Tagged: Switzerland

Swiss officials discovered dump was radioactive 18 months ago — and didn’t tell residents!

A highly radioactive substance, emitting in some places radiation 100 times the permitted amount, has been discovered in Switzerland, local media reported, saying the hazard was known about for 18 months.

Le Matin Dimanche and Sonntags Zeitung reported on Sunday that federal, regional and local officials decided not to reveal the discovery of radium in an old dump in the town of Bienne in case it scared the 50,000 residents.

“120kg of radioactive waste was obtained after sorting. We measured doses of several hundred microsieverts at the source,” Daniel Dauwalder, a spokesman for the Swiss federal office for public health, told Le Matin Dimanche…

In certain places, measurements of 300 microsieverts per hour were taken, more than 100 times the permitted amount for an old dump, the newspapers reported.

Anyone exposed for three hours would absorb the equivalent of a year’s permitted dose.

The waste came from a paint used by the watch-making industry to illuminate the numbers on watch faces.

The substance, which has been banned since 1963 due to its radioactive nature, was discovered when roadworks were started at the site…

The president of the federal commission in charge of monitoring radiation, which was not informed of the incident, said the various authorities had made a “mistake”.

“This will all come back to bite us and it is much more difficult to stay credible and win back the public’s trust,” Francois Bochud told Le Matin Dimanche.

Are we supposed to think the company making the radioactive paint wasn’t aware of the dangers presented by the crap they poured into the town dump? Especially after it was declared illegal to use anymore?

Is someone going to track these scumbags down and make them liable for health and pollution damages? And make the town and regional officials dig up this crap by hand – with trowels.

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Swiss voters say NO to Gripen fighter deal in nationwide referendum

Swiss voters have shot down a government plan to procure nearly two dozen Saab-made Gripen jet fighters from Sweden…

The Swiss government said 53.4 percent of those voting on Sunday were against funding the procurement, which would have cost $3.5 billion…

The Swiss air Force currently flies the F/A-18, due for retirement in 2025. The Federal Council planned to replace the U.S.-built planes with 22 Gripens…

Swiss opponents to their government’s Gripen deal argued the money spent to procure the planes could better be spent on other things.

NSS. The Minister of Defense said “This decision has the effect of creating security gaps.” He has gaposis of the brain. Sitting around worrying about someone invading Switzerland next week is like worrying about Canada’s great land army waging a major assault upon Yankee Stadium.

Now, here in the United States, we’re being asked to acquire 2,443 killer F-35 fighter aircraft at a cost of $125 million to $156 million a copy depending on options, radio, powered sub-woofers, Pandora, etc..

Good thing we have Congress to take care of unreasonable and outright stupid expenditures like this from falling on the shoulders of American taxpayers.

Oh.

Swiss Air Force didn’t intervene in Ethiopian hijacking. It was outside normal business hours!


Click to enlarge

The hijacking of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 airliner on 17 February has seen the Swiss Air Force subject to widespread ridicule as it was unable to respond due to the incident occurring ‘outside of office hours’, international media has reported.

With Swiss Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Northrop F-5 Tiger II fighters being unavailable due to the timing of the incident at 4am on Monday morning, Italian Eurofighter Typhoon and French Mirage 2000 jets, which had earlier intercepted the airliner as it passed through their respective airspaces were forced to remain on station as the Ethopian Airlines co-pilot diverted his aircraft to Geneva Airport.

“Switzerland [could not] intervene because its air bases are closed at night and on the weekend … It’s a question of budget and staffing,” Swiss Air Force spokesperson Laurent Savary was quoted as telling the AFP…

…The hijacking brings into focus the lack of resources available to the country’s air force at a time when it is looking to procure 22 new Gripen E fighters from Saab.

A national referendum into that procurement is due to go ahead on 18 May, and the air force’s embarrassment at its seeming inability to carry out its core mission to safeguard the national airspace could hardly have come at a worse time. With the government looking to convince the Swiss people of the need to spend US$3.5 billion on new fighter aircraft, many in Switzerland and beyond will be questioning whether that money might be better spent in properly funding the assets it already has.

