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Meet the man trying to make Switzerland less expensive

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:00
Switzerland has an official price watchdog – someone who fights unfair prices that hurt consumers. Who is he, and where does he see potential for savings?  Stefan Meierhans gets a lot of mail – about 2,500 letters or emails a year from concerned or angry consumers. He’s even received diapers.  That sounds horrid, but he’s so matter-of-fact when he says his office has “experienced everything” that I have to double-check. Used diapers?  “Oh, no. No, never, thank goodness,” he replies, shuddering and then chuckling at the idea. What he means is that people sometimes send him products purchased abroad to show the discrepancy in prices – often for the very same item, or at least of equal quality.  He goes on to explain why incontinence products are so expensive in Switzerland.  “The regulations here are too explicit. Only special shops can sell them, so the competition is limited and this results in higher prices,” Meierhans says, adding that there’s a systemic problem in terms of ...
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Keeping the Fans Whirling Longer: GE Power's Technology Helps Iraq's Najibiya Power Plant Reduce Downtime

News Machinery - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 15:48

GE Power (NYSE: GE) has installed its Advanced Gas Path (AGP) gas turbine upgrade solution at the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity's (MOE's) Najibiya Power Plant. The solution is expected to enable the MOE to increase the duration between the maintenance inspections of the gas turbines. This will decrease the downtime of the turbines and improve the availability and performance of the plant, allowing each gas turbine to feed power into the national grid for longer periods, helping to meet the...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=222157

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Divorced dads stuck in financier role

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 15:00
A Swiss men’s lobby is complaining that in legal cases, many judges stick too eagerly to the traditional family model – which reduces fathers to mere financiers.  Since January 1, 2017, a law allows the Swiss authorities to check whether shared custody arrangements are being implemented properly after a separation or divorce. Under shared custody, children should live alternately with each parent for longer periods, enabling an equal division of work and family life.  But in practice, a different model often prevails: children mainly live with the mother and the father pays out for maintenance and childcare.  Custody Custody basically means living with the child and being the legal guardian, (legal representation, management of property and assets, and determination of the place of residence).  In Switzerland, joint custody is generally the rule after separation. Even if a child lives mainly with the mother, both parents decide together which school the child should attend, ...
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Switzerland pledges more emergency aid to Yemen

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 13:21
Switzerland has promised an extra CHF4 million ($4.2 million) towards humanitarian aid for Yemen at a United Nations donor conference in Geneva. So far, states have pledged over $2 billion towards the UN Yemen appeal of $3 billion for this year. Switzerland’s overall contribution towards Yemen for 2017-2020, announced at last year’s donor conference, will rise to CHF45 million, of which CHF13 million will go to the UN’s 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.  “It’s time to renew our solidarity with the people of Yemen and to put an end to this human disaster,” Swiss Vice President Ueli Maurer told diplomats and aid officials in Geneva on Tuesday. Switzerland co-organised the day-long Yemen donor conference with Sweden and the UN.  The UN says it needs $2.96 billion for the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” to help alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, of whom 22 million - three-quarters of the population – need humanitarian aid and protection. By Tuesday afternoon, ...
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Snowball effect: Selling Alpine resorts to ambassadors

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 07:41
How can diplomats from foreign states become ambassadors for your country as well? In Wengen, the red carpet was rolled out for emissaries from dozens of nations. The mountain resort couldn’t have had a more captive audience.  “You can keep Alp cheese for four years,” Wengen’s tourism chief Rolf Wegmüller tells a group of foreign ambassadors at a local shop, pointing to cheeses which bear the names of the alpine pastures where they were made, as well as their age.  The small business in the village was one stop on the “Culinary Village Walk”, the most popular activity offered to the 104 emissaries and their partners on this day in mid-March.  Every other year, the Swiss foreign affairs ministry, at its expense, invites the entire diplomatic corps in Switzerland on a “Winter Day” outing. It’s a networking event and a chance for the representatives to get to know Swiss officials and staff better in an informal setting.  And it was a golden opportunity for Wengen - a resort best ...
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West Coast Industries and Maritime Operations Prepare for OSHA's Crystalline Silica Rule Enforcement

News Machinery - Mon, 04/02/2018 - 14:48

On June 23rd, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Cal/OSHA will be enforcing the new final rule for respirable crystalline silica in general industry and maritime. The new standard for these industries follows enforcement actions for controlling construction worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica that went into effect last year. The new federal standard for general industry and maritime will require employers to: - - - • Measure the amount of silica th...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=222090

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An ‘imperceptible accumulation of modest question marks’

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 04/02/2018 - 11:00
The year 1968 wasn’t a sudden revolution; instead it was a year that brought a broad range of social upheavals. The world was progressing – but many were not particularly happy with the prosperous post-war era. In the 1950s, conservative observers, even in Switzerland, feared that consumerism and work would lead to a loss of individual identity. The former government minister Friedrich Traugott Wahlen, for instance, complained in 1956 that modern people appeared to him to be soulless “half-machines”, with no individual characteristics. As the father of the so-called “Anbauschlacht”, a programme to make Switzerland agriculturally self-sufficient during the Second World War, Wahlen had ordered the Swiss to grow potatoes on football fields, and the war was for him a unifying memory. After 1945, the Swiss population seemed defenceless in the face of global fashions. The fear of homogeneity concerned the pace at which the Swiss were adopting foreign trends. Women who dressed like ...
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Superprostheses and reality

