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  • Sat, 06 Jun 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Swiss scientist’s work could stop malaria – but how soon? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    When Jeremy Herren left Switzerland to start a bold new research project in Kenya, not many people thought he would succeed. Now, after six years of research, he and his team have announced a breakthrough in the fight against malaria. But it could take years to find out whether the new approach is feasible in practice.  The young Swiss researcher and his team at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) discovered a microbe that naturally occurs in about 5% of a mosquito species common in East Africa. This single-cell fungus, called Microsporidia MB, keeps the mosquitoes from carrying malaria parasites.  “What we have found is very promising,” says the 35-year-old Herren via video call from his home in Nairobi. “Once we figure out how to disperse Microsporidia MB over a large area, this strategy can be successful quite quickly. The microbe would then spread on its own, hopefully over a long period of time.”  Herren’s work on malaria – which kills some ...
  • Fri, 05 Jun 2020 11:49:00 +0000: What’s happening at Swiss borders and airports? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Can I travel to Switzerland? Are the airports open? Can I drive to my holiday home? Here’s an overview of the latest border situation in the small Alpine nation.  Owing to the positive evolution of the coronavirus in Switzerland, many of the unprecedented lockdown measures have been relaxed, including the easing of some border restrictions.   In view of the improving situation, on June 5 the Swiss government announced plans to lift border restrictions with all 27 European Union countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Britain on June 15. Switzerland had already said it would remove entry restrictions on this date with France, Germany and Austria. Its southern neighbour Italy lifted its border controls with Switzerland on June 3, but the Swiss government said a similar move on the Swiss side would be premature.   Austria, meanwhile, decided to open its border with Switzerland one week earlier than planned on June 4. While Swiss residents are now allowed to ...
  • Fri, 05 Jun 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Will there be a happy ending for Swiss cinemas? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    With cinemas able to re-open on June 6, owners are wondering not only whether they should re-open immediately but also what films to show and whether anyone will actually turn up to watch them. One Swiss cinema-owner explains the psychological drama facing the industry since March 16, when all cinemas and theatres were ordered to close. “I think at that point we were all relieved – the days before the lockdown were very difficult because of all the uncertainty,” says Edna Epelbaum, president of the Swiss Cinema Association, referring to the government’s decision to declare an “extraordinary situation” and basically close the country in an attempt to contain Covid-19.  “Each canton was deciding for itself, which made it very difficult for our industry, where we are all dependent on national and international releases. So at one point, the Sunday evening [March 15], half the country was already in lockdown and the other half didn’t know yet. It got to the point where we were ...
  • Fri, 05 Jun 2020 07:00:00 +0000: ‘People of colour always have to look over their shoulder’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Wilson A.* is a Nigerian-born naturalised Swiss citizen, who has lived in the country for nearly two decades. Here, he shares his experiences with racism and the police. As told to author Jessica Davis Plüss. It is very emotional for me to talk about my experience. Sometimes I tell myself that maybe I am at fault or being too sensitive or that I am overreacting. But there are structural problems in society that I see every day. People are protesting in the streets around the world because they are sick and tired of the situation. People are sick and tired of staying silent, of keeping our composure when people call you names or the police pull you aside because of the colour of your skin. Speaking out sets me free from this loneliness and this paranoia that I feel when I walk on the street. I know what George Floyd and Eric Garner were feeling. I said those same words, “Let me breathe”. The police pulled me off a tram and I told them that I have a heart condition, but they put ...
  • Thu, 04 Jun 2020 09:06:00 +0000: Coronavirus: the situation in Switzerland - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland is gradually easing unprecedented Covid-19 restrictions in a bid to avoid further damage to the economy. This is where things stand and the latest on the measures in place. Switzerland reported its first suspected Covid-19-related child fatality on May 29. But there is still some confusion over the circumstances.The country has been gradually loosening coronavirus-related restrictions. The “extraordinary situation” will be officially lifted June 19.Public and private events of up to 300 people are permitted as of June 6, and gatherings of up to 30 people are allowed from May 30.Restrictions on restaurants will be further lifted from June 6, and zoos, theatres, cinemas, sports events and campgrounds will also re-open on the same date. The government will re-open Swiss borders with all European Union and EFTA countries on June 15.A decision on allowing non-European travelers entry into the Schengen Zone will be made on July 6.Hair stylists, physiotherapists, florists and ...
