Russia, US enter fresh round of START negotiations

Russia, US enter fresh round of START negotiations Geneva - US and Russian officials on Monday began a new round of talks on a follow-up to the Cold War-era Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on nuclear arms limitation that expires at the end of this year.

A US official said the session in Geneva would remain open until October 2, much longer than had initially been anticipated.

Russian president pays state visit to Switzerland

Russian president pays state visit to Switzerland Geneva - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev started Monday a two day official state trip to Switzerland - the first time a head of state from Moscow has visited Bern.

Trade and energy are believed to be high on the agenda, as Medvedev meets with various Swiss ministers, along with human rights and humanitarian law. Also, the trip will have a focus on European security policy and tax and business issues.

Memory training can help fight forgetfulness in old age

Memory training can help fight forgetfulness in old ageZurich  - "Damn. Now where was that card with the lemon?"

While the mother is still racking her brains, her small son has already found the lemon and correctly turned up three other pairs of memory cards as well. He sees the game as a picture and remembers the details, while she tries to use reason and does not use her brain effectively.

Liechtenstein parliament passes new tax deal with US

Liechtenstei parliamentGeneva  - Liechtenstein's parliament passed a deal signed late last year with the United States meant to facilitate the transfer of information on tax matters, a government statement said Thursday.

The new Law on administrative assistance in tax matters will allow for information exchange upon "justified request" by the US tax authority.

"The request must contain the identity of the US taxpayer and the underlying fact pattern," the government said.

Swiss central bank keeps monetary policy, revises up GDP forecast

swiss-national-bankGeneva - The Swiss National Bank announced Thursday it would continue with an expansionary monetary policy, aiming to keep interest rates low, supply liquidity to markets and prevent an appreciation of the franc against the euro.

The policy, initiated last March, was largely expected to be preserved. The bank said it was, however, proceeding with caution, owing to the uncertainties in the markets, even as it revised upwards its overall forecast for the economy.

UN envoy visits displaced Tamils in northern Sri Lanka

UN envoy visits displaced Tamils in northern Sri LankaColombo - A UN envoy Thursday visited Tamil refugees living in government-controlled camps in northern Sri Lanka, four months after government troops defeated the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, in Sri Lanka for a three-day visit for talks with the government on the post-war situation, visited the camps on the northern Jaffna peninsula to get a better look at the situation, officials said.

UN expert: Sri Lanka should investigate execution video

UN-Sri-LankaGeneva - Sri Lanka's probes into a video showing one of its soldiers executing an incapacitated man do not meet the criteria of "impartial," a UN expert said Thursday, calling for a full investigation.

Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, said that upon review of information handed over by the government, he could not accept Colombo's findings that the video was a fake.

The video, obtained by British Channel 4 and broadcast last month, showed a soldier, speaking the dialect of the Sinhalese majority, kicking a blindfolded and naked man in the back and then shooting him, while making jokes.

After four rounds, new member of Swiss government executive elected

Geneva  - Didier Burkhalter was elected Wednesday to the Swiss Federal Council, the executive branch of government, following four rounds of voting in a combined session of both the upper and lower legislative houses.

The councillor-elect will replace a fellow party member who decided to step down, and the move is expected to be carried out smoothly.

The Swiss system has a collegium executive body, where all seven members are seen as equals and the branch works on the basis of consensus.

The presidency is largely symbolic and rotates on an annual basis, in an effort to ensure all councillors get to hold the title.

UN to award Kennedy posthumous prize as "champion" of refugees

UN to award Kennedy posthumous prize as "champion" of refugees Geneva - The late Edward Kennedy will be awarded a United Nations prize for his work as "an unparalleled champion" of refugees, it was announced Tuesday.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said the Nansen Refugee Award will go to the late United States senator for being a protector of asylum seekers and a sponsor of legislation that incorporated international rules into the US law-books.

Swiss industry sees no signs of recovery

Swiss industry sees no signs of recoveryGeneva  - Production in Switzerland's manufacturing sector shrank in the second quarter this year, the Federal Statistical Office said Tuesday.

Compared to the same period last year, production decreased by 14.9 per cent and sales fell 12.9 per cent.

Orders received and orders on hand dropped 17.5 per cent and 16.4 per cent respectively, year-on-year, while inventories of finished goods shrank by 4 per cent.

The textile, leather, machinery, plastic and rubber sectors were all being hit by the economic downturn. (dpa)

Swatch subsidiary comes under anti-trust investigation

Swatch subsidiary comes under anti-trust investigationGeneva  - A subsidiary of the world's largest watch maker Swatch, ETA Manufacture Horlogere Suisse SA, is being investigated by Switzerland's Competition Commission, according to a statement released Tuesday.

