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Younger skiers slip away from the Alpine slopes

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 17:52
Juggling two pairs of skis and a toddler for an after-lunch run down the slopes in the French Alpine village of Megève, a friend quips that, by now, technology innovators should have found an easier way to ski. Surely, she says, this is an industry ripe for disruption. Leisurely skiers like me would agree, even though, in reality, new technology has changed the sport, giving us parabolic and lighter equipment, comfier and warmer boots, faster and safer lifts, and plenty of artificial snow production to make up for poor weather. There is further disruption on the way, but it is driven less by technology than demographics. The industry, it seems, is having its moment of existential angst. There has been more than enough snow in the Alps this year to make one forget about global warming, but the long-term threat of climate change to winter sports is here to stay. More pressing, though, is that baby boomers – the most enthusiastic skiers – are ageing and are not being replaced as ...
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A new life for 1,000 illegal immigrants in Geneva

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 12:00
Some 76,000 illegal and undocumented immigrants are believed to be living in Switzerland. The canton of Geneva – home to 13,000 of them – launched a pilot project in 2015 to go about regularising them. What progress has been made? “I heard that things were better in Switzerland,” says Purevmaa from Mongolia, recalling how she began her “underground” life here 13 years ago. Today, she is one of the 1,093 beneficiaries of the Papyrus project, a unique pilot scheme aiming to regularise long-term undocumented workers in Geneva. Since 2005, the year she arrived in Switzerland, Purevmaa has taken on domestic work as a means of earning a living. “A lot of other women from my country had found good jobs in Geneva,” she says. “I decided to come. I arrived when I was 24, with another girl from Mongolia, whose brother was already here. We stayed with him and found work.” She says that as a woman, finding work in Swiss households is “easy” and that she is well-treated by her bosses. She ...
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How climate change affects migration

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 12:00
Will climate change, as often claimed, indeed result in large-scale human migration, notably from poor to rich countries? Vally Koubi and Thomas Bernauer answer. Global warming is bound to have increasingly adverse consequences for humanity and ecosystems. While there is strong agreement in the scientific community about most of these consequences, there is significant controversy about how climatic changes could affect human migration.  Some political leaders, international organizations, and scientists claim that climate change will lead to massive population shifts in the international system, notably mass migration from poor to rich countries Mass migration to Europe? A recent publication in the journal Science, for instance – which we strongly disagree with predicts that climate change could drive up the number of people seeking asylum in the European Union by nearly 200 percent by the end of this century. Similarly, other studies claim that climate change will force ...
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More and more Swiss renounce their inheritance

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 18:00
An increasing number of Swiss people are renouncing their inheritance, due to their parents leaving their estates in debt upon their deaths. If they disclaim the inheritance, they refuse to accept what has been left to them. In the past five years, the number of inheritance renunciations has shot up by 30%, with more than 5,800 cases in 2015. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)  An inheritance can be disclaimed within the first three months after the death of the testator, if it’s feared that the estate’s debts are likely to exceed the assets. It costs CHF100 ($106) to file the paperwork for this. A disclaimed inheritance is equivalent to bankruptcy, so it is the bankruptcy authority that handles the dossiers. Information about a deceased person's financial circumstances can be obtained from their last tax return, from bank statements or by getting a certificate from the debt enforcement register. If someone’s financial position is unclear, people inheriting an estate can request that a public ...
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Freeze frames: when Siberia comes to Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 16:10
A Siberian freeze has descended over Switzerland since Monday and is forecast to stay until Wednesday, with temperatures in the lowlands reaching -16 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit). A powerful wind means the “real feel” temperature is even lower. The mercury will barely rise above -5 degrees over the next few days. At 2,000 metres above sea level the temperatures are expected to be around -17 degrees. The cold spell is unusual but not extraordinary. It’s caused by a cold front coming from Siberia, which this year has reached Switzerland. A similar situation occurred in 2005. On the Corvatsch mountain near St Moritz in eastern Switzerland, the thermometer fell to -30.9 degrees, according to Meteonews. The chilliest place on Monday night was on the Glattalp in canton Schwyz, which recorded -38 degrees. Given the exposed location, such low temperatures are seen – and felt – every three to five years. And nature has left behind some spectacular ice sculptures in the ...
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Think tank: Swiss higher ed needs reform