Or they could spend the money developing a few more resorts to provide income and employment for the few not already making a living off 19th Century idiots who attach more importance to war and belligerence than peacefully going their own way.

Look at the circular reasoning in this event: The co-pilot wanted asylum. He waited till the pilot was off taking a pee and locked him out. Because the whole world has to change procedures because of 9-11 in the US, the air marshall on board [remember 9-11] and the pilot couldn’t break in through the new specially reinforced cockpit door [remember 9-11]. Why were fighter jets from France and Italy scrambled to follow the hijacked plane in to the Swiss border – remember 9-11 and be ready to shoot down the airliner if it looks ready to crash into something.

Multiply that by the thousands of commercial aircraft in the air at any minute around the world.

The Swiss don’t belong to NATO, don’t belong to the military forces of the EU and haven’t invaded another European country since Hector was a pup…BTW. They’re not worried about being invaded except during normal working hours.

Thanks, Mike

This banker can verify the identities of 17,000 Americans who hid money in UBS-Switzerland to evade taxes

A former high-ranking UBS banker charged with helping Americans dodge taxes through secret Swiss bank accounts is expected to plead not guilty on Tuesday to tax fraud conspiracy in federal court in Florida.

Raoul Weil, a 54-year-old Swiss citizen and former head of global wealth management at UBS was charged five years ago with helping about 17,000 Americans conceal $20 billion in numbered accounts at the bank.

He initially disputed the charges and was declared a fugitive a few months later but was arrested on a warrant from Interpol in mid-October while on vacation in Bologna, Italy.

Weil’s appearance in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday will be his second since he was extradited from Italy last month. He was granted a $10.5 million bond pending his arraignment, when he appeared in shackles and a gray prison jumpsuit on December 16.

Lawyers for UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, the bank employee who revealed the tax fraud conspiracy to U.S. authorities in 2007, fear that Weil may be negotiating a “sweetheart” deal” that would spare him from a trial and ultimately shield secret account holders and other bankers from prosecution…

“Weil knows where all the skeletons are buried,” Stephen Kohn added. “The Justice Department must work closely with the IRS and Department of State to make sure that every person guilty of tax evasion in the UBS America’s program are identified and prosecuted,”…

In a case that shook Swiss banking to the core, UBS paid a record $780 million fine in 2009 and agreed to hand over the names of U.S. clients with secret accounts, breaking Switzerland’s vaunted tradition of banking secrecy to avoid feared criminal charges against the bank or other executives.

Liberal or conservative administration aside, it’s been decades since we had a Department of Justice that actively prosecuted criminal fraud on the global scale that kept Switzerland in the secrecy business. The biggest world banks and their officials have always been untouchable.

While the DOJ under Eric Holder has done a terrific job on insider trading – mostly from the work of Preet Bharara in New York – that’s not news. After all, he’s just trying to keep the market clean of low level fraud that doesn’t affect our tax burden. OTOH, the one-percenteers who store their gonads and gold in offshore tax shelters will raise even more money for the Republican Party if they end up being charged with fraud and have to start repaying their debts to the United States.

Cubli

Cubli is a cube that can balance on a corner or edge or walk around by flipping over its edge or can be ordered to have a smooth fall.

The cube, six inches in length, was developed by researchers at ETH Zurich’s Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control and can maintain its balance if pushed over. The cube relies on three spinning motors to get it going that will spin faster, slower or stop to help maintain its balance or continue the flipping motion…

In addition to balancing, the motors can also be used to achieve a controlled fall such that the Cubli can be commanded to fall in any arbitrary direction. Combining these three abilities — jumping up, balancing, and controlled falling — the Cubli is able to ‘walk’.

