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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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Bringing everyone to the table

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 03/30/2018 - 11:00
When politics polarise, solutions become difficult and blockades form. How to cope? Get people together and let them speak freely. The magic word is deliberation – the joint discussion of possibilities before individual decision-making. This is the focus of experiments by Jonas Nakonz and his young colleagues at foraus, a Swiss foreign policy think tank.  For the past two years, Nakonz has been using the “PoliTisch” format to organise migration policy talks with very diverse participants from various population groups – including politicians. While eating together, they discuss a wide range of attitudes and opinions. In doing so, Nakonz observes how the mixed crowds find answers to political questions.  The approach behind it? If people are part of the political debate from early on, they can express themselves much more accurately than with a mere “yes” or “no” at the end of the debate. For it is precisely this reduction of democracy to an “either-or” that fuels polarisation.
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Living with HIV

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 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.  This week, Jenni tells us about living with a serious illness. She is HIV-positive, and says that some people are ashamed to be friends with her. On the sunny side, she believes many people in her position live longer than those that are HIV negative, because they take such good care of their health.  (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
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What your job title could tell you about your health

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:00
A Lausanne-based researcher is working to bust the myth that Switzerland is too rich to escape the impact of low socioeconomic status on health, and to integrate this often-ignored risk factor into public health interventions. It probably comes as no surprise that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers alcohol abuse, physical inactivity, salt intake, tobacco use, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes to be key risk factors for today’s major non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Due to their well-documented roles in the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases or cancer, each of these risk factors is targeted in the WHO’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs. But for Silvia Stringhini, a lecturer at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) in Lausanne, there is a crucial entry missing in the WHO’s list: low socioeconomic status. “As long as people smoke or are obese because of socioeconomic disadvantage, if these root ...
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Down under in Zurich Zoo

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 20:45
The new stars at Zurich Zoo have button eyes, fluffy fur and rate highly on the cute-o-meter: the two koalas, Milo and Mikey, can now be seen in the Australia exhibit, which opened on Wednesday. (All images: Keystone) The two half-brothers are clearly indifferent to the buzz surrounding the opening: when not sleeping or yawning, they spent almost all their time chewing on eucalyptus leaves – moving only in emergencies.  They came from a reptile park in Australia and have recently moved to Zurich Zoo, the only animal park in Switzerland with koalas. The Australia exhibit is also home to perenties (large monitor lizards), emus and wallabies.  Although visitors can walk through the outdoor enclosure among the emus and wallabies, it is not a petting zoo. Stroking and feeding the animals is forbidden.  The koalas also have access to fresh air: trees and a place to sit have been provided so they can keep an eye on everything as they eat.
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Animal protection or religious freedom?

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 16:30
In Switzerland, animal welfare groups are launching an initiative to ban the import of animal products obtained via cruel methods. Yet there’s a debate as to whether a ban should include kosher and halal meat.  Swiss animal protection laws forbid the production of products like foie gras and frog legs [see box below]. The fact that these items can be imported is both a contradiction and a thorn in the eye to animal rights activists.  After a motion for an import ban failed in parliament, animal welfare groups have turned to direct democracy in the form of a people’s initiative.  Snubbing Jews and Muslims?  Potentially volatile is the question of whether kosher and halal meat will fall under the ban. Killing a conscious animal by slitting its throat and letting it bleed to death has been banned in Switzerland since 1893. This butchering method is permitted only if the animal is anaesthetized beforehand.  “In principle, it is not clear why religion should override our law,” says ...
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Swiss direct democracy follows in Oregon’s footsteps

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 11:00
How do you make Switzerland even more democratic? By involving randomly chosen citizens in the deliberation process ahead of popular votes. A research project first carried out in the US state of Oregon will test that practice, in part to address populist proposals.  The project, called “A non-populist theory of direct democracy”, is financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and led by political scientist Nenad Stojanovic.  With his group of researchers, Stojanovic - a champion of direct democracy who says he doesn’t want to be restricted to a theoretical project - says he aims to test “an innovation connected to direct democracy which has non-populist potential”.  This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. It involves the so-called Oregon model, which has been applied in the northwestern US state since 2010. Under the model, organisers of the Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR) select a panel, made up of a random ...
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Novartis and GSK CEOs set out diverging strategies

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 09:08
It is a tale of two newly minted chief executives, each looking to send a clear signal to investors about strategy and priorities, after only months at the helm. When Novartis announced on Tuesday the sale to GlaxoSmithKline of its 36.5% stake in their consumer health joint venture for $13 billion (CHF12.3 billion), it marked an unexpectedly early and decisive move for Vas Narasimhan, who became CEO in February. Emma Walmsley, meanwhile, who took over at GSK just under a year ago, has strengthened her company’s position in consumer health — but, according to people familiar with her thinking, in service of her number one priority: boosting the flagging pharma division. She hopes the increased cash flow she will now reap from consumer sales can be invested in promising research and development. When the Financial Times interviewed Mr Narasimhan in September, just after his appointment had been announced, he said he needed to “reflect on” the shape of the group, considering ...
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Swiss ICO market ‘is not a Wild West’

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 07:47
A senior Swiss government official has dismissed fears that a new method of funding for crypto start-ups has mushroomed out of control. Last year, such firms raked in an estimated CHF850 million ($890 million) in Switzerland using a novel form of capital raising known as “initial coin offering” (ICO). Jörg Gasser, head of the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF), denies the ICO industry has descended into a free-for-all and is convinced that ongoing regulatory tweaks can protect the reputation of the Swiss financial industry. Gasser chairs the Swiss government’s Blockchain/ICO working group that brings together the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), the Federal Office of Justice and the private sector to scrutinise the ICO landscape. It will report to the government by the end of the year. swissinfo.ch: Some observers refer to the ICO market in Switzerland as a ‘Wild West’. What are the risks to consumers and Switzerland’s reputation that still ...
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Baselworld: Mechanical clocks make a comeback

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:28
A clock generally has three hands to indicate hours, minutes and seconds. But how many legs should it have, and how much are you willing to pay for it?  A new breed of timepieces showcased at Baselworld - the annual watch and jewellery fair in the Swiss city of Basel - could keep the tradition of clockmaking alive.  Inspired by the octopus and the film Abyss, the eight-legged Octopod is certainly an eye catcher, even among MB&F’s rather outlandish watches. The independent watchmaker only started producing clocks four years ago in partnership with 179-year old clock firm L’Epée. They now sell eight limited edition clocks that retail for between CHF15,000 ($15,830) to just over CHF50,000.  At first glance Swiss clock exports appear to be declining, but it is worth noting that the average value of an exported clock has jumped from CHF136 to CHF1067 between 2009 and 2017, with far fewer clocks sold. This indicates a trend for more luxurious timepieces instead of mass-produced ones.
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