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 12:00
Swiss universities need to be more efficient if they are to compete internationally, says think tank Avenir Suisse. Regional aspirations have taken priority over excellence, threatening standards, it warns. The independent free-market group of experts is quick to point out that Switzerland is not doing too badly higher-education-wise. “If you take the Times Higher Education university rankings, there are six Swiss universities among the top 150 ranked universities and if you take into account how many students in Switzerland actually study at one of these six universities, then its almost 40%, which is very high compared with the United States, for example,” Matthias Ammann, a fellow at Avenir Suisse, told swissinfo.ch. For example, the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) was ranked No. 1 in continental Europe in this survey and 10th overall. But this excellence has come at a price, argues the think tank in its recently published study “Academic Excellence, ...
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Zurich launches Muslim pastoral care project

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 18:00
When a Christian needs emergency spiritual support in a hospital, in a care-home or after an accident, there is an existing network in place to make sure pastoral carers can attend quickly. For the 100,000 Muslims living in canton Zurich however, only one man has been on call 24 hours a day until now: imam, Muris Begovic. (SRF/SDA/swissinfo.ch). Together with the Association of Islamic Organisations in Zurich (VIOZ) and two Christian churches, the canton of Zurich is supporting the expansion of Muslim emergency- and hospital-care by providing start-up funding.  For the approximately 100,000 Muslims in canton Zurich, there is currently no regulated pastoral care on offer during emergencies or in hospitals. The canton is now working with the VIOZ in the training and supervision of the specialised pastoral carers. From 2019, around ten Muslim emergency counsellors are to be trained and will start their work. Sites can be hospitals, but also care centres or homes for disabled people.
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Huntington Beach Testing Lab Adds New Method for Hexavalent Chromium Analysis

News Machinery - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 17:21

LA Testing is pleased to announce that its Huntington Beach, California laboratory has added a new accreditation through the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA-LAP, LLC) Industrial Hygiene Laboratory Accreditation Program (IHLAP). LA Testing has been approved for a new method of testing for hexavalent chromium by the ion chromatography (IC) method. With this accreditation, LA Testing is accredited in accordance with the recognized International Standard ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Genera...

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=220737

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Swiss abroad angered by proposed social benefits cuts

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 17:20
Those emigrating from a non-EU country to Switzerland will not be eligible to receive supplementary benefits for a period of 10 years, according to a proposal by the Social Security Committee in the Swiss House of Representatives. The Swiss abroad have reacted with concern. The decision to toughen the rules of entry into the Swiss social security system was taken last week by the committee, which said that only those resident in the country for a period of at least 10 years – and who have their permanent residence here – should be eligible to receive supplementary social benefits in case of need. Supplementary benefits are a legal entitlement (not a form of social welfare) linked to one’s existing social security insurance. They are provided in cases where retired or incapacitated people are unable to cover their needs through pension or income. However, the change will primarily affect Swiss citizens who wish to return to their country of origin after a period spent in a ...
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The phantom at the edge of our solar system

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 12:00
Stargazers worldwide are feverishly searching for a previously unknown giant planet. Among them is Swiss astrophysicist Christoph Mordasini of the University of Bern, who believes we will soon know for sure whether there are eight planets in our solar system…or nine. Why does our sun rotate at an oblique angle? Why do some celestial bodies at the edge of our solar system move in peculiar orbits? Something is causing imbalances in our solar system. But what is it? Some astronomers believe a large, as-yet undiscovered planet could be causing these disruptions. Two researchers in particular are convinced by this theory: the astrophysicists Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown at the California Institute of Technology. In 2016, they wrote in a scholarly article that they had found evidence suggesting the existence of a ninth planet. They had analysed irregular orbits of small celestial bodies on the far side of Neptune, and concluded that these could have been caused by a large planet.
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Swiss Olympians exceed medal target

