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Are India's daughters a good return on investment?

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 11:00
The world’s first private, performance-based investment aims to keep girls in rural India in school. But can projects like the one supported by the UBS Optimus Foundation change societal attitudes that lead to high drop-out rates?  Nani doesn’t have much time for journalists, especially when there is a bullock munching on her maize crop. The sprightly grandmother gives chase and the opportunistic bovine is shooed away. She finally finds some time to talk to swissinfo.ch under the shade of a mango tree.  “I did not go to school. In my time, there were no schools around and our family never sent us, so we didn’t go,” she says.  Half a century later, Nani's granddaughter Maya has hardly fared any better. She used to go to school but dropped out as someone was needed to graze the family’s goats. In the village of Jaliya - and all over the Bhilwara district in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan - goats represent the end of the line when it comes to a girl’s education. Few ...
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Trump pushes for UN reform at New York meeting

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 11:56
United States President Donald Trump made his debut at the United Nations in New York on Monday, urging the world body to reform by cutting down on bureaucracy. Some 120 states, including Switzerland, signed up to the US-led initiative in support. However, observers in Geneva remain dubious about the impact of the event.  Switzerland signed up to Monday’s US-sponsored event in New York and a ten-point declaration distributed by UN envoy Nikki Haley backing the broad "effective, meaningful" reforms proposed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  According to Paola Beer Ceresetti, spokesperson for the Swiss foreign ministry, Switzerland wants a “strong, modern and efficient UN capable of fully meeting the ambitious goals it has fixed”.  “The UN must continually renew itself, strengthen and adapt to new challenges. In this regard, Switzerland supports reform efforts by the new UN Secretary General, reforms of peace and security, reforms of the UN development system and ...
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High-tech protection from rockslides

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 11:00
In times of climate change and melting permafrost, modern surveillance systems are a matter of life and death. Researchers are developing new warning systems to give mountain residents more time to evacuate when the rocks start tumbling. (SRF/swissinfo.ch) In August 2017, eight people went missing, believed to have been buried under 4 million cubic metres of debris. The landslide in Bondo, close to the Swiss-Italian border, was one of the largest to hit Switzerland in the last century. On September 16, a further landslide occurred though nobody was hurt. Officials had already warned that a rock mass of between 200,000 and 500,000 metres squared was on the move. As nobody was in the danger zone increased safety measures were not needed. In a different part of the country earlier in September, the bulk of the ice tongue of the Trift glacier in canton Valais collapsed. More than 200 people were evacuated from their homes in Saas-Grund. About a third of the unstable ice masses are ...
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Switzerland keeps US and North Korea talking

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 18:00
In public, threats. Behind the scenes, diplomacy and de-escalation. Switzerland has been negotiating between the United States and North Korea without fanfare but with success. This week a former US diplomat and a representative from North Korea spoke to each other in Montreux.  It was one of those meetings that happen from time to time: at the lowest level, during an international get-together, discreet and informal. Yet it is significant because it represents a moment of normality in relations between the North Korea and the US. These are more strained than ever, following a series of weapon tests in North Korea and threats from the White House. In times like these, even small steps are large.  The conference began on Monday; the UN Security Council had just imposed very tough sanctions on North Korea. The Japanese national public broadcasting organisation NHK reported that Evans Revere, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, had spoken ...
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A new cabinet minister, vaccine shortages and Swiss banks in Indian schools

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 17:00
These are the stories on our agenda for the week beginning September 18, 2017. Tuesday Is there a place for private, for-profit investment in the international development sector dominated by governments, non-profits and wealthy donors? We look at the world’s first Development Impact Bond backed by Swiss bank UBS that aims to get Indian girls into school and improve learning outcomes. Wednesday First, wealthy Switzerland is struggling to maintain stocks of 16 key vaccines, forcing doctors to adapt their practices. What’s causing the shortfall, and what’s being done about it? Then, in the week’s big event, a new cabinet minister is chosen to replace outgoing Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter. We’ll have the results of the election and, as the story develops, information on the potential re-shuffle of duties among the seven members of the Swiss cabinet. Thursday Our coverage and analysis continues about the newest member of Switzerland’s cabinet. How might the person ...
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Swiss apartment glut puts pressure on landlords

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 15:00
It's a good time for people looking to rent an apartment in Switzerland, as there are a huge number of empty properties and landlords are slashing rents in some places. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)  There are around 55,000 empty rental flats in Switzerland. For example in Wangen bei Olten, Canton Solothurn, where ten percent of all flats are unoccupied. Because of negative bank interest rates, pension funds are investing in real estate, so in many areas, more apartments are being built than can be filled.  Landlords are coming up with novel ideas to counter this trend, with rent reductions among them, which is great news for tenants.
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A professor’s appointment wreaks havoc in Zurich

