Monday, August 30, 2004

UBS Purchase of Schwab Unit Welcomed

ZURICH - Analysts welcomed news reports that UBS AG (UBSN.VX) was set to buy Charles Schwab'sinstitutional research and trading unit for $265 million on Monday, saying it would fortify the bank's market activities.

But they downplayed the impact that a deal could have on UBS, saying it was small fry for world's seventh-largest bank by market value.

Cash-rich UBS, with a market capitalization of around $80 billion, hopes the acquisition will strengthen its stock-trading operations and produce better prices and market insights for institutional clients, the Wall Street Journal said on Monday, citing unidentified sources.

BUSINESS: FDA Issues 'Approvable Letter' for Novartis' Certican

BASEL - Novartis Pharma AG has received an "approvable" letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Certican (everolimus) in combination with Neoral (ciclosporin for microemulsion) for the prevention of rejection episodes following heart or kidney transplantation.

The FDA has requested that Novartis provide "additional" information supporting a safe and effective dosing regimen for the combination of everolimus and ciclosporin. The FDA had previously issued an approvable letter for Certican in October 2003 with a request for additional clinical data on dosing regimens. Novartis submitted data in response to the first approvable letter in February 2004. However, the FDA still believes that additional clinical studies on dosing are necessary.

Already approved for use in Europe, Certican is a novel proliferation signal inhibitor with immunosuppressive and antiproliferative properties. It is the latest innovation in the 20-year history of Novartis leadership in transplantation medication. The new drug application to the FDA for Certican included data from one of the most extensive drug development programs conducted to date for a transplantation product.

BUSINESS: IBM Asks High Swiss Court to Reject Holocaust Suit

GENEVA - Computer giant IBM has asked Switzerland's high court to block a Gypsy rights group's attempts to sue it for allegedly helping Nazi slaughter in World War II, lawyers said on Monday.

The group accuses IBM of facilitating the mass slaughter of gypsies by selling Nazi Germany its punch-card Hollerith tabulating machines -- the mainframe computer of its era -- knowing it would use them to track and identify victims. IBM had its European headquarters in Geneva during the war.

"We have appealed the case to the supreme court in Switzerland and we are confident that we will prevail," IBM spokesman Fred McNeese said.

If the Gypsies' case goes ahead and is successful, it could eventually cost IBM $12 billion in claims, the plaintiff's lawyer Henri-Philippe Sambuc said. "(But) if the decision overrules the court of justice in Geneva, the case will be over," Sambuc told Reuters by telephone.

The five plaintiffs, all of whom lost family members in death camps in the 1939-1945 period when Nazis killed an estimated six million Jews and 600,000 gypsies in Europe, will claim $20,000 each from IBM.

Copyright: Reuters

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Swiss Expert on Dying Finds Final Rest

Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whose provocative books revolutionized how the living talk about death and advocated a belief in the afterlife, died Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., of natural causes.

She was 78 and not afraid. "I always say that death can be one of the greatest experiences ever," she told USA TODAY in 1997 after a series of strokes left her bedridden. "I've been praying for it for two years."

Her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, helped people understand the emotions surrounding dying and grieving — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — and helped launch the hospice-care movement.

Kübler-Ross wrote of her experiences at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver with terminally ill patients who "may cry for rest, peace and dignity, but ... will get infusions, transfusions, a heart machine, or tracheostomy." In 1999, Time named Kübler-Ross among the 100 most important thinkers of the 20th century.

Elisabeth Kübler was born in Zurich; she graduated from medical school at the University of Zurich in 1957 and began studying in New York in 1958. She was separated from her husband, Emanuel Ross, when he died in 1992.

Kübler-Ross wrote 12 books after On Death and Dying. One of the most controversial was her 1992 book, On Life After Death, based on interviews with more than 20,000 people who gave similar accounts of near-death experiences.

In 1995, after a series of debilitating strokes, she fought for her health, even turning to natural healers. She kept a totem pole in her front yard, and she said spirits had told her she was a Native American in her past life.

What mattered most in life, she said, she learned from those about to leave it: "Live so you don't look back and regret that you've wasted your life. Live life honestly and full." Kübler-Ross is survived by a son, daughter and two granddaughters.

Swiss Observatory: New Earth-Like Planet Discovered

A worldwide team of astronomers has detected a rocky planet like Earth orbiting around a star 50 light years away, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

The discovery is considered the most important since the first exoplanet was found in 1995. Exoplanets are those which orbit a star other than the sun.

"We believe the new planet has a rocky structure, which is more like Earth than any other exoplanet discovered so far," said Didier Queloz of Switzerland's Geneva Observatory, a member of the planet-hunting team.

The unnamed planet, whose mass is 14 times greater than Earth's, is very close to its parent star only a tenth of the distance between the sun and Earth. Therefore, it would be too hot to support any known form of life. Queloz estimated the surface temperature to be 1,200 degrees.

