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‘Fake news’: The thorny question of safeguarding elections

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 12:00
As Americans vote in highly anticipated mid-terms, across the Atlantic there is growing concern over disinformation and manipulation derailing democratic processes. Will Switzerland be spared the onslaught of “fake news” campaigns ahead of next year’s general elections? It’s a scenario that has become increasingly commonplace, surfacing most recently in the lead-up to a referendum in Macedonia on changing the country’s name, a long-standing barrier to its entry into NATO and the European Union. Trolls, fake accounts and bots (automated accounts) peddle divisive narratives and false information on Twitter and Facebook, in this case to convince citizens to boycott the vote when a 50% turnout is needed to validate the result. In the end just 34% of the Macedonian electorate cast their ballot, and the outcome – an overwhelming yes – was null and void.  Ever since the highly contested US presidential election two years ago this month brought the problem into focus, “fake news” and ...
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Fake news, sustainable investments and graduate job hunts

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 11/04/2018 - 18:00
Here are some of the stories we’ll be following the week of November 5. ​​​​​​​Monday As Americans vote in highly anticipated mid-terms, across the Atlantic there is growing concern over disinformation and manipulation derailing democratic processes. Will Switzerland be spared the onslaught of “fake news” campaigns ahead of next year’s general elections? Tuesday Our podcast looks at how the internet is changing science funding – and revolutionising the way scientists interact with the public and each other. Wednesday The fallout from the deadliest garment factory accident in history shows the role that investors can have in changing business practices. Pressures have mounted on traditionally conservative Swiss pension funds to make an impact of their own. Thursday Getting a job after graduating from a Swiss university can be tough for international students from outside the European Union. We compare restrictions and opportunities in Switzerland, US and Britain. Sunday ...
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Swiss women settlers have their stories told

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 11/04/2018 - 15:00
A 12-year-old Syrian bride poses beside her husband, a man old enough to be her grandfather. A continent and several generations away, on the frigid Canadian prairie, a 15-year-old Swiss immigrant prepares to marry a soldier.  Both scenes have been staged but are based on very true stories. The video of actors playing the young Syrian bride and old groom is shot on a boardwalk in Lebanon as part of a campaign by an NGO to combat the practice of child marriages.  Such contemporary stories gave writer Therese Bichsel the idea to write a historical novel about forced marriages experienced by Swiss girls and young women nearly 200 years ago. In Überleben am Red River (Survival on the Red River), the novelist forgoes the classic approach of describing the fortunes and misfortunes of European settlers in North America through the eyes of men. Instead, Bichsel brings to light the largely untold stories of women. We’re sitting in the author's tidy flat in a leafy district of Bern. She ...
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Churches face an uncertain future

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 11/04/2018 - 12:01
A visit to a cathedral near Basel reveals how one religious community practises its faith even as more people in Switzerland and across the West turn away from the church. The percentage of people in Switzerland who say they don’t belong to any religion increased by 13.5% between 2000 and 2016, according to the Federal Statistical Office. But in places like Arlesheim in northwestern Switzerland, churches and their services continue to be part of the community, despite certain challenges. Arlesheim’s cathedral was built in the 1680s as a satellite church for the one in Basel. It has become the town landmark, with its impressive exterior and interior architecture that was restored in the Rococo style of the late Baroque period. The church’s organ was made by renowned builder Johann Andreas Silbermann and is admired worldwide for its special sound. In mid-October, this parish and the one in the nearby town of Münchenstein both welcomed a new pastor. Reverend Sylvester Ihuoma ...
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Doctors’ wages, beggars and a political expenses scandal

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 11/03/2018 - 18:00
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 1 billion Two Swiss-led initiatives have been selected for the first phase of the European Commission’s €1 billion (CHF1.1 billion) Future Emerging Technologies Quantum Flagship project.  Tuesday 257,000 The median wage of self-employed doctors in Switzerland is much higher than previously thought.  Wednesday 27.7 billion The amount Swiss companies invested in research and development (R&D) in 2018, down 10% on the previous year. Globally, R&D expenditure reached an all-time high.  Thursday 100 Beggars can now be fined up to CHF100 in canton Vaud. The sum could rise to CHF2,000 if someone is found organising begging rings or forcing minors to beg.  Friday 17,000 Five members of the Geneva city council have been heavily criticised by a report for ...
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When Switzerland went on strike

