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  • Wed, 18 Sep 2019 12:30:00 +0000: Why Geneva remains at the centre of exoplanet research - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    A major international gathering of those searching for planets outside our solar system is a chance for home-grown astronomers to highlight their contributions to the field, not least the CHEOPS space telescope. "When you see a picture of the Eiffel Tower, you say to yourself, 'Oh yes, not bad...', but when you are at the foot of the monument, it has a different impact,” says astronomer Pierre Bratschi. With this idea in mind, he and his colleagues at the Geneva Observatory decided to create a life-sized replica of one of the four large instruments that make up the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The original VLT, used for observing the far reaches of space, is located in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The 15-metre-high structure has been placed on the grounds of the Plainpalais park in Geneva for the duration of a meeting of planetary scientists – those who search for planets orbiting stars outside our solar system – taking place in the city this month. Next to the VLT replica is a ...
  • Wed, 18 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000: These are the hurdles facing women in Swiss politics - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    In Switzerland, female voters outnumber their male counterparts by 10%. Yet women remain a minority in cantonal and federal politics. Here’s a look at some of the reasons for this discrepancy. The Swiss will elect a new parliament this October. Never before have so many women run for a seat in the House of Representatives. However, it is very likely that men will once again dominate the newly elected parliament.  Why do women struggle to succeed in politics? What are the hurdles and why do they fail? This is a search for the reasons across all levels of political life. Members and delegates  Women in politics are confronted with a male majority in virtually all respects. This is evident in party memberships, the most basic level of political participation. The biggest Swiss parties count a total of 93,000 female members, compared to 138,000 men.  However, there are big differences between the parties. For example, the share of men in Switzerland's strongest party, the ...
  • Wed, 18 Sep 2019 08:15:00 +0000: Swiss villages bribe people to come, stay and breed - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Small towns often struggle to retain people, which affects key services and attractions. In the latest Swiss scheme to prevent an exodus, a village near Lucerne is paying youngsters to stay. Grossdietwil, a rural community about an hour northwest of Lucerne, has lots of empty apartments and not enough residents to fill them. So it’s come up with an idea to entice young people to stay: CHF1,500 ($1,510) in cash for those who opt to remain in Grossdietwil – if they’re under 30 and it’s their first home away from their parents. So far, four first-time heads of household have taken advantage of the offer announced in July’s municipal newsletter. The bonus easily covers a month’s rent, as studio apartments in the small town start at about CHF950/month; two-bedroom flats in a new building go for about CHF1,450. “Each bonus is a sensible investment,” mayor Reto Frank told the Willisauer Bote, a regional newspaper. “The youth are our future. They enrich our village life with fresh and ...
  • Tue, 17 Sep 2019 12:00:00 +0000: Who can vote in Switzerland? Who can’t? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    ​​​​​​​ With less than a month to go before parliamentary elections, swissinfo.ch looks at why a third of the Swiss resident population is disenfranchised. What is the voting situation in Switzerland for foreigners, the mentally disabled, prisoners and other minorities?  At the previous elections in 2015, 5.28 million people were entitled to vote out of a total population of 8.33 million (63%). Who were the remaining 37%?  Here we look at various groups of society and whether they can vote at the three levels of government: federal, cantonal and municipal.  Foreigners A quarter of the Swiss population doesn’t have Swiss citizenship. If you don’t have Swiss citizenship, you can’t vote at the federal level (and therefore in parliamentary elections) – even if you were born in Switzerland or have lived in the country all your life. Some 350,000 people were born in Switzerland but don’t have Swiss citizenship.  However, most cantons in French-speaking Switzerland ...
  • Tue, 17 Sep 2019 10:07:00 +0000: Mixed reactions to homeschooling court verdict - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Teachers have welcomed the court ruling stating that there is no constitutional right to homeschooling in Switzerland. But those who teach their kids at home are disappointed as they had hoped for a softening of attitudes. On Monday, Switzerland’s highest court ruled that parents do not have a constitutional right to provide school-aged children with private lessons at home. The verdict came after a mother in canton Basel City appealed the Federal Court, after her application to provide homeschooling for her son was rejected by the local school and cantonal justice authorities. + Read: court says right to private life does not confer right to a private home education The court also ruled that the cantons – who are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland – could decide whether, and to what extent, homeschooling should be authorised (or not). Figures vary but according to a recent Tages-Anzeiger newspaper report, there are over 2,000 homeschooled children in Switzerland.