All 120 of the exoplanets discovered since 1995 then have been gaseous giants somewhat similar to Jupiter, the report said.

Copyright UPI

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Microsoft and Bluewin test Broadband TV

BUSINESS: Microsoft tests broadband TV in Switzerland

Microsoft has turned to a Swiss telecommunication operator for the first commercial trial of its system that delivers television signals to consumers over a broadband telecommunications network.

Beginning in September, Swisscom's Internet service provider (ISP) subsidiary Bluewin will deliver 25 TV channels to set top boxes in 600 homes.

During the four-month trial, testers will have access to five pay-TV channels and a video-on-demand service through the set top boxes, which also function as a digital video recorder with a live pause function, Microsoft said. Testers will have to pay for the service: €9.70 (£6.50) a month for 12 channels, or €15.50 for all 25, with pay-per-view films costing from €1.95 to €6.50 each.

POLITICS: Two Young Conservative Swiss Politicians at the Republican Convention in NYC

New York – The Secretary General of the Young Swiss People’s Party (SVP), Thomas Stauffer, and Berne Canton Council Member Thomas Stauffer take part in this year’s Republican Convention from Monday to Thursday.

“Unlike the mother party, the young SVP entertains various contacts with international Organisations,” says Stauffer. According to Stauffer, they therefore received an invitation by the College Republicans, a group of conservative students.

Copyright: rel.

POLITICS: Swiss debate strong asylum restrictions

Zurich - Right-wing Swiss politician Christoph Blocher presented a set of asylum-law changes Wednesday meant to keep frivolous asylum seekers out of Switzerland.

Blocher announced the changes as the official representative of Switzerland's Federal Council, they must still be approved by the country's Council of States.

The new asylum package would make Switzerland less attractive to asylum seekers who might be rejected, Blocher said.
"These people shouldn't come in the first place," Blocher said.

The new plan would extend the maximum allowable detention time for rejected asylum seekers from 9 months to 18 months to ensure more of them actually leave Switzerland. Rejected asylum seekers will also be made ineligible for welfare.

Blocher and others are worried Switzerland could be overrun with immigrant workers posing as asylum seekers.

The United Nations refugee agency has questioned that. Swiss Federal Refugee Office numbers indicate the number of asylum seekers coming to Switzerland is currently at its lowest point since 1990.

Copyright: UPI

ARTS: A Swiss Refuge From Hysteria in an Alpine Setting

LUCERNE, Switzerland, Aug. 21 - Lucerne, with its ancient center, Alpine surroundings and picturesque river and lake, is often described as the most beautiful town in Switzerland.

The Swiss will warn you, however, that the town's weather leaves much to be desired. Sure enough, downpours have been frequent through the first nine days of the Lucerne Festival.

The festival had its inception in 1938, when it was a refuge for musicians who could not or would not return to the Salzburg Festival in neighboring Austria after the Nazi takeover there. To this day, Lucerne provides a peaceful spot for musicians of divergent backgrounds and viewpoints who wish to be heard with equanimity.

Cynics say the absence of an opera house automatically ensures a lower level of hysteria here than at other major European festival locations. In any case, Lucerne's festival is unquestionably one of the most stimulating of its kind, and the culture center's concert hall, inaugurated in 1998, boasts acoustics (developed by Russell Johnson) that are among the world's finest.

William Tell, who may or may not have existed, is the symbol of Swiss resistance to Austrian invaders, so Rossini's "William Tell" Overture seemed a pointed if somewhat obvious choice to start the evening. But there was also a more important musical connection: the concert, which included a fine performance of Haydn's "Military" Symphony, ended with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15, and that work's first movement includes repeated quotations from the final section of Rossini's overture.

In Lucerne this summer the Cleveland Orchestra is the only non-European ensemble among the six orchestras in residence. The Cleveland residency inaugurates a project (sponsored by the Roche pharmaceutical company) that connects the orchestra not only to the Lucerne Festival but also to Carnegie Hall in New York: each year the orchestra is to present the premiere of a work by a respected contemporary composer and then perform it at Carnegie.

Copyright: New York Times, Harvey Sachs

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

POLITICS: Swiss Foreign Policy Focuses on UN Reform

BERNE - The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, has called for reform of the United Nations and explained how Switzerland should conduct its relationship with the European Union.

Opening the annual gathering of Switzerland’s top diplomats, Calmy-Rey said she regretted cuts to the country’s development aid budget, which would freeze spending at 2004 levels for the next four years. This meant Switzerland would likely miss its target of contributing 0.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to development aid by 2010.

The cuts are part of a wider savings package aimed at bringing the federal finances into balance. The overseas development aid budget has already been cut by SFr 57 million this year, and will be trimmed further by SFr 81 million in 2007 and SFr 66 million in 2008.

Calmy-Rey also warned the ambassadors that tight financing meant that some of the country’s offices abroad might have to be closed.

Calmy-Rey said Bern’s spending cuts would limit what Switzerland could do to help reach the United Nations Millennium goal of halving poverty by 2015. She described that target as “simply unreachable”.