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 11/03/2018 - 12:00
With war raging in neighbouring countries, and Spanish flu, revolutions and poverty - it is hard to imagine what life was like in Switzerland during the 1918 General Strike. This gallery provides a photographic snapshot of the period.  At first glance a photograph might seem like definite proof of a factual event or time. But photography is always subject to cultural influences, prior information and expectations.  Historical photographs are particularly challenging. Dates, names and information can be missing and hard to track down. For this 1918 General strike gallery, we gathered information from different archives and experts.  If you look at the first picture, for example, we see fourteen children, most of whom are carrying buckets. They are wearing dark stockings, so it could be cold. The buildings and wall made of large stone blocks on the right suggest an urban environment. And the mischievous smiling boy in the middle sets a cheerful tone.  Commentary by Zurich ...
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Almost 100 teachers are on schools’ black list

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 11/03/2018 - 12:00
There are currently 95 people on a teaching black list in Switzerland, most of them primary school teachers, banned for offences of a sexual nature. But not all cantons are reporting their cases. Some details of the list, kept by the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK, in German), were revealed by the SonntagsZeitung earlier this week, after it battled for eight months for the right to access the text. The list was launched 15 years ago by the conference and has been obligatory for all cantons – who are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland – since 2008. It is aimed at stopping people with paedophile tendencies, addictions or suffering from a mental illness, who are banned in one canton, from applying for a job in another. The list shows that one in three teachers are from canton Zurich. Other cantons with double figures were St Gallen (15), Bern (14) and Lucerne (11). In all, 43 of the 95 people on the list are primary school staff, with 24 from ...
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The extended Metso valve solution portfolio caters to the needs of existing and new customer industries

News Machinery - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 19:26

Metso is extending its valve solution portfolio to address a wider scope of customer needs in flow control. Following the acquisition of the valve automation division of India-based Rotex Manufacturers and Engineers Private Limited (RMEPL), a range of valves, actuators, limit switches and pneumatics are included to Metso's existing offering, opening opportunities in new applications and industries. "With these solutions, we offer an even more comprehensive portfolio to cater to the wide v...

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EMSL Analytical, Inc. is hosting a Free Mold, Indoor Air Quality and Industrial Hygiene Sampling Workshop in Orlando, Florida

News Machinery - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 19:06

EMSL Analytical, Inc. is hosting a free Mold, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Industrial Hygiene (IH) Sampling Workshop on Thursday, November 29th  in Orlando, Florida. This one-day workshop will begin with registration at 8:30 AM followed by training from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. - This workshop will benefit Florida Mold Service Professionals, environmental consultants, general contractors, cleaning and maintenance professionals, restoration professionals, property managers, facility managers, i...

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A high-speed Ticino road advances at snail’s pace

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 12:00
A long-awaited highway project is finally in the works in the Swiss canton of Ticino, a victim of delay by direct democracy. It’s a story typical of Switzerland and the process of uniting competing interests. This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. Lying on the sun-soaked southern side of the Alps, Locarno is one of the most renowned tourist resorts in Switzerland. Each year, the region notches up more than a million overnight stays. While arriving by train is unproblematic, the road is another story. Drivers often face stop-and-go traffic on the 20-kilometre-long (12.4-mile-long) stretch from the north-south motorway exit to Locarno. “Locarno is the only big agglomeration in Switzerland that is not connected to the national road network,” says Claudio Zali, president of the Ticino cantonal government who is responsible for the department of construction and environment in the region. The road, which is partly dual ...
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Spending All Souls’ Day with 25,000 skulls