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 11:00
​​​​​​​In 1839, the election of a reform-minded theologist to Zurich’s education council caused an uproar – followed by a deep liberal-conservative rift that split the canton in two. On January 26, 1839, the Zurich education council met to discuss the appointment of a new theology professor. The panel was deeply divided. The liberals wanted to appoint David Friedrich Strauss, in the hope that 300 years after the Reformation, the church would modernise. For the conservatives, the 31-year-old German was out of the question. In his publication, Das Leben Jesu, kritisch bearbeitet (The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined), Strauss not only differentiated between the historical person Jesus of Nazareth and Christ as a construct of faith; he also declared biblical stories in general to be myths. After a stormy session, the council was evenly split – seven against seven – and mayor Conrad Melchior Hirzel, as the president of education, had to cast the decisive vote. This historical ...
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Accusations of fraud frame final Jura votes

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 15:00
Sorvilier and Belprahon, two small Bernese municipalities, are deciding whether to join the canton of Jura. In so doing, they would follow the lead of the town of Moutier, though challenges to its vote of June 18 are still pending. All possible precautions had nevertheless been taken. Eight months before the vote, population monitors had begun to take note of new arrivals to the town, in an effort to avoid so-called “electoral tourism” (people registering in a municipality without actually settling there).  Between them, local and cantonal authorities announced the registration of a grand total of 20 new people, bringing the overall electorate to 4,579: a minor increase.  As for postal votes, these were sent not to Moutier but directly to Bern, to the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), where they were kept in a locked box. And in Moutier itself, the day of the vote, the count took place in a single voting centre and was overseen by federal observers.  Finally, despite some ...
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‘I prefer to fight to change the system’

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 11:00
With one foot in Switzerland and the other in the US, Jonathan Lachowitz is a cross-border financial planner and advocate for residency-based taxation. His story is the fifth in our series on US expats in Switzerland. As many Americans overseas know, you see your country in a different way – both for better and worse – when you’re overseas. I definitely feel like I’m a bridge between the two countries. I’m part of American groups in Switzerland and Swiss groups in America. I have great contacts all over Switzerland as well as in the US. I’m a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professional in both the US and Switzerland, and I’ve lived in both countries as an adult. I’m back and forth over the Atlantic probably eight to 10 times a year, for business and personal reasons. I’m a dual national – American and Swiss – a taxpayer in both countries, and in terms of financial planning, these are the two countries I know best. This is my life, and my family’s life as well. My wife and I ...
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How long before all Swiss expats can use e-voting?

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 11:00
The use of electronic voting in Switzerland has been making slow progress amid setbacks over security concerns. The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) is pushing for the introduction of e-voting for all Swiss expats by the next parliamentary elections in October 2019. Critics complain that the number of cantons offering their registered Swiss citizens abroad the option of e-voting falls short of expectations. In all, 775,000 Swiss citizens live overseas and if you consider that e-voting trials using online technology have been underway since 2004, the number of potential beneficiaries is rather modest. About 158,000 expats from eight cantons (see map below) have the option of participating in the September 24 votes on the controversial old age pension reform, food security and some cantonal issues using a secure computer programme. Eighteen other cantons, including the populous cantons of Zurich and Vaud, do not offer e-voting. Last April, the government decided to ...
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Boeing Selects Triumph Group as Major Supplier for its U.S. Air Force T-X Offer

News Machinery - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 21:58

Boeing [NYSE: BA] has selected Triumph Group, Inc. [NYSE:TGI] as a major supplier for its T-X Air Force training jet. If the Air Force awards the contract to Boeing, Triumph's Aerospace Structures business unit, located in Red Oak, Texas, will supply the wing, vertical tail and horizontal tail structures, with opportunities for additional work, generating 950 direct and indirect jobs. “Providing our military with the newest and most advanced training system is crucial to preparing future...

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=213724

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California Construction Companies Prepare for Cal/OSHA's Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard Enforcement

News Machinery - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 16:51

This past April, the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations announced that employer obligations under the new Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction, that were scheduled to commence on June 23rd, would have enforcement delayed. Instead, Cal/OSHA will begin to implement these obligations, found in Title 8 section 1532.3 of the California Code of Regulations, on September 23rd, 2017. This later date synchronizes with the Occupational Safety and Health Admin...

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=213705

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GEODIS transports Siemens turbines across the Andes mountains

News Machinery - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 16:10

Siemens has entrusted GEODIS to transport some 400 heavy loads from three different continents to Bolivia. This involves transits through the Panama Canal and over the Andes mountains under extreme weather conditions and at altitudes of up to 4,680 meters. The loads include Siemens combined cycle power generation equipment intended for three Bolivian thermo‑electric plants located in Del Sur, Warnes and Entre Rios. GEODIS' scope of services includes ocean freight, port handling, ves...

