Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Via Before It's News: There are many reports of underground bases reported around the world. A comprehensive list can be found here compiled by Bibliotecapleyades and another list can be found compiled by UFO-Aliens. New York City There is an entrance to the tunnels in New York City “in the vicinity of Midtown Manhattan" that can be reached through an abandoned elevator shaft that only very few know about. The Nahanni Valley (Canada) Entrance This covers 250 square miles in the southern end of the Mackenzie Mountains of Canada. It lies almost 550 miles due west of Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River of northwest Canada. Hot springs and sulfur geysers keep the valley warmer than the surrounding areas by about 30 degrees year -round (the valley is above 60 degrees latitude), making it perpetually mist-covered. This valley is inhabited only by animals as people entering the valley are usually found headless and quite dead. The Indian tribes of the area avoid this valley. (These tribes include the Ojibways, the Slave, the Dogribs, the Stoney, the Beavers and the Chipweyans.) This valley is often referred to as "the Valley of the Headless Men". The Liyobaa Cave Entrance This was sealed off by Catholic Priests who believed it to be an entrance to “Hell”. “The village of ‘Liyobaa’ or to translate, ‘The Cavern of Death,’ was located in the province of Zapoteca, somewhere near the ancient village of ‘Mictlan’ or the village of the ‘Underworld' ". "The Cavern of Death" was actually located in the last chamber of an eight chamber building or temple. This temple had four rooms above the ground and four more important chambers built below the surface of the Earth. This building was located in “Theozapotlan”, and the tunnel entrance led one beneath a mountain.
Via The Local: An association that promotes reading among children has become the first African group to win the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world's largest prize for children's and young people's literature. The prize, named after the Swedish creator of the adventurous schoolgirl character Pippi Longstocking, went to the Cape Town-based Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA). The group encourages children and young people to read for enjoyment, to build up their self-esteem and help them connect to their native languages through reading and stories. "Through innovative reading and storytelling projects, PRAESA brings people together and brings literature in multiple languages alive", the jury said. "PRAESA's outstanding work shows the world the crucial role of books and stories in creating rich, full lives for our children and young people". At a June 1st ceremony in Stockholm the group will receive a cheque for five million kronor ($581.000, 536.000 euros), which organisers claim is the world's largest prize for children's and young people's literature. Since 1992 PRAESA has produced a series of books in various African languages, organised national reading clubs and arranged story telling and theatrical events in Cape Town and other parts of Africa. Last year it won the Asahi Reading Promotion Award, from the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Previous prize winners include Kitty Crowther of Belgium, Maurice Sendak of the United States, and Philip Pullman of Britain. The prize has previously been awarded to two other groups promoting children's access to books: the Tamer Institute which works with Palestinian refugees, and Banco del Libro which brings books to children in remote Venezuelan villages. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was created by the Swedish government after Lindgren's death in January 2002.
Monday, March 30, 2015
Via The Local: Spontaneous dancing remains outlawed in Sweden except in venues with special “dance licences” after a majority in parliament voted down a move to free the feet. If the owners of bars, clubs, or restaurants lack a dance permit and their patrons start moving to music, they can be slapped with a fine in Sweden. Police have long argued that the permits are needed because dancing creates disorder, which in turn can lead to fights and despite a long campaign against the practice, it seems it is sticking around. Anders Varveus, a Swedish nightclub pioneer who in 2012 led a 1.000-strong street-dance demo against the regulation, said he was surprised by the outcome of Thursday’s vote and vowed to resuscitate the protest movement. “I’m planning to hold a demo at the Pride Parade on August 1st”, he told The Local. To ensure maximum effect, the protest will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the launch of his Docklands club, an iconic venue on the Stockholm club scene. “We’ll have about 100 people dancing on our vehicle but we’ll also have a fantastic sound system and I expect around 10.000 people to dance behind us”. Varveus said his opposition to the dance permits was threefold. “First, it’s a question of personal freedom. How you want to move your own body is not a matter for regulation”. Special dance laws were also an antiquated, stodgy way for a state to get involved in the lives of its citizens, he said. “Finally, it’s very hard