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 11/02/2018 - 12:00
In late October and early November the dead seem to return and mingle among the living around Switzerland. For the more adventurous, it’s a chance to visit the ossuaries of Valais.  In the Catholic parts of the country the dead are traditionally honoured on November 2, All Souls’ Day. This is often confused with All Saints’ Day on November 1, during which the Catholic Church honours all its saints.  Whatever their reason, many Swiss people visit cemeteries at this time of year to pay their respects to their loved ones, even though this tradition is becoming less popular. The graves are covered in flowers, usually chrysanthemums.  It is perhaps in the German-speaking part of canton Valais that the presence of the dead is the most noticeable. The region is home to 20 or so ossuaries, rooms in which the bones of the dead are placed. One of the most impressive is the charnel house at Leuk, where no fewer than 25,000 skulls have been carefully stacked.  But other imported customs ...
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Wanted: politicians with liberal, European profile

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 16:40
A recent advertisement in two leading Swiss newspapers has caught public attention and caused considerable puzzlement. A political movement is actively looking for candidates ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. The notices in the prestigious Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and the Le Temps newspapers were posted by the group Operation Libero. The non-partisan organisation is casting its net to see whether it can find potential candidates willing to promote and defend the values of political openness and liberalism. It is also calling for people who like to engage in debates about political and social reforms across party lines. Operation Libero is pleased with the response to the ad which was published on October 19, according to spokesman Silvan Gisler. “We have had quite a few reactions from people who showed an interest,” Gisler says. No political party He confirms that Operation Libero has no plans of becoming a political party. “We don’t want to cannibalise ...
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European firms add to global air quality problems

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 15:45
A Swiss expert warns that although Europe’s air quality has continued to improve over the past 30 years, European companies are contributing to dirty air in other regions like Asia or Africa by outsourcing heavily polluting industries.  Nino Künzli, deputy director at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, was one of the scientific advisers at this week’s World Health Organization (WHO) conference in Geneva on air pollution and health.  According to WHO data, more than nine out of 10 people on the planet breath dangerously toxic air. The problem is particularly bad in India, China, and in other cities in Asia and Africa, and children are at risk. The WHO says that every day, 93% of children under the age of 15 — a full 1.8 billion youngsters, including 630 million under the age of five — breath dangerously polluted air.  swissinfo.ch: Globally, air pollution is said to cause seven million premature deaths a year. But how much do we really know about the health risks ...
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When death is celebrated

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:20
The Mexican Day of the Dead is also celebrated in Switzerland. Together, Mexican expats and the Swiss prepare offerings to the deceased in several parts of the country, notably the House of Religions in Bern and the Museum of Ethnography in Neuchatel. As is tradition, the living and the departed gather on November 1st and 2nd for a celebration, which has been included on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List since 2003. It's a celebration that the Mexican embassy and community in Switzerland (about 3,000 people) are trying to maintain in the alpine nation. "At first, it was like a 'shock' for the Swiss. But we warned them that it was a different view of death. A party where the dead come to visit us and are with us," recalls Margarita Delalay, cultural events manager of the Association of Mexicans and Friends of Mexico (Amex), in the cantons of Vaud and Neuchâtel. Indeed, the Day of the Dead, with its nostalgic overtones, is above all a moment of joy, reunions, and recognition:
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‘Livable’ Swiss cemetery caters to all faiths

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 12:00
The Bremgarten cemetery in Bern is one of few in Switzerland offering people of diverse world religions and belief systems a final resting place. A tour of the grounds reveals many ways of honouring the dead. Two Somali boys died in a 2017 electrical accident caused by playing with a hair dryer in the bath. Their burial here should not have been allowed because they live outside the Swiss capital and the Bremgarten cemetary is normally reserved for those within the city limits. Walter Glauser, who oversees cemeteries in canton Bern, headed to the hospital to personally inform the boys’ parents that a Muslim burial would not be possible. But on his way there, Glauser realised that he wanted to make a funeral at the Bremgarten cemetery possible for this grief-stricken family. It is the only cemetery in the region where Muslim graves are available, and Glauser found a way around the city rules to make it work. Meeting requirements The Muslim burial ground has a noticeably high ...
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Bullet-proof bitcoin battles through first ten years