Tech that has many uses in devices small and large, terrestrial and bound for the emptiness of space. And probably more profitable than we might imagine if it could be mass-produced, more or less affordable – in shiny colors. :)

Whistleblower has names of tax cheats with Swiss bank accounts

Hervé Falciani is a professed whistle-blower — the Edward Snowden of banking — who has been hunted by Swiss investigators, jailed by Spaniards and claims to have been kidnapped by Israeli Mossad agents eager for a glimpse of the client data he stole while working for a major financial institution in Geneva.

“I am weak and alone,” Mr. Falciani said, as three round-the-clock bodyguards provided by the French government looked on with hard stares. The protection was needed, he insisted, because he faces constant risk as the sole key to decipher the encrypted data — five CD-ROMs containing a list of nearly 130,000 account holders that may be the biggest leak ever in the secretive world of Swiss banking…

In 2012, Mr. Falciani passed his information to American authorities. They, in turn, used the data to pursue an investigation into whether HSBC flouted controls on money laundering, eventually forcing a $1.92 billion settlement with the bank in December…

Since being released from jail this year after a Spanish judge denied a Swiss extradition request, Mr. Falciani, who is married and has a young daughter, has resurfaced in France. Authorities here have offered protection in exchange for Mr. Falciani giving testimony to local prosecutors who are investigating whether HSBC helped French clients dodge taxes.

As the investigations play out, Mr. Falciani said he was holding down a day job, working for a European Union project as a computer researcher to develop algorithms to detect abnormal behavior. But he worries about his long-term safety, wondering whether he will live another year. He notes that his house has been broken into and that his wife was recently fired from a job at a shoe store because of his notoriety

“This business represents thousands of billions of euros,” he said. “From my side, I’m frightened.”

He should consider moving to a nation like the United States which respects and protects whistleblowers, preserves their liberty and responds to leaks by prosecuting criminals in high places.

Oh.

Banks leaving Switzerland as the end of secrecy hurts tax dodgers

For European lenders with private-banking aspirations, a presence in Switzerland used to be a must. Now, with bank secrecy eroding and rising compliance costs chipping away at profits, more are saying adieu.

The number of foreign-owned Swiss banks fell to 129 by the end of May from 145 at the start of 2012, according to data from the Association of Foreign Banks in Switzerland. Assets under management slid by a quarter to $921 billion in the five years through 2012 as clients withdrew money or paid taxes on undeclared accounts…

…While Switzerland remains the biggest center for global offshore wealth with $2.2 trillion or about 26 percent of the market…departures may further chip away at the Alpine republic’s status.

“There will be a bit of a shakeout among private banks,” said Felix Wenger…co-head of the private-banking practice at consulting firm McKinsey & Co…“Specifically for Switzerland, some foreign players might conclude that an exit is a better option…”

The U.S. has been investigating Swiss banks and units of foreign banks in the country, including that of London-based HSBC, after UBS AG (UBSN) in 2009 avoided prosecution by admitting it fostered tax evasion and delivering data on about 4,700 accounts of Americans. France and Germany have been searching for tax dodgers using data stolen from Swiss banks and also sharing some of the information with authorities in other European countries.

Agreements with the U.K. and Austria to collect taxes on behalf of those countries on accounts held in Switzerland have been in force since January, and Switzerland is in talks with other European countries on taxing secret accounts. The country will join the international push against tax dodgers and help develop global standards allowing banks to share customers’ details to combat tax evasion, Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said in June…

Everyone is so nice and polite. Fact is we’re discussing corruption and theft, money owed to any number of nations. Looks like Mitt Romney will have to move a couple of chairs over to make room in the Cayman Islands for more of his cheapskate buddies to move in from Switzerland.

Priest from Vatican Bank busted in plot to smuggle €40 million into Italy from Swiss bank accounts

A senior Catholic cleric with connections to the Vatican bank was arrested on Friday for plotting to help rich friends smuggle tens of millions of euros in cash into Italy from Switzerland, in the latest blow to the Vatican’s image.

Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, 61, who worked as a senior accountant in the Vatican’s financial administration, was arrested along with an Italian secret service agent and a financial intermediary in a tale that reads like a spy novel.

