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China flexes its muscles at the UN

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 15:00
Flaunting its role as a great power, China is wielding expanding influence in a United Nations weakened by the battering it has taken from the Trump administration. Its financial contributions are increasing, as are the number of leadership posts taken by Chinese nationals at the UN specialised agencies.  After visiting the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos and the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations in January 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping caused a sensation by positioning himself as the guarantor of the international order and the UN in a world that was shaken by the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House. China has taken advantage of the US president’s hostility towards the UN system to strengthen its positions. But could the coronavirus pandemic weaken China’s efforts at the UN? The global health crisis and its devastating economic impact nonetheless appear to have amplified the growing rivalry between Washington and Beijing. As the ...
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Banking on a long life: longevity as a financial service

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:00
Quite a few new digital financial services are challenging traditional banks by targeting niche groups of customers. The theory is that they stand a better chance of getting people to switch banks if they aim tailor-made services at groups who feel they are being under-served. The danger of putting too many eggs in one basket is that the target group may be too small to achieve substantial growth. What about people who want to live for a long time in the best possible shape? This is the target group of an enterprise called Longevity Bank – which doesn’t yet have a banking license but is applying for one in the UK and is poised to ask for a Swiss fintech license. Longevity may seem a curious subject in the middle of a pandemic that has a higher mortality rate among the elderly than other age groups. But maybe this makes longevity a more compelling subject right now. The Longevity banking project is part of an international group, which includes a Hong Kong entity called Deep...
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When Switzerland began distancing from Europe

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:00
When the Second World War ended 75 years ago, large parts of Europe and the world lay in ruins. Switzerland, meanwhile, was still in decent shape. Historian Jakob Tanner revisits this post-war period and its consequences for Swiss-European relations. swissinfo.ch: In 1945, entire countries had been reduced to rubble and ash. What was the end of the war like for Switzerland? Jakob Tanner: There was a great sense of relief, with church bells sounding everywhere. Society was in limbo, with no idea what was to come. Economically, Switzerland stood out as still having intact infrastructure, and functioning industry. At the same time, the atmosphere was polarised – since the middle of the war the labour movement had been growing, and a struggle for the future was beginning. In general, the end of the war was marked by a sense of great openness. swissinfo.ch: What role did Switzerland play in the Second World War? J.T.: Switzerland couldn’t remove itself completely from the European ...
Categories: News EN

Banking on a long life: longevity as a financial service

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:00
Quite a few new digital financial services are challenging traditional banks by targeting niche groups of customers. The theory is that they stand a better chance of getting people to switch banks if they aim tailor-made services at groups who feel they are being under-served. The danger of putting too many eggs in one basket is that the target group may be too small to achieve substantial growth. What about people who want to live for a long time in the best possible shape? This is the target group of an enterprise called Longevity Bank – which doesn’t yet have a banking license but is applying for one in the UK and is poised to ask for a Swiss fintech license. Longevity may seem a curious subject in the middle of a pandemic that has a higher mortality rate among the elderly than other age groups. But maybe this makes longevity a more compelling subject right now. The Longevity banking project is part of an international group, which includes a Hong Kong entity called Deep ...
Categories: News EN

What remains of Swiss democracy after Covid-19 measures?

Swissinfo EN - Fri, 05/22/2020 - 11:00
On March 16 the Swiss government declared an “extraordinary situation”. People had to stay at home for two months. The spring session of parliament was cancelled. The May referendum was postponed. The government ruled alone by emergency decree. Where does that leave direct democracy?  Martina Mousson*, a political scientist from the gfs.bern research institute, is familiar with psychological phenomena in times of crisis. After the Spanish Flu, which claimed millions of lives, the Roaring Twenties broke out, with many people celebrating excessively. The idea that the Covid-19 pandemic could be followed by something similar is therefore quite tempting.  The government’s emergency decrees are supported by the Epidemics Act. This authorised the government to declare the extraordinary situation on March 16 and to govern without parliamentary control.  After the spring session of parliament was interrupted, the two chambers regrouped at the beginning of May – not in the federal ...
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Packaging Toolbox enables easy engineering of packaging machines

