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Government re-launches campaign against immigration curbs

Swissinfo EN - lun, 06/22/2020 - 16:39
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter has warned of the damage of an initiative to scrap a free movement of people accord with the European Union. Re-launching the government’s campaign ahead of a nationwide vote on September 27, Keller-Sutter said approval of the right-wing initiative would seriously undermine relations with Switzerland’s main trading partner. “It is not the time for political experiments, certainly not now. Our economy needs a clear perspective to be able to recover from the coronavirus crisis,” Keller-Sutter told a news conference on Monday. The People’s Party argues the free movement deal, allowing workers from the EU access to the Swiss labour market, leads to lower salaries and unemployment. The vote was initially scheduled for May but had to be rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on daily life in Switzerland. Employers and unions Keller-Sutter presented the government’s position alongside representatives of the main trade union...
Catégories: News EN

Speaking out over racism in Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - lun, 06/22/2020 - 16:00
In light of recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstrations across the world after the killing of a black man by police in the United States, Swiss society has been re-examining its treatment of people from ethnic minority backgrounds. How does everyday racism affect people of colour in Switzerland? Swiss public Television, SRF, spoke to five young people who had experienced racism or discrimination of some form because of the colour of their skin. A recent study by the Federal Statistical Office showed how widespread this kind of discrimination is in Switzerland. The figures were collected in 2018 and show that 28% of Swiss say they have experienced racism. In the survey, 24%of respondents had experienced discrimination, 11% suffered racially-motivated psychological violence and 3% were victims of racially-motivated physical violence. The study also revealed where these incidents took place, the majority of them were in a working environment. The counselling network for victims...
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‘In Indonesia palm oil is bigger than watchmaking is for Switzerland’

Swissinfo EN - lun, 06/22/2020 - 16:00
Amid a referendum just launched in Switzerland against a free trade agreement with Indonesia, the Indonesian ambassador to the Alpine country defends the sustainability of his country’s palm oil exports. Critics of a planned free trade agreement between EFTA countries and Indonesia have just launched a referendum against the deal, based on environmental concerns about palm oil. Muliaman Hadad, Indonesia’s ambassador to Switzerland, believes palm oil must remain part of the agreement. The FTA, signed in December 2019 between Indonesia and the European Free Trade Association countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), has faced a lot of opposition in Switzerland for its guaranteed tariff reductions of up to 40% on 10,000 tons of Indonesian palm oil exports. Critics say this undermines efforts to stop environmental devastation caused by the harvesting of palm oil, which is used in products ranging from food to cosmetics. Monday marked a potential new hurdle for...
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How horses helped create a faster Covid-19 diagnostic test

Swissinfo EN - lun, 06/22/2020 - 11:06
When Covid-19 interrupted one Swiss start-up’s plans for diagnosing respiratory diseases in horses, it decided to apply the technology to testing Covid-19 in humans. If you’ve never heard of ender diagnostics, there’s a good reason for that. Before April, the company didn’t exist. Earlier this year, Swiss start-up LiVET was about to ramp up field testing of its isothermal test designed to diagnose four of the most common respiratory diseases in horses when the coronavirus shutdown happened. Travel plans were put on hold and some machines LiVET planned to test diseases in horses were needed for Covid-19 testing. With several bright scientists twiddling their thumbs, LiVET CEO Tim Pfister wondered if the company could apply some of its knowledge and resources to developing a test for Covid-19 in humans. “We didn’t know how long the lockdown would last so we started asking ourselves if we could take what we know about diagnosing respiratory diseases in horses to develop a test for...
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How ‘men as default humans’ threatens to undermine precision medicine

Swissinfo EN - dim, 06/21/2020 - 11:00
While humans are clever enough to develop advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, they are failing to consider that sex differences matter in training those technologies for use in healthcare. Precision medicine takes account of health and disease differences between individuals that are due to genetic and environmental factors, and is said to be the next big thing in healthcare. Used well, it should mean that patients will benefit from tailor-made prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Chemotherapy, for example, is becoming much more targeted, with drugs developed for specific cancer types with certain genetic characteristics. Doctors will test patients for that specific genetic mix and only give the drug to those who have it. Apart from genetic testing, precision medicine also draws on electronic health records, big data analytics, and supercomputing. But flawed data threatens to prevent precision medicine from fulfilling its potential. One of the main obstacles is...
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Should Switzerland close the case of a murdered Iranian diplomat? 