She hinted that Switzerland’s ability to influence foreign affairs was limited. “We react to events which are beyond our control,” she told the 100 ambassadors present.

Calmy-Rey also reminded the ambassadors of Switzerland’s opposition to the war in Iraq, and its implications for international security.

She said that conflict, which the United States-led coalition pursued in the face of United Nations opposition, “caused a crisis of collective security… and as one can see, the result is anarchy”. She added that reform of the UN was necessary and that the objective must be to make it an instrument that is both “respected and effective”.

Copyright: swissinfo with agencies

POLITICS: Prague Spring leader Ota Sik dies in Switzerland

Prague, Czech Republic, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Ota Sik, one of the leading figures in Czechoslovakia's ill fated reformist government of 1968, has died, the Czech news agency CTK reported Tuesday. He was 84.

CTK said Sik died in Switzerland late Sunday, 36 years and one day after Soviet tanks invaded Czechoslovakia to bring to an end to reformist Communist Party leader Alexander Dubcek's hopes of building "socialism with a human face."

Sik was the inspiration behind Dubcek's economic reform plans, which envisaged the introduction of market mechanisms. He was subject to a campaign of vilification by the Soviet Union after the invasion once described as a "repugnant" counter-revolutionary.

Sik went into exile in Switzerland and was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship.

BUSINESS: Swatch First-Half Profit Rises on U.S., Asian Demand

GENEVA - Swatch Group AG, the world's largest watchmaker, said first-half profit advanced 17 percent as a recovery in U.S. and Asian spending on luxury goods boosted demand for brands including Omega and Breguet.

Net income rose to 217 million Swiss francs ($171 million) from 186 million francs a year earlier, Biel, Switzerland-based Swatch said in a statement. The median estimate from five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was 221 million francs. Sales climbed 8.6 percent to 1.97 billion francs.

Swatch said the luxury-watch unit is the company's fastest- growing business. Demand for watches including the 3,100-franc Omega Seamaster are helping the company gain market share from rivals such as Cie Financiere Richemont AG. Swatch's designation as the official timekeeper of the Olympics Games may boost sales in the second half, the company said.

Registered shares of Swatch rose 30 centimes, or 1 percent, to 31.75 francs at 10:30 a.m. in Zurich. The stock has gained 7.6 percent so far this year, compared with a 9.9 percent advance by Richemont, the world's second-biggest luxury-goods company and the maker of Piaget watches.

Copyright: Bloomberg

BUSINESS: Zurich Financial Outsources Application Development

"We're getting a very, very flexible framework, where we can redeploy our skills and resources almost to any needs we want," said Michael Paravicini, Zurich Financial Services' chief information technology officer. "Secondly, it's about productivity."

Zurich Financial Services, one of the world's largest insurers, has signed seven-year, $1.3 billion outsourcing agreement with Computer Sciences Corp. to hand off new application development and the management of more than 4,000 existing applications.

ZFS's server infrastructure will continue to be managed in-house, but the deal, signed late last month, will transfer about 1,600 of the Zurich-based company's 5,000 IT employees to El Segundo, California-based CSC. About 650 of the employees being transferred are U.S.-based, ZFS said.

U.S. employees and personnel in the U.K. and Switzerland are expected to transfer to CSC in the fourth quarter, and employees in Germany are expected to make the transition during the second half of 2005.

Copyright: By ECT News Syndication Desk

BUSINESS: Swiss UBS to Acquire Full Ownership of Brokerage JV

Swiss investment bank UBS plans to buy out Brunswick Capital’s 50 percent stake in equity brokerage and investment banking joint venture Brunswick UBS, thus bringing its stake in the company to 100 percent. The information came in the form of a press statement released by UBS late on Monday, August 23.

The terms of the deal between the two partners were not disclosed. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Chairman and CEO of UBS John Costas said in the press release: “Taking full ownership of Brunswick UBS confirms the commitment of UBS to Russia and is consistent with UBS’ strategic objective of establishing a leading presence in the country.

Copyright: MosNews

LEISURE: Swiss ready to hang ten

ZURICH - Surfing could come to Switzerland after a sports group says it plans to build a wave machine on a river in Zurich, the staid financial hub of the land-locked Alpine country.

"Wave riding is also possible far from the sea," said the Stehende Welle (Standing Wave) organisation.

A plastic dam on the bed of the Limmat river would pump out tailor-made waves, the group said, adding it hoped to complete the project in 2006, provided it found sponsorship.

"In Switzerland there are half a million snow boarders and every snow boarder is already halfway to being a surfer. A wave is the ideal substitute in summer," according to a statement on the group's website.

"Even businessmen could have a surf," spokesman Philipp Kempf said.

Copyright: Reuters

BUSINESS: Syngenta, Delta and Pine to Work on Cotton

BASEL, Switzerland - Swiss biotechnology firm Syngenta AG said Tuesday it has agreed to work with U.S.-based Delta and Pine Land Co. to develop and commercialize insect-resistant cotton.

