Zurich politician is one of a new generation, green and female, which swept into Switzerland’s parliament in last October’s elections. Never before have so many seats in both chambers been occupied by women and environmentalists, from the Green and Liberal Green parties. “Some long-term members of parliament have been saying that they feel a new atmosphere in parliament. I hope that’s true, and ...