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 12:00
Ten years ago today, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto presented bitcoin to the world in a famous White Paper. In the intervening decade, bitcoin has seen boom and bust cycles, spectacular heists and fraud, has spawned thousands of imitators, a new way of financing start-ups and helped create an industry that Switzerland has wholeheartedly embraced. Many of the 600+ blockchain start-ups and support service currently operating in ‘Crypto Nation’ Switzerland owe their existence to bitcoin, which initially kickstarted the industry and set in motion a chain of innovation. Bitcoin itself remains an enigma. Its place in society is as hard to pin down as its dollar conversion value. The first bitcoin appeared in January 2009. The first transaction in 2010 saw two pizzas being purchased for 10,000 bitcoin. Last December 10,000 bitcoin were worth $200 million and they now fetch around $65 million. Volatility makes bitcoin an unreliable method of buying pizzas. As an investment, the ...
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How drones are shedding their military image and moving into cities  

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 10/31/2018 - 12:00
As commercial drones become a greater fixture in our everyday lives, their association with their military ancestors will have to be set aside to foster better acceptance, writes international relations practitioner Francesco Bortoluzzi of swissnex Boston. The origins and evolution of drone technology have been a central question in the curation of Aerial Futures: The Drone Frontier at swissnex Boston – an event series that aims to connect the Swiss drone ecosystem to the United States. In our ongoing exploration, we surveyed experts in Boston’s research and technology scene to help us understand the origins of commercial drones.  A history of uneasiness and ambiguity Today’s drones trace their roots to the beginning of the aviation age, when any aircraft in the sky struck both wonder and worry in the hearts of people around the world. During the Second World War, when air power started to play a decisive role in combat, drones were first developed as radio-controlled ...
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Engineering Support through Material and Forensic Science Laboratory Services

News Machinery - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 15:32

With today's rapidly increasing pace of design and production in the high tech manufacturing world, engineers are ever more frequently being called upon to assist with all stages of the design, prototyping and manufacturing cycle. Where traditionally engineers were often single discipline designers, in a modern work flow it's quite common for engineers to switch roles between electrical and mechanical, perform manufacturing engineering support, or have to provide rapid redesign in response...

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Europe offers last line of defence for the Asiatic lion

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 15:00
The recent death of 23 Asiatic lions in India – including three from the highly contagious Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) – has highlighted the risk of confining the species to a small part of the country. In a worst-case scenario, can captive animals in European countries like Switzerland help re-establish the species?  It is lunch time and the suburban neighbourhood of Zurichberg reverberates with the guttural call of a male lion. A 20-minute tram ride from Zurich’s main station, Zoo Zurich is by far the biggest attraction here, especially during the school holidays. Visitors flock to the lion enclosure, drawn to the sounds of the king of the jungle.  The four lions – one male and three females – do not belong to the African savannah but to deciduous forests of Gujarat state in northwestern India. Just over 600 Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) in the Gir Protected Area and surrounding region are all that is left of the wild Asiatic lion. The species once ranged from Greece ...
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Swiss non-profit aims to break taboo of women’s brain health

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 12:00
If depression is twice as common in women than men worldwide, does that mean we need to change how we think about gender, health, and science? That’s the argument of the Women’s Brain Project, which is calling for a precision approach to brain disease research and treatment. When scientists use animal models like mice in their experiments, standardisation is key: all animals must be kept in highly controlled conditions so that the study results are not compromised. But there is one very big difference that scientists might be ignoring: whether their subjects are male or female. “Most labs today use only male or female mice, depending on the field. For example, people doing behavioural neuroscience experiments tend to prefer to work with male mice because there’s an assumption that they’re more stable and less variable than females due the oestrus cycle, which is incorrect. Either way, this is a mistake,” Maria Teresa Ferretti, a group leader at the University of Zurich Institute ...
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