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Gadget geeks descend on Geneva

An ultra-quick sock drier and a device to repel pesky bugs are among about 1,000 inventions being showcased at the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva next week.

Not quite the stuff of James Bond gadget master Q, but almost 800 inventors are expected to tout their wares at the event from April 18 to 22 in the hope of seducing investors.

Visitors to the show, which organisers say is the biggest in the world exclusively devoted to inventions, will see exhibits across numerous categories including toys, medical equipment and domestic appliances.

For the inventors hailing from 46 countries, coming to Geneva represents a big chance but also a hefty investment of time and money.

First you need to get a patent for your invention, which can be expensive, and then take up a stall for five days in the hope of finding someone to finance it.

Each year licences worth more than $45 million (€34.2 million) are negotiated at the show.

“Every year we have examples of businessmen who want to invest in inventions and who fall in love with a particular product,” said Jean-Luc Vincent, the exhibition’s founder and president.

“On talking with the inventor they decide to put up the funds to help market it.”

Taking home a show award or simply taking part can be a shortcut to becoming a millionaire thanks to the marketing effect.  

“Mircea Tudor, the Romanian inventor of RoboScan, a giant scanner built on the back of a truck, became a millionaire within six months after winning the Grand Prize in 2009,” said Vincent.

“Thanks to the Geneva Exhibition, he made a fortune selling his truck to border officials in several countries,” he said.

The invention meant they could see the contents of the truck in a flash.

Around 15 percent of inventors taking part in the show are independent, the remainder work for businesses, research institutes and universities.

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GENEVA

‘Witch hunt’: Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The Swiss canton of Geneva has banned baptisms in the waters of Lake Geneva organised by evangelical churches -- a decision they branded a "witch hunt".

'Witch hunt': Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The canton — comprising the city of Geneva and its hinterland that forms the western end of the lake — took the step on July 8, amid a backdrop of debates around secularism.

“It’s an abuse of authority,” Jean-Francois Bussy, president of the Evangelical Federation of the neighbouring canton of Vaud, told AFP.

Baptisms in Lake Geneva are permitted in Vaud, which covers the rest of the lake’s northern shore.

“We have had no complaints in the canton of Vaud, which is much more liberal at this level than Geneva, which in my opinion applies fundamentalist secularism and a quite detestable witch hunt,” said Bussy, who heads the Vaud branch of the Swiss Evangelical Network in French-speaking western Switzerland that has around 40,000 members.

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Among the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons, Geneva and Neuchatel are the only two secular ones.

The separation of church and state has been enshrined in Geneva law for more than a century.

Geneva is nevertheless famous for having welcomed the French theologian Jean Calvin in 1536, who made the city a bastion of the Protestant Reformation, and whose statue stands against the old town’s city walls.

“Baptism is a religious service”, said the Geneva authorities, while the canton “has established the principle whereby religious events take place in private”, therefore excluding the shores and public beaches of Lake Geneva.

“Only organisations permitted to have relations with the state can request authorisation for a public religious event” — and the two evangelical parishes concerned are not among them, the authorities added.

To get on that list, organisations must undertake to exclude acts of physical or psychological violence, spiritual abuse as well as discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin and sexual or gender identity.

According to Bussy, “it is not very clear what motivates the cantonal authority to ban events like this which do not contravene public order”, constituting a “peaceful example of a laudable religious practice”.

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