to keep this law functional. What is the definition of dancing? Once you start moving, how do you know when you’ve crossed a line. It’s funny, really”. Varveus said he was astonished by which parties had voted for and against the motion. “I’m not surprised the Liberals voted to remove it; they’re traditionally in favor of more personal freedoms. But I’m really surprised the conservative, nationalist Sweden Democrats voted to get rid of the permits, along with the Left Party, both of which I’d consider more ‘totalitarian’ than the other parties”. The Center Party initially petitioned to remove the permits but in the end did not vote against them. The party argued that the vote had come too early and said it and the other centre-right Alliance parties were preparing a more far-reaching package on general over-regulation for the autumn that would include the dance licences. Varveus said: “I don’t understand the logic”. Erik Helmerson, a commentator for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, described the regulation as an “embarrassing bureaucratic relic” from the 1970s. He included in his article a report from a municipal inspector in the town of Gävle last year, who wrote after a visit to a restaurant: “The area was populated by 50 to 80 people who moved with the rhythm of the music in a manner akin to dancing”. Helmerson added: “The way we view dancing says a lot about a society. In Sweden restaurateurs are punished with fines and lose their licence to serve alcohol if people like the music being played and move to it without permission. “The question we should ask is whether there is too much or too little dancing. And whether politicians are really the right ones the decide”.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Via Disclose.tv: Russian designers have presented a visual concept of a state-of-the-art house which they claim will be capable of flying. A visual concept of a sophisticated new home which will be capable of floating through the air has been showcased by Russian designers, who claim that the house can also be used as a summer cottage and a small airship, media reports said. The Freedom house, which has first and foremost been designed for so-called citizens of the world, can be installed almost anywhere on our planet — in the woods, at sea, on the coast, in the mountains, and in an urban area, according to Dmitry Ulitin and Anstasiya Taratuta of the design studio Artzona.ru. The owner of this house will be able to make him or herself at home while soaring through the clouds, a dream that now may finally come true. However, 'Freedom' comes at a price: the prospective home, which will take at least four years to perfect, will cost at least six million euros. Freedom is touted as a house that is not tied to any particular place or time. It provides a unique opportunity for its owners to live in any city without spending money on rent. On the other hand, it will help put an owner in a cheerful frame of mind each time he (or she) feels upset. The house's aerostatic air power is provided with a container of phlegmatized hydrogen, as well as a thermal volume and vertical-horizontal propeller power. The propellers' engines can run both on hydrogen and petrol, and in the parking mode are used as wind generators.
Via The Local: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven broached sensitive subjects such as the death penalty and human right in a Saturday meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. Trade, economic development, and the environment were topics on the agenda when the two leaders met during the Boao Forum on Hainan Island. But the question occupying many in Sweden was how Löfven would bring up more sensitive issues. “We also spoke about human rights, everything from trade union rights to the death penalty and the incarceration of people who express their opinion”, Löfven said. The Prime Minister said he gave the Chinese leader a list, prepared by the EU, of specific cases that were of concern to the Europeans. When asked how the Chinese leadership responded when sensitive issues, such as human rights, were brought up, Löfven said the authorities there were open to discussion. “They say that they have a different opinion, another perspective, on the different questions we address”, he told reporters. “They have respect for our opinion and we are clear about where we stand. We are two different nations who want to have a good relationship and develop closer cooperation”. Ahead of his visit, Löfven had not said if would bring up specific cases with the Chinese authorities or submit a list of prisoners the EU would like to see released, as former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt did in 2008 when he visited then-President Hu Jintao. On Friday, Löfven visited Sweden’s ambassador in Beijing and met representatives of Swedish companies doing business there. After the two-day visit in China, Löfven will travel to the United States.