The Swiss company said it will grant Delta and Pine licenses to the gene technology it has developed to protect cotton. In return, it will receive payments for the licenses and a share of grower technology fees. Syngenta did not give further financial details.

Delta and Pine, based in Scott, Miss., is a commercial breeder, producer and marketer of cotton planting seed.
"This agreement with the market leader in cotton seeds will enable Syngenta to commercialize its portfolio of cotton traits," said David Jones, Syngenta's business development chief, in a statement.

Earlier this year, Syngenta dropped a lawsuit claiming Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, infringed on its patent for a technique to make cotton using biotechnology. As part of the settlement, the companies agreed to provide each other with royalty-free, non-exclusive licenses related to the development, use and sale of crops containing agricultural technologies aimed at insect protection and herbicide-tolerance.

Copyright: The Associated Press

Monday, August 23, 2004

WORLD: Switzerland Among Countries who do not Check if Passports are Stolen

LYON, France - Despite heightened terror alerts around the world, people traveling on stolen passports continue to slip across international borders because few countries check to see if incoming passports are among those known to be missing, says Interpol, the international police organization based here.

For example, Milorad Ulemek, believed to have ordered the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindic of Serbia in March 2003, traveled in the previous two years using a stolen passport that border control officers in six countries stamped 26 times, including 6 times in Switzerland and 14 times in Greece.

"What's most shocking for me is how few countries are checking to see what passports coming in are stolen," Ronald K. Noble, the secretary general of Interpol, said in a recent interview. He said that if European border controls had been tighter, Mr. Djindic might not have been killed. The lack of vigilance in screening for stolen passports is one of most disturbing lapses in an evolving international antiterrorism regime that remains frighteningly lax, Interpol officials say.

Any review of the many terrorism investigations around the world shows the extent to which Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations rely on falsified travel documents to move operatives. Often such documents are traded among associates in a terrorist network, but more frequently they are stolen or bought on the black market and changed with a photograph.

Mr. Noble is leading an effort to stop that by linking Interpol's 181 member countries to a stolen travel documents database that will let immigration officials at any border post screen incoming passports and ensure that they are not among the thousands of such documents reported stolen each year.

The database, which includes information for 1.7 million stolen passports and other travel documents, is available to all member states, though participation has been sluggish.

Two months after the database was ready to receive information in June 2002, only two countries had sent Interpol lists of their stolen passports. Even today, only 49 countries have done so.

Many travel documents listed in the Interpol database are blank passports stolen from consulates around the world. Blanks present a particular problem because once a photo and personal information have been added, there is no way to see that the document is false unless the border police check the passport number, which normally exists in no database outside the home country.

The passport used by Mr. Ulemek, also known as Milorad Lukovic or by his nom de guerre, Legija, was one of 100 blank Croatian passports stolen from that country's consulate in Mostar, Bosnia, in 1999. He used it to travel through Switzerland, Austria, Macedonia, Greece, Singapore and Croatia, before being arrested in Belgrade in May.

CRAIG S. SMITH, New York Times

WORLD: Swiss Tie Arabs to al-Qaida Suspect

GENEVA - Swiss investigators have established a link between at least three Arabs detained in a nationwide anti-terror sweep and a purported key al-Qaida member, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The Geneva daily Le Temps said it obtained a copy of a document written by Deputy Federal Prosecutor Claude Nicati in which he detailed his case against 10 people arrested in raids since December and ordered the launch of preliminary judicial proceedings. Five suspects have been released but remain under investigation.

In June, Swiss Federal Prosecutor Valentin Roschacher said investigators had concluded that Switzerland likely was used as a base for financial and logistical support for al-Qaida.

According to Le Temps, Nicati's report said two suspects arrested in Switzerland - both originally from Yemen - were in "close contact with several hardcore members of bin Laden's movement."

The report cited the name Abdallah al-Kini and described him as an "operational al-Qaida agent" involved in the October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole off Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors. Al-Kini, who has not been mentioned previously by Yemeni anti-terror investigators, currently is detained there, the report said.

The report said al-Kini also was "heavily involved" in a series of bombings on foreigners' residential compounds in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May 2003. Thirty-five people, including one Swiss citizen, were killed in the attacks.

The inquiry was based partly on Swiss numbers stored in terrorists' mobile telephones found in Saudi Arabia, court documents have revealed. Al-Kini called a Swiss number in July 2003 and said he wished to travel to Switzerland, Le Temps said, citing Nicati's report.

Swiss investigators previously have found evidence that some of the al-Qaida members who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, made calls in Afghanistan and Pakistan using prepaid cards bought in Switzerland. Swiss lawmakers recently closed a legal loophole allowing customers to purchase the cards anonymously.

