Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Via Business Insider: False information about subjects including Nato, immigration and terrorism, is spread on a daily basis in Sweden, Mikael Tofvesson of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) told Swedish radio on Wednesday. "This is going on all the time. The pattern now is that they pump out a constant narrative that in some respects is negative for Sweden", Tofvesson said. Psychological warfare includes a large range of activities intended to affect public opinion and political decision-making. While some disinformation is directly related to Russia, much of it focuses on issues like immigration and terrorism. In its annual report last year, the Swedish Security Police, Säpo, said Russian propaganda was intended to "spread pro-Russian messages and to exacerbate worries and create splits in society". From Russian Twitter trolls to supposed independent experts paid by foreign powers to spread their point of view in the media, there are many ways that disinformation can spread, according to MSB. The Russian propaganda channels RT and Sputnik News are also important channels for fake news. Last year, a fake letter appeared in the news site The Local's forum, among other places, purporting to come from the Swedish Ministry of Justice addressed to the Ukrainian department of defence. In it, a prosecutor "admitted" that a Swede in Ukraine was guilty of war crimes, and promised to help cover them up. The Local removed the letter as soon as it was made aware of it. The agency is now hiring six new staff members to combat disinformation, and expects to grow further. "We already have a good team working on this", Tofvesson said. The warning in Sweden comes as Russia's alleged attempts to say the US presidential campaign have come into the spotlight. Russian hackers are alleged to have compromised the Democratic National Committee's email accounts in an attempt to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Via Business Insider: Norway is contemplating some futuristic road projects. Fjords are beautiful for sure, and Norway is basically nothing but fjords. But for those wanting to get from point A to point B with a fjord or two or seven in the way, they can be quite irksome, referring drivers to ferries. This represents an enormous infrastructural problem for Norway, and the Norwegian parliament has decided that the E39 highway shall become ferry-free. Bridges and tunnels - Norway already has many of them - wont always do the trick. Sometimes a gap is too deep for a tunnel to be a plausible solution, or too wide for a bridge - refering drivers to ferries. Luckily, there is a new solution. In a feasibility study, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration presents designs for the world's first submerged floating tunnels, that, if implemented, will let cars pass underneath the surface of fjords without hindering the entrance of ships. The design features to antiparallel tubes floating with the help of pontoons and Archimedes' principle. Each tube will be big enough for two driving lanes. The pontoons are spaced far enough apart to allow big ships to pass in between. The Norwegian Public Roads Administration is simultaneously looking at other possible solutions, like floating bridges, or a combination of a floating bridge and a submerged floating tunnel. The submerged tunnel project is not the first of its kind to be proposed, but if Norway goes forward with the plans it will be the first time the concept is put to test in reality. And if it proves a success it could open up for similar solutions all over the world. One submerged tunnel that has long been suggested is a transatlantic highway connecting Europe with America through Iceland.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Via Business Insider: Sweden and Finland have built up quite a reputation for their successes at game development: King (Candy Crush), Mojang (Minecraft), Rovio (Angry Birds) and Supercell (Clash of Clans) are a few of the wonders in recent years. But you can't rely forever on old merits. Game Developers Conference Europe annually surveys game developers sentiments in its GDC Europe State of the Industry report. This year Sweden has been dethroned as the country that 800 some game developers view as the country where the best games are made. Instead, the UK has gained the industry's favor. When asked which country in Europe is producing the best games the respondents named first the UK (24.7%), then Sweden (22.4%) and thirdly Finland (17%). For Sweden that means a step back, while it's progress for Finland in comparison with last year's figures: Sweden (26.6%), UK (24.7%) and Finland. UK's position seems to be growing stronger. GDC also reports that in response to the question 'where in Europe the best games will be developed in five years', 26.6% named the UK, 16% said Sweden, and only 11% named Finland. The GDC notes that since the survey was carried out before the results of Brexit sentiment the outlook may change dramatically for next year, when the consequences have become more clear.