News Machinery - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 15:39

The Siemens' Packaging Toolbox is now available in its entirety for the Simatic S7-1500 controller in the TIA Portal engineering framework. It offers users packaging specific libraries which can be integrated into existing or new machine applications as well as program blocks. The Toolbox supports international standards such as OMAC, PackML and Weihenstephan Standards. By adding or modifying function blocks it can be adapted to suit individual requirements, while at the same time saving t...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=259454

Categories: News EN

How Swiss police approach coronavirus crowd control

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 14:00
Now that the lockdown measures have been relaxed, people in Switzerland are eagerly enjoying more days and evenings out. But as proprietors and guests fail – or forget – to comply with social distancing rules, some wonder why the police aren’t cracking down harder. The combination of fine spring weather and a wave of re-openings has lured many people back to parks, shops, bars and restaurants. Sometimes there are far too many, considering the Covid-19 restrictions limiting groups to five people and calling for two metres of space between individuals. + Covid-19 and the situation in Switzerland For example, large crowds partied for hours in Basel on Saturday night. The lack of police presence sparked criticism from many, including the bar that posted this video online: Boisterous crowding like that witnessed in Basel is a no-go as Swiss authorities try to prevent a second wave of the deadly virus. Yet the images of the partygoers didn’t surprise Urs Hofmann, head of the ...
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Why more women than men have got Covid-19 during lockdown

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:00
Data reveals that more women than men have been infected with Covid-19 since distancing measures started in Switzerland. What’s behind the phenomenon? When the coronavirus first started spreading throughout Switzerland, men represented a larger share of confirmed cases. The number of women infected started inching upwards to reach an even gender split by the time the lockdown went into effect on March 16. Then, as businesses and much of public life shut down over the weeks that followed, more women than men became infected with Covid-19. There were around 13,800 cases among men (46% of the total) and around 16,500 among women (54% of the total) by mid-May, according to Swiss public health statistics. A few other countries have seen a similar phenomenon. The German-language Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reports that women represent 53% of cases in Italy, 52% in Germany and 57% in both Spain and Sweden. According to a policy brief released over the weekend by the Swiss National ...
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If I could share the Alps with my father again

Swissinfo EN - Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:00
Locked down in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Scott Haas can still see as clear as day the mountain peaks surrounding his second home in the Swiss Alps. They are what inspire the writer and clinical psychologist. When it came time to start the ascent of Mount Pilatus, my father said he was afraid of going into a cable car, afraid of going to the top of the mountain. This made the trip for me even more desirable. Anything my father feared or disliked, I wanted to do. It’s still that way even now with him gone for so many years. What would he think of me having a pizza with anchovies, which he hated? What would he think of my e-bike, even if I told him it was made in his native country, Germany? Probably not much. Too fast! Not safe! Why was he so afraid of going up the mountain? I was 13 years old when we were in Switzerland on our first visit. We had entered the country from Germany where we got to see the Bavarian village where he had spent his childhood. From my lofty cable car ...
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Flowserve Corporation Joins the FDT Group Board of Directors

News Machinery - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 21:09

FDT Group, an independent, international, not-for-profit industry standards association consisting of leading companies and organizations active in industrial automation and manufacturing, today announced that Flowserve Corporation has joined the FDT Group's leadership team. Based in Irving, TX, Flowserve has been a long-term member of FDT Group and a participant on the organization's technical working groups, and recently upgraded its membership to “Sponsor” status and assumed roles on b...

Read the full story at https://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=259401

Categories: News EN

Does saving bee colonies mean breaking with tradition?

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 11:00
Honey bees in Switzerland face many threats to their survival. Experts have presented new ideas more geared towards bee welfare than honey production, but they may struggle to gain acceptance among traditional beekeepers.  In Switzerland there are about 18,000 beekeepers with 165,000 honey bee colonies. The bee density is high compared to other European countries, at 4.0 colonies per km2. Germany has 1.9, France 2.5 and the UK only 1.3. The Swiss figures are from 2014, the others from 2010. (Source: Agroscope)  Honeybees and wild bees are responsible for 80% of plant pollination so they play a key role in the production of food. But they are threatened by loss of habitat, diseases and pesticides.   "More than any other insect, the honey bee has the power to capture our hearts and connect us emotionally with the wonders and mysteries of nature” - Thomas Seeley A group of American and German biologists has argued for years that bees would be able to defend themselves better ...
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Swiss corona protests: conspiracy theories vs political rights

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 09:28
Switzerland is now well into phase two of its three-stage loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, but this hasn’t stopped citizens gathering to protest against the government’s measures. For three weekends running, they have defied a ban on political demonstrations – as well as a general ban on meetings of more than five people – and have gathered in small but loud numbers to protest the restrictions on freedom. What do they stand for? On one hand, the activists are concerned about the suspension of political rights and the extraordinary powers taken up by government to combat the virus. “This is not a demonstration, it’s a vigil,” one of the Bern organisers, Alex Gagneux, told swissinfo.ch last week. For him, such a “vigil” is necessary in front of parliament because “the constitution has been suspended” by the government’s “disproportionate” actions. Posters at the events carried slogans like “RIP democracy, 1291-2020” (referring to the year Switzerland was apparently born) and ...
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Lonza ‘scaling up’ Moderna's promising Covid-19 vaccine process

Swissinfo EN - Wed, 05/20/2020 - 08:26
Swiss company Lonza has signed a major deal with US biotech Moderna Therapeutics to help produce a promising Covid-19 vaccine using new mRNA technology. Lonza CEO Albert Baehny says the firm can rise to the challenge of producing hundreds of millions of doses starting this year, if trials continue to prove successful. On Monday, Modern Therapeutics released results of the phase one trials of its mRNA vaccine – the first of its kind – in humans. They are giving Baehny reason to be optimistic, albeit cautiously. “The results are excellent. We understand the technology and the manufacturing process. We now hope that phases two and three go well,” he says. The trial data were limited with only a small number of participants and some vaccine experts interviewed by health news site STATnews say that based on the information available it is difficult to know how impressive the results are. But the vaccine did generate some immune response. That’s good news for both Moderna and ...
Categories: News EN

How Swiss grandparents are handling coronavirus restrictions

Swissinfo EN - Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:00
Grandparents can hug their grandchildren again, but they’re still not advised to look after them, says the Swiss health authority managing the coronavirus crisis. The contradiction is unsettling for families in Switzerland, and highlights the key role of grandparents in the country. In canton Bern, 62-year-old Heidi Klossner Biglen was delighted to receive official permission to hug her grandchildren again. She and her husband normally look after them two days a month. They recently met for the first time in two months – with joy and a little uncertainty, as the grandchildren had gotten used to keeping a distance. For Klossner Biglen, time spent with her grandchildren is a chance to watch them grow up and to share life experiences. “We learn from them and they learn from us,” she says. Grandmother Barbara Müller*, 63, has been looking after her grandson again for over a week now. She felt liberated when Daniel Koch, the government delegate on the Covid-19 pandemic, said it was ...
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Pandemic should not mean impunity for rights offenders, UN says

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 12:04
As Covid-19 prompts prisons to take measures to improve hygiene conditions, the United Nations maintains that those convicted of rights abuses must serve their sentences and should not be released or handed impunity. Fabián Salvioli, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, says protective measures in overpopulated prisons should not lead to lighter sentences for those convicted of genocide or crimes against humanity. “Current international law prohibits taking measures that would lead to impunity for people convicted of such crimes,” he says. At the end of April, Salvioli published an information note for governments whose aim was to “avoid this extraordinary pandemic situation becoming a pretext for eventual pardons or releases of people condemned for such serious crimes”. The document was prompted by the situation in Latin America, and by specific cases in Argentina, Chile and Peru. But the message is universal, ...
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Ethical artificial intelligence: Could Switzerland take the lead?