Swiss authorities say they have not found evidence the country was a hub for terrorist groups. However, the report said the individuals targeted in the sweep constituted a criminal organization that "transferred large sums of money to persons close to the al-Qaida movement" in European countries, including Switzerland, and Gulf nations.

They are believed to have helped citizens of Muslim nations - particularly Yemen and Somalia - travel to Switzerland and other European countries and to have provided them with fake identities. They also are suspected of "illegal commercial activities."

In other terror inquiries, Swiss authorities have blocked bank accounts containing about $27 million. They also are investigating a now-defunct Muslim financial firm which the U.S. government alleges helped fund al-Qaida.

Copyright: JONATHAN FOWLER, Associated Press

Friday, August 20, 2004

PEOPLE: Jackson has eye on Alpine home

Michael Jackson could soon have a home in the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein, according to a family friend.

Al Walser, a Liechtenstein DJ whose family has been close to the Jacksons since the 1970s, said he had helped Jackson's brother, Jermaine, search for a family home in the country - nestled between Switzerland and Austria.

"They are not looking for another Neverland," he said, referring to Jackson's Californian theme park ranch. "They are drawn to the mountains, the postcard views, and the respect for privacy.

"The family is definitely keen, although the focus now is on the trial."
Jackson is set to stand trial in January on ten charges including child molestation. He has pleaded innocent.

BUSINESS: Iraq Oil Conference in Switzerland

Geneva - Crosspoint Ventures announced today that it is hosting its Annual Iraq Oil Conference to be held at The Sofitel in Geneva, Switzerland, December 9, 10 & 11, 2004.

The Iraq Oil Conference will focus on the changing market dynamics in Iraq, the opportunities to invest in the Iraq oil sector, the government interface with oil and gas companies, and the technical problems of both investing in Iraq and operating in Iraq. The conference will combine the expertise and wisdom of several top-notched International oil and gas companies.

Topics are slated to emphasize and educate the attendees to the current opportunities within the Middle East. The Conference hopes to act as a liaison between the oil and gas companies and the Iraqi Government.

Registration begins October 1st, with a fee of $20,000.00 per attendee. To attend the Conference hosted by Crosspoint Ventures or for more details, visit the Company's website

BUSINESS: Swiss Growth May Quicken, Says President

Berne - Swiss economic growth may accelerate in the second half as a drop in the franc against the euro helps boost exports and households gain confidence in the recovery, President and Economics Minister Joseph Deiss said.

A recovery in Switzerland, Europe's eighth-largest economy, is showing signs of gaining momentum after the worst recession in a decade last year. Demand from the U.S. and Asia has helped boost earnings at companies including Swatch Group AG, the world's biggest watchmaker. Swiss watch exports rose for a sixth consecutive month in July, an industry report showed today.

``We're benefiting from increasing exports and hope that we'll be able to maintain this development for the rest of the year,'' Deiss said. ``The euro seems to be very stable against the franc while there's a certain burden from the weak dollar, which makes it a bit more difficult for export industries.''

Exports, which account for almost half of Swiss gross domestic product, helped drive the economy's 0.4 percent expansion in the first quarter, while consumer spending declined and investment shrank. By comparison, the economy of the dozen nations sharing the euro grew 0.6 percent in that period.

The franc's 4.6 percent drop against the euro since the start of 2003 after three years of gains has added to demand from trading partners by making goods more affordable for countries such as Italy. Versus the dollar, the franc is little changed this year after recovering from a 7 1/2-year high in January.

The franc fell for a second day against the euro, declining to 1.5371 at 9:28 a.m. in Zurich from 1.5362 yesterday. Versus the dollar, the franc advanced to 1.2426 from 1.2436.

``We have actually a positive economic development,'' Deiss said. ``We think that we will have growth of between 1.5 percent and 2 percent this year, which is quite satisfactory.''

Unemployment has held at close to a six-year high of 3.9 percent since November when adjusted for seasonal changes. Accelerating growth in 2005 is expected to show ``an impact'' on the jobless rate, according to Deiss. For 2005, the government sees growth of 2.3 percent.

The government's expert panel on the economy with representatives from ministries and the central bank had its meeting on Aug. 19 in Bern. The revised growth figures will probably be published Aug. 27, while second-quarter gross domestic product is scheduled to be released on Sept. 10.

Copyright: Bloomberg

ARTS: The Unbearable Lightness of Rudy Burckhardt

When the photographer and filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt committed suicide five years ago, leaving a note saying that he had gone to join his lifelong companion, the poet and dance critic Edwin Denby, another suicide, "at the bottom of the pond," Burckhardt's fans hoped that in death he would get the recognition he had missed in life.

Many of his friends, including Willem de Kooning, Alex Katz, Red Grooms, Larry Rivers, Fairfield Porter, Jane Freilicher, Merce Cunningham, John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara, were famous. Meanwhile, Burckhardt was famous only for being underrated. As Ashbery put it, he "has remained unsung for so long that he is practically a subterranean monument."

