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  • Sat, 25 Nov 2017 10:00:00 +0000: A better life on two wheels - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    More than 22,000 worn-out bicycles travel from Switzerland to the African continent each year. A Swiss company collects and repairs old bikes and ships them south.  Already as a teenager, Paolo Richter was interested in bike mechanics. In 1993 he founded the organization Drahtesel, to which Velafrica belongs. During a development mission in Ghana, he saw people straining for hours to transport heavy loads by foot. This gave him the idea to export used bikes to Africa.  The secondhand bikes from Switzerland are popular in Tanzania. They are more robust and often cheaper than the Chinese ones sold at the local market. But every bike needs repairs and maintenance, which is why Velafrica builds workshops, trains local mechanics, and ensures the supply of spare parts and tools. It creates jobs, training and income opportunities in the region, and the locals get access to affordable and robust bicycles.  In Nshamba, Tanzania, Velafrica’s partner is the Vijana Bicycle Center (VBC).
  • Fri, 24 Nov 2017 18:13:00 +0000: Annemarie Schwarzenbach: on desolate roads heading east - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Swiss author and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach travelled to the Middle East.  The plans for an Asian adventure took shape in Sils, southeast Switzerland. Schwarzenbach, weakened by various withdrawal treatments for her morphine addiction, was recovering in her Swiss residence.  With the Geneva travel writer Ella Maillart, she planned to jump into a Ford and head towards Afghanistan. The trip began in the summer of 1939, taking them from Bulgaria across Turkey and Iran into mountainous Afghanistan. After that, Schwarzenbach and Maillart made it to India, at the time still occupied by Britain.  Relations between the two were strained by Schwarzenbach’s drug problems, resulting in them going their separate ways in October 1939. Maillart stayed in India and waited for the end of the war, while Schwarzenbach joined some French archaeologists and went to Eritrea, then part of Italian East Africa.  At the Eritrean port of ...
  • Fri, 24 Nov 2017 10:00:00 +0000: Village floods after voters sink protection measures - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Uerkheim, a village outside the Swiss city of Zurich, suffers from frequent flooding. Twice, the citizens agreed on flood protection measures. And twice they later reversed their decision. Then came the worst flood in the village’s history.  A thin red line marks the extent of the damage. Painted on the rough exterior wall of the small village shop, it shows how high the waters of the nearby River Uerke rose in the summer of 2017: 1.87 metres over the normal level.  In July, the river rose so high that the village suffered the biggest flood in its history.  Silence In the village shop, a machine to dry out the freshly poured concrete floor is humming away. There are no groceries here anymore, but a few steps further they are on offer in a white construction container. It’s an interim solution.  The woman who runs the shop with her husband shakes her head. She doesn’t want to talk to journalists anymore. She has had too many enquiries in the past few months – from newspapers, ...
  • Fri, 24 Nov 2017 07:53:00 +0000: Regulation on ICOs inconsistent as crypto bubble fears grow - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    When celebrities known more for reality shows than financial prowess start endorsing a particular investment strategy, it is fair to assume a bubble exists. And so it is with initial coin offerings, a virtual way to raise cryptocurrency funds. Stars including socialite Paris Hilton, actor Jamie Foxx and boxer Floyd Mayweather have all taken to social media to claim they are backing cryptocurrency fundraising. ICOs work by a company issuing tokens, typically in exchange for a cryptocurrency such as Ethereum. Tokens can be used to buy future services from the issuer or can be sold on. There have been 211 ICOs through October this year, raising a total of $3.5 billion (CHF3.4 billion), according to data from Coinschedule, an ICO information provider. This is closely correlated to the soaring value of cryptocurrencies: bitcoin’s value has leapt from $997 to $8,150 so far this year: an increase of more than 700 per cent. With the siren-call of high returns, punters – and ...
  • Thu, 23 Nov 2017 16:00:00 +0000: YouTubers come in all shapes and sizes - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week, she attends the Zug film festival, "Zuger Filmtage", to accept an award for her Vlog. The festival provides a competition platform for YouTubers of all ages who have something fresh to offer. Tama meets some of the competitors. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)
  • Thu, 23 Nov 2017 12:00:00 +0000: From farm to table – preparing Thanksgiving turkeys in Switzerland - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    More and more turkeys are ending up on festive dinner tables in Switzerland. swissinfo.ch visits Bühlhof farm in central Switzerland, where the animals are free-range and slaughtered by hand.  Overlooking Lake Lucerne, at the foot of Mount Rigi, is the municipality of Greppen. Bühlhof is home to Christian and Luzia Muheim, as well as their three children, 12 milk cows, three Stiefelgeiss goats, a cat and around 200 turkeys. And no partridges or pear trees in sight.  The animals come to the family farm at six weeks old. Almost 400 turkeys are fattened and slaughtered every year – the females at 100 days, the males at 130 days. One large buyer is the catering section of the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company, but most of the family’s income is from direct sales. Turkeys weighing up to ten kilograms (22lb) can be ordered from October to December – and demand is increasing.  Meat industry umbrella group Proviande says per capita consumption of poultry has risen over the past decade ...
  • Thu, 23 Nov 2017 10:00:00 +0000: A successful model of neutrality - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    ​​​​​​​ Switzerland doesn’t take sides in a war. Thanks to its neutrality, it has been able to stay out of conflicts for a long time. Today Switzerland practises a more active neutrality, which sometimes raises questions.  One point should be made clear at the start – Switzerland did not invent neutrality. Examples of neutrality can be found as far back as the Old Testament and antiquity. In addition to Switzerland, Malta, Costa Rica and Cambodia are permanently neutral; Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria are unaligned states. But Switzerland has practised neutrality longer than anyone else in the world, and it adheres to its neutrality staunchly.  This is not surprising because Swiss neutrality has proven a successful model. As a small state whose population is linguistically, religiously and culturally mixed, the country has succeeded in safeguarding its existence despite being surrounded by conflicting great powers, and has kept out of many wars and clashes.  For that ...
  • Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:01:00 +0000: Carla del Ponte discusses the arrest of Ratko Mladic - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison for atrocities perpetrated during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.  In this interview from May 2011 – held a few days after Mladic’s arrest – Carla del Ponte, a Swiss lawyer who was prosecutor of the ICTY from 1999 to 2007, told swissinfo.ch what Mladic’s arrest meant and discussed the challenges still facing international justice. On Wednesday, del Ponte welcomed the “very positive” sentence handed down to Mladic. “It’s a relief for all the victims, who have finally succeeded in getting justice,” she told Swiss public radio, RTS.  The trial of Mladic is the last one at the ICTY, which will close at the end of the year. Del Ponte said the tribunal had “fully carried out” the mandate given to it by the UN Security Council. “All the responsible politicians and soldiers stood trial. We ...
  • Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:19:00 +0000: When Mugabe came to Switzerland - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Zimbabwe is turning a page in its history after Robert Mugabe resigned as president of the southeastern African nation on Tuesday. He was under strong pressure from the army and his former political allies after last week’s coup. His resignation ends nearly 40 years of rule by a man who turned from independence hero to archetypal African strongman. The 93-year old Mugabe visited the Swiss city of Geneva at least three times in his long career – first to represent the Patriotic Front during the Geneva Conference on Rhodesia in 1976, and then to attend conferences at the United Nations European seat. His last official visit to the shores of Lake Geneva dates back to 2003 when he was granted a visa by the Swiss government despite an international travel ban. swissinfo.ch/urs
  • Wed, 22 Nov 2017 10:51:00 +0000: Progress toward a ‘digital Switzerland’ is advancing, but slowly - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    ​​​​​​​ With the first Swiss Digital Day campaign this week, Switzerland’s digital elite has launched an offensive. But even though the country has acknowledged it’s time to improve digital services and education, we still have a long way to go compared to some other European countries.   On November 21, the organisation digitalswitzerland showcased to people across the country what digitalisation has to offer with its first Swiss Digital Day event. The previous day, representatives from politics, economics and science had gathered at the first national conference on a strategy for a “digital Switzerland.”   In her welcome speech at the conference, Swiss President Doris Leuthard prepared the guests for the day. It’s about weighing up the pros and cons of digitalisation, she said: who would benefit? If implemented correctly, digitalisation is an opportunity, the president affirmed…but she stopped short of revealing how this would work. Political scientist Stefan Klauser is the ...