Swissinfo EN - Mon, 05/18/2020 - 11:00
The debate on contact-tracing highlights the urgency of tackling unregulated technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). With a strong democracy and reputation for first-class research, Switzerland has the potential to be at the forefront of shaping ethical AI.   What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? "Artificial intelligence is either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity," the prominent scientist, Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018, once said. An expert group set up by the European Commission presented a draft of ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI at the end of 2018, but as of yet there is no agreed global strategy for defining common principles, which would include rules on transparency, privacy protection, fairness, and justice.  Thanks to its unique features – a strong democracy, its position of neutrality, and world-class research – Switzerland is well positioned to play a leading role in shaping the future of AI that adheres to ethical standards. The ...
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Clean gold: How Switzerland could set new supply chain standards

Swissinfo EN - Sun, 05/17/2020 - 11:00
Switzerland is the undisputed top dog of the global gold industry, refining a majority of the world’s gold, as well as being the leading exporter. But how seriously does the country take its responsibility to ensure sustainable mining and the protection of human rights?     "This position of great global power comes with great responsibility because – here’s another thing too few people know – gold mining comes with its fair share of risks and problems,” notes Mark Pieth, professor of criminal law at Basel University in an op-ed for swssinfo.ch.  In this regard, the Alpine nation often falls short. Swiss refiners – despite their efforts and discretion – are often in the crosshairs of human rights and environmental groups who express alarm over the environmental footprint of gold extraction, the hazardous working conditions at mines and the wider lack of transparency along the supply chain.  SWI swissinfo.ch’s focus on gold coincides with a broader push to regulate the ...
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How Geneva Airport helped the international city take off

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 11:00
At 10:20am on September 23, 1920, Swiss pilot Edgar Primault safely landed his Haefeli DH-3 plane on a bumpy field north of Geneva, marking the official inauguration of Geneva-Cointrin airport. A century later, it’s become Switzerland’s second-busiest aviation hub – although it, like most of the world’s airports, is currently at a standstill amid the coronavirus pandemic and faces an uncertain future. A new book revisits the key phases of the airport’s development. Over the past century, the simple grass airstrip, with an administrative building, café and dormitory for pilots, has expanded into a sprawling international airport. Western Switzerland was an aeronautical early adopter. Back in the early 1900s, flying machines and daredevil pilots, especially in neighbouring France, caught the public’s imagination. In Geneva, businessmen, politicians and bankers organised air meetings and helped set up flying clubs. At the end of the First World War, the availability of ...
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Catching the last flight home during the Covid-19 pandemic

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 11:00
An Indian national recounts her stressful return to her family in Switzerland aboard one of the last repatriation flights. Prelude  It was 8.05 am on April 26, an hour after the LX-8919 flight from the Indian city of Kochi landed at Zurich Airport and I was still on the plane. A few minutes later, when our row number was called out by the airport personnel, I disembarked quietly from the aircraft - the only plane that had landed at this hour. The airport was eerily quiet and it was less crowded than normal. People walked slowly in small groups. My eyes spotted a known face from a distance waiting for me anxiously by the doors of the departure gate.   It somehow felt strange not to get the usual warm “welcome back” hugs or kisses from my husband. Only tears of joy.  He drove me home to Geneva. When we reached I stood at the door for a few minutes gazing at my children, my beloved precious little ones. Their eyes twinkled with exhilaration on seeing me. I could feel a sense of ...
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How crypto mining tried, but failed, to gain a Swiss toehold

Swissinfo EN - Sat, 05/16/2020 - 10:00
There was a time when any Tom, Dick or Harry could create (or “mine”) bitcoin with a modified PC. Now only warehouses packed full of specialised computing gear stand any real chance. The bones of defunct crypto mines litter the Swiss Alps. This week saw a special event in the bitcoin life cycle, called “Halving”. Like a super-rapid solar eclipse, blink and you missed it. So what happened? Bitcoin is produced as a reward for “miners” (those warehouses of souped-up PCs) who create blocks of bitcoin transactions. The total supply of bitcoin is limited to 21 million, programmed to emerge at a regular pace until the year 2140. Part of the bitcoin supply equation involves slowing down production over time. Every few years, the bitcoin reward that miners receive is slashed in half. Last week they got 12.5 bitcoin for producing a block of data, halfway through this week it became 6.25. Bitcoin mining is a competitive vocation. It uses a lot of electricity. That produces heat. A ...
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