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When the night exploded - 70 years ago

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 18:11
Seventy years ago to this day, one of the worst ever artificial explosions unrelated to the use of atomic weapons took place in Switzerland. In the Bernese Alps, 1947, shortly before midnight, an explosion cut through the pre-Christmas silence. Some 7,000 tonnes (15 million pounds) of ammunition exploded, along with the underground warehouse in which it had been stored.  The detonation injured several people and killed nine, among them four children. Many houses in the vicinity were completely destroyed. The series of explosions which shook the valley were so strong that they were registered by the seismological service in Zurich - 115 kilometres away.  Jets of flames, hundreds of metres high, shot up into the night sky. The ammunition and debris that were expelled destroyed up to 100 buildings in the valley. The rock face, in which the ammunition storage room had been located collapsed and 250,000 cubic metres of rock were released. Huge boulders, weighing several tons were ...
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The dearth – and death? – of Swiss biodiversity

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:00
No matter how green and beautiful it appears in postcards and social media posts, Switzerland is struggling to boost its biodiversity. Many animal populations and habitats have disappeared, and critics say the government action plan is lacking.  Switzerland may have been quick to join the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992, but it’s lost momentum over the past three decades. For example, participating countries have agreed to set aside 17% of their land for conservation by 2020. With only about 7%, Switzerland is still far behind the target – and almost hopelessly so, says Markus Fischer, president of the of the Swiss Biodiversity Forum’s scientific advisory council, which connects scientists with policy-makers. Fischer says 30% of Switzerland’s surface area is needed to save all species. Despite the country’s small size, it boasts 240 diverse habitat types. Yet Switzerland has a long red list of threatened species. A recent government report revealed ...
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Leonardo Wins the National Award for Innovation with an Electric Tail Rotor for Helicopters to Reduce Environmental Impact

News Machinery - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 20:29

- - • The winning project was developed within the European “Clean Sky” programme that is developing sustainable solutions for future air transport - • The groundbreaking technology is part of a programme to increase the use of electrical systems on aircraft; improving reliability, safety while reducing energy consumption and environmental impact - • Profumo: "Technological innovation is a necessary condition for growth and a decisive factor for sustainable and lasting development" - •...

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=218082

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A rewarding visit to a quiet corner of the UN

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 16:00
Today I’m on my way to a quiet corner of the United Nations Palais des Nations building in Geneva, which, to my shame, I have never actually visited before.  The UN Library Geneva is in Block B of the Palais, part of the original magnificent League of Nations building. I have worked here for more than ten years, but every day I am reminded that the ambitions which led to the creation of the League are reflected in its size: the Palais is huge, bigger than Versailles, with miles of corridors, thousands of offices, and twists and turns that can be quite mystifying. Don’t enter, a colleague once joked, without a compass, a sleeping bag, and plentiful supplies of food.  I think of that as I head for the library…well, head implies a certain purposeful direction, which is lacking in me today. Wishing I had left a useful trail of breadcrumbs behind me, I realize I know neither where I am, nor how to get back to where I started.  Luckily rescue is at hand, when a helpful gentleman asks ...
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Swiss cheese and Asian tea: An arranged culinary marriage

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 12:00
Cheese and tea have been around for thousands of years but seldom do the twain meet at the dinner table. An expert matchmaker shares tips on how to pair the two with special combinations created exclusively for swissinfo.ch.  The proof of the pudding lies in the eating. With this in mind, swissinfo.ch embarked on a gourmet adventure of tasting several combinations of Swiss cheeses with Chinese, Japanese and Indian teas. At the Länggass-Tee tea shop in Bern, we learned first hand that Gruyère cheese is tough to match with teas, Japanese teas are rich in “umami” taste like cheese and Chinese Oolongs pair well with almost all Swiss cheeses.  It all began on a Swiss Alp a little over 30 years ago. Fabienne Effertz, a social worker from Belgium, quit her job to graze cows on Alpine pastures in the world famous cheesemaking Gruyère region of western Switzerland. Effertz spent five seasons (May to October) learning the ins and outs of the trade, which obviously included how to make ...
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Switzerland, land of European immigration

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 09:00
Switzerland has one of the highest percentages of foreigners in its population, most of whom are Europeans. Has it always been this way? We look back at 166 years of immigration to Switzerland.  More than 80% of the foreign population living in Switzerland is from another European country. Immigration from Germany, Italy and, to a lesser extent, France has a long history. The graphic below looks at 166 years of immigration in Switzerland. At the end of the 19th century, railway network expansion led to the first wave of migrants to modern-day Switzerland. At the time, immigration had been almost exclusively from neighbouring countries. The post-war economic boom also resulted in an upsurge in jobs. Between 1951 and 1970 Switzerland experienced a significant influx of migrants. It stagnated in the 1970s and 1980s, accelerating again in the past 30 years. Italy and Spain were the main suppliers of workers up until the end of the 1970s. As their national economies improved, ...
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Cheesy delights, a special library and ‘glocal’ Christmas market