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Via The Local: Three Swedish parliamentarians met with fugitive U.S. intelligence agent Edward Snowden at a secret location in Moscow on Friday to discuss mass surveillance. The visit was organized by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, a Stockholm-based organization that honored Snowden with a human rights prize in September 2014. "We discussed his journey and he gave us a nuanced account of how mass surveillance works and what doesn't work", MP Jakop Dalunde of the Green Party told public broadcaster SVT. “He also gave us his point of view on what constitutes effective anti-terrorism measures and what doesn't”. “I am impressed by his courage”, he added. Dalunde was joined at the meeting by Liberal Party MP Matthias Sundin and Cecilia Magnusson of the conservative Moderate Party. “Some think he committed treason against his country”, said Magnusson. “I think he should go before a court but it should be an open trial. Now he’s being accused according to a law from 1917”. In the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, it was revealed that several countries, among them Sweden, were involved. “That’s not something I’m proud of”, said Magnusson. The meeting between Snowden and the MPs lasted two hours. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 after revealing the unprecedented extent of U.S. state surveillance.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Via BBC News: Climate change could have a "huge impact" on China, reducing crop yields and harming the environment, the country's top weather scientist has warned, in a rare official admission. Zheng Guogang told Xinhua news agency that climate change could be a "serious threat" to big infrastructure projects. He said temperature rises in China were already higher than global averages. China, the world's biggest polluter, has said its emissions of gases that cause climate change will peak by 2030. However, the country has not set a specific target for cutting emissions of the gases, mainly carbon dioxide. Mr Zheng, the head of China's meteorological administration, said warming temperatures exposed his country to a growing "risk of climate change and climate disasters". He said temperature rises in China had already been higher than the global average for the past century. These are rare admissions from a Chinese official, BBC Asia analyst Michael Bristow says. China's leaders have acknowledged the damage from global warming but they usually do not lay out the full scale of the problems. Mr Zheng warned of more droughts, rainstorms, and higher temperatures, which would threaten river flows and harvests, as well as major infrastructure projects such as the Three Gorges Dam. He urged China to pursue a lower-carbon future. "To face the challenges from past and future climate change, we must respect nature and live in harmony with it", the Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying. "We must promote the idea of nature and emphasise climate security". China and the US together produce around 45% of global carbon emissions. Leaders from the two countries are taking part in a summit in Paris this year that will aim for a global deal to cut carbon emissions by 2020. China's decades-long pursuit of rapid economic growth has boosted demand for energy, particularly coal. Scientists fear that pledges made so far to cut emissions will not be enough to avoid the harmful impact of climate change.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden has the least amount of school bullying in the western world, a recent report from the OECD shows, coming in far below the average at only 4 percent despite a number of high-profile cases in the past few years. Austria, meanwhile, topped the list. The report, which studied bullying in Europe and North America, found that less than one in 20 Swedish schoolchildren experience bullying, making it the country with the least number of people harassed. The average was estimated at 11 percent, with Austria recording a staggering 21 percent of people claiming to have been bullied. Aside from Finland, which hit the average of about one in 10 being bullied, Sweden’s neighbors also fared well in the report, with Norway coming in at 9 percent and Denmark at 6 percent. The 2015 report was based on data gathered for a 2009-2010 World Health Organisation (WHO) survey in which boys and girls aged 11, 13, and 15 were asked whether they had been bullied at least twice in the past few months. The OECD noted, however, that the data might not fully cover cyberbullying. But despite the report, Sweden has had its fair share of bullying cases come to light in recent years. In 2013, the Lundsberg boarding school in central Sweden made global headlines and was temporarily closed after a series of bullying allegations where some of its students were accused of violently hazing newcomers. One of the more horrific examples was when a boy was burned on the back with a hot iron to the extent that he was hospitalized. Sweden has also seen a string of cyberbullying cases, including Gothenburg teens who "slut shamed" fellow students on an Instagram account, and a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide after she was harassed and coerced by a 45-year-old man online. A report released last year, showed that more than half of Swedish teenage girls aged between 13 and 16 had been subject to cyber abuse, mostly on facebook but also via a chat application known as Kik.