  • Tue, 17 Sep 2019 08:38:00 +0000: Switzerland in the age of automatic exchange of banking information - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    A year ago, Switzerland began to pass on data on the bank accounts held by foreigners in Swiss banks to around 30 countries. This procedure will be extended to a hundred countries. Why have international tax regulations been introduced? With the globalisation of the world economy and the digitisation of services, it has become increasingly easy to deposit and manage funds with financial institutions in other countries. Large sums of money – believed to be in the thousands of billions of francs - can thus escape tax authorities every year. International tax evasion is a serious problem not only for the rich countries, but even more so for those with few financial resources. With the support of the G20 and the EU, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) therefore drew up international standards in 2014 to enable countries to exchange bank information automatically. More than a hundred countries have so far decided to adhere to these standards, almost half ...
  • Tue, 17 Sep 2019 07:00:00 +0000: Swiss fintech scene on the verge of a ‘big decade’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The number of financial technology (fintech) start-ups is rapidly growing in Switzerland, along with the amount of funding they receive from venture capitalists. Ahead of the Swiss Fintech Fair, swissinfo.ch asked two highly regarded young firms about the dynamic sector. The digital finance platform Numbrs has raised $200 million (CHF198 million) from backers including the Investment Corporation of Dubai. This gives the company, which has yet to turn in a profit in five years of existence, a $1 billion valuation – the so-called “unicorn” status. The Numbrs app allows people to optimise their personal finances by bringing together all their accounts onto one platform, while offering advice on how to reduce fees, control spending and how to best save money. Two years’ ago the firm had to cut back on staff, but numbers have recovered to around 150 at its Zurich HQ. Limitations on the number of non-EU staff it could bring to Switzerland were overcome by employing people remotely.
  • Tue, 17 Sep 2019 06:32:00 +0000: On location with Heidi’s Japanese (grand)fathers - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The 1970s Japanese Heidi cartoon – based on the 19th-century Swiss novel – defined Swissness for many generations around the world. Its creators revisit their source of inspiration in the Swiss mountains. A Japanese group’s two-day stay in the Swiss mountain village of Maienfeld in the summer of 1973 was key for the iconic cartoon tale. swissinfo.ch accompanied two group members, now in their 80s, as they revisited the place that inspired their work.  Maienfeld was muggy and shrouded in fog when we followed Yoichi Kotabe, also of Super Mario fame, and Junzo Nakajima. Nearly half a century ago, they walked up that same hill. This time, with special permission from the local authorities, they went by car.  Back in 1973, the trip was an adventure for Kotabe. He had never left Japan before. “I was so curious and sketched everything that caught my eye, and expanded my imagination from there,” he recalled.   Our destination was the Heidialp, where their guide had told them that ...
  • Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:00:00 +0000: Are Swiss trains becoming less punctual, pricier and more dangerous? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The Swiss Federal Railways is the most efficient in Europe in terms of passengers, punctuality and safety. However, there is no shortage of critics who say the situation is deteriorating. Do they have a point? Switzerland has one of the largest and most extensive rail networks on the continent, with a total length of around 5,100 kilometres. Some 3,200km of this is operated by the Swiss Federal Railways. Founded in 1902, the former federal organisation became a public limited company in 1999. The Swiss rail network is the best in Europe in terms of number of passengers, train punctuality, passenger kilometres travelled and accidents, according to the European Railway Performance Index. However, the statistics conceal a growing discontent, among both passengers and staff. This will be a challenge for whoever replaces CEO Andreas Meyer, who is stepping down at the end of 2020. Passengers and train kilometres Each day up to 1.25 million passengers use Federal Railways trains.
  • Mon, 16 Sep 2019 13:00:00 +0000: Will tobacco-friendly Switzerland change its tune on smoking laws? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland is one of a handful of countries that has not ratified a major global tobacco control treaty. Why has it dragged its feet, and is change in the air?  Switzerland signed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) 15 years ago but has yet to ratify it, as do a handful of tobacco-producing countries such as the United States, Argentina, Malawi and Cuba.  Controlling tobacco use to protect the population’s health has been a long, complicated balancing act in the Alpine country, which is an arch-defender of economic and individual freedoms and home to tobacco companies like Philip Morris.  Almost one in three Swiss adults (27.1%) regularly smokes or consumes tobacco in some form – a stable rate, almost 8% above the global average. The WHO says that while Switzerland is strong when it comes to anti-smoking campaigns on TV and radio, it lacks a total ban on smoking in public places (i.e. 100% smoke-free with no designated smoking ...