  • Thu, 04 Jun 2020 09:00:00 +0000: How Swiss direct democracy deals with xenophobia - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    “Italians go back to Italy” was the slogan used in the “initiative against an excessive number of foreigners” 50 years ago. It was the first in a series of 42 popular votes on foreigners in Switzerland. Why does the fear of non-Swiss keep coming back?  History was made in Switzerland on June 7, 1970 when voters decided on the fate of Italian guest workers in their country. Although the initiative was rejected, the fact that 46% of voters backed limiting foreigners to 10% of the population in each canton (25% in Geneva) revealed both the widespread xenophobia and the deep rift in society at the time.  Turnout for the initiative was 75%, the highest to date. It was also dubbed the Schwarzenbach Initiative after its initiator James Schwarzenbach, the son of an industrialist family, admirer of Mussolini and sympathiser of the National Front, the Swiss equivalent of the Nazi movement.  Between the end of the Second World War and 2002, hundreds of thousands of Italians arrived in ...
  • Wed, 03 Jun 2020 14:04:00 +0000: ‘Green’ aviation fuel aims to power planes by 2030 - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The Covid-19 pandemic has overshadowed the climate crisis, but with the gradual return of consumption and travel, concerns about global warming are resurfacing. A Swiss start-up is developing an aviation fuel produced solely with water, solar energy and CO2. Will this emission-neutral fuel put an end to “flight shame”?  Synhelion is a company founded by researchers at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich. In mid-May, together with another ETH Zurich spin-off, Climeworks, Synhelion signed a joint letter of intent with the Lufthansa Group to accelerate the market launch of a sustainable aviation fuel.  The aim is not to create new zero-emission aircraft, but to develop a zero-emission fuel by 2030 for those already flying. In other words, the amount of CO2 released during the combustion of this fuel would be equivalent to the amount of CO2 captured in the atmosphere during its production.  But how is it possible to produce a fuel using only carbon dioxide, water and solar ...
  • Wed, 03 Jun 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Covid-19 strains Swiss love affair with cash - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Cash is king in Switzerland, unlike in countries such as Sweden and Norway. But an increasing number of people are now spurning cash and relying on plastic because of coronavirus. Will this trend continue after the crisis? Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the idea of cash being the only pure form of money has been replaced with fears that it helps spread contagion. People are trying to touch as few things as possible, and that applies to cash too. Flu viruses stay on banknotes for up to two weeks, according to a study by the Geneva University Hospital. At the peak of the pandemic in Switzerland, internet searches about the health risks of cash have exploded. Cashless and contactless payment methods have become buzzwords. Because many shops were forced to close their doors temporarily, more transactions were carried out online. Some shops have now re-opened with signs saying they do not accept cash for the time being. “The effect has been significantly fewer cash transactions ...
  • Wed, 03 Jun 2020 07:00:00 +0000: Corruption at FIFA: 25 criminal cases and a prosecutor in hot water - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    As the Federal Prosecutor’s Office continues to investigate numerous corruption cases linked to the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), dismissal proceedings have been launched against the Swiss attorney general, Michael Lauber, because of secret meetings he has held with the FIFA president. swissinfo.ch reviews the ongoing investigations. The story begins The Swiss component of the investigations into corruption at FIFA began with coordinated, global action. At the request of United States authorities, Swiss police entered the hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich on May 27, 2015 and arrested seven FIFA officials suspected of having accepted bribes and commissions. The Swiss federal prosecutor’s office also opened its own criminal investigations into unfair management and money laundering in relation to suspicions of irregularity around the selection of Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 football world cup competitions.  The investigations open In the ...
  • Tue, 02 Jun 2020 08:00:00 +0000: Pandemic triggers debate over home office rules, compensation - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The coronavirus pandemic led an unprecedented number of people to work from home in Switzerland, raising questions over laws applying to home office. Of renewed interest is a 2019 federal court ruling that employers must contribute to employees’ rent payments if they are required to work from home. When is this applicable? “This decision mainly shows that the responsibilities that the employer or the company has [towards employees] also apply to telework,” says Christine Michel, health and safety officer at the Unia interprofessional trade union, Switzerland’s largest labour union.. “The employer continues to be responsible for their health, ensuring that ergonomic conditions are met, that they can take breaks, and that working hours are respected. [Telework] can’t be a cost- saving programme.” We spoke to labour law experts Kurt Pärli of the University of Basel and Thomas Geiser of the University of St Gallen to clarify the implications of this ruling and other questions ...