Friday, March 20, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven paid a visit to Gothenburg to meet with residents and council representatives following a fatal shooting at a restaurant in Sweden's second largest city on Thursday night. Two are dead and eight are in hospital after a shooting at a restaurant in Gothenburg. The shooting took place in Biskopsgården, an area known for gang crime. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited the city to meet with residents. Police have found car linked to shootings.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Via The Local: The United Arab Emirates confirmed on Wednesday the country has recalled its ambassador to Sweden, citing Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström's public criticism of its neighbor Saudi Arabia. The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Anwar Mohammed Gargash said in a statement that the decision to recall its ambassador Sultan Rashed Alkaitoob had been taken because of Wallström's "strong statements against Saudi Arabia and its judicial system". He added that "these statements violate the principle of sovereignty upon which the normal relations between countries are based". The Swedish ambassador was also called to the foreign ministry in the UAE to receive a formal criticism of the Swedish minister's comments. "We regret this of course, our relations to the UAE are good and we want to cultivate and develop them", Wallström's press secretary Erik Boman told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet. Following Saudi Arabia's decision to recall its ambassador a week ago, the move is likely to put further pressure on Sweden's relationship with the Arab League, which has been under strain in recent weeks. Per Jönsson, a middle east expert based at Sweden's Foreign Policy Institute, told news wire TT on Wednesday: "If this continues, Sweden will be alienated by half the Arab League. It will be the most interesting to see what Egypt does. It's a great and important trade partner". Sweden decided to limit military ties with Saudi Arabia days after accusing the oil rich country of blocking Wallström from speaking at an Arab League meeting. Her canceled remarks, published by the Swedish foreign ministry, did not mention Saudi Arabia but stressed women's and human rights. However the Arab country has reacted strongly to the Nordic nation’s shifting approach, recalling its ambassador to Sweden and accusing Sweden of "flagrant interference in internal affairs”. While the move was widely praised by human rights campaigners, as the diplomatic row unfolded, 31 business people submitted a debate article to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, warning that a government decision to halt its military agreement with the Saudis could damage Swedish exports to the Arab world. Wallström has rarely commented on Saudi Arabia but in January she slammed the kingdom's treatment of blogger Raef Badawi, who had been sentenced to 1.000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Via Disclose.tv: The Apollo Program officially ended in 1972 with the Apollo 17 being the last mission to the Moon and back. However, NASA had planned three more missions, Apollo 18, Apollo 19 and Apollo 20. According to conspiracy theorists, the Apollo missions had discovered ancient artificial structures on the Moon and wanted to explore them without public knowledge. Apollo 20 is considered one of the most controversial UFO cover-up in history. In 2007, several videos were uploaded to YouTube and the user who provided them claimed they were footage from Apollo 20. He identified himself as former astronaut William Rutledge and according to him, the mission took place in 1976 as a secret Soviet-American joint venture. He was chosen to be part of the team due to being an atheist, which was a rarity among astronauts in the 1970’s. Why would NASA require someone who didn’t believe in God for this mission? Would a believer have lost his faith? Rutledge said that the Apollo 14 mission had passed over the southern polar region of the Moon, observing numerous abandoned space ships and cities comprised of towering structures. The Apollo 20 landed near the Delporte Crater and its mission was to explore a cigar-shaped mother ship that had been abandoned for 1.5 million years. Pictures are available thanks to Ramistrip.com. The alien Spaceship on the Moon is estimated to be 11056 ft (3.370 meters) long. Once inside it, the astronauts found two alien bodies. The male was dead but preserved so they recovered the female, dubbed Mona Lisa. She had a humanoid body, six fingers and her features were similar to those of a human, although she had no nostrils. Rutledge described her as being in a state of suspended animation, neither dead nor alive. She was attached to the pilot controls of the spaceship, with several tubes going into her body and she was covered in a wax-like substance. She was brought back to Earth and he suspects that she was revived and is kept somewhere secret to this day. The male was also brought to Earth and an autopsy was performed on him. The astronauts recovered what technology they could and started their trip home. William Rutledge is 78 years old and currently living in Rwanda. Due to his age, he says he no longer feels threatened by the secrecy he was sworn to at the time of the mission. He also stated that it’s not up to NASA or anyone for that matter to keep things of this magnitude hidden from the rest of the world. The following three videos are allegedly from the Apollo 20 mission (in the first video we are seeing the ruins of an abandoned city on the Moon, in the second video the cigar-shaped UFO, and in the third video the bodies of two humanoid extraterrestrials: a well-preserved deceased male and a female that is still alive, but in suspended animation and covered by a waxy substance):