Has Burckhardt's time come? A big book of his photographs has just been published (Harry N. Abrams), with a long essay by Phillip Lopate and an appreciation by Vincent Katz. And Tibor de Nagy, the gallery that represents Burckhardt's estate, is exhibiting two dozen of his best-known pictures. If fame does not come now, then when?

When Burckhardt first came to New York from his native Basel, in 1935, ready to live down his clean Swiss background and his all-to-famous family name (he was related to the historian Jacob Burckhardt), he found himself overwhelmed by New York. "The tremendous difference in scale between the soaring buildings and the people in the street astonished me," he wrote, "and it took a couple of years before I felt ready to photograph."

Copyright: New York Times, Sarah Boxer

POLITICS: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Geneva

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday in Geneva took part in a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian diplomat was among the victims.

Annan said the United States was conducting an investigation of the attack and that ``we are still waiting for answers.'' ``However long it takes, I pray that the perpetrators are held to account and do not get away with this cold-blooded murder,'' Annan said at the ceremony in Geneva.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

POLITICS: Swiss Abroad Meet at Annual Congress

The Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, has called on the country’s expatriate population to help Switzerland become more open and receptive to change. Friday marks the opening of the annual Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) congress, to be held in Winterthur from Aug. 20th to 22nd.

President Deiss said that the Swiss abroad - of which there are now over 600,000 – were good role models for those who were sceptical about the impact of globalisation on the country.

“You demonstrate to us at home that we have no grounds to fear losing our identity in a more globalised world,” said Deiss.

The number of Swiss living abroad has been growing steadily over the last few decades. There were more than 612,000 Swiss citizens living abroad at the end of last year - an increase of 2.3 per cent on 2002, according to the foreign ministry.

The biggest communities of expatriates are based in France (163,000) and Germany (70,000), as well as in the United States (71,000). Just over 70 per cent of the registered Swiss citizens living abroad have dual nationality.

OSA has been trying to encourage more of those living abroad to vote as a way of increasing their political influence. Nearly 90,000 expatriates were registered to vote last year. They first received the right to vote in 1992. “We are moving closer to our goal of 100,000 registered voters,” said Georg Stucky, the organisation’s president.

This is particularly important for the OSA as it is the number needed to launch a people’s initiative. Politicians have also been weighing up ways in which expatriates could be given increased power, such as being given their own “virtual” canton and parliamentary representatives.

Copyright: Swissinfo, Urs Geiser

VARIOUS: Website for Swiss Children Living Abroad

“The launch of ‘swisskids’ responds to a need expressed by a number of parents,” explained Gabrielle Keller, editor of “Swiss Review”, a magazine for expatriate Swiss. “We wanted to give the children a present to mark the 30th anniversary of Swiss Review.”

swisskids is the first website about Switzerland specifically targeted at Swiss children living abroad. It can be accessed via the Swiss Review website and is available in English, German, French and Spanish.

Its aim is to inform them about Switzerland in an entertaining way and enable them to contact children in Switzerland and other parts of the world.

Like Swiss Review, swisskids is published in collaboration with the Swiss foreign ministry.


BUSINESS: Swiss insurers count cost of US hurricane

Zurich - Swiss Re said claims from a deadly hurricane in Florida would cost the reinsurance giant less than $200 million and Zurich Financial Services forecast claims of $150 million.

The announcements came six days after Hurricane Charley, the worst US storm in 12 years, killed at least 20 people and wrecked thousands of homes.

"Based on preliminary estimates, it expects claims related to Hurricane Charley to be below 200 million dollars before tax," Swiss Re said in a statement, adding that the sum would not alter its full year profit forecasts.

For its part, insurance company Zurich Financial Services said the storm would cost it about $150 million in reinsurance claims.

COMMENTARY: The Swiss are stealing US sports!


ATHENS, Greece – Consider this our national comeuppance. Think of American pride getting pelted, repeatedly, with pies in the face. That's where these Summer Olympics seem to be headed.

We didn't even qualify in baseball. We have evidently forgotten how to play basketball. And now this – now, the ultimate indignity.

We can't beat Switzerland in beach volleyball? Is nothing sacred?

Switzerland! Is there enough sand in the whole country to fill an hourglass? Is there enough beachfront to fling a Frisbee? Is there no sport left that America can call its own, or are we becoming the world's leading exporter of athletic excellence?

These are trying times, people. Yesterday, the men's beach volleyball team of Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard had their cuckoo clocks cleaned by Switzerland's Patrick Heuscher and Stefan Kobel.

Switzerland! A landlocked mountain nation known for its neutrality has suddenly gone all belligerent on the beach. We shouldn't be losing to Switzerland. Not in the Summer Olympics, anyway. You might be willing to concede yodeling, chocolate and money laundering, but not this. America ought to dominate any activity associated with sun, sand, skin and sports.

They didn't film "Baywatch" in Zurich, did they? There are no beaches in Gstaad. Lake Lucerne is lovely, but it's hardly a volleyball hotbed.
With all due respect for alpine athletics, America ought to stomp Switzerland in beach volleyball. We ought to be stalking shutouts.

