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Opponents of e-voting suffer setback in parliament

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 09/15/2018 - 08:00
Parliament has thrown out attempts to stall the permanent introduction of electronic voting – a decision welcomed by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA). Two proposals by representatives of right and leftwing parties cited data security concerns, including cyberattacks, and were aimed at effectively blocking plans by the government to conclude more than 15 years of trials and enshrine e-voting in law as a third option - besides going to the polls and the postal vote. The House of Representatives earlier this week rejected the proposals by parliamentarians of the Swiss People’s Party and the Greens, thereby refusing to draft a bill for discussion. However, plans are afoot to launch a people’s initiative in the near future, further threatening the hopes of the OSA, which represents the interests of the more than 750,000 Swiss living around the world. The government is due to present details of a draft bill in the next few months and parliament could discuss the plans by 2020.
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The Swiss apprentice: biggest event of its kind shows off "Swiss Skills"

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 15:00
Visitors to the Swiss capital, Bern, have been finding out for themselves what it’s like to work as an apprentice.  The different jobs at "Swiss Skills" – with 135 categories represented - are shown in authentic work environments, giving people an insight into these different professions and career opportunities.  A main attraction: the championships, in which around 900 apprentices across 75 categories compete against each other to be the best in their field. It's only the second time that the championships, which are normally held separately by profession, are being carried out in one place. The last time was in 2014. Swiss Skills, which ends on Saturday, is expecting 50,000 visitors, the majority of which will be school children. Organisers say this year’s event is the biggest of its kind worldwide in terms of the number of professions represented. WorldSkills 2017, in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates – where the Swiss had a record gold medal haul in the international ...
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Lehman Brothers: the bankruptcy of a bank and that of a system

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:54
On September 15 2008, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It was the start of a lengthy and complex process encompassing about $1.2 trillion worth of creditor claims.  When flight LB2008 crashed, after suddenly disappearing from the radar assigned to so-called systemic banks, it was apparently a case of thunder on a sunny day, an unpredictable catastrophe.  However, some elements of the black box, despite their complexity, allow us to better comprehend the reasons for this disaster and to highlight the untruths that had allowed this bank’s catastrophic situation to be camouflaged well before its disappearance. In this respect, Lehman Brothers’ last annual report offers an abundance of indications. It is complacent with frequent self-praise. Terms such as "record performance", "terrific results", "talent management efforts", “excellence” and “focus on risk management” follow one after another. In 2007, the bank boasted about being “number one” in ...
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Even the world’s best democracy isn’t perfect

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:00
Switzerland’s system of direct democracy is admired by many, and it is often held up as a model for others. But even a country which to a certain extent invented citizen’s rights doesn’t get it right the whole time.  Switzerland has been called a gold standard for direct democracy. But did you know, for example, that…  …the government and parliament sometimes blatantly disregard the wishes of the people?  One example is the current discussion about Daylight Saving Time, that is putting the clocks forward an hour for summer and back for winter. European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker wants the practice to end, which could call time on the issue in Switzerland as well. Parliament approved the law on Daylight Saving Time in 1977. A group of farmers successfully challenged it and won a subsequent nationwide vote in 1978.  But the people’s vote was never implemented because the government and parliament introduced a new bill on the issue in 1980 – and this time nobody ...
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Understatement as statement in photography

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 08:10
A group exhibition in the Photobastei in Zurich is dedicated to young photographers. Thematically, it deals with the limits of human perception; Nigerian refugees, Dominican men, Swiss legends, and Tuscan quarries. Simon von Gunten won the vfg prize for young photographers with his work "Cutis". His series of portraits seem to be made for Instagram: People immersed in blue-violet fluorescent light - imperceptible to the human eye - but recorded by digital cameras. It's less about showmanship than about making life stories visible.  Connecting the different photographic impressions is a certain understatement. This young generation of photographers has something to say, and therefore something to show. But they are not showing off.  The exhibition runs until October 7, before moving to the Galerie l'Elac in Lausanne in the first half of November, and then Basel at Oslo 8 in late November through early December and Stuttgart, Germany next March. 
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The financial crisis of 2008 and the Swiss ‘miracle’

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 08:00
The collapse of Lehman Brothers ten years ago triggered one of the biggest financial and economic crisis in a century. Switzerland did not escape unscathed but fared better than other countries, without amassing huge debt. On September 15, 2008, the fourth largest US investment bank filed for bankrupcy over the crisis in the subprime mortgage market. The government refused to bail out the insolvent institution, creating a collapse in confidence that froze credit markets and decimated the banking sector. From the United States, the financial crisis spread to other countries, soon turning into a global economic crisis that raised the spectre of another Great Depression. Switzerland was also affected but not as badly as initially feared.  Several reasons rendered Switzerland particularly vulnerable over the course of the crisis. Its top two banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, were among the most exposed foreign institutions in the subprime bubble. Switzerland was more dependent than ...
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Not every tall person plays basketball