The commission said it was investigating if the unit abused a dominant market position in mechanical parts and violated anti-cartel laws.

Complaints had been coming in since last fall, when the unit changes its pricing and terms of payment, the commission said.

Medvedev to visit Switzerland on official trip

Medvedev to visit Switzerland on official trip Geneva  - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is set to conduct a state visit to Switzerland next week, the government in Bern announced Monday.

The Russian leader and his wife were invited by the Swiss Federal Council, the executive branch of government. They would arrive Monday and spend the first day of their trip in Bern, the capital, and then tour central Switzerland the following day.

On the day of Medvedev's arrival, Russian and United States delegations are expected to meet in Geneva for a fresh round of talks on nuclear disarmament.

Swiss producer and import price index rises, first since last year

Swiss producer and import price index rises, first since last yearGeneva  - Switzerland's index of producer and import prices rose in August in a month-on-month comparison for the first time since July 2008, the Federal Statistics Office reported Monday.

Last month, the combined producer and import index rose 0.1 per cent, on what the FSO said was a 0.3 per cent rise in import prices, particularly certain metals. Producer prices remained stable.

Year-on-year the index fell 5.5 per cent, less than in July, when it dropped 6.1 per cent.

FINA: All doping tests from world championships were negative

Swimming-Worlds-DopingLausanne, Switzerland - Swimming's controlling body FINA on Wednesday announced that all doping tests undertaken at the recent swimming world championship had returned negative.

In a statement released in Lausanne FINA said that they had taken 252 tests from swimmers, who broke an astonishing 43 world records at the meet, 30 from the open water swimming, 33 from diving, 11 from synchronized swimming and 65 from water polo.

Study: Laws should mandate first aid training in Europe

Study: Laws should mandate first aid training in EuropeGeneva - There are wide gaps between European countries when it came to first aid education, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said Wednesday, pushing for laws which would make learning basic life saving techniques mandatory.

Governments should "have a more dynamic approach, by promoting the idea of compulsory first aid education, for example, in schools or when applying for a driving license," the federation said in a report entitled First Aid for a Safer Future: Focus on Europe.

Swiss banker causes row with French financiers

Swiss banker causes row with French financiersGeneva  - A senior private banker has sparked a row with foreign financiers in Switzerland at a time when the entire sector is at a tipping point, suggesting they would sell their assets and branches in Switzerland.

Patrick Odier, a senior partner at the private bank Lombard Odier, one of the largest asset managers in Switzerland, said French banks would get rid of their local branches, following promises from Paris to crack down on secret accounts.

Swiss basketball player to challenge headscarf ban

Islamic-headscarfGeneva  - A Swiss basketball player said she was set to fight a ban on her Islamic headscarf which would force her to either remove the covering or quit the sport, local media reported Wednesday.

Sura Al-Shawk who plays for the team STV Luzerne, was informed by the regional basketball association that International Basketball Federation rules banned headscarves.

"I've been playing wearing my scarf for almost a year and a half. Many of the players have Christian tattoos and religious symbols on their bodies and nobody objects to that," Al-Shawk said, according to the swissinfo. ch news portal.

Swiss and US train aid groups against bio-terror attacks

US-flagGeneva  - The Swiss and US governments are helping train humanitarian aid groups counter the threat of a biological terrorist attacks, the Swiss government said Wednesday.

The two governments hosted a two-day training for international security forces and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on Monday and Tuesday, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern said Wednesday.

Participants included the Red Cross and United Nations agencies like the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.

Swiss businesses lose nearly 4 billion dollars a year to back pain

Swiss businesses lose nearly 4 billion dollars a year to back painGeneva  - Better working conditions would reduce back and other musculoskeletal system problems among labourers and save the Swiss economy over 4 billion Swiss francs a year (over 3.8 billion dollars), a study released Wednesday by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) showed.

"The costs for businesses due to lost productivity owing to musculoskeletal system disorders caused - in part - by the workplace is estimated at 3.3 billion francs a year," SECO said.

UN: Possible "crimes against humanity" in DR Congo

UN: Possible "crimes against humanity" in DR CongoGeneva  - Reports released Wednesday by the United Nations showed there was a likelihood war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by governmental and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The alleged crimes include rapes, arbitrary killings, attacks on civilians and pillaging. Most of the worst violations took place between October and December last year in the North Kivu region of the large Central African country.

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