Swissinfo EN - sam, 06/20/2020 - 11:00
Geneva personalities and the Iranian opposition are urging Swiss judicial authorities not to close an old murder case implicating the Tehran regime. They have until July 31 to persuade them to keep investigating the 1990 assassination of Iranian diplomat Kazem Rajavi. Judicial authorities in canton Vaud, who have been handling the case, wrote to the lawyer of the murdered man’s brother in late May saying they planned to close the file because of a statute of limitations on the assassination charges against 14 Iranians. The wanted men include former Iranian intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, against whom Switzerland issued an international arrest warrant in 2006 for instigating the assassination. The Iranian authorities have always denied any involvement in the attack. In its letter, canton Vaud’s public prosecutor’s office also invited comments and requests by June 17. Swiss lawyer Nils de Dardel, who received the letter, told that he had obtained an extension...
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Rolls-Royce expands Berlin start-up Qinous into Microgrid Competence Center

News Machinery - ven, 06/19/2020 - 20:01

Rolls-Royce has expanded the business formerly run as Qinous GmbH into a Microgrid Competence Center. In January, we announced that we had acquired a 73.1% majority stake in the Berlin-based electricity storage specialist. The renaming of Qinous as Rolls-Royce Solutions Berlin GmbH and expansion into a Microgrid Competence Center is further evidence of the growing importance of distributed energy systems to the future of Rolls-Royce. “With its solutions, our Microgrid Competence Center in...

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How Switzerland kept in touch during Covid-19

Swissinfo EN - ven, 06/19/2020 - 16:42
Researchers from the University of Zurich share how the coronavirus led them to redirect their research in order to better understand people’s communication habits during the pandemic, and what they found. When lockdown measures spread across Switzerland in mid-March, everyone’s lives were thrown into disarray. Like many others, we scrambled to figure out our home office situation while keeping tabs on far away family members. Work meetings, school classes, conferences, exercise regimes, birthday parties and happy hours were all moving online. As scholars who study people’s digital media uses at the University of Zurich’s Department of Communication and Media Research, much of society’s reaction to the pandemic was directly related to our research expertise. Suddenly everyone was interested in how people were using digital media to connect with family, friends, and colleagues. While busy finding our bearings, we also wondered: ‘Should we launch into a study on all this or is it...
Catégories: News EN

Switzerland lifts most remaining coronavirus restrictions

Swissinfo EN - ven, 06/19/2020 - 15:43
The Swiss government has announced that it is simplifying and lifting most remaining restrictions introduced to combat the spread of coronavirus, as of June 22. The recommended "social distance" is being reduced from two to 1.5 metres with immediate effect. From Monday 22, events drawing up to 1,000 people will be allowed (as opposed to 300 at present), provided contact tracing can be guaranteed. Only gatherings of more than 1,000 remain banned until the end of August. Restrictions on when businesses such as bars and restaurants can be open will also be lifted. People will no longer be required to sit down inside. From tomorrow civil and political gatherings and demonstrations will be allowed but people are required to wear masks. The government is also ending its recommendation that people work from home wherever possible. It will be up to employers to decide and put the necessary safety measures in place. Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga and health minister Alain Berset...
Catégories: News EN

How our readers reacted to Switzerland's Covid-19 measures

Swissinfo EN - ven, 06/19/2020 - 12:13
With the gradual easing of the Covid-19 lockdown and today's end to the government's "extraordinary situation", we asked our community to tell us what they think about official Switzerland's reaction to the pandemic. In early March the Swiss government implemented extensive measures to prevent a spike in infections with Covid-19. Restaurants, shops and borders were closed and the concept of social distancing was introduced. Some measures were revised on April 27 and June has seen the lockdown eased significantly. To get an impression of what the community thinks, we asked them whether they agreed with the Covid-19 measures put in place by the government and whether they are sufficient. Yes, but lessons to be learnt Overall, commenters agreed with the measures but thought there were things the government could have done better: “The initial response started slowly, but the clarity of guidance from the government throughout, […] the adherence to the guidance by most citizens...
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'We must strive to be anti-racist'