Monday, March 16, 2015
Via The Local: The situation for Jews in Sweden has improved, but there is still cause for concern, said President Obama's special envoy against anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, during a high profile visit to Malmö on Monday. “I have reason to believe that there is a threat of violence against Jewish groups in Europe, and those threats definitely exist in Malmö too”, said Forman at a visit to the city's Jewish Association. Forman's predecessor, Hannah Rosenthal, came to Malmö two years ago and criticized comments by the city's former Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who was frequently accused of using anti-Semitic language during his tenure. “A lot has happened since the previous visit. I find that there is a knowledge of the problem and an awareness that unfortunately did not exist then”, Malmö's new Social Democrat Mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh told news wire TT. Two new directives were issued in Sweden after the deadly shootings in Copenhagen, one of which targeted a synagogue, ensuring that police officers guarding Jewish buildings carry machine guns. But Forman said that although this move was important, it was not enough. “Security will not solve the underlying problems of anti-Semitism”, he told TT. Forman has been working for the US government since 2013, following 30 years of experience in Jewish communal work and public service. He held talks with Jews in Stockholm on Friday before heading to the southern city of Malmö. “It was a very good meeting. He was well read up on the situation in Sweden and listened to how we perceive these concerns. It felt very genuine”, Lena Posner-Körösi, President of the Council of Sweden's Jewish communities, told The Local on Monday. “We talked about how he views the development in Europe, anti-Semitism today and the parallels he sees between the levels of threat in Europe and in Sweden. He especially pointed out anti-Semitism in Hungary, where it goes all the way up to government level, which obviously is not the case in Sweden”, she added. There has been rising concern over attacks on synagogues and Jewish centers in Sweden since the recent Copenhagen and Paris shootings. Last month up to 1.000 Swedes formed a human "ring of peace" around Stockholm's main synagogue in a protest against extremism as a response to the fears.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Via Disclose.tv: The Apollo Program officially ended in 1972 with the Apollo 17 being the last mission to the Moon and back. However, NASA had planned three more missions, Apollo 18, Apollo 19 and Apollo 20. According to conspiracy theorists, the Apollo missions had discovered ancient artificial structures on the Moon and wanted to explore them without public knowledge. Apollo 20 is considered one of the most controversial UFO cover-up in history. In 2007, several videos were uploaded to YouTube and the user who provided them claimed they were footage from Apollo 20. The grainy videos were apparently caught on 16 mm film and show the inside of the Apollo 20 command module as well as what appears to be the intricate architecture of a long-deserted lunar city. He identified himself as former astronaut William Rutledge and according to him, the mission took place in 1976 as a secret Soviet-American joint venture. He was chosen to be part of the team due to being an atheist, which was a rarity among astronauts in the 1970’s. Why would NASA require someone who didn’t believe in God for this mission? Would a believer have lost his faith? Rutledge said that the Apollo 14 mission had passed over the southern polar region of the Moon, observing numerous abandoned space ships and cities comprised of towering structures. The Apollo 20 landed near the Delporte Crater and its mission was to explore a cigar-shaped mother ship that had been abandoned for 1.5 million years. Once inside it, the astronauts found two alien bodies. The male was dead but preserved so they recovered the female, dubbed Mona Lisa. She had a humanoid body, six fingers and her features were similar to those of a human,although she had no nostrils. Rutledge described her as being in a state of suspended animation, neither dead nor alive. She was attached to the pilot controls of the spaceship, with several tubes going into her body and she was covered in a wax-like substance. She was brought back to Earth and he suspects that she was revived and is kept somewhere secret to this day. The male was also brought to Earth and an autopsy was performed on him. The astronauts recovered what technology they could and started their trip home. William Rutledge is 78 years old and currently living in Rwanda. Due to his age, he says he no longer feels threatened by the secrecy he was sworn to at the time of the mission. He also stated that it’s not up to NASA or anyone for that matter to keep things of this magnitude hidden from the rest of the world.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Via The Local: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused "Scandinavian governments" of spending millions of dollars on a campaign to remove him from power, as the Middle Eastern country prepares for elections next week. In an interview with an Israeli radio station, the head of the right-wing Likud party who faces a tough challenge from the center and left in the upcoming vote, said he believed that Nordic politicians did not want him to remain in office. "Scandinavian governments have spent millions of dollars on a campaign to remove me from power", he said on the station Kol Israel. "Western governments, but mostly Scandinavian...They know perfectly well why they prefer Buji and Livni to me", he added, referring to his opponents. In a separate interview with Rega Radio he was reported to have said that "foreign governments, specifically Scandinavians, are part of a worldwide campaign to topple me", according to a translation posted on Twitter by Israeli blogger and journalist Tal Schneider. Sweden in particular has had strained relations with Israel in recent months after becoming the first western European country to formally recognize the state of Palestine. The decision led to Israel temporarily recalling its ambassador from Stockholm and claims that Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström had been snubbed by Israeli government officials, after she cancelled a planned visit to Jerusalem. But Netanyahu's comments about Scandinavian governments have been met with strong criticism from some social media users in Israel. "What the hell has Scandinavia done to Benjamin Netanyahu?", wrote Jerusalem-based journalist Noga Tarnopolsky. Israeli historian and writer Gershom Gorenberg posted: "last refuge of the fading strongman: accuse outside agitators, foreign governments". The Local contacted the Swedish foreign ministry on Friday afternoon and was told that Foreign Minister Margot Wallström had yet to comment on the matter. It remains unclear if she plans to respond to the allegations. The minister recently met with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Stockholm and this week held talks with with Palestinian Ambassador Hala Husni Fariz Odeh. "Our relations with Sweden are deep, long lasting and have been strengthened further by the recognition of Palestine and the historic visit by President Mahmoud Abbas [to Sweden]", Odeh told Swedish news agency TT after their discussions. Israel's election takes place on March 17th and the vote will decide who becomes the next Prime Minister in the divided Middle Eastern country. The problem of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is that he relies too much on market forces to determine production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. In reality the free capitalistic market system never worked, but it killed more people than any other system. Scandinavia just wants our planet to be a nice place for everyone. But more could be done indeed.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist has announced that the country's navy is upgrading its fleet of ships in order to improve its ability to locate rogue submarines in Swedish waters, following a huge search for a foreign vessel last autumn. Peter Hultqvist announced on Thursday that the government planned to boost protection from potential intruders in Swedish waters, by increasing defense spending by six billion kronor ($696 million) between 2016 and 2020. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven previously mooted strengthening the country's navy after revealing that Sweden had "conclusive proof" that a foreign vessel was present in Stockholm's archipelago in October, following a search that made international headlines. Sweden’s armed forces later estimated that as many as four submarines were operating in the Stockholm Archipelago last autumn. "Submarine hunting is a priority. We've had incidents showing that it is very important to have an increased capacity for anti-submarine warfare. We must do what we can to maintain and develop our skills. It is very important to protect Sweden's sovereignty", Hultqvist told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter ahead of a media briefing. He added that Sweden's navy would take part in more military exercises, naval ships would get larger crews and ships and boats would be taken out of action if they were not seen to be suitable for use in the current climate. Two key military ships, Gävle and Sundsvall, are set to be significantly modernized with new sensors and other technical equipment designed to help Sweden better spot submarines in its waters. Sweden will also return troops to Gotland in the Baltic Sea, following a decade-long absence from the waters. Around 150 soldiers are set to be stationed on the island which is Sweden's largest and lies between the Nordic nation and Latvia. "We are devoting a considerable sum of money to this mid-term modification", said Hultqvist. But critics argue that the six billion kronor pledge is much less than the armed forces need to modernize their fleet and that the Swedish military is set to come under increasing financial pressure when government plans to raise payroll taxes for employers hiring young people come into action. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Defense Committee, Allan Widman from the center-right Liberal Party, told the TT news agency: "It's too little money too late in the [parliamentary] term". According to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the armed forces asked for 16 billion kronor. However the publication says that the finance ministry initially offered two billion kronor, so the figure released on Thursday is an improvement on that. Sweden has historically portrayed itself as neutral, but the country's defense capabilities have been called into question since last October's submarine hunt and as Russia's military presence in the region continues to grow. Last month, Estonia-based international think tank International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) warned that Sweden might not be able to defend itself against Russia, should its Baltic neighbor become more aggressive in future. Sweden has already announced closer military cooperation with both Finland and Denmark, but has so far ruled out joining Nato. A bill on the proposed fresh spending will be introduced to parliament at the end of April and is expected to be passed following an agreement between the center-left coalition and the country's center-right Alliance parties to cooperate on security and defense issues.