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 13:00
Here is a selection of stories to look ahead to on swissinfo.ch in the week of December 18, 2017. Monday Want to make eating Swiss cheese more fun? How about pairing it with teas from around the world? We’ll be looking at the trend of pairing cheese with tea and sharing expert advice and exclusive combinations for matching the best of East and West. If you want to see the vision of the League of Nations made solid in all its 1930’s style, the UN Library in Geneva is the place to go, writes our International Geneva columnist Imogen Foulkes. She takes us on a visit to this architectural beauty housing ten floors of books and documents, including some historic gems.    Tuesday Switzerland might appear like a nature-lover’s paradise but its beauty is only skin deep. We talk to scientists and environment groups to get a grip on the scale of animal and habitat loss.   Wednesday Embracing massive industrialisation has brought big profits to Swiss watch brands. We look at ...
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Laura Gibilras: ‘Young people have no future in Italy’

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 12:00
Laura Gibilras was born in Italy, but she's always had a particularly close connection to Switzerland, her mother’s home. For the last two years, the 19-year-old has lived in the canton of Zurich and she envisages making her life in Switzerland -- even though the people in Italy are, she says, “much more open and communicative.” swissinfo.ch: You were born in Italy as a Swiss abroad. Does someone in your family come from Switzerland? Laura Gibilras: I was a Swiss abroad because my mother was born and grew up in Switzerland. She met my father on a trip to Italy and they fell in love. I know – very romantic! The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of swissinfo.ch. swissinfo.ch: What relationship do you have with Switzerland? L.G.: I’ve always had a special relationship with Switzerland. When I was still living in Italy, I used to spend two holidays a year at my grandparents’ home in Switzerland.  From the ...
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The sweet rewards of climbing in the Swiss Alps

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 10:00
Outdoor photographer Dan Patitucci frames the rewards of a hard day's climb: cake and a view to die for. We started our day at the Turtmann Hut with headlamps on, negotiated crevasses on both the Brunegg and Turtmann glaciers, climbed 1700 meters to the summit of the Bishorn, and finally skied some much deserved powder until reaching the Tracuit Hut, where perhaps the day’s ultimate reward came.  There we discovered what may be the Alp’s best dining room, best enjoyed with fresh torte and a coffee. 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 Each week over the next few months, swissinfo.ch will publish a series of Dan and Janine Patitucci’s pictures ...
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A revolutionary train journey across wartime Europe

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 12:00
A historic journey by train, 100 years ago: in 1917, Lenin famously travelled in a ‘sealed railway carriage’ from Zurich to Petrograd (now St Petersburg) in Russia. A century on, relive the route the revolutionary took, in pictures. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, pseudonym Lenin, and his wife, Nadeshda Krupskaja, arrived in Bern in 1914, claiming political exile. Lenin had previously lived in Geneva. The couple stayed in Bern until February 1916, when they moved to Spiegelgasse 14 in Zurich’s old town, remaining there for just over a year.  The reasons behind the move were political: Lenin was dreaming of an armed uprising and was trying to gather supporters who could spread his message and help him build an international Marxist movement. The Zurich Social Democrats were more radical than their Bernese counterparts. He spent his time in the Swiss city attending Social Democratic Party meetings, trying to recruit followers and finishing his work, “Imperialism: the highest stage of ...
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Swiss train rides: punctual and beautiful

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 12:00
Trains, train, trains: Diccon Bewes packs his bag and heads off for a day out on Swiss public transport. Along the way he manages to hop on board almost every type of moving vehicle that Switzerland has to offer. It turns out it's not the beautiful views that take his breath away, but the intricate train timetables he finds on the platforms. Diccon explains why he loves them, and what happens to them in December. (Diccon Bewes for swissinfo.ch)
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Meet an amphibian that’s at home in the Alps

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 15:00
Tricky to spot, the Alpine salamander stands out for its unusual reproductive style and ability to handle the cold.  Whereas other amphibians typically lay eggs or larvae, female Alpine salamanders give birth to one or two fully-developed juveniles after a two-to-four-year(!) gestation period. These measure 3-5 centimetres in length, compared to the adult size of 13-16cm.  Amphibians in general have been protected in Switzerland since 1967 and are among the species most under threat. Although the Alpine salamander is a “least concern” species in Switzerland, biologists highlight the importance of preserving their preferred habitat: rocky and not-too-dry landscapes with moderate vegetation. The shiny black creatures, which prefer shady and moist places, can be found north of the Alps and in canton Graubünden, at elevations ranging from 800-2,500 metres. The critters also live in the cracks and gaps in stone walls.  “It’s a really cool species,” says Lukas Keller, a professor ...
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Polarisation of Swiss parliament continues

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 12:00
The left and right wings in the Swiss parliament are moving further apart with politicians increasingly sticking to the party line, according to an analysis of the Senate and the House and Representatives.  The trend of a polarising Swiss political landscape has existed for around 20 years, since the spectacular rise of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. In the 1990s, the smallest (at the time) of the four parties in government began leaning further to the right and winning broader support from voters with its anti-EU and xenophobic stance.  These gains were above all at the expense of the two large centrist parties, the Radical Party and the Christian Democratic Party.  Since 2003 the People’s Party has been the largest party in parliament, ahead of the leftwing Social Democratic Party. There followed a long period of squabbling over the seven seats in the Federal Council (cabinet) which until then had been allocated according to the so-called “magic formula”: two for the ...
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A piece of Swiss democracy down under