Swissinfo EN - ven, 06/19/2020 - 10:20
Swiss-American Rose Wettstein argues that amid the global outcry over racism and discrimination, it’s time for each individual and each society to face reality and take action. The murder of George Floyd has become a global flashpoint. Discussions about racism and anti-racism have erupted throughout the world. Outside of the United States much of the conversation is one of reflection and self-evaluation. Betterment and growth cannot happen without these kinds of conversations. A response of self-reflection is essential, even in Switzerland. One need not be American or Black to be appalled by the circumstances around George Floyd’s death. Anti-racism as a movement in Switzerland is not only justified, but necessary. While many believe racial minorities are more secure here than in other countries, the same systemic racism and structural inequities that plague the United States also exist in Switzerland. I have seen the concerns of those who worry about racism in...
Catégories: News EN

Wärtsilä to design and equip two zero-emissions battery powered ferries

News Machinery - jeu, 06/18/2020 - 17:42

The technology group Wärtsilä's experience and leading position in the development of battery and hybrid propulsion vessel solutions has been recognised with the award of a contract to design and equip two new zero-emissions ferries. The ships are to be built for Norwegian operator Boreal Sjö at Holland Shipyards in the Netherlands. The orders with Wärtsilä for the design and the equipment were placed in April 2020. The  Wärtsilä ship design  is tailored to the operating and route profile...

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Fighting for free sanitary products in schools

Swissinfo EN - jeu, 06/18/2020 - 15:39
After Bern's cantonal government refused to provide schools with free sanitary products, one town is going its own way. Starting this autumn, public school restrooms in Tavannes, canton Bern, will be equipped with dispensers for free sanitary pads. As there were none on the market, the twelve metal cases will be custom made by a local company. School social worker Roubina Kouyoumdjian managed to convince both municipal and school authorities. "When I went knocking on the door to broach the subject, I had no idea what a welcome I was going to receive," she told Swiss public television, RTS. "There was a kind of taboo. We didn't talk about it, we had never talked about it, and suddenly it was obvious. In a few minutes it was settled and the case was approved," said Hans-Ruedi Gasser, the director of Tavannes's secondary school. Long-lasting political reticence The demand for free sanitary products had already come up in 2019, when a young citizen submitted the idea on the...
Catégories: News EN

Will Covid-19 push Switzerland into its worst post-war recession?

Swissinfo EN - jeu, 06/18/2020 - 14:59
Switzerland’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract by around 6% this year. And that’s the best-case scenario. If the Covid-19 pandemic flares up again, the economy could plunge into a crisis even worse than that of the 1970s. Coronavirus dealt a severe blow to the Swiss economy as early as the first quarter of the year, bringing GDP down by 2.6% compared with the previous three months. But containment measures taken since mid-March mean the economic downturn will be even more severe in the second quarter. For the year as a whole, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) expects GDP to fall by 6.2%, while unemployment is expected to hit 3.8% year-on-year (compared with 2.3% in 2019). Slightly more optimistic is the Swiss Economic Centre (KOF), which forecasts a fall in GDP of 5.1%. The government and the cantons have taken a package of measures worth more than CHF60 billion ($63 billion), which should enable the economy to recover in the second half of...
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Geneva hotel sector feels devastating impact of Covid-19

Swissinfo EN - jeu, 06/18/2020 - 10:24
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc in Geneva’s hotel sector, which relies heavily on international visitors and conferences. “We don't deny the impact of Covid-19. We understand that it can put a hotel in the red,” declared Sylvan*, an employee of the five-star Hotel Richemond. “But when the hotel belongs to a multi-millionaire, we cannot understand that we can be made redundant so dramatically without a social plan. We can’t accept that.” He is one of the 141 staff at risk of losing their jobs at the luxury family-run hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva. Most have been on partial unemployment since March. However, at the end of May they learned that the management was considering temporarily closing the hotel to limit the financial damage caused by the pandemic. In April and May its occupancy rates stood at 10%. Fighting to save their jobs, or to at least get a decent redundancy package, staff have contacted a local union and launched a conciliation process. “The case of...
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Minimum wage debate returns to Switzerland