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 11:56
Switzerland's Olympic team has ended up with 15 medals – four more than what they were aiming for at the Winter Games in PyeongChang. Here's a look, in photos, of how they got there. The largest-ever Swiss Olympic team aimed for at least 11 first-, second- or third-place finishes at this year's Games, a target met when Michelle Gisin and Wendy Holdener crossed the finish line as gold and bronze medallists in the Alpine combined event on Wednesday. "I really hoped today would be the day when I could put a race like this together," an overjoyed Gisin told Swiss public television, SRF, after her victory. She and Holdener – who had already won a silver medal in the women's slalom – joined their teammates who had previously medalled in men's Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, curling and cross-country skiing.  One of the medallists was cross-country skier Dario Cologna, who led the Swiss team into the stadium at the opening of the PyeongChang Games. The 15 medals comprise five ...
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Younger children are also skipping school

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 02/25/2018 - 16:00
Most people think school truants are older children, but experts say that cutting school is a growing problem in Switzerland among younger pupils too. “It’s already starting in Kindergarten, there are many absences,” Freddy Noser, president of the School Principals Association in canton St Gallen, told Swiss public television SRF in a recent report. This rise among Kindergarten (which runs from age 4-6 in Switzerland) and primary pupils concerns him. “We can no longer ignore it. We must take it seriously. If we don’t, we’re going to have an even bigger problem in ten years’ time, with absences of 20-30%,” he said. This is why the canton founded a working group on the issue in 2014, which was expanded in 2017. It is made up of representatives working in the school, health or social work field. Elsbeth Freitag, deputy director of the canton St Gallen school counselling service, is a member. “We know from research that for truancy, fear is probably a factor in 80% of cases,” ...
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New planets, legalised immigrants, and boiled lobsters

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 02/25/2018 - 13:00
These are the stories out of Switzerland we’ll be following the week of February 26, 2018. Monday Are there really only eight planets in our solar system? Swiss researchers are looking into a theory that there’s a ninth, previously unknown giant planet out there. We’ll delve into their work and what they’ve discovered so far. Tuesday A leading Swiss think tank says Swiss universities need to be more efficient if they are to compete internationally. Regional aspirations have taken priority over excellence, it warns, threatening standards. The researchers have – controversially – mooted increasing tuition fees, traditionally very low in Switzerland. We bring you the background and reactions to the story. Wednesday Since last year all eyes have been on a pilot programme in Geneva that set out to regularise the legal status of thousands of previously illegal immigrants in the canton. Has it worked, and is it a legitimate model for the rest of Switzerland? ...
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Swiss medical students follow their dream in Romania

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 02/25/2018 - 12:00
It's notoriously difficult to gain university places in medicine and veterinary science in Switzerland, so a growing number of Swiss are going to Romania to study instead. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)  In Cluj, Romania's fourth most populous city in the northwestern part of the country, teaching is in French and English and qualifications are recognised in Switzerland and European Union (EU) countries. And since Romania became an EU member in 2007, the medical faculty in Cluj has seen an explosion in the number of students attending; it currently has 50 from western Switzerland alone. Students claim the studies themselves are not easier, but entrance requirements are more relaxed. In Switzerland, a so-called numerus clausus ("closed number" in Latin) limits the number of students who may study medicine at university. Applicants with the relevant academic qualifications must score well in a test that assesses logical and spatial reasoning and textual comprehension skills. This is carried ...
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Uphill, but no struggle for these skiers

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 02/25/2018 - 10:00
When a window of good weather appears, Swiss photographer Dan Patitucci, heads for the snowy hills. With two days of sun bookended by grey and wet conditions, we decided to take advantage of the great weather and fresh snow by ski touring both days in the Bernese Oberland.  Together with friends, we headed up to the Lobhorn Hut, then further towards the Schwalmerer, a 2777-metre-high peak we look up at from our home in Interlaken.  Conditions were perfect; shin-deep powder, and no tracks. Now, conditions are perfect to be working inside again. 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 landscapes Since December, swissinfo.ch has been publishing a series ...
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By the numbers: A Swiss national language marks a milestone

