Swiss government declares that coffee is not essential for survival

At their own peril, the Swiss government has decided that coffee is "not essential" for human survival. After World War I, Switzerland built an emergency reserve of human necessities for use in the event of war, disease, or other catastrophic events. They've now declared that the emergency food supply doesn't need to include coffee. From BBC News:

It currently has 15,300 tonnes saved up - that's enough to last the country three months.

"Coffee contains almost no calories and therefore does not contribute, from the physiological perspective, to safeguarding nutrition," the Federal Office for National Economic Supply said (in German).

image: Julius Schorzman/CC BY-SA 2.0 Read the rest

A critical flaw in Switzerland's e-voting system is a microcosm of everything wrong with e-voting, security practice, and auditing firms

Switzerland is about to have a national election with electronic voting, overseen by Swiss Post; e-voting is a terrible idea and the general consensus among security experts who don't work for e-voting vendors is that it shouldn't be attempted, but if you put out an RFP for magic beans, someone will always show up to sell you magic beans, whether or not magic beans exist. Read the rest

France fines UBS €3.7b for helping rich French residents launder more than €10b

Swiss banking giant UBS has been hit with the largest fine in French history: €3.7b, the result of a 7-year investigation of the bank's role in helping the wealthiest French citizens hide €10b from tax authorities. The fine is more than ten times larger than the next-largest fine in French history, when HSBC paid €300m over its wrongdoing. The fine represents 92% of the bank's 2018 profits. Read the rest

Trump White House cancels Davos trip for World Economic Forum

The planned delegation included Pompeo and Mnuchin.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says the Trump administration has canceled a planned trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. The announcement was made today, Thursday, the 27th day of Trump's partial government shutdown. Read the rest

Insane mudslide caught on video in Switzerland

Mudslides cascading down from the steep Swiss mountains are common enough that locals knew to come out and watch them, but even jaded locals were surprised by the intensity of slides so big they didn't fit under the bridges. Read the rest

Hatred of cowbells is grounds for denial of Swiss passports

Nancy Holten moved to Switzerland 34 years ago as a child, but she's just been denied a Swiss passport because her campaign to end the tradition of Swiss cowbells is "too annoying." Read the rest

Survey: 23 percent of Zurich doctors prescribe homeopathy, but many of them believe it to be a placebo

A survey of 1,500 Zurich canton doctors reported in the Swiss Medical Weekly found that out of the respondents, 23% had prescribed homeopathic "remedies" but only 42% actually believe in homeopathy (a discredited medieval quack remedy that involves giving water to patients that is supposed to "remember" having been in contact with molecules of allegedly helpful compounds that have been diluted out of the dose); 35% of the rest prescribe on the basis that the placebo effect might help their patients. Read the rest

Watch this robotic eel swim about measuring water pollution

Swiss researchers have unleashed a robotic eel in Lake Geneva, and their Envirobot successfully detected where the researchers had poured salt along the shore. Read the rest

Watch people whiz down this steep Swiss alpine slide

On the toboggan run (rodelbahn) overlooking Oeschinen Lake near Kandersteg, Switzerland, some people go in summer for the breathtaking view. Others go for the speedy thrill. Either way it looks like fun! Read the rest

An absurd and awful moment in Switzerland's legendarily bonkers citizenship process

When I was becoming a British citizen, the one thing everyone knew was that the Life in the UK citizenship test was full of weird, arbitrary questions that most Britons couldn't answer, but next to Switzerland, the British process seems downright sane. Read the rest

Artist in residence sought for Bioprocess Labratory in Zurich

Are you an "artist, designer, biohacker, or other cultural practitioner" who's interested in synthetic biology? You could spend 4-6 weeks in Zurich at the Bioprocess Laboratory, where you will "actively engage with scientists working on a synthetic biology related project with focus on the design of antibiotics." Read the rest

Slow TV: spend an hour on this Swiss mountain rail line

For nearly an hour, this steam train from Brienz to Rothorn ascends a steep mountain and navigates narrow tunnels amid spectacular Swiss scenery. In addition to driver POV, YouTuber Timsvideochannel1 also got footage of the views: Read the rest

"Anger Release Machine": a coin-op for shattering fine breakables

In 2008, the Swiss/Danish design team Yarisal & Kublitz created their "Anger Release Machine," a vending machine stocked with "crystal glasses, plates, porcelain, various items" (the catalog helpfully adds "70 x 77 x 182 cm") -- insert coin, shatter breakables, feel better. Read the rest

The surprising spryness of fighters in 15th C armor

Paris's Musée national du Moyen Âge teamed up with The University of Geneva to make this video demonstrating the fighting techniques available to people in 15th century armor, which are much more fluid and athletic that I had presumed -- turns out you can really move in those tin cans. (via We Make Money Not Art) Read the rest

Negative Swiss 50-year bond yields just shattered the global insecurity barometer

National treasury bonds are the safe option in times of global turmoil, and the more uncertain things are, the more people buy them, and the higher their prices go. Read the rest

When Brad Birkenfeld blew the whistle on UBS, the US government paid him $104M and sent him to jail

This interview with UBS whistleblower Brad Birkenfeld is as neat a case study in financial corruption as you could ask for: Birkenfeld's disclosures detailed 19,000 US tax evaders, including the bank's super-secretive list of "politically exposed persons," including people who laundered money for terrorists, and the US government threw him in prison (as well as paying him the largest reward in US history), declined to prosecute three quarters of those implicated, and then put him in prison. Read the rest

US trade rep threatens Colombia's peace process over legal plan to offer cheap leukemia meds

Colombia wants to produce Novartis's leukemia drug imatinib under a compulsory license, something it is allowed to do under its trade agreement with the USA, to bring the price down from $15,161/year (double the annual average income) to prices like those charged in India ($803/year). Read the rest

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