Maybe we have gotten soft. Maybe American ingenuity is tapped out. Maybe the Joystick Generation is more interested in video games than real games. Maybe we need federal legislation that requires adolescents to experience fresh air at least once per week.

Or maybe the world has gotten smaller than we suppose. Maybe foreign athletes raised with the rigors of cross-country skiing and the stultifying tedium of soccer have recognized the aesthetic superiority of our sports. Maybe they have redirected their obsessive, scientific training regimens to activities Americans still regard as recreational. Maybe they have done to beach volleyball what Microsoft did to Apple – refine someone else's better idea.

ARTS: Swiss Stitchers Quilt Guild meet in Berne, IN

Swiss Stitchers Quilt Guild meet in Berne, IN

Berne, IN - The Swiss Stitchers Quilt Guild will meet August 23 at 7 p.m. in the Social Corner at Swiss Village in Berne. The Guild will be putting the quilts in the frames as they get ready for Swiss Heritage Fall Festival educational day on September 10. These quilts (conforters) will then be donated to a local charity.

Opportunity will be given to sign up for the Swiss Stitchers' all day trip Oct. 11 to visit shops in surrounding area. There will be prizes and discounts from these shops. Anyone who worked at the Swiss Days Quilt Show will be able to go on the trip free of charge, all others will have a $5.00 charge. Show and Tell. Questions call Elaine Crider (260) 589-2387.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

SCIENCE: "Swiss Roll" cuts hybrid car costs

Engineers and scientists are claiming that a new type of battery with cells spirally wound as a Swiss roll could drastically cut the cost of hybrid cars that run on a combination of battery power and small petrol engines.

The research team was given the task of finding a solution to the problem that conventional lead-acid batteries cannot cope with the high power demands of hybrid cars, and very expensive nickel metal hydride batteries have to be used instead.

Although it uses acid, there is no free liquid in the Rholab battery. Instead, the acid is absorbed within a glass fibre separator and the individual cells are round, not square, and spirally wound as a Swiss roll.

Copyright: London Press Service

TECHNOLOGY: American Imaging for Swiss TV

Télévision Suisse Romande (TSR), based in Geneva, Switzerland, is building on its successful Euro 2004 coverage with the use of VertigoXmedia's Producer Xmedia Suite of advanced graphics automation products during this month's Summer Olympic games in Athens, Greece. TSR, part of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, is quickly and easily creating a new, real-time 3D graphics production.

By editing its existing templates, TSR can quickly change colors, fonts, graphics, and page layouts while maintaining the high-quality on-air look achieved during the company's Euro 2004 coverage.

VertigoXmedia is an innovator in the field of graphics automation solutions for broadcast television, cable, and interactive television. VertigoXmedia's products and services have been used by many of the world's leading broadcasters, including CBS, CNBC, CNN, ESPN, FOX, NBC, Time Warner Cable, CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Global Television, and others around the world. For more information, visit

BUSINESS: Employers woo Swiss style machinists

Holyoke, MA - U.S. machine shops are paying premiums to attract and hold highly skilled craftsmen known as "Swiss style" machinists.

The specialty was developed more than a century ago to make tiny, very precise gears and shafts for Switzerland’s watch industry, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

More recently, the specialty has been married to advanced computer-based production techniques that require users to have strong math skills. Those who acquire such skills are in strong demand.

Some "Swiss style" machinists have even been given signing bonuses from new employers.

Copyright: UPI

POLITICS: American Flags in the Swiss Alps

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland - In a cavernous tent arena set up in an old military airfield, a middle-aged man wearing a cowboy hat flourished a blanket-sized American flag as a country singer belted out a ballad.

Outside, in the shadow of the Alps, more star-spangled banners fluttered from flag poles and decorated booths selling Native American jewelry and Wild West souvenirs.

As beer flowed freely, guys and gals in cowboy boots and Stetsons lined-danced and two-stepped to upbeat country tunes blaring live from outdoor stages.

Anti-Americanism may be a growing phenomenon in the wake of the Iraq war, but you never would have guessed it this month at Interlaken's annual International Trucker and Country Festival.

A three-day mix of carnival, country music and lots and lots of shining chrome, the festival brimmed with unabashed, upfront Americana despite widespread local opposition to U.S. foreign policy.

"I'm completely against war, as are most of the Swiss," said a Swiss television personality, Sven Epirney, who moderated the event. "But they love country music, and country music is kind of like that great feeling of space. They are not thinking about the war and that scene. We have our own country scene here."

Founded in 1994, the Interlaken festival is one of the biggest of a number of trucker rallies held across Europe each summer.

Copyright: International Herald Tribune

BUSINESS: Adecco USA Strengthens Management Team with New COO

MELVILLE, N.Y.- Adecco USA announced the appointment of Joyce Russell as U.S. Chief Operating Officer. Russell will play an important role in the management team, overseeing field operations and executing new growth strategies for Adecco USA, the nation's largest staffing company.