  • Tue, 02 Jun 2020 06:44:00 +0000: Swiss debate on corporate liability comes to a head - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Some of the world’s biggest companies, from Nestlé to Glencore, face the prospect of tougher ethical regulations in Switzerland, as a four-year debate over business practices comes to a head in parliament this week.  From Tuesday, MPs will have less than three weeks to thrash out a compromise to a proposed change to the law brought by the Responsible Business Initiative (KVI).  The proposal will make businesses in Switzerland legally liable and “guilty until proven innocent” for abuses of human and environmental rights anywhere in their supply chains around the world — whether at subsidiaries or third-party companies.   The KVI emerged in 2016 as a result of Switzerland’s direct democratic process garnering the support of more than 100,000 citizens, the threshold for triggering a referendum.   Under Switzerland’s constitution, the country’s lawmakers have the right to formulate an alternative to the popular proposal. If the initiative’s sponsors agree to the parliamentary ...
  • Mon, 01 Jun 2020 09:00:00 +0000: How food is being reimagined in Switzerland - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    We are taking great care in deciding what we eat, ensuring more often that foods tick the right health, ethical and environmental boxes. Switzerland is proving fertile ground for changing the menu, from a meat substitute based on pea protein to lettuce grown without soil or pesticides. Clare O’Dea digs in. Some of the new innovations have to be tasted to be believed. Like the chicken substitute being produced by the young team behind Planted AG in Zurich, a spin-off of the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). Before I met co-founders Pascal Bieri and Lukas Böni, I popped into a Zurich café to try their product. I ate the plant-based chicken in a salad mix with cabbage, carrot, cucumber, edamame and peanuts. The verdict: looks, feels and tastes like chicken, even when served cold. Things are moving very fast for the young team behind Planted. It is just two years since cousins Bieri and Böni sat down together and sketched out a two page-summary of their scientific and business ...
  • Sun, 31 May 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Is remote learning a model for the future? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    How will technology-​delivered instruction affect learning? It’s still too early to reach a conclusion, but the implications for exams are clear, says ETH Zurich professor Elsbeth Stern. Since mid-​March, schools and universities worldwide have faced the challenge of converting their learning instruction to ICT (information and communications technology) almost overnight. Teachers who until recently have used Moodle merely for storing slides and texts are now communicating with learners via Zoom and WhatsApp.  At many institutions, including ETH, it’s working surprisingly well. Most teachers, whether at university or school, recognise that some of these digital methods will be adopted in the long term. Certainly, after presenting my lectures – hopefully to “real” students in the near future – I’ll be offering Zoom sessions for small groups at off-​peak times and weekends when we can go over any outstanding questions. Fair exams barely feasible But during the experience ...
  • Sun, 31 May 2020 09:00:00 +0000: It helps to be Swiss, says new boss of Palestinian refugee agency  - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Philippe Lazzarini has a tough job. He officially took up the position as head of UNRWA, the UN’s embattled Palestinian refugee agency, on April 1, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As a veteran of UN humanitarian coordination, especially in the Middle East, he doesn’t think he was appointed because he is Swiss. But it helps, he tells swissinfo.ch. He also has plans to get the organisation back on track.  “In the Middle East, Switzerland is one of the nationalities that’s still perceived as not being politically biased,” says Lazzarini. “There is still a perception of a country that has carried for a long time the notion of neutrality. Having said that, it’s certainly not the reason why I have been appointed. But it helps to be Swiss in a region like this one.”  Indeed, the Middle East conflict seems intractable and is highly sensitive, as is the mandate of UNRWA, the UN Refugee and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.   Founded by a UN Resolution in 1949, UNRWA is ...
  • Sat, 30 May 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Geneva's United Nations HQ a ghost town under lockdown - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The United Nations building in Geneva has been deserted since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. British photographer Mark Henley has ventured into the historic complex to capture the unique ghost town atmosphere.  The corridors and meeting rooms of the sprawling Palais des Nations, the UN’s second-biggest headquarters after New York, are usually full of hustle-and-bustle. The complex hosts 1,500 UN staff and regularly welcomes thousands of officials, experts and journalists for meetings. Each year, 2,500 international conferences and meetings are held in the western Swiss city, attended by around 200,000 delegates, including 4,500 heads of state, government and ministers.  But this year, on March 13, Covid-19 put a stop to business as usual at the Palais. The main session of the UN Human Rights Council was forced to suspend its work. Emergency restrictions were imposed on staff and the premises, in line with those in the rest of Switzerland. The huge 853,000m2 building ...