Read the full story at http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=213694

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UNESCO status boosts wine trade in Lavaux

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 15:00
Wine producers in Lavaux, the spectacular wine-growing region on Lake Geneva, have been enjoying a boost in trade since the region on UNESCO World Heritage status ten years ago. (RTS/swissinfo.ch)  Enotourism, that is tourism whose purpose is the tasting and purchase of wine, is big business on the steep terraced vineyards, a 15 kilometre stretch along Lake Geneva covering an area of 840 hectares between Lausanne and Vevey. Parts were built by monks 800 years ago.  One estate alone received 3000 Asian visitors in 2016. Another wine grower says his shop has increased sales by up to 40% since the region became a UNESCO heritage site.  40 growers gathered recently in Lavaux to celebrate their successes and present their products. Many said they had to attend courses to learn about enotourism. They have had to adapt to accommodating passing tourists, which requires their constant presence on site.  A permanent exhibition interpreting the Lavaux landscape will be opened in the ...
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Occupational pensions, a hidden Swiss treasure

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 13:00
Occupational pension plans, obligatory since 1985, have considerable economic and social significance in Switzerland. The savings, which are now managed by pension funds and insurance companies, far exceed gross domestic product (GDP) and the reserves of the Swiss National Bank (SNB).  The occupational pension plans, along with the state-run old-age pension scheme, aim to maintain to a large extent a person’s living standards in the event of retirement, the death of a partner or invalidity.  Today, around 4.1 million workers are attached to pension funds and insurance companies. More than 1.1 million draw benefits from the professional pension plan.  Over recent decades, the second pillar of Switzerland’s three-pillar pension scheme has taken on a large economic dimension: in 2016, occupational pension funds for the first time exceeded CHF1 trillion ($1.04 trillion). At the end of 2016, the figure was CHF1.029 trillion. Some 80% of savings is managed by pensions schemes, the ...
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My vote counts: having a say around the world

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 11:00
Around half of the world’s population can vote in elections or for political reforms, whether by marking a ballot paper with an X or by leaving a simple fingerprint next to their choice. On the International Day of Democracy, a look at how people vote around the world. Who will become president? Which candidate has been elected to parliament? Are we getting more freedoms? Last year citizens in 72 countries could vote in political elections.  According to The Economist’s 2016 Democracy Index almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies of some sort, but the number of “full democracies” has declined from 20 in 2015 to 19 in 2016.  Examining the roots of the contemporary crisis of democracy, the Economist writes: “Popular engagement and participation need to be sustained to make a substantive difference to the quality of democracy.” Electoral process, pluralism and political participation are several of the categories on which the index is built.
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No Swiss state funding for political parties? Not so fast.

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 11:00
State funding for Swiss political parties does exist, despite popular belief. Two young political science researchers estimate the state’s contributions at about CHF20 million ($20.6 million) - but most of the funding is indirect. This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. The long-accepted mantra in Switzerland has been that party financing is strictly a private matter and that Swiss federal coffers provide no funding to political parties.  Virtually all European countries finance parties with state funding, often supplying a considerable part of their budgets. No fewer than 130 countries finance parties directly, as an overview from the Electoral Knowledge Network shows. That makes Switzerland an exception – or so the story goes. But despite the taboo over direct payments, money from public coffers flows into party accounts in Switzerland, too. This occurs through indirect channels, write Lukas Leuzinger and Claudio Kuster, ...
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Why do Balkan boys get a bad rap?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 17:00
Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland – to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. She meets up with stand-up comedian, Sven Ivanic, who is Croatian, Serbian and "100 % Swiss". They explore the prejudices against Balkan boys in Switzerland, and Sven defends his right to wear tracksuit bottoms. (SRF Kulturplatz/swissinfo.ch) 
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Why International Democracy Day matters to Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 16:20
Modern direct democracy keeps citizens tuned in with Swiss politics. It enables them to make an informed judgement on issues at stake in popular votes. There are also good reasons for Switzerland to promote people power worldwide through diplomacy and development cooperation.  When you live in Switzerland, you are almost constantly confronted with democratic procedures. In front of your grocery store, political activists will ask you to sign up to their initiative. At the train station, you might cast your vote on a social security issue before boarding your train. And when getting off at the next city, candidates at a local election might smile at you from their posters. Swiss citizens elect parliamentarians, judges, mayors and other members of government and vote on subject matters ranging from security and migration to environment and infrastructure. Democracy in Switzerland comes at three levels: at the local, regional and national level, which adds some complexity. But ...
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What’s the price of public broadcasting in Switzerland?

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 09/14/2017 - 15:40
Parliament is continuing its debate of a people’s initiative which aims to scrap licence fees for the services of the public Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). At stake is the value of information in a direct democracy and an annual per capita fee of up to CHF451 ($471). What is the fee for? The SBC, swissinfo.ch’s parent company, is funded by licence fees (75%) and income from advertising (25%). Swiss residents who receive radio or television services must pay licence fees, regardless of which programmes they watch or listen to, and no matter how they watch or listen (terrestrial, cable, satellite, via the phone line, on their mobile phone or via the internet). The fee amounts to 0.74% of an average income in Switzerland (CHF61,152): of the annual CH451 fee, CHF165 is used for radio and CHF286 goes towards television. Where does the money go? The SBC has an annual turnover of CHF1.6 billion which is mainly used to operate 17 radio and television channels in four ...
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