Russell was senior vice president of the Southern Division, which, with more than 200 offices, is Adecco's largest operating unit in the U.S.

Adecco S.A. is a Forbes 500 company and the global leader in HR Solutions. The Adecco Group network connects 650,000 associates with business clients each day through its network of 28,000 employees and more than 5,800 offices in 70 territories around the world. Registered in Switzerland, and managed by a multinational team with expertise in markets spanning the globe, the Adecco Group delivers an unparalleled range of flexible staffing and career resources to corporate clients and qualified associates.

Business Wire

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

SCIENCE: Swiss Research Helps to Understand Moss

LEEDS, UK - An international project is to determine the genome sequence of the fast-growing moss. Understanding how this weed works will help scientists get to the root of how other species live and grow and, potentially, improve their resilience.

The quick-growing moss has been used in plant research for over 30 years as it’s easy to cultivate in laboratories. Genetic information from the project will help investigators explain why some varieties of moss can survive extreme conditions.

The sequencing will be carried out by the US Department of Energy. The project builds on 30 years of research in Leeds, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and the USA.

Moss expert Professor David Cove said: “The human genome project is helping us understand genetic causes of disease - and to develop new therapies. It’s clear that much of our knowledge came by comparing the genomes of humans with those of much simpler animals, like flies and worms. Soon, we’ll be able to do the same thing by comparing the genomes of simple and complex plants.”

More information:

POLITICS: Swiss Voting System Aims to Help America Elect its President

BASEL, SWITZERLAND - In the 2000 US Presidential election, approximately 4 to 6 million votes were lost. The voting situation in the USA would therefore not truly reflect what the people want, says Beat Fehr, founder of Swiss Voting System™.

"People want to be certain of the correctness of election outcomes," says Fehr. Swiss Voting System aims to strengthen the U.S. citizens' confidence in the election system. Like Swiss chocolate, Swiss army-knives or Swiss watches, the Swiss voting system is known for accuracy and reliability and is highly prized by the people of Switzerland.

Swiss Voting System™ has taken the best of Swiss voting procedures and condensed the collected information into a compact report. The report also contains information on how to make the U.S. election procedures up to 10 times cheaper, Fehr claims.

On August 16, 2004, the Swiss Voting System Report was presented to the market. Over 2,000 U.S. election officials were informed about its availability. By implementing the findings of the report they now have the opportunity to reassure their voters that their vote will be accurately counted, processed and reflected in the final election results. They can thus help the voters to trust their election system again, so that every voter knows for sure: This time my vote counts.

For more information please visit
Copyright: Market Wire

BUSINESS: Agriculture Giant Syngenta acquires Advanta BV

BASEL, Switzerland, Aug. 17 - Syngenta announced today that the European Commission has approved the acquisition of Advanta BV, one of the world's leading seed companies.

As announced on 12 May, Syngenta acquires Advanta's North American corn and soybean business, which trades under the highly regarded Garst brand. The date of final closing of the acquisition of Advanta by Syngenta is subject to the US approval by the Department of Justice. This is expected soon.

Together with the recently approved acquisition of the Golden Harvest group of companies, this transaction will increase Syngenta's US market share in corn to 15 per cent and in soybean to 13 per cent.

Syngenta is a world-leading agribusiness committed to sustainable agriculture through innovative research and technology. The company is a leader in crop protection, and ranks third in the high-value commercial seeds market. Sales in 2003 were approximately $6.6 billion. Syngenta employs some 19,000 people in over 90 countries. Syngenta is listed on the Swiss stock exchange (SYNN) and in New York (NYSE: SYT).

Further information is available at
Copyright: PR Newswire

VARIOUS: Mystery Man found in Virginia says he is Swiss

NEWPORT NEWS -- A German-speaking man who was found unconscious hasn't been able to provide police with many reliable details about who he is or how he got to Virginia. This reports the Hampton Roads Daily Press.

Paramedics were called to Chesapeake Avenue - near the intersection with Park Avenue - on July 30 and found the man lying on the ground beside a vacant house. The man was taken to a local hospital, where he remained unconscious until Aug. 3.

When he came to, the man identified himself as Peter Flach and said he was from Switzerland. He had no identification on him and has not been able to provide police with an address, phone number or a relative's name.

Officer Holly Hileman, a spokeswoman for the Newport News Police Department, said the man doesn't know how he got to Newport News and has alternately said he fell out of a plane and off of a boat.

Police are hoping someone might recognize the man, help positively identify him and explain how he got to Newport News.

The birth date the man provided to police puts him in his 50s. He's a 5-foot-6-inch white male, weighs 140 pounds, is balding with a full gray beard and moustache and has brown eyes. Anyone with information is asked to call Newport News police at 757-247-2500 or Crime Line at (888) LOCK-U-UP.

Copyright: Hampton Roads Daily Press