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How Switzerland’s ABB plans to shake off ugly duckling image

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 13:58
The first job Björn Rosengren ever applied for was an internship at manufacturer Asea. He did not even get an interview. Now, at 61, he has been appointed to run the sprawling multinational it grew into: ABB. For more than a decade, the Swiss-Swedish conglomerate, which created the first industrial robot in 1974, has been an ugly duckling among the top tier of high-tech industrial engineering companies. ABB is a paradox: a business that is dominantly positioned in some of the highest growth — and sexiest — high-tech engineering markets, and yet has a share price that has only inched upwards while those of competitors have soared. It is the market leader in making and selling industrial robots in China, yet it is also a company for which earnings per share have decreased by an average of 6 per cent annually every year since 2009. “Many competitors have doubled their share price in the last 10 years,” said ABB’s new chief executive Mr Rosengren, in an interview with the...
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Inside Geneva podcast: Why can’t we unite in the face of a global health crisis?

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 11:00
In this episode of our Inside Geneva podcast, we speak with Ilona Kickbusch of the Graduate Institute, Maria Guevara of Medecins sans Frontieres and Daniel Warner about the challenge of bringing a multilateral approach to health, about the United States’s threat to leave the World Health Organization, and about who might fill the gap left by the US. For more insights and discussions from Switzerland's international city, subscribe to Inside Geneva on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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Warning from Geneva: perpetrators of Libyan atrocities will be held accountable

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/30/2020 - 11:00
As international elements propel the Libyan conflict further into chaos, the United Nations Human Rights Council last week resolved to send a fact-finding mission to Libya to document alleged war crimes committed in the country since 2016. The ad hoc resolution was supported by Switzerland, which has long been committed to the fight against impunity. Hasni Abidi, a political scientist who specialises in Arab world affairs, gives his insights. The adoption of the UN resolution comes at a critical moment of the war in Libya, following efforts by eastern Libyan strongman Marshal Khalifa Haftar to seize Tripoli and take power in April 2019. The offensive was supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and — less openly — by France. But the entry of Turkey, which sent weapons including high performance drones, and of Syrian militias into the game, enabled Libya’s Government of National Accord — led by Faïez al-Sarraj and recognised by the United Nations in March 2016 — to...
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Resisting Covid-19 ‘fake news’ with a high dose of public trust

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 11:00
Misinformation about Covid-19, like the pandemic itself, has gone global. And like the virus, it has affected some countries more than others. Where does Switzerland, which has seen alternative media and conspiracy theorists gain in popularity, sit on the “infodemic” spectrum? Is the novel coronavirus a bioweapon created in a Chinese lab or something Microsoft founder Bill Gates created in order to profit from an eventual vaccine? Or did the virus even exist in the first place? One leader of anti-lockdown protests in Switzerland doubts it did. In recent months the voices of Swiss conspiracy theorists and alternative media have been amplified, as they exploit both the crisis and social media platforms to spread rumours and reach a bigger audience. It’s all part of an “infodemic”, a term used by the World Health Organization (WHO) during the global coronavirus outbreak to describe “an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find...
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Where are the robots?

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 06/29/2020 - 09:00
Where have all the robots been hiding during the Covid-19 crisis? For about a decade, we have heard rumors that a new generation of automated technologies have learned to do our jobs. If these tech prophecies were true, robots and algorithms should have been ready to step in during the lockdowns and finally prove that they can work more safely, cheaply, and efficiently than we can. But when Covid-19 gave the stage to automation, people stepped into the spotlight. Robots aren’t staffing hospitals, stocking shelves at grocery stores, cooking and serving meals, disinfecting bathrooms, delivering packages, driving buses, or educating students. As the lockdowns begin to end, we must remember that today’s crisis is not about automation. It’s about how we value and protect the people whose labour sustains the world. Since the Great Depression, when technological unemployment solidified as a broad social concern in the US, many Americans have wondered if machines would make workers...
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Why foreign residents trust the authorities more than the Swiss

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 06/28/2020 - 11:01
The Swiss have a high level of trust in their political institutions but foreign residents are even more trusting. Sociologists put forward several explanations. A survey published by The Observatory of Volunteering this June analysed the trust that the population places in others and in institutions, because trust and commitment are intimately linked. Among the highlights, the researchers behind the study noted that "foreigners living in Switzerland have more trust in the country's political institutions than the local population", even though the Swiss authorities already enjoy one of the highest levels of trust in the world. Almost two thirds of the foreigners surveyed report a high level of trust in the institutions, compared to half of Swiss citizens. It should be pointed out that the category "foreigners" is not homogeneous. Nevertheless, these results are stable compared to 2016, and in line with the latest publication of the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on the...
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Is it the toughest job at the UN?

