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Local News Summary of March, 12th

  • Studying at the University of Basel without graduating from high school
  • Rain hampers Roger Federer at Indian Wells
  • Labelled farms delivering to Coop fail at inspections 

Studying at the University of Basel without graduating from high school

The spring term at the University of Basel started just after Fasnacht. A total of 13,000 students must listen, pay attention, write notes, and study. Among them are 23 highly talented pupils from the region who did not pass their compulsory school leaver examination yet (Matura).

There is something new at the University of Zurich which has been carried out in Basel over the last 10 years: A talent project allowing some pupils to register at the uni before leaving school.

«Talented pupils, especially those from Northwestern Switzerland, can start studying and attend lectures», the University of Basel website states. The project was launched by the canton of Baselland in 2005. Basel-Stadt joined in spring 2010, while Solothurn and Argovia joined later.

Pupils who want to participate in the programme have to write a motivational letter and add two recommendation letters from their teachers. Other than this, no requirements are fixed for entry into the programme. «There needs to be a recommendation by a teacher, and the consent of the teachers' team is also necessary. This is warrant enough that only the highly talented pupils (about 1 per cent of an age group) can take part», said Simon Thieriet, media spokesperson at the Basel-Stadt educational department.

The precondition for a successful participation in this programme is a high level of motivation and good organisational skills. Due to a participant attending lectures at the university, lessons at the gymnasium school are missed, which must be compensated independently at home. The programme should help to prepare highly talented pupils for further studies at university level and help them to choose a subject. It is hoped that this would allow them the opportunity to deepen their interests and knowledge.

The costs for their participation will be met by the pupils, i.e. by their parents. «Pupils register for lectures as an observer and pay the usual fees. They receive individual learning contracts which contain the lectures they can attend», according to the information provided by the University of Basel.

Besides the deep insight into university life, these pupil-students can obtain credit points before leaving the gymnasium which they can validate during their ongoing studies. The talent programme for talented pupils is not just altruistic. As with private business, in academia there is tight competition for the most intelligent students. And for this the university wants to be in a good position, the statement said.

Rain hampers Roger Federer at Indian Wells

What a rarity: Rain in Indian Wells! The first game for Roger Federer at the tournament against the Argentinian player Federico Delbonis was interrupted after 57 minutes and postponed due to the rain.

When it started raining Saturday night at 9pm local time, Roger Federer was already leading by 6:3, 2:2. During the first set it started drizzling, and by the second set the rain intensified. The players initially went to a waiting room, then to their changing rooms before they were sent to the hotels 90 minutes later.

The match will be continued on the centre court after the matches between Patra Kvitova and Amana Anisimova, and Novak Djokovic and Taro Daniel, around 11.30pm Swiss time on Sunday.

Until the disruption, Roger Federer had not been playing to the best of his abilities. He won the first set thanks to great efficiency since he benefited from his only break opportunity to reach a 3:1 lead while Federico Delbonis missed two breakballs. Federer committed more mistakes (19) during the first set than the number of wins he achieved (10).

Labelled farms delivering to Coop fail at inspections

The Swiss love eating pork. More than 34,000 tons of fresh pork were sold last year. Male pigs usually get castrated to ensure a good taste. Otherwise an aromatic substance after puberty would significantly influence the taste of the meat.

A requirement that castration of pigs must be pain-free has existed since 2010. Since then, the industry has committed, following long discussions, to purchasing anaesthesia devices. The federal and cantonal governments hardly supervise whether these devices are correctly used. In 2016, three farmers were sentenced because they castrated pigs without anaesthesia. This is a very low quota, considering there are 7,000 farms with pigs in Switzerland. 

Animal protection campaigners took action and investigated for themselves. «Together with Coop we chose ten labelled farms, both small and large ones», Cesare Sciarra, who works for manager inspection services at Swiss Animal Protection Agency (STS), said. Farms which were previously suspected of using improper methods were selected.

Four out of ten farms failed the inspection. An alarming quota, considering that only Naturafarm-labelled farms, which all have to fulfil strict requirements, were selected. The inspectors compared the number of piglets, the number of castrations, and the purchase of Isofluran, the anaesthetic drug. According to this, every third pig at farms had not been not castrated.

Further shortcomings

The inspectors discovered further shortcomings. Some farmers have not maintained their devices despite malfunction or they had not taken care of the highly sensitive devices. It remains open whether the STS will report the farms to the authorities. They have been confronted with results and have been given time to submit a response.

Retailer Coop itself refers to the fact that the results are not transferable to all Naturafarm-labelled farms. «Especially since the inspections focused on suspicious farms», Damian Santschi, project manager for Animal Wellbeing, said. «Of course such results are annoying. We therefore observe farms more than other retailers.» Coop had commissioned and financed the investigations by STS. «We don't want to look away but instead we want to address the problems.