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 04/02/2018 - 11:00
Assistive devices may soon allow people to perform virtually superhuman feats. According to Robert Riener, however, there are more pressing goals than developing superhumans. What had until recently been described as a futuristic vision has become a reality: the first self-declared “cyborgs” have had chips implanted in their bodies so that they can open doors and make cashless payments. The latest robotic hand prostheses succeed in performing all kinds of grips and tasks requiring dexterity. Parathletes fitted with running and spring prostheses compete – and win – against the best, non-impaired athletes. Then there are robotic pets and talking humanoid robots adding a bit of excitement to nursing homes. Some media are even predicting that these high-tech creations will bring about forms of physiological augmentation overshadowing humans’ physical capabilities in ways never seen before. For instance, hearing aids are eventually expected to offer the ultimate in hearing; retinal ...
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Thriller brings a touch of noir to Swiss banking

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 11:00
While Scandinavian Noir is well established in English-language publishing, Switzerland has until now been a blank space on the map of popular crime fiction. Swiss author Peter Beck is trying to change all that with his gritty new hero Tom Winter. Clare O’Dea went to investigate.   The mild-mannered, casually-dressed man I meet in Bern train station does not look like he could have anything to do with exploding helicopters, death-defying car chases, cold-blooded murder, high finance intrigue and obscene luxury. Yet this is the world that Swiss author Peter Beck has created in the first of his three financial thrillers, Damnation. The only thing Beck has in common with his protagonist, a former special forces commander and head of security with a Swiss bank, is his nationality and a taste for espresso. Beck’s face lights up when he talks about Tom Winter. But the character didn’t come to him in a single flash of inspiration. Almost like a recruitment process, Beck looked hard for ...
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By the numbers: cocoa, test tube babies and an old shoe

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 03/31/2018 - 17:00
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. Sunday 300,000,000 Switzerland invested CHF300 million ($313 million) in Ivory Coast in 2017, making it the third-biggest investor in the West African country. Cocoa beans were the principal Swiss imports.  Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann visited the country on Sunday with aim of strengthening cooperation between the two countries. Monday 62 The proportion of Swiss electricity that was generated from renewable sources in 2016, according to an official energy report. Nuclear power’s share dropped from 20.7% to 17%. Tuesday 5,000 The estimated age of a Neolithic shoe dug up at a lake near Zurich. It was found almost fully preserved in the Greifensee lake at Maur and attributed to the so-called “Horgen” culture. Less than ten of these rare specimens ...
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Handmade Easter bunnies take shape

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 03/31/2018 - 11:00
They are everywhere: in shop windows, piled up on supermarket shelves and even hidden behind garden bushes. They come in all sizes and colours. But where does the Easter bunny actually come from? Where are they made? Photographer Christian Beutler visited the chocolate maker Honold in Küsnacht, near Zurich, to find out more. The firm, which has been in the same family for four generations, produces handmade Easter bunnies. The origins of the Easter bunny are still unclear. It is thought that a German manufacturer started making them in the 1950s. In 1952, the Swiss chocolate company Lindt & Sprüngli started selling its famous golden bunnies. The story goes that the idea came from the owner’s son, who was very attached to his pet rabbit. The product took off in Switzerland and is now sold all around the world. According to the Federation of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers (Chocosuisse), in 2017 4,600 tonnes of Easter-related chocolate products were sold in Switzerland and 380 ...
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Anuga FoodTec 2018 - GEA launches new freeze dryers for even closer scale-up to full production

News Machinery - Fri, 03/30/2018 - 16:01

GEA launched its new RAY™ PP (Pilot Plant) batch freeze dryers during Anuga FoodTec in Cologne. The RAY™ PP machines are designed for small-scale and R&D drying of general food products such as instant coffee, fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat, seafood and pet food, as well as very sensitive products such as lactic acid bacteria, enzymes and lactoferrin. The new dryers more closely mimic the characteristics of larger industrial plants allowing more accurate scalability to full production.  ...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=222057

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Restoring people power to personal data

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 03/30/2018 - 15:00
The recent scandal of Cambridge Analytica using Facebook data to allegedly manipulate elections has given fresh impetus to projects designed to give people control of their private information. One group even plans to launch an initiative to enshrine data protection into the Swiss constitution. Companies harvesting personal data for commercial use is hardly new. It is the business model of Facebook and other social media while hospitals sell anonymised patient information to pharmaceutical companies. Concerns about invasion of privacy have spawned a range of platforms that allow people to safeguard their data and sell it on their own terms. Swiss newcomer VALID has recently raised more than $10 million (CHF9.5 million) from the public to set up a non-profit platform exactly for this purpose. It is the brainchild of Daniel Gasteiger, founder of the digital identity firm Procivis. “This is exactly what VALID is all about, making sure this cannot happen in future,” Gasteiger told ...
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