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 17:00
"True Talk" puts people in front of the camera who are fighting prejudice or discrimination. They answer questions that nobody would normally dare to ask directly.  David is 217cm tall, and is officially the tallest man in Switzerland. In "True Talk" he explains the difficulties he faces - and why people sometimes treat him as if he were not even there, despite - or precisely because of - his size. The 39 year old explains what life is like as the tallest person in the country and the preconceptions he hears a lot about from others.  (SRF, swissinfo.ch)
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Compass Group Equity Partners Announces Formation of Compass Electronics Group

News Machinery - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 16:22

Compass Group Equity Partners (“Compass Group”), a private equity firm that specializes in acquiring and building lower-to-middle-market companies, today announced the formation of a new holding company: Compass Electronics Group (“CEG”). CEG is formed with the combination of existing portfolio companies, with the expectation of additional acquisitions in the near future.  CEG's strategic goal is to create the premier full-service partner for OEMs at any stage in the product lifecycle of...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=228664

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Bands and biscuits spark debate over racism and culture

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 11:00
The name of two carnival bands and a sweet treat have stirred a debate in Switzerland about the use of terms that many people consider racist. Should they be changed, or are they a part of history that should be preserved? In Basel, two long-existing carnival bands have been accused of having racist names and symbols from the colonial era. “Negro-Rhygass” and “Mohrechopf” (“blackamoor”) have taken their websites down and are now discussing their logos and names. The logo of both bands was a clichéd image of a black man with thick lips and bones in his hair. There is also a chocolate sweet treat called “Mohrenkopf” (meaning the same as Swiss-German “Mohrechopf”) – soft white interior covered in chocolate. The sweet became the subject of controversy in German-speaking Switzerland last summer, when an Internet petition urged a popular producer in Aargau to give it another name. The company’s persistent refusal to do so led to a rapid rise in sales. Customers ate more of the ...
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When young people want a Swiss passport

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 08:00
Being born on Swiss soil does not mean you are automatically Swiss. Naturalisation is therefore an option for foreigners who have been born in Switzerland and want Swiss nationality.  The process includes one or more interviews, which children from 12 years of age may also be required to complete. Swiss nationality is acquired through one blood relationship – that is, through the father or mother – or through naturalisation. In general, when a foreign family starts the process, this also includes their children. If the children are older than 16, they must put down in writing why they want to become Swiss. From age 14, they can submit their request for naturalisation individually, with the agreement of a parent.  Journalists from the Swiss Public Television RTS programme "Temps Présent" were allowed to sit in during the interviews of three young naturalisation candidates in the canton of Fribourg.  Requirements to become Swiss To make a naturalisation request, one must ...
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EU parliament approves contentious online copyright reform

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 18:09
The decision in Strasbourg to clamp down on big Internet platforms was heavily lobbied both by publishers and free speech advocates. Switzerland is not yet directly implicated. The first post-summer sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday was marked largely by the unprecedented decision of MEPs to sanction Hungary for its recent democratic backsliding. Less headline-grabbing, but perhaps almost as consequential, was the large approval of an ambitious reform of EU copyright rules, a reform that could have big implications for online media across the continent, including in Switzerland. The changes – the first time Brussels is updating copyright laws since 2001 – aim to adapt to the digital age by tipping the scales back from big online platforms like Google and Facebook to the ‘content creators’ that feed them: musicians, photographers, journalists, etc. To do this, the directive relies on two main weapons: obliging aggregators to recompense original ...
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Vale will have the first mine operating only with autonomous trucks in Brazil

News Machinery - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 17:45

The result of six years of research and testing, seven trucks used to transport iron ore from the mining front to the processing plant began to be part of the daily operations alongside six other traditionally operated vehicles. When the entire fleet is replaced by trucks with the new technology, in early 2019, Brucutu will be the first mine to operate autonomously in Brazil. Compared to the conventional transportation model, the autonomous operations system has a higher productivity. The...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=228619

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Gazprom and Mitsubishi address Sakhalin II project

News Machinery - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 17:33

A working meeting between  Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee, and Hidenori Takaoka, Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Business Group of Mitsubishi Corporation, took place today at the 4th  Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. The meeting addressed the current status of the Sakhalin II project, discussing, inter alia, the construction of the third train of the LNG plant. The parties also considered the prospects for further cooperation. Background Mitsubi...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=228614

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Swiss arms exports still at odds with humanitarian tradition

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 17:00
The government’s plan to ease arms export rules has sparked controversy with critics warning it could endanger the neutral country’s reputation and humanitarian tradition. A Swiss historian and author explains how this paradox has been a recurrent theme since the First World War.   Exports of Swiss-produced war materials has been a hot issue in Switzerland in recent months. In June, the government proposed allowing weapons to be exported to countries in the throes of internal conflict, provided it could be established that they would not be used by warring parties. This relaxation has been criticised by activists; on Monday a group announced it was spearheading an initiative campaign in the hope of getting the Swiss authorities to change course. The historian Cédric Cotter is very familiar with this theme. His PhD thesis looked at Swiss humanitarian action and neutrality during the First World War, including a section on Swiss weapons exports to the warring parties. A book ...
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Preventing suicides on the Swiss rail network