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Via The Local: Saudi Arabia has confirmed it has recalled its Stockholm-based ambassador Saad bin Ibrahim Al-Brahim, as the rift between the two countries deepens in the wake of Sweden cutting military ties. "Diplomatic relations are not broken. But Saudi Arabia's ambassador has been recalled", Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Erik Boman told the AFP news agency on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia confirmed the decision, accusing Sweden's Foreign Minister of "flagrant interference" in its internal affairs after she criticized the country's human rights record. Margot Wallström's criticism was "harmful to the kingdom", the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that it represented a "flagrant interference in internal affairs, which is not accepted in international conventions". Sweden scrapped a long-standing military deal with the Saudis on Tuesday after accusing the country of blocking Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström from speaking at an Arab League meeting. "This is not a game. It's a serious issue that must be treated seriously", Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told public broadcaster Swedish Radio on Wednesday. His party had come under intense pressure to abandon the deal from coalition partners the Green Party. The Social Democrats refused to cite human rights as a motive for the decision but Wallström had said her opening speech at Monday's meeting in Cairo was blocked by the Saudis for her pro-democracy stance in the region. The deal involved exchanges of military products, logistics, technology, and training. The Swedish Defense Minister said only cooperation in medicine and gender studies would remain on offer. "In practical terms, there is no military cooperation", the minister, Peter Hultqvist, told public broadcaster SVT. "What we have is an open invitation to partake in medical and gender training, but the Saudi side has not shown any interest", he added. The deal on military cooperation -- signed by a left-wing government in 2005 and renewed in 2010 -- has come under domestic fire after journalists in 2011 revealed that Sweden had secretly helped the Saudis construct a weapons factory. A sharp debate over the decision to end the agreement broke has broken out in Sweden since the news emerged on Tuesday. The leader of the Swedish Left Party Jonas Sjöstedt referred to the news to end the deal as a “victory” on Tuesday and wrote on Twitter: “Credible feminist politics demanded this”. But former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt issued sharp criticism of the government. "This is not least about Sweden's credibility as a contractual partner. That credibility is important to a relatively small country like Sweden”, he wrote on his blog. “What has happened is unfortunate. Sweden has been damaged”, he added. Sweden's decision to scrap the agreement followed years of discussions and "is actually not surprising after such a heated debate", political scientist Thord Janson at the University of Gothenburg told AFP. "What surprised (me) more was the signing of this agreement 10 years ago, when Saudi Arabia was more or less considered a normal country", he added. Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's government came to power in October 2014 announcing a "feminist foreign policy" and promptly decided to recognize Palestine, becoming the first major Western European nation to do so. The decision caused a diplomatic spat with Israel, which temporarily recalled its ambassador from Sweden. Commenting on the severed military ties, liberal writer Fredrik Segerfeldt wrote on Wednesday that Sweden's objective was "to become a moral power" on the world stage. Such policies recall the bold statements of murdered Social Democrat Prime Minister Olof Palme, who made radically anti-US remarks on the Vietnam War and slammed the apartheid regime in South Africa as well as the rule of Augusto Pinochet in Chile before being shot dead on a Stockholm street in 1986. But taking a stance against Saudi Arabia today risked Sweden's credibility as a business partner, according to some centre-right opposition politicians and the Swedish business community. "Foreign policy is not only about other countries", right-wing daily Svenska Dagbladet wrote in an editorial, noting that Swedish industry "must be allowed to trade... even with dictatorships".
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's government will not extend the controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia, news agency TT reports, citing a source close to the process. The Swedish government’s decision comes on the heels of criticism from all Arab League foreign ministers of comments made by Foreign Minister Margot Wallström about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. The government is expected to make an announcement later on Tuesday evening about the termination of the controversial trade agreement, which includes the export of military arms to Saudi Arabia. Margot Wallström said on Monday that Saudi officials had stopped her from making her opening address to an Arab League meeting in Cairo due to her stance on human rights. But Arab foreign ministers later criticized Sweden for its comments about Saudi Arabia. “The ministers have voiced their condemnation and astonishment at the issuance of such statements that are incompatible with the fact that the Constitution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia”, read a statement issued by the ministers following their Arab League meeting in Cairo and reported by the Swedish media on Tuesday. “Sharia has guaranteed human rights and preserved people’s lives, possessions, honor, and dignity. The ministers consider the comments as irresponsible and unacceptable”, the statement added. Wallström had been invited as an honorary guest to the Arab ministers' meeