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Swiss start-ups choose a new way of doing business

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 12:00
Initial Coin Offering (ICO), an unregulated means of raising funds for cryptocurrency ventures, is experiencing a kind of gold rush, with Swiss companies among the first to get on board. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) An increasing number of startups use ICOs to bypass the rigorous and highly regulated capital-raising process required by venture capitalists or banks. ICO describes the limited period in which a company sells a predefined number of its own tokens to the public, typically in exchange for major cryptocurrencies (mostly Bitcoins and Ether). The tokens are issued using blockchain technology, an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions. Figures published by the consulting group PwC in September 2017 show that worldwide, startups received virtual capital of at least $4.6 billion (CHF4.5 billion) in 2017. That’s more than 20 times as much as the year before. Switzerland has several successful ICOs inside its borders. Out of the six largest ICOs, PwC says four are hosted ...
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Montreux Jazz Festival founder died on this day

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 11:23
It is five years ago today that Claude Nobs, founder of Switzerland’s famous Montreux Jazz Festival, died suddenly at age 76.  In this 2013 article, swissinfo.ch reported on his death, his life and the legacy of the man who, in the words of the current Swiss President Alain Berset "helped Switzerland discover jazz". .
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Swiss watchmaking city tries to shed gritty reputation

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 18:00
Home to watchmaking giants Rolex and Swatch, the city of Biel struggles to attract newcomers as it has the highest proportion of welfare dependents in the country. Can viewing the city through a local’s eyes change people’s minds? Biel (or Bienne in French) at the foot of the Jura mountains is home to a unique population. On the one hand, its people are perfectly bilingual, on the other, there are more people living on welfare here than anywhere else in Switzerland, and every third resident is a foreigner. At the same time, Biel is an important watchmaking hub. “Biel has only developed into a city in 1850 thanks to the watchmaking industry,” says mayor Erich Fehr “That’s also why we don’t have an old aristocracy. Biel has always been an industrial city and continues to be one to this day.” However, the industrial city today needs specialist professionals and not factory workers. The manual jobs have been automated, but engineers, programmers and IT specialists are in high demand.
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Zermatt ski resort cut off due to avalanche risk

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 12:48
Road and rail access to the popular ski and winter resort of Zermatt in the Swiss Alps has been cut off as the region faces extreme avalanche risks.  The road to the chic car-free mountain resort has been closed since Monday morning while rail services to Zermatt were stopped at around 17:30 on the same day. + The latest on rail services to Zermatt It is estimated that around 13,000 tourists are stranded. There are around 13,400 beds available for tourists in Zermatt: 7,200 in hotels and 6,200 in holiday apartments.  No houses have been evacuated yet and those in Zermatt are free to move around in the village. However, the authorities are monitoring the situation every half hour and there is a possibility of power cuts. The video clip below shows scenes from Zermatt on Tuesday January 9, 2018. A temporary helicopter air-bridge was set up on Tuesday between 3-5pm to make emergency flights in and out. The road leading to Zermatt between Visp and Täsch lower down in the ...
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How English-speaking theatre brings expats together

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 12:00
English-language drama clubs are thriving in Switzerland, keeping many expats in touch with their culture. Switzerland is home to numerous amateur theatre groups that regularly stage performances in English. The most prolific ones put on two shows a year and host weekly play readings. What they all have in common is their desire to engage in and share a piece of their culture. This podcast takes us to a performance in Bern as well as a play reading and rehearsal (pictured below) in Zurich.  Most of the clubs are concentrated around Basel, Lake Geneva and Zurich, but there are opportunities to experience and participate in English-language theatre in other places as well. Is your club on the map? Please get in touch if not. You can contact the producer of this podcast on Twitter.
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GE Power & Harbin Electric Announce Order for Langfang Gas Combined-Cycle Power Plant Project with SPIC

News Machinery - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 19:26

Harbin Electric Corporation (HE) has awarded GE Power (NYSE: GE) an order for two  9F.05 gas turbines  for the State Power Investment Corporation's (SPIC) Langfang gas combined-cycle power plant project (“Langfang”). As GE Power's business partner in the region, HE will provide the steam turbines, generators and other auxiliary systems for the project. Upon completion, Langfang will generate approximately 800 megawatts (MW) of power using the latest cogeneration (CHP) technology. “With th...

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=218588

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Shadowy influences on Swiss democracy

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 12:00
Lack of transparency as regards the funding of parties and political campaigns: this is one of the few weak points where Switzerland is criticised. “One doesn’t talk about money,” is a proverbial saying in this country. So it is hardly surprising that the nation has trouble with the issue of transparency of funding of parties and political campaigns. But there are more and more voices calling for change. In January 2015 a report in the Handelszeitung business paper attracted considerable attention. For the first time, an opinion survey about contributions to political parties by big companies in Switzerland had been carried out and published. It was something of a breakthrough, because until then powerful companies had preferred to stay quiet about their relations with political life. This is an article in the series #DearDemocracy, the direct democracy platform of swissinfo.ch. Here contributors, including outside authors, give their views. The opinions expressed are not ...
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Why size matters when it comes to ski pass prices