  • Mon, 16 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000: How a Montreux bank heist led to calls for the death penalty - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    In the early 1900s Switzerland was rocked by a wave of terror incidents by anarchists. A bank heist carried out by two Russians in Montreux in 1907, in which a bank clerk was shot dead, led to public calls for the death penalty.   On the morning of September 18, 1907, the town of Montreux on Lake Geneva was the scene of dramatic incidents straight out of a gangster movie.  Two men sprint down Avenue du Kursaal. “Stop them, stop them!” cry passers-by. A postal employee, Auguste Vuilliamoz, manages to throw one of them down to the ground; the other takes off “like a rabbit”, according to an eyewitness.  Shots ring out   Jules Favre, a notary, courageously blocks the fugitive’s way. But the man takes out a gun and shoots Favre in the leg, then sprints off again. A hairdresser, Georges Bär, who comes out of his shop meets the same fate – he too is shot. In Schopfergasse, a coachman, Octave Pittet, tries to stop the man. Another shot rings out followed by a scream. Pittet falls to ...
  • Mon, 16 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000: Switzerland’s new US ambassador ‘fascinated’ to be in Washington - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland has a new ambassador to the United States, former intelligence coordinator Jacques Pitteloud. He takes over from Martin Dahinden, who is retiring.  We caught up with Pitteloud just before he left for Washington. In this interview, he talks about Donald Trump, about his own past, and his African connections. The photo above shows Pitteloud and his wife at an event to mark his arrival in Washington, and comes courtesy of the Embassy of Switzerland in the United States.  Subscribe to our podcast, for example on Apple Podcasts, to ensure that you don’t miss the next one.
  • Sun, 15 Sep 2019 14:00:00 +0000: Swiss in New Orleans say 2019 is the year to vote - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Should Swiss living abroad have a say on votes and elections back home?  As part of our series of roundtable discussions in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in October, Swiss people living Louisiana weigh in on the issues that matter most to them. In this talk we hear from Swiss members of the Swiss American Society of New Orleans who’ve lived in the US for anywhere from seven to 50 years. Considering the distance from their homeland, they’re torn about whether they should still be voting in Switzerland or not. But when possible, they still follow current Swiss affairs. Some say that this election year – with environmental policy a major theme – is a key one to cast their ballots. SWI on tour How do Swiss citizens living abroad view the political debate in their home country? What is important to the expat Swiss community when they vote? To tap into the mood of the “fifth Switzerland” during this general election year, swissinfo.ch visited clubs in Europe as well as ...
  • Sun, 15 Sep 2019 12:00:00 +0000: Ten key ingredients for a democratic society  - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    ​​​​​​​ The recent elections in Russia shows the country still has a long way to be a successful democracy. For International Day of Democracy this Sunday, here’s a short checklist of the key things needed for a successful democratic system.  The journalist of the Russian television channel looked at me with expectant eyes. She had asked me to give my take on last weekend’s local elections.  “I think the authorities staged a big show to make people forget that many opposition candidates were excluded from standing in the elections,” I said.  “But – what do they think of the digital technology used for the ballot?” she went on, turning to the giant wall of television screens behind me. They showed live footage from the tens of thousands of polling stations across the country.   I said that I was indeed impressed, adding with a slightly sarcastic tone: “It allows us to see beyond doubt that only very few citizens found their way to a polling station.”  In fact, turnout in ...
  • Sun, 15 Sep 2019 09:00:00 +0000: ‘People are more convinced than ever by democratic ideals’ - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Democracy is in crisis, we often hear – including in the West. Is it? Political scientist Hans Vorländer says that people are keener than ever on democratic ideals, even if globalisation and social media pose challenges. To mark the International Day of Democracy, today September 15, here’s an excerpt from an interview the German researcher gave to Swiss public radio, SRF. SRF: Which is the best democracy in the world? Hans Vorländer: The best democracy is a representative, liberal democratic model, like those that have been developed over centuries in Europe and North America. These models have enabled the reconciliation of two things: self-determination and the protection of fundamental and human rights. SRF: Norway occupies the top spot in the democracy ranking of the Freedom House NGO and the Economist magazine. Does that make sense for you? H.V.: Yes, though I wouldn’t be able to pick out the differences between the countries in the top spots. You always need to see ...