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 06/27/2020 - 11:00
Heading up a United Nations agency is no easy task. Whether your area of expertise is environment (UNEP), children (Unicef) or health (WHO), the fact is you are suggesting and developing policies in areas which national governments tend to view as their unique responsibility. But if there is one single UN post that is perhaps more challenging, more delicate, than all the rest, it is the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Your job is to shine a spotlight on abuses wherever and whenever they occur, and to encourage, whether by stick or carrot, or both, governments to uphold the fundamental human rights standards they have signed up to. That means, often, investigating and exposing the dark operations of states, the abuses they may carry out, tacitly encourage, or simply turn a blind eye to. To get a clearer picture of what that job is really like, I had the honour of interviewing Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for 2014-2018, and, previous...
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Carrier Highlights its Cold Chain Vision on World Refrigeration Day

News Machinery - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 23:30

As a global leader in cold chain technology, Carrier today marked World Refrigeration Day by taking part in a key industry event focused on the future of the cold chain and releasing a white paper reimagining the cold chain in a post-pandemic world. Carrier's Refrigeration segment is a part of Carrier Global Corporation (NYSE: CARR), a leading global provider of innovative heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), refrigeration, fire, security and building automation technologi...

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EU regulation hampers cross-border workers’ home office ambitions

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 16:15
The coronavirus pandemic has instigated a work-from-home culture with many employees wanting to extend the experience. However, as lockdowns ease cross-border workers at Swiss firms may be hamstringed by the return of a strict European Union regulation. The pandemic has caused many people to rethink their so-called home office situation. According to a survey in May, half of the Swiss labour force worked from home during the lockdown. Many Swiss companies and staff would like to continue or extend the work-from-home experience. In the future it will be up to employers to decide and put the necessary safety measures in place. However, the conditions imposed by the EU risk acting as a brake for cross-border workers in regions like Geneva, which borders with France, Swiss public radio (RTS) reports. The reason is that beyond a certain threshold, different tax and social security rules apply if an employee is domiciled abroad. This has an impact on the estimated 330,000 cross-border...
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Switzerland’s exclusive democracy

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 06/26/2020 - 08:13
Since the creation of the Swiss federal state in 1848, the number of people who have become eligible to vote has risen steadily. But it has been a long and bumpy road. Back in the 19th century, with cold-blooded calculation, the bourgeois elite in Switzerland’s federal and cantonal governments did everything in their power to deny their political enemies voting rights. They were amazingly creative and did their best to slow the integration of many marginalised groups. Conservative Catholics and the poor were the particular targets of their exclusion measures. To prevent poor people from being integrated, the bourgeois elite focused on the Social Democratic Party, which was established in 1888 to defend the interests of the working class. When the modern Swiss state was created in 1848, it initially only granted voting rights to men over 20 years old. Women, who made up half the population, were excluded. This meant that only 23% of the population were eligible to vote -...
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BeeHero Launches X-Project to Help Track & Mitigate Giant Hornet Invasion

News Machinery - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:00

If the spread of the predatory Asian Giant Hornet (AGH) in America is similar to the spread of the smaller Asian hornet in Europe, then the US could be facing the largest threat to bees ever. An invasion would also represent a major threat to US farming; honeybee pollination contributes an estimated $20 billion to US farm income. BeeHero, the Precision Pollination Services company, is launching an initiative out of its innovation wing, BeeHeroX, using its remote sensors to help track the...

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Switzerland launches SwissCovid tracing app for residents

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 11:48
Swiss residents will be able to download the new SwissCovid smartphone app from June 25. The contact-tracing system aims to prevent the spread of the virus while guaranteeing privacy and control over personal data for users. SwissCovid, the Swiss coronavirus contact tracing app, can now be downloaded on the smartphones of over eight million residents, after parliament passed a legal amendment to govern its use and data protection. From June 25, the app will be available from the Apple App and Google Play stores for the public to test it. This concludes an experimental test phase which, since May 25, has involved 15,000 users in the federal administration, the army, hospitals and the federal technology institutes. They were recruited to test the app’s functionality and safety. One of the biggest remaining challenges is to convince large numbers of the public to use the app to ensure it works properly, say federal public health officials and researchers at the Zurich and Lausanne...
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Candidates in Mongolian elections face Swiss charges

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 06/25/2020 - 09:05
Mongolia held parliamentary elections on June 24. Two of the candidates are currently under investigation by Swiss prosecutors, who suspect corruption linked to the granting of rights for a massive copper and gold mine in the Asian country. Politically, the two are running in different provinces. Sangajav Bayartsogt, the former minister of finance, is representing the Democratic Party in the north of the country. Borkhuu Delgersaikhan, a businessman active in the mining sector, is running in the Western Gobi province. In their various appearances in the run up to the elections, both put themselves forward in the best possible light. But as the Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has confirmed to, a legal case in the works here suggest they share a tarnished track record. Mysterious deals Between December 2007 and July 2008, Delgersaikhan allegedly received some $45 million (CHF42.6 million) into his Zurich bank account, the money sent by a mysterious Chinese...
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Pass the Swiss sick bag

