R2-D2 kidnapped from museum

r2d2.jpgUnidentified thieves have stolen a replica of the Star Wars robot R2-D2 from a film prop museum in Frauenfeld, canton Thurgau. According to local police, the theft must have occurred some time between the beginning of the month and Tuesday, when some objects were reported missing. The thieves broke into a basement storage room, making off with an exact copy of the famed robot character as well as other items. It is not known if they left the talkative 3CPO behind. The 1.2-metre-high robot is worth thousands of Swiss francs according to its owner, Roman Güttinger. Güttinger’s hoard of props from horror, adventure and science fiction films is considered the biggest private collection in Europe. He has gathered around 2,500 items, including rarities such as the monster from the Alien films and the Batmobile from Batman.

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Fruit fly has trouble deciding between Arthur and Martha

fruit-fly.jpg Swiss scientist Yaël Grosjean has discovered that sexual orientation in fruit flies is controlled by a previously unknown regulator of chemicals in the brain. While the evolutionary basis for homosexuality remains a mystery, researchers have succeeded in using genetic manipulation or drugs to turn the flies’ homosexual behaviour on and off within a matter of hours. While the genetic finding supports the thinking that homosexuality is hard-wired, i.e. there is a “gay gene”, the drug findings surprisingly suggests it’s not that simple. A gene mutation meant fruit flies could not distinguish chemical smells, called pheromones that can tell if other flies are male of female. These mutated male flies were engaging in courtship no matter that the other fly was male or female.

Blocher’s long march to the top stopped

blocher.jpgThe Swiss parliament has thrown a spanner in the works: by refusing to re-elect populist rightwing politician Christoph Blocher to the seven-member cabinet, the federal assembly has decided his brand of politics is no longer acceptable. Instead, a temporary alliance of Greens, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, along with a support cast of Radicals has chosen another member of Blocher’s People’s Party for the government – and a woman to boot – Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, canton Graubünden’s finance minister. The People’s Party says that it will now become an opposition party and that if any of its members besides Blocher is elected to cabinet, it will turn its back on them. Widmer-Schlumpf has accepted the job despite the threats/blackmail. Blocher’s dream of becoming president in 2009 has evaporated as well…

Turning off African migrants

sriimg20071128_8474336_2a.jpgSwitzerland is funding a bleak anti-migration television campaign in Africa to discourage would-be migrants from trying to seek their fortunes in Europe. The hard-hitting advert, which has been aired on prime-time television in Cameroon and Nigeria, depicts the life of freshly arrived migrants in Europe as one fraught with problems and dangers. In the film an African migrant phones his father from somewhere in Europe in the pouring rain and assures him that all is well while in reality he is living on the street, being chased by the police and having to beg for a living. “Don’t believe everything you hear. Leaving is not always living,” is the final message of the film. The advert is part of a television, radio and poster campaign by the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration, funded by Switzerland and the European Commission.