Friday, July 22, 2016
Via Business Insider: Negative interest rates could be about to cause some grave side-effects in Denmark. Tore Stramer, chief analyst at Nykredit in Copenhagen, warns that Danes might be struck by a new housing bubble, Bloomberg reports. According to Stramer, the situation could spiral 'out of control' as the prolonged period of negative interest rates makes Danes all the more incautious to the eventuality that rates may rise again in the future. In Stramers words to Bloomberg: “To be concrete, there is a danger that Danes go blind to the risk of rates ever rising again. [...] That raises the risk of a major housing price decline, when rates at some point or other start to rise again”. According to Bloomberg, some Danish banks, like Danske Bank, are assuming rates wont rise to positive figures until at least 2018. At the same time apartment prices are 5% higher now than they were when Denmark was hit by the housing bubble in 2006. “It’s worth remembering that there’s a real risk that housing prices can see a dramatic fall, even though we’re not seeing a bubble in the classical definition of the term”, Stramer said to Bloomberg.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Via Business Insider: Nigel Farage leader of U.K. Independence Party, headed the Brexit movementand and serves as a member of the European Parliament. In an interview with McClatchy at the Republican National Convention, Farage predicted that Denmark, Sweden and Netherlands might be next in turn to leave the EU. According to the Brexit leader, the countries share the sentiments that made Brexit possible in Britain: they don't want to loose more ccontol to the European Union, McClatchy DC writes. “The only way you can take control of your country is to leave the EU and take control of your borders”, says Farage. Perhaps we shouldn't take a half-hearted Trump-supporter's word on Scandinavian sentiment, but its at leasty true to say that Brexit has planted the idea of EU-membership referendums in the Nordic countries. Polls from June showed that in Denmark, for example, the number of Danes in support of the EU has declined dramatically and that as many as 42% of Danes want a referendum on a potential DK-exit. Some political parties have taken up the popular trend and spoken out in support of EU-membership referendums. In Finland there was a petition going around during the spring of 2016 for a Fixit-referendum. However, it seems for the moment that the chaos that has followed in the wake of Brexit is discouraging the separatist sentiment. Everyone is waiting to see how the UK's independence experiment works out before making any rash decisions.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Via Business Insider: Bloomberg cites five anonymous sources working at Spotify who claim that the company is aiming at a stock market flotation during the second half of 2017, contrary to founder Daniel Ek's recent claim that he doesn't intend to sell the company. While that answers a long-standing question it does leave another one unanswered: Can Spotify live up to its valuation? Spotify's was last valued at $8 billion dollars. That's quite a lot considering Spotify has never once turned a profit in its ten year history. And as Bloomberg problematizes, if Spotify can't make ends meet, why would investors? In order to live up to its astronomical valuation Spotify will have to show that it is actually a viable company. Amidst rising competition - particularly from Apple Music - Spotify will have to haggle down fees to record labels, which presently eat away more than 50% of revenues, and show that music streaming isn't a fleeting phenomenon. Spotify is still growing at a quick pace, reportedly adding 10 million paying subscribers in the last year, as well as going from 89 million active users to 100 million during the first half of 2016, but the question is if it will be fast enough.
Monday, July 18, 2016
The Dream Of An International Hub In The Nordics Is Alive - The Scandinavian Governments Want To Sell SAS
Via Business Insider: Last week Björn Kjos, CEO and founder of the airline Norwegian, criticized the Swedish government for not doing enough to establish Stockholm as an international hub connecting flights to and from Asia, Europe, and America. According to Kjos, Stockholm is strategically positioned for such an international hub, but it would require renegotiations of an agreement with Russia that practically allows only SAS to fly over Russian air space. Such a renegotition was not feasible, because of the federal interests in Scandinavian Airlines however. But now, the Scandinavian governments have opened up for a sale of SAS. The reason is that the governments no longer view themselves as the best strategic proprietors of the airlines. "The whole European airline industry is under a lot of pressure and the market is not saturated in terms of consolidation. SAS needs to work in the long term with its strategic choices and in view of that I don't think a federal ownership is the best", says Mikael Damberg, Sweden's Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, to SvD. Monica Mæland, Norway's Minister of Trade and Industry, has similarly expressed Norway's intention to sell SAS. The Swedish parliament has already given the government mandate to sell SAS, writes Veckans Affärer. But it all depends on finding the right buyer. According to Jan Ohlsson, editor-in-chief of Travel Insider, the ideal situation would be one in which SAS was acquired by Chinese airlines wanting to get a foothold in Europe, writes DN. That could pave the way to creating a Nordic hub for internatiuonal travel, even without the involvement of Norwegian. A sale of SAS ought also to increase the Scandinavian government's interest in seeing the way of other airlines. If and when SAS is sold depends on finding the right buyer. As Monica Mæland, Norway's Minister of Trade and Industry, tells Norsk Telegrambyrå, "We are in no hurry to sell SAS". Another obstacle is that enormous future pension costs make SAS quite unattractive to potential buyers. "It's not difficult to sell SAS. But then someone has to take the huge pension bill. It's a catastrophic cost that no one wants to take responsibility for. The pension costs probably have to be reddemed by the Nordic countries. It's crazy, but that's what I think need to happen for someone to buy SAS", Frode Steen, professor at Norwegian School of Economics and fligh expert, tells NTB.