  • Wed, 22 Nov 2017 10:00:00 +0000: Are Switzerland's politics behind its high competitiveness? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland maintains enviable economic conditions and consistently tops global competitiveness rankings. How much of this is down to its system of government? Swiss economic success is easy to quantify but difficult to explain. How is it that a country with such a small domestic market and some of the highest average incomes in the world can sustain such steady GDP figures, maintain almost full employment, and (most perplexing) consistently grab top spot in global competitiveness rankings? For a single, secret ingredient, you might as well ask about the meaning of life. But this doesn’t stop people looking. And one possible link, recently explored at a conference on the Montreux lakeshore, is between the Swiss federal system and its economy: does the decentralised, multi-tiered political system affect economic conditions? Yes, was the simple answer. “If Switzerland has an economy in fighting form right now, that is largely due to federalism,” argued Tiber Adler of the ...
  • Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:46:00 +0000: President wants more digital risk-taking - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The Swiss government wants to defend its good starting position in the race for the digital future. Communications Minister Doris Leuthard has thus called on researchers to be more venturesome regarding new digital opportunities.  “There is still room for improvement for the e-government,” Leuthard, who also holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, told some 700 representatives from business, science, politics and civil society at a national conference, “Digital Switzerland”, held in Biel on Monday.  Switzerland was not currently a leading light in this sector, she said. In order to change this and benefit from the potential of digitalisation, Leuthard said interdisciplinary cooperation and constant dialogue between all stakeholders was necessary.  The results of the conference will form the basis for formulating the government’s Digital Switzerland strategy, launched in April 2016. 
  • Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:00:00 +0000: How politicians would deal with Islamic fundamentalists - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland’s political parties differ in their approaches to coping with Islamic fundamentalism. Some focus on anti-terror, others on integration. The four largest political parties suggest the following measures for thwarting terrorism and fostering better integration of the Muslim community. Swiss People’s Party: deport and ban The conservative right Swiss People’s Party wants to protect the country mainly by exclusion – especially deportation. The People’s Party is not in favour of integration efforts or public recognition of the Muslim religious community. It has compiled a list of 20 points on how to counter radical Islam. For example, it demands that imams be placed under surveillance and only preach in one of the Swiss national languages. The army and prisons should stop offering pastoral care via imams.  The People’s Party also calls for a ban on mosques and Islamic institutions that spread radical Islam. In addition, financial support for Islam from abroad should be ...
  • Tue, 21 Nov 2017 10:00:00 +0000: Swiss gun makers use mechanical ingenuity to stand out - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Unable to compete on price, some Swiss gun manufacturers are focusing on novelty and customisation to attract wealthy hunters and hobbyists.    Chamois hunting can be a dangerous sport; chasing the elusive mountain-loving goat-antelope to dizzying heights alone and on foot means that one slip could lead to a fatal fall.  “One of my best hunting friends died on a chamois hunt two years ago,” says Manfred Treutler, owner of the Makura hunting rifle company based in central Switzerland.  Treutler himself was always unhappy about having to lug a gun while keeping an eye on his quarry and his balance at high altitudes. Apart from the personal danger, there was always the risk that his precious rifle could fall and get damaged. One day, he approached master Swiss gun maker Markus Ulrich with his problem.  “I asked him to create a take-down [easily disassembled] rifle that I could put in a rucksack, leaving my hands free to climb,” says Treutler. “There were a lot of take-downs on the ...
  • Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:00:00 +0000: Swiss bee expert laments exaggerated focus on insecticides - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The amount of time researchers dedicate to insecticides known as neonicotinoids is disproportionate, compared to the efforts invested in combating the honey bee’s greatest enemy, the varroa mite, argues Swiss bee specialist Jean-Daniel Charrière.  Charrière oversees bee research at the Swiss government's agriculture institute, Agroscope. Bees and other pollinators are vital to three-quarters of the world’s food crops but have been in serious decline in recent decades.  swissinfo.ch: Since 2003, annual bee colony losses in Switzerland have averaged -16%, with a peak of -25%. Earlier this month, however, the Swiss bee association Apisuisse announced an excellent honey harvest nationwide. Should we be worried about the decline of bees in Switzerland? Jean-Daniel Charrière: The situation varies from year to year. But in general, the existence of the Swiss honey bee is not in danger. Owing to beekeepers’ major efforts in replacing collapsed colonies, we still have around 165,000 bee ...

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