Swissinfo EN - jeu, 06/18/2020 - 09:00
The country's political left is not giving up on minimum wages, despite a defeat in a referendum a few years ago. Now, an alliance has launched popular initiatives demanding a statutory hourly wage of at least CHF23 ($24.25) in three major cities. More than 17,000 full-time workers in the city of Zurich earn less than this, which works out at around CHF4,000 a month before deductions, said a group of trade unions, political parties and aid organisations on Tuesday. This is far less than the average wage in Switzerland, which is around CHF6,500. The main beneficiaries of a minimum wage in Zurich, nearby Winterthur and Kloten would be the working poor, who are currently only able to keep their heads above water by working several jobs, the alliance said. Two-thirds of those affected are women. The worst-paid professions include sales and courier services, it added. In Winterthur and around Zurich airport at Kloten, there’s a large low-wage sector, for example in cleaning staff.
Catégories: News EN

GE Renewable Energy, COBOD and LafargeHolcim co-develop record-tall wind turbine towers with 3D-printed concrete bases

News Machinery - mer, 06/17/2020 - 23:00

- - • Historic multi-year collaboration between three leaders in their industry to increase renewable energy production and use - • Wind turbine towers have typically been limited to a height of under 100 meters, as they are traditionally built in steel or precast concrete - • Printing the base directly on-site with 3D-printed concrete technology will enable the creation of larger bases and cost-effective taller hybrid towers, reaching up to 200 meters - • Taller towers capture stronge...

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Pandemic sets scene for parliamentary debate on development aid

Swissinfo EN - mer, 06/17/2020 - 14:13
While some say development aid is more important than ever to help offset the global impact of Covid-19, others call for a reallocation of resources to domestic problems. Amid such debates, Switzerland's parliament has given its initial approval to the government’s new aid strategy. The first debate in the House of Representatives, which happened earlier this week, pitted the conservative right Swiss People’s Party against all the other major political parties and groups. Discussions are set to continue in both parliamentary chambers before the bill comes to a final vote later this year. The strategy, which was announced by the government more than a year ago, earmarks a total of CHF11.3 billion ($11.9 billion) for bilateral and multilateral aid cooperation as well as humanitarian aid over the next four years. This is some CHF140 million more than what was allocated for the current four-year period and accounts for 0.46% of Gross National Income (GNI) – the total income earned by...
Catégories: News EN

Can commodity traders get a grip on their soy supply chains?

Swissinfo EN - mer, 06/17/2020 - 14:00
An experiment underway in Brazil shows how companies buying and selling vast quantities of ‘soft’ commodities like soy are trying to trace products back to their origin to reduce deforestation. Can it work? While most people have heard of the Amazon rainforest, few outside Brazil know of the Cerrado. The tropical savanna occupies a little over 20% of the country’s land and is South America’s second-largest biome after the Amazon, hosting around 4,800 species of plants and vertebrates found nowhere else. The region also accounts for half of all soy grown in Brazil, the world’s second-largest producer of the crop after the US. Commodity firms - like Swiss-based Glencore - source soy from here which they sell on to companies producing food for humans and animals. But soy production in the Cerrado is leading to its rapid deforestation. According to Chain Reaction Research, soy production increased by 10% between 2000 and 2017 resulting in an estimated 2.83 million hectares of...
Catégories: News EN

How a Zurich theatre became an anti-fascist refuge

Swissinfo EN - mer, 06/17/2020 - 11:00
During the years before the Second World War, the Schauspielhaus Zurich became the last free German-speaking theatre. From 1933 onwards, the stage was dominated by emigrants from Germany, turning it into a kind of anti-fascist ‘safety zone’. May 1940: Faust during the War Zurich, spring 1940 – The day before the performance and traffic was heavy in Zurich. People were heading to the Alps or other places, in search of safety. The Second World War had broken out in autumn and rumours were circulating that the German army would soon invade Switzerland. The river Rhine, which forms the border with Germany, stands only 25 kilometres away. The Schauspielhaus Zurich continued to put on plays in this wartime atmosphere. Crowds were forming in front of the theatre trying to get in. Actors moved stage sets and props themselves as many of the stagehands and lighting technicians had been drafted as part of the Swiss government’s recruitment of 700,000 soldiers on May 10, 1940. Goethe’s...
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