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 18:00
Where in the Swiss Alps do you get access to the most ski slopes for your money? We crunched the numbers and found there’s a reason you’re asked to pay more at Adelboden than Airolo, or at Zermatt than Zuoz.  Our graphic shows the international resort of Zermatt rivalled in price by only a handful of other ski areas at CHF79 ($81) a day, while a pass at Zuoz costs only CHF56. However, the additional CHF23 in Zermatt buys you access to 360km of groomed pistes, compared to only 15km in Zuoz.  At the lower end of the scale are stations where you can get in a day of skiing for between CHF20 and CHF40, but many are located below 1,500m in altitude where a consistent snowpack is anything but certain.  Correspondingly, the lowest-lying ski areas operate only sporadically, serving the local population and offering little in the way of infrastructure and accommodation.  We gathered the ski area data from ‘On the Snow’ (149 stations). As shown in the graphic below, there is a strong ...
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Crypto gold diggers, a Tamil trial and lakeside class warfare

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 13:00
Here is a selection of stories we're looking ahead to in the week of January 8, 2018. Monday The trial of thirteen financiers accused of funnelling more than CH15 million to the Sri Lankan Tamil separatist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) will start at the Swiss Federal Criminal Court. Tuesday Switzerland is home to several long-running English-language comedy and drama groups. swissinfo.ch profiles the actors, producers and audiences and examines how much demand there is for such plays. Tuesday Swiss retailers experienced hard times in recent years with the strong franc sending shoppers over the borders in search of cheaper goods. Credit Suisse presents a study looking into the sector’s prospects for 2018. Wednesday The remote Swiss village of Gondo may seem like an unlikely place to host a cryptocurrency mining operation. But the old gold mining venue offers a variety of attractions, raising hopes that the crypto newcomers can revive ...
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Kurt Sieber: 57 years in Japan – thoughts of a retiree

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 12:00
Swiss businessman Kurt E. Sieber went to live in Japan in 1960. At first he managed a Swiss trading company, then an Austrian one. In 2011 he retired – but did not return to Switzerland. What does he think about the country where he has lived for so long? What challenges does he think Japanese society currently faces?  "My view of Japan has changed a great deal in the 57 years I have lived in Tokyo," says Kurt Sieber. "I have thought a great deal about Japan’s position in the world, the Japanese economy and politics, and the question of what would need to be done to resolve society’s problems." He gives a few examples of the things that are particularly on his mind. The opinions expressed in this interview, notably on the speaker’s country of residence and its policies, are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch Pay too low for part-time work “In Japan pay for part-time work is too low. Supermarkets or 24-hour shops pay on average 800 ...
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What do glaciers have in common with Swiss cheese?

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:00
The answer is holes that present a hazard to runners on the Glacier Haute Route, as seen in this image by Swiss photographers, Dan and Janine Patitucci. Pascal Egli and Kim Strom look into the depths of a 'moulin' on the d’Otemma glacier while running the Glacier Haute Route.  These massive holes stopped us in our tracks while traversing the glacier:  You don’t want to get too close, but you can’t help looking down before cringing and stepping back.  The holes are carved by surface melt water created during warmer times of the day - sometimes as white water, before it finds a weakness and disappears into the ice. At work and play We are fortunate to call the mountains our workplace and still marvel at what we get to do on any given work day, be it in the Alps or Himalaya.  After all these years, the passion we have for life as mountain sport athletes and photographers hasn't faded. Experiencing the Alps on so many levels keeps us motivated for what comes next. Grandiose ...
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By the numbers: High winds mark start of year

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:11
Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 45 At 45, Alain Berset is the youngest politician to become Swiss president since 1934. In an interview with swissinfo.ch, Berset remains cautious about a change in Swiss-EU relations and talks about whether Switzerland is experiencing its own ballot box protests. Tuesday 78,000 A display of art from the controversial collection by Cornelius Gurlitt has been hailed as an early success. The Fine Arts Museum in the Swiss capital, Bern, reports that it had more than 78,000 entries between November and the end of December. That’s more than 1,500 visitors a day. The exhibition is to run until the beginning of March. Wednesday 30 Nature conservation organisation Pro Natura announced the animal of the year: the short-tailed weasel, also known as the stoat or ...
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Final call for traditional Swiss phone booths

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 01/06/2018 - 12:00
Phone booths used to be places where couples met secretly, where people talked for hours in thick clouds of cigarette smoke, where homeless people sought refuge or children played pranks. But this era is coming to an end. The main Swiss telecom, Swisscom, is beginning to dismantle those left since it is no longer obliged by law to provide them as a public service.  At the peak in 1995, there were over 58,000 public telephones in Switzerland. But since it first appeared on the market, the mobile phone has slowly been sounding the death knell for public phones. There are still 5,900 such phones in operation, but they are being phased out. Anyone nostalgic for a soon-to-be bygone era can purchase a booth for around CHF3,000.  
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Getting your teeth into Swiss meat prices

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 12:00
Why is Swiss meat among the most expensive in the world? Farmers, consumer groups and industry experts all have their opinions. Not many people in the world can afford to pay nearly $50 for a kilogramme of beef leg round or more than $20 for the same amount of pork chop. But those are the price tags on these cuts of meat in Swiss supermarkets. According to the Meat Price Index 2017 by Caterwings, Switzerland has the highest meat prices in the world - 142% more than the global average.  Caterwings estimates that an unskilled Swiss worker needs only 3.1 hours to afford 1kg of beef, while in India someone must work 22.8 hours to pay for the same amount. The extremely high cost of living in Switzerland goes some way towards explaining the high prices, yet Switzerland still lags behind many other western European countries in the index’s affordability calculations. On closer analysis, multiple factors influence Swiss meat prices. For Franz Hagenbuch, president of the Swiss Beef ...
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How to speak football

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 18:00
Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week Tama pulls on her soccer boots and joins SC Wipkingen, an international team of female players in the Zurich suburbs. She finds out from team members how football contributes to integration. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch)
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Becoming Swiss: ‘Where do I sign?’

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 15:21
Swiss citizenship is highly sought after – and correspondingly hard to get. After changes introduced on January 1, we've updated an article on how to get the naturalisation ball rolling, who is eligible for the fast track and how much it could all cost. I want to become Swiss. I’m free for an interview next week. It’s not quite as easy at that. There are basically three ways of becoming Swiss: from birth (having a Swiss parent), marrying a Swiss (after you have lived in Switzerland for at least five years, more below) or living in Switzerland for at least ten years (prior to January 1 this was 12 years, more below). Note that being born in Switzerland doesn’t mean you automatically become Swiss. Neither of my parents is Swiss and I’m not married. Then you’ve got to live here for ten years. Did you spend any time in Switzerland between the ages of eight and 18? No. Shame. Those years count double. Anyway, after you’ve done your time and you apply for citizenship, your ...
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Autopilot routes give Swiss air rescue a lift

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:00
The Swiss air rescue service Rega, is to start using a new autopilot mode that will allow its helicopters to fly more safely in bad weather conditions. (SRF, swissinfo.ch) Rega helicopters have been given authorisation to operate the Low Flight Network (LFN), a system that enables aircraft to fly in autopilot mode on predetermined routes stored on the onboard computer.  Since the end of December, the helicopters have been able to follow a countrywide network of flight routes linking together airports, hospitals and Rega helicopter bases in Switzerland. This offers considerable benefits in terms of safety especially when visibility is poor due to fog, for example. Rega, together with the Swiss Air Force, the air navigation service Skyguide and the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) have been working together for a number of years to set up the Low Flight Network .  Founded in 1952, Swiss air rescue service Rega is a privately-run, non-profit foundation. It is funded by ...
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How many hours do you work a week?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:00
More than 41 hours and 10 minutes? That’s the average in Switzerland for people with full-time jobs – relatively few compared with most developed countries. How did Switzerland get to this seemingly happy situation, and why are unions and business associations getting all worked up?  After the General Strike of 1918 (in which over 250,000 workers downed tools, resulting in the troops being sent in), a 48-hour week for workers on contracts was introduced in Switzerland in 1920.  The current labour law – with weekly maximums of 45 or 50 hours, depending on the sector – dates back to 1966.  A popular initiative to lower this to 40 hours was launched in 1971. The Federal Council came out against it – Economics Minister Ernst Brugger described it as “formally and legally impossible and unimplementable to boot”. In 1976, almost four out of five voters agreed with him.  At present, a 41-hour week is the norm across Switzerland (excluding the self-employed), according to the Federal ...
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Washington exhibition showcases Swiss painter

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/03/2018 - 14:43
Ferdinand Hodler is one of the best-known Swiss painters of the 19th century. Now one of his works is the centrepiece of an exhibition running until November 12, 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.  “Portraits of the World: Switzerland” is the title of this inaugural exhibition in a series “highlighting the global context of American portraiture”, according to the gallery. It features Hodler’s Femme en Extase (woman in ecstasy), a portrait of the Italian dancer Giulia Leonardi on loan from the Museum of Art and History in Geneva.  Gallery curator Robyn Asleson explains in this video the importance of Hodler and of his  Femme en Extase: The gallery says that Femme en Extase “embodies the Swiss modernist approach to expressing emotion through movements of the body — a theory known as eurhythmics — which had an international impact”. The Hodler painting will be complemented by works from the Portrait Gallery’s collection showing American dancers influenced ...
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Every three months, a revolution

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 01/03/2018 - 12:00
The people’s initiative is a powerful tool in the hands of Swiss voters enabling them to effect change from below against the will of parliament and government. Most initiatives are defeated at the polls. Yet they often have a real influence on politics. On November 26, 1989, Swiss politicians got a shock. The people were voting on a proposal to abolish the army.  In the end, the proposal from a citizens’ group was turned down. There was consternation and indignation, however, about the amount of support the initiative proposal received in spite of the radical nature of the proposal: 36% of voters came out in favour of getting rid of the Swiss army altogether. It seems to be paradoxical. A 64% rejection for an initiative means a drubbing for the promoters of the proposal, you could argue. But not in this case. To the military and political elites, it felt like a drubbing for them that over a third of the voters wanted to get rid of the army. The result had consequences, too:
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