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 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. Sunday 20,400,000 The amount of Swiss funding, in francs, received by British aid organisation Oxfam since 2013. The British government recently withdrew its support of the charity following allegations of sexual misconduct by aid workers during the humanitarian crisis in Haiti in 2011. Monday 36 The age at which Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer officially became the oldest man to achieve an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) No. 1 ranking. It’s the fourth time in his career that Federer has snagged the top spot.  Monday 80 The number of years ago that Romansh became the fourth Swiss national language, after 92% of Swiss voters approved the designation. On the anniversary of that vote, Switzerland’s Romansh lobby called to broaden the official territory of ...
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How risky are flawed e-voting systems for democracy?

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 18:00
A leading data protection expert has warned of future security breaches if the government’s plan to introduce e-voting at a nationwide level goes ahead. Bruno Baeriswyl, data protection commissioner in canton Zurich, urged the authorities to give up plans, announced last April, for online voting across Switzerland. Speaking on the occasion of this year’s European Data Privacy Day at the end of January, Baeriswyl said that current technology could not guarantee that ballots remain secret in votes and elections. He and other cantonal data protection commissioners argued that digitalisation could undermine democratic principles even while online systems help to simplify procedures. “The current systems for e-voting override the secret ballot in votes and elections. But it is imperative that all transactions must always be verifiable in a secure system. As a result, either we have ballot secrecy or we don’t have a secure method,” Baeriswyl said. “And this is highly risky for our ...
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Australia's Ticinese have strong ties to a faraway home

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 12:00
In the mid-19th century, around 2,000 people left the Swiss canton of Ticino for Australia. More than 150 years later, the legacy of the “Swiss Italians” can still be seen in the state of Victoria.  In the regions of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, northeast of Melbourne, you will find a hotel Bellinzona, the Locarno thermal springs, the cricket grounds builder Tinetti and the Lavandula farm. They all bear witness to this large wave of emigration from the southern Swiss canton of Ticino to Australia. During the 1850s, droves of people left behind the poverty of the Ticino valleys and, to a lesser extent, the val Poschiavo in the adjoining canton of Graubünden to seek their fortunes on the other side of the world. Many were lured by the promise of gold in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. But most were bitterly disappointed. By the time they arrived, the gold rush was almost over. Many returned home empty-handed and with big debts to pay, or left straightaway for the ...
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What can the Swiss teach the US about guns?

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 16:03
In the wake of the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida, an American former police officer and current Swiss resident argues it’s time for the US to follow the example of Switzerland in regulating firearms. As an American living in Zurich, I’ve watched news cycle after news cycle reporting mass shootings, domestic violence-related homicides, and accidental gun deaths in the United States. While the issue of gun violence has impacted every American in some way, I have had a more close-up view than most. Although these days I work in academia, I was previously a police officer in a large city in the western US. I am also a gun owner and a liberal member of the Democratic Party, facts that many Americans consider mutually exclusive. I carried a gun every day as part of my job and routinely witnessed gun violence in the form of assaults, homicides, and suicides. I still have two guns (locked in a safe back in the US) and a host of friends working in law enforcement. I ...
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Why there are so few women in Swiss local politics

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:00
Getting Swiss women to take part in town hall meetings is a challenge, even in a place where the majority of the local government is female. What are the reasons? As a rule, town hall meetings across Switzerland are awash with bald heads, moustaches and checked shirts covering paunches – the mythical cradle of Switzerland’s direct democracy in its more than 2,200 municipalities is mostly a man’s world. The town of Steinhausen, about 21 kilometres (13 miles) south of Zurich, is slightly different: three of the five members of its local government are women. Barbara Hofstetter, who the mayor of the 10,000-person town, estimates that its town hall meetings tend to be about 40% women. “But nine out of ten citizens who speak at theses gatherings are men,” she says. No interest A quick straw poll in Steinhausen reveals that many women are not interested in local politics. “I’ve lived here for 30 years, but I have never been to a town hall assembly,” says a 55-year-old woman at a ...
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