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 12:00
After years of dispute, the Australian parliament recently passed the same-sex marriage bill. But it was the Australian people themselves who paved the way by voting ‘yes’ for the first time in a popular vote in 40 years. This has also whetted the appetite for more reforms, which in the past have been rejected – due to a democracy model imported from Switzerland. This text is part of #DearDemocracy external link, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. In 1913, Canberra was founded as the capital in this region which expands over 2,300 square kilometres. This is where the federal government of the country of 25 million people has its seat and where the two houses of the national parliament conduct their sessions. Recently, the House of Representatives witnessed history being made. Tim Wilson was standing at the speaker’s desk, but the representative of the ruling liberal party did not talk about same-sex marriages, as listed on the agenda. Instead, Wilson ...
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What to do if sexual harassment happens to you

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:00
When allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by the Swiss parliamentarian Yannick Buttet emerged a few weeks ago, the discourse on sexual harassment in Switzerland shifted from could this happen here to what should we do about it. Although a government commissioned study found that 28% of women in Switzerland experience sexual harassment over the course of their professional lives, rarely do these cases grab headlines in the same way the Harvey Weinstein scandal and subsequent cases have in the United States. However, the Buttet affair and recent allegations against professor Franco Moretti alongside the global #metoo social media campaign have helped bring what has largely been viewed as a private matter into the public consciousness. What should you do if you experience sexual harassment in a workplace in Switzerland? What practical resources and legal channels are available to you and how effective are they? Swissinfo.ch answers key questions about employee rights and ...
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Navigating health insurance plans as a Swiss abroad

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 18:00
What type of health care coverage should you take out when moving to a new country? In this installment of our series, we offer a few tips for those contemplating an extended or indefinite stay outside Switzerland. People who move their permanent residence to another country are no longer obligated to take out basic health insurance in Switzerland, although there are exceptions to this rule. Those moving on a temporary basis and holding on to Swiss residency, however, can continue with their Swiss health coverage. To illustrate these basic rules, let’s look at a couple of cases sent in by our readers, along with coverage options for those moving to the United States. A Swiss pensioner Someone receiving a state pension who moves to a country outside the European Union or European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) zone falls under the category of people no longer subject to Swiss health insurance law. So they must obtain coverage in their new country of residence. Pensioners ...
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Work-Related Asthma, Vaccines and Identifying Respiratory Irritants and Asthma Triggers

News Machinery - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 17:02

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information about a study the agency conducted that examined work-related asthma and the percentage of those with the condition who have received the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. The study was published in the  American Journal of Preventive Medicine. According to the agency, adults with asthma are at increased risk for pneumococcal disease and just 54% of adults with work-related asthma, asthma triggered by a...

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=217874

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Perfectly prepared pistes: at what cost?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 12:00
A lack of snow in mountain regions has become a real problem for some Swiss ski resorts. People's livelihoods rely on the business that comes with skiing, and mountain regions are forced to make artificial snow to ensure the pistes can open. But this process comes at a cost. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) The production of artificial snow uses a lot of natural resources and energy. Some ski resorts have been using a different technique to try and make artificial snow production more efficient in terms of both natural resources, and money. Gstaad, for example, is now using a snow depth measuring system. Every time a snow groomer (the truck that prepares the pistes) drives over the snowy surface, the depth of snow is measured, and the data sent back to a database. Drivers can see the information on the spread of snow on screens inside their cabins, and can react, based on how deep the snow should be. They then focus artificial snow production on specific areas. The management of snow levels ...
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Can low-cost ski passes help lure back visitors?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 12:00
Swiss resorts are hoping that a combination of heavy discounts on season passes and a weaker franc will bring skiers back to the slopes after a series of poor winters.  For the second year in a row, the high-altitude resort of Saas-Fee is offering an 80% discount by marketing a cut-price crowd-funded season pass (CHF233) aimed at boosting domestic demand; so far it has sold over 77,000 “WinterCard” tickets. Last year, the figure was 75,000, which generated a +15% increase in the number of nights people spent there in accommodation.  “The entire valley benefited last year,” declared Claudine Perrothon, in charge of public relations for Saas-Fee. “There was an increase in the number of people skiing, and business for the hotels, apartments and shops.”  Their scheme appears to have inspired others. Right now, everyone is talking about the new single season “Magic Pass”, offering 1,000 kilometres of skiing in about two dozen big and small resorts across western Switzerland and parts ...
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When the going gets tough, get out of bed!

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 12:00
(To view video subtitles in English, click on the gear icon and turn captions "on"). Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. In this week's vlog, she tells us how to stay motivated. She says, "When the going gets tough, don't take a nap. Get out there and pursue your goals."(SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch) 
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