Sunday, March 01, 2015

Wallström: Nemtsov Killing "An Execution"

Via The Local:

Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has described the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov of further evidence of "Putin's reign of terror with regards to security, human rights, and democracy".

"I think everyone is deeply taken by the assassination of Nemtsov. It's an execution. And it is clear that this reinforces the image of Putin's reign of terror when it comes to security, human rights and democracy. This is furthermore one more name to be added to the already long list of, not least journalists, who have lost their lives", Margot Wallström said in an interview with the TT news agency.

In response to a question from a TT journalist whether she was blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the killing of the former first deputy prime minister and outspoken critic of the current Russian government, Wallström replied:

"It reinforces a picture where human rights are violated and where, unfortunately, we have seen many murders in recent years that have never been cleared up. There is also a clear picture of how those who are in opposition, and who are critical, are categorized as "you are against us and should disappear or be silenced".

"Putin's reign has become a reign of terror. This is serious and affects the rest of the world too", Wallström concluded.

Boris Nemtsov served as first deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and was a renowned scientist and liberal politician. He was shot on Friday, aged 55, on a bridge near the Kremlin and Red Square in Moscow.

Nemtsov was co-chairman of the RPR-PARNAS political party and is reported to have been in Moscow to help to organize a rally against Putin's policies on Ukraine.

Margot Wallström's comments come at a time of heightened tension between Moscow and Stockholm.

The Swedish Armed Forces announced in October 2014 that they believed that a foreign power, widely presumed to have been Russia, was conducting operations in Swedish waters. The announcement led to a lengthy but ultimately futile submarine hunt in the Stockholm archipelago.

The government announced in December that Sweden was beefing up its military after a decade of downsizing in response to a more assertive Russia.

In one of Sweden's most dramatic steps since the end of the Cold War, Sweden has brought back the option of using reservists to boost its military force, making no attempt to hide the fact that the main motivation behind the move is Russia.

Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist argued the move was necessary against the backdrop of Russia's rearmament and its annexation of Crimea, as well as the Ukrainian conflict.

Sweden has however also come in for criticism recently for apparently agreeing to Russian military demands not to land fighter jets in Estonia during a coming military exercise in the Baltic region.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Swedes In "Ring Of Peace" Synagogue Protest

Via The Local:

A human shield of up to a 1000 Swedes staged a protest against extremism outside the Stockholm synagogue Friday in response to the Copenhagen shootings earlier this month in which two people died.

The protest aimed to show that Muslims "strongly condemn all types of extremism and reject all types of hatred and hatred of Jews", organizers wrote on Facebook.

"From our perspective, as Jews, it is very important that we feel that we are not alone", said Petra Kahn Nord, secretary-general of Sweden's Jewish Youth Association prior to making a speech.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told the protesters their country would "never let hate take charge of our lives", drawing cheers from the crowd.

A filmmaker and a Jewish man died in the Copenhagen shootings at a cultural centre and outside the city's main mosque on February 14-15th.

Gunman Omar El-Hussein was later shot dead by police.

Protesters at Friday's protest told AFP they were dismayed by what had happened.

"Outside the synagogue there are now police with machine guns. I'd never seen them carry machine guns in Stockholm before", Cecilia, a 48-year-old Jewish woman who works at an IT company, said.

"It's tragic to have to organize an event like this", she added.

The event was inspired by the "ring of peace" in Oslo last weekend and was organized by several groups, including the Young Muslims of Sweden and Young Roma.

Around 300 people, meanwhile, attended a peace vigil in Copenhagen organized by Danish Muslims.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Norwegian Flew Plane Despite Crew Walk-Off

Via The Local:

A pilot manning a Norwegian airlines aircraft scheduled to fly between New York and Stockholm last month decided to fly the plane despite almost half of the cabin crew having walked off after a fight over a snow storm.

The incident occurred on January 26, when the pilot started fighting with the cabin crew over whether it was safe to carry out the transatlantic flight because of the approaching snow storm.

Four of the nine cabin crew staff got so angry they walked off the aircraft, but the pilot decided to go ahead with the 196-passenger flight anyway.

According to the Norwegian aviation authorities, which is investigating the incident, it is against the rules to fly with a reduced number of aircrew staff.

In an email to Norwegian daily Dagbladet, Tomas Hesthammer, the head of Norwegian’s flight operations, said the incident is being looked into, but insisted that five cabin crew on 196 passengers is in line with the minimum conditions.

Norwegian’s communications chief, Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson, also underscored that the airport remained open for take-offs and landings and that other airlines were flying.

“The pilot has the main responsibility for security on board and he is the one who makes the call whether it’s safe to fly or not. That’s not a task for the cabin crew”, she told Swedish news agency TT.

The cabin crew staff that got off the plane will be grounded until the investigation has been completed, Holmbergh Jacobsson said.

Since Norwegian launched its long-haul flights, the airline has been hard hit by delays and has been forced to pay large amounts of money in damages.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Greece To Get Four Extra Months Under Current Bailout

Via EUobserver:

Greece has agreed to all the conditions laid out by Germany and is likely to get its bailout program extended by another four months, provided international creditors give a green light on Monday.

A meeting of eurozone finance ministers (the Eurogroup) on Friday (20 February) ended after "intense", "difficult", and "laborious" talks, especially in a smaller format - between Germany, Greece, and international institutions.

In those preliminary discussions, several sources told this website, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was sidelined, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke on the phone to conclude the deal personally.

Under the accord, Greece has to come up with a precise list of reforms for the next four months, which will be evaluated by experts from the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said after the meeting.