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 13:12
No one knows more about making papers bags for airsick passengers than Bernese company Elag, the global market leader which sells some 75 billion “gag bags” a year. A book shows off some of its most beautiful products. Fredy Thürig collects sick bags. He has in fact collected about 2,000 of them, and his hoard has now been honoured in the book Für Reisekranke (for ill travellers). It contains colourful examples from 45 years of graphic design and aviation history: bags from all over the world, from American Airlines to Air Nepal. Some designs are functional and intended for a specific purpose, others try to help passengers escape boredom with puzzles. In the 1980s “dual use” bags were popular – if you didn’t throw up in them, you could use them to send holiday films. Budget airlines tried to cheer up nauseous passengers with comments like “Everything will be fine” or “Thanks for your criticism”. The authors accompany each image with a description of what food was on offer...
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A Swiss-Japanese alliance that has thrived in the crisis

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 12:19
It was the start of one of the most unusual cross-cultural marriages when Roche bought a controlling stake in Chugai Pharmaceutical for $1.4bn back in 2002, promising arm’s length management. In the course of the 18 months of negotiations it took to reach a deal, Chugai, a Japanese pioneer in biotechnology, presented a single sheet of paper with a list of conditions it would not budge on, the main ones being management autonomy and the continued listing of its shares in Tokyo. If anyone described the deal as a merger, Chugai, with annual revenue less than a tenth of its Swiss parent, quietly corrected this to “strategic alliance”, but few took those words at face value. Nearly two decades later, the partnership has not only survived but has prospered during the coronavirus crisis, with the two companies now trialling their rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra as a potential treatment for people who are critically ill with Covid-19. With investors pinning their hopes on the...
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Swiss Scientific and Medical Corps: a new idea to fight pandemics

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 06/24/2020 - 11:00
Switzerland should create a new type of scientific-military collaboration to address public health challenges like the one we are now experiencing, argues Rudolph Thomson. The response of many countries to the Covid-19 pandemic has been characterized by calls for a “war footing”, and rightly so, for this is war even though the enemy is unarmed and invisible. It therefore behooves us to expand our philosophy and approach to armed conflict with complementary scientific and medical capabilities and resources to fight unarmed conflicts. In an extraordinary move on March 16, the Swiss government deployed up to 8,000 troops to help in the combat against the coronavirus. It was the first deployment of the Swiss army since the Second World War. Accounts of the deployment have not dwelt on battlefield strategy and tactics, nor on military hardware or munitions; instead, the talk and action have centered on intensive care units, hospital beds, medical equipment and supplies, and various...
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Voith and Lineas sign maintenance contract

News Machinery - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 23:21

Voith and Lineas, the largest private rail freight operator in Europe, have signed a maintenance contract for the major overhaul of a first batch of 30 locomotives type HLD 77. The agreement covers a major overhaul with a predefined basic scope as well as other options for variant-specific components and for the type L4r4 turbo transmissions. The work will be carried out within the next four and a half years. The fundamentals of this collaboration are based on reliability improvement, cos...

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Campaigners withdraw initiative for e-vote moratorium

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 15:16
A people’s initiative aimed at effectively banning the introduction of e-voting in Switzerland has been suspended. The campaign committee announced that the government’s restrictions to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic made it too difficult to continue collecting signatures for its proposal to impose a five-year e-vote moratorium. The group said it had gathered some 50,000 signatures – about half of the required quota – since March last year for a nationwide vote. But it was not sure whether it would be possible to achieve the necessary number by next February, the committee explained. “The protection measures [for the signature collectors and the public] by the Federal Chancellery are of little practical value,” the committee said on Monday. The group added that some of its aims had already been reached, since the government dropped plans 12 months ago to offer e-voting as a permanent feature of the Swiss direct democracy system. “The authorities have acknowledged...
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Should the Swiss stop sorting their trash?

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 06/23/2020 - 11:00
Switzerland has a reputation for its orderly user-led approach to recycling. Yet a provocative analysis suggests that entrepreneurs and machines should take over. Switzerland closed its landfills in 2000, and since 2005, more household waste has been landing in recycling bins rather than incinerators. This is thanks to several factors, including increased awareness, better infrastructure and the introduction of fees for garbage disposal. But is it good enough? In a recent article*, think tank Avenir Suisse flags potential for higher collection rates for recyclables. “Despite numerous information campaigns, almost half of an average refuse sack consists of essentially recyclable material; according to estimates, around a fifth of a sack could be recycled economically,” reckon Avenir Suisse authors Patrick Dümmler, Fabian Schnell and Mario Bonato. This suggests that many people in Switzerland are either unwilling or unable to sort their rubbish properly. The authors question...
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Why people always ignore my Swiss identity

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 06/22/2020 - 21:18
Alexandre Afonso says his surname and appearance mean many people struggle to see him as Swiss. I was born and raised in Switzerland, own a Swiss passport and speak my native French with a distinct accent from the canton of Vaud. My German and Italian are pretty good. I used the former quite a lot in my work and chose the latter as a subject at school because I was very bad at maths. Because I taught Swiss politics at university, I probably know more about the politics and history of my country than most Swiss people. I know for instance that the Austrian state of Vorarlberg voted to join Switzerland in 1919 and that we refused, and I can confidently explain why “consensus” is such an important feature of our political system. I have read Blaise Cendrars, Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Yakari. I know that Professor Topolino and Cantonneau are two Swiss scientists who appear in the Tintin albums. I remember the free kick scored by Georges Bregy against the United States at the football...
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