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 14:50
The Swiss Federal Railways is responding to the problem of suicides by erecting barriers on certain “black spot” bridges and sections of track. (RTS/swissinfo.ch) On August 22, thousands of commuters were heavily delayed for hours on a popular stretch of track along Lake Geneva following “passenger action” at Rolle station. Passenger action is, as everyone knows, a euphemism for a suicide or attempted suicide.  According to the Federal Office of Transport, cited in a Le Temps article on Wednesday, last year there were “140 desperate acts” on the Swiss rail network in which a person died and 14 in which someone was seriously injured.  The Federal Railways published a study last month called Suicide on Railways in which they said on average 115 people killed themselves a year between 2003 and 2017.  “In addition to relatives, railway suicides place railway employees and sometimes passengers in situations which are very difficult to deal with,” the authors wrote, explaining why ...
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Listening to deaf children’s needs

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 11:00
In Switzerland many deaf pupils go to mainstream schools. But the Swiss Federation of the Deaf says that many pupils struggle with this approach. It wants a more bilingual concept, with equal weight given to both sign and the spoken language. It is an overcast late summer day at the Hans Asper school house in Wollishofen, a suburb of Zurich. But it is not stopping the game of football. It is a scene that could be replayed a thousand times over across Switzerland – except there is one difference. Some of the pupils are deaf or hard of hearing. They attend SEK 3, a special needs secondary school that is embedded into a mainstream institute. “The pupils have the opportunity, whether they are hard of hearing or deaf, whether they need sign language or not, to come into contact with the hearing community and the whole youth culture, simply everything that is commonplace in a regular state school,” Peter Bachmann, SEK3’s co-head tells swissinfo.ch. Sign language Depending on ...
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Supplementary benefits – what are they and who receives them?

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 08:00
Reducing financial support for the country’s poorest citizens is triggering heated debates in parliament, with no final decision expected this session. State expenditure has more than doubled since 2000 on so-called supplementary benefits for people who can’t get by on their pension alone.  What’s at stake?  The almost CHF5 billion ($5.1 billion) in supplementary benefits that the state pays to more than 320,000 pensioners a year.  What’s the purpose of supplementary benefits?  According to the federal constitution, the old-age and disability pension schemes should guarantee a living wage, the minimum income necessary for someone to meet their basic needs. Because this is no longer the case with many pensions (minimum CHF1,175, maximum CHF2,350 - or $1,200 to $2,400 - per month), supplementary benefits were created.  Who receives supplementary benefits?  Last year, 322,800 people. To receive supplementary benefits, one has to meet certain conditions such as drawing a pension ...
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Cost concerns eat away at support for food initiatives

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 06:00
Two proposals to promote sustainable agriculture in Switzerland and ethical food have seen a massive drop in support ahead of nationwide votes later this month. An opinion poll carried out at the beginning of September shows the Food Security initiative by a leftwing farmers group and the Fair Food initiative by the Green Party both losing about a third of their backing compared with a first survey published in mid-August. Another proposal to boost the cycling infrastructure in Switzerland appears to be heading for a clear victory at ballot box on September 23, according to the leading GfS Bern research institute, which conducted the poll on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company.  See details below and in infobox: The heavy decline in support for the two food and farming initiatives is dramatic but was to be expected, says the GfS Bern director, Lukas Golder. “Opponents successfully pointed out the weaknesses of the initiatives during ...
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Why Americans are 'adopting' Swiss alpine farmers

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 17:00
From New York to California, upscale American grocers and speciality food store owners are “adopting” Swiss dairy farmers to bring hard-to-find alpine cheeses to the United States, while supporting a unique way of life in the Alps.  The concept comes thanks to a private business called Adopt-an-Alp that’s run by a Swiss expat in Florida. It hinges on personalised business-to-business matchmaking. The company helps American retailers and restauranteurs find Swiss farming families making Alp Cheese (Alpkäse in German), a variety of full-fat, raw-milk cheese that’s nearly impossible to find on this side of the Atlantic. When the cheese is ready in the autumn, the Americans promise to buy at least ten wheels of cheese from a farmer of their choosing. The farmers set the price. There is no contract.  Alp Cheese has a story that might resonate with American consumers willing to spend more on higher quality food. To make the cheese, farmers spend summers in Switzerland’s high alpine ...
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Why Swiss cows climb mountains

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 17:00
You would be udderly surprised to encounter a Simmental or Braunvieh running up the steps of New York’s One World Trade Center or Shanghai’s equally tall World Financial Center.  But that’s the kind of climb – albeit on dirt trails not concrete steps – a typical Swiss dairy cow makes every summer.  According to the Federal Office for Agriculture, around 270,000 cows are marched from their valley farms to mountain meadows at the start of every summer, just to come back down again in early autumn.  On average they climb about 590 metres (1,936 ft), covering 16.3 kilometres (10.1 miles) as the crow flies – but much more down on the ground on often steep, serpentine trails. The true alpinists among them make ascents of over 2,000 metres. That’s like getting to the top of the world’s highest building, Dubai’s 830-metre Burj Khalifa, and – not satisfied with that – going back down and doing it all over again, and then some.   So why do they do it?  Dairy farmers have incentives ...
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