It involves police wiretaps, a private plane rented to collect the cash from Locarno, burned cell phones and an allegedly corrupt secret services agent who promised to get the money past customs.

Details of the case against Scarano will come as an acute embarrassment to Pope Francis, who, since his election in March, has pointedly eschewed many of the trappings of office and sought to stress the importance of a simple life of devotion…

Scarano, who was arrested in a Rome parish and taken to Rome’s Queen of Heaven jail, had hatched a plot to bring up to €40 million into Italy for a family of shipbuilders in his hometown of Salerno in southern Italy, magistrate Nello Rossi told reporters.

Rossi is already investigating the Vatican bank for money laundering, and the latest arrests stemmed from that…

According to Rossi, in July last year Scarano engaged Giovanni Zito, a paramilitary Carabiniere policeman on loan to the secret services, to help him get the money, which was in a Swiss bank, into Italy without tax and customs controls.

The third person arrested was Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker with offices in Switzerland and the Canary Islands and who was acting as the fiduciary for the owners of the money…

It was not clear how or when the money got to Switzerland in the first place.

Rossi said his office would seek permission from the Vatican, which is a sovereign state, to question officials. “This is just a piece in a much larger mosaic,” he said.

Scarano, who Rossi said had worked for a German bank before he became a priest, was for years a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as APSA, whose official title is the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See…

Seriously, does any of this surprise anyone? Aren’t we beyond the era of naïveté about the Roman Catholic church and corrupt wealth?

RTFA for lots of details. A farce worthy of being made into a comic Italian movie.

Touring the world’s greatest science labs


The CERN lab near Geneva, like many other research facilities, offers tours of the premises

They may be at work pursuing the greatest mysteries of the physical world—yet the men and women who operate the world’s most prestigious physics and astronomy laboratories aren’t necessarily too busy to host guests. Throughout the world, physics and astronomy labs—many of them shimmering like stars in the wake of tremendous discoveries and achievements, some on mountaintops, others underground—welcome visitors to tour the premises, see the equipment, look through the telescopes and ponder just why they almost always make you wear a hardhat.

CERN. It’s the little things in life that really matter to the researchers at CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research. This facility—located near Geneva, Switzerland—has gained superstardom over the last year, after announcing the discovery of what had been a holy grail of physics for decades—sometimes called the “God particle.” First predicted by physicist Peter Higgs in 1964, the then-theoretical particle, which pops from a field that is believed to give other particles their mass—became known as the Higgs boson before more recently assuming its grandiose nickname.

CERN’s $10 billion atom smasher, called the Large Hadron Collider, had been at work for several years in its subterranean home in the Alps, beneath the French-Swiss border, colliding protons at high speeds before rendering what seemed to be evidence for the God particle in 2012.

Should you be in the charming Swiss countryside this summer, consider taking a guided tour of this most distinguished of the world’s great physics laboratories.

RTFA and consider many other tours around the world’s leading science labs. Leave more suggestions if you’re so inclined.

Thanks, Ursarodina

Unlicensed acupuncturist deliberately infects clients with HIV

A music teacher and unlicensed acupuncturist in Switzerland was charged on allegations of intentionally infecting 16 people with HIV between 2001 and 2005.

A five-judge panel at Bern-Mitelland regional court indicted Maurice Goeller, 53, who does not himself have HIV, on charges of spreading human disease and causing serious bodily harm.

The regional prosecutor’s office said in a statement that most of Goeller’s victims were recruited from among his music school students.

Prosecutors say he practiced as an acupuncturist without a license, allegedly using the job as a pretext to prick his clients with needles infected with the AIDS-causing virus.

Officials began investigating Goeller after a complaint in 2005 from student Thomas Kaiser, who was diagnosed as HIV positive and told medics he could only have been infected from Goeller’s injections.

Investigators ultimately uncovered 15 others with similar stories.

Goeller denies all wrongdoing, or even performing acupuncture.

How does he explain all the victims being his students – that they identified him as practicing acupuncture. Sheesh!