The result of this first review will be communicated also by phone and if it is positive, national parliaments will approve the 4-month extension of the €240 billion bailout which otherwise would have terminated on 28 February.

During these four months, Greece is due to start talks with international creditors on a third bailout, with "clarity expected" on the issue before the extension runs out.

In order to achieve the deal, Tsipras yielded to all German demands - including that a €10.8 billion tranche be repatriated to the EU bailout fund in Luxembourg and only used if banks in Greece request it for recapitalising of their balance sheets.

The money's availability will however be extended for another four months, along with the overall bailout program.

Greece also pledged not to undertake any unilateral measures or reforms that would compromise the budgetary calculations Athens needs to stick to in order to get the bailout money.

But in a press conference after the meeting, Varoufakis said the plan to raise the minimum wage - announced by his Prime Minister - is not off the table "after June", giving Ireland as an example of a country which managed to negotiate this with its creditors.

Varoufakis also responded to criticism from the Baltic states and Slovakia, where the minimum wage is currently lower than in Greece, saying that prices are higher in his country and that they were kept high by market-dominant oligopolies, despite revenues going down.

He said the fact that the €10.8 billion remains available for Greek banks - which have seen massive capital flight in the past few weeks - should "put an end to the fear and the scaremongering".

EUobserver understands that at one point, ECB chief Mario Draghi told Tsipras that capital controls will be imposed in the absence of a deal.

According to ECB sources, this danger has now been averted.

"After the decision of the Eurogroup, there is no need for capital controls. Capital controls are out of question", an ECB source said.

The only mild concession Greece has obtained so far is for its budget surplus target for 2015 to be possibly lowered by taking into consideration that the economic situation this year was worse than expected.

But EU economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici said this assessment will be made "in line with EU rules", at the end of the year, rather than be considered on Monday when Greece has to submit the reforms list.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in 2015 "there may be a little less surplus", but overall, Greece has to stick to the "debt sustainability assessment" which foresees how much budgetary surplus Greece has to adhere.

Schaeuble said the agreement was a "positive step" after three "difficult Eurogroup meetings".

"What is crucial is that Greece is sticking to completing the conditions under current program and that money will be disbursed only after the successful review of the measures", he said.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mother "Locked Up Adult Daughters For Decade"

Via The Local:

Swedish police have arrested a woman on suspicion of keeping her three adult daughters locked up amid media reports that they were confined for at least a decade.

Police suspected the 59-year-old woman had "restricted her children's freedom... for quite a few years" in the small southern Swedish town of Bromölla, spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford told AFP.

She later confirmed to The Local that the women were all between the ages of 20 and 30. Regional newspaper Sydsvenskan reported their ages as 32, 24 and 23.

"We got a report at half past five on Wednesday evening. A worried citizen called the police and claimed that someone had kept three children locked up for many years", she said.

"The woman was arrested on Thursday morning", she added.

Bromölla is best known in Sweden for being the home town of singer and television star Sanna Nielsen, who competed for Sweden in Eurovision 2014.

It is a quiet town of fewer than 8000 residents. To neighbors, Thursday's events came as a shock.

Ingrid Nordstedt, 85, told The Local: "I never suspected anything, the neighbors hardly communicate. As a devout Christian, I am very shocked. How could someone do this? If I had known about it, I would have reported it to the police".

"I live in an area with mixed nationalities. We have never had any problems and it has always been very calm here. This took us by complete surprise. It is so sad".

Hanna Persson, 26, added: "I'm in complete disbelief, I never noticed anything weird at all. I always assumed that there was just an elderly woman living there. Whenever I would pass the door it was always quiet. This is mind-blowing".

Leif Dufva from the town council housing association that owns the 65 square meter one bedroom apartment told The Local that rent for the property was always paid on time and he had "no reason" to suspect that people were being held there. He said they had rented the apartment for slightly over two years.

According to tabloid Expressen, one of the now adult children managed to briefly leave the apartment and convince a neighbor to call the police, saying that they had been locked up for over a decade.

"The blinds were always pulled down there and we haven't heard any noise from the apartment", a neighbor told the paper.

Expressen also reported that the woman had moved the children around to different locations in an effort to keep them away from their father.

"One of the young women was led out of the apartment, she could barely walk by herself", an eye witness told newspaper Aftonbladet.

Prosecutor Pär Andersson told The Local the woman and the children had been questioned at a police station in the nearby town of Kristianstad.

He was not able to confirm the physical or mental state of the daughters, who he said all spoke Swedish.

He confirmed he would decide on Friday morning whether to release the woman or request that the court detains her.

A man claiming to be the children's father has spoken to one Swedish newspaper saying he has been searching for the children for 17 years.

His identity has not been made public.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Victoria’s Secret Swim Special Official Trailer #1

Get a sneak peek at the first-ever Victoria’s Secret Swim Special, shot on location in Puerto Rico, and starring the Victoria’s Secret Angels and musical guests Maroon 5 and Juanes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Machine Guns To Help Protect Synagogues

Via The Local:

Police officers guarding Jewish buildings in Sweden should carry automatic rifles, according to new directives issued after two deadly shootings in Copenhagen over the weekend.

Officers will also be equipped with bullet proof vests and protective helmets, according to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

"This is in line with a previous decision that security equipment of police officers stationed at Jewish activity centres should be strengthened", Jessica Krasser Fremnell, press officer at the Swedish Police's operative department, told the newspaper.

Mona Sahlin, Sweden's national coordinator against violent extremism and former leader of the Social Democrats, told news agency TT she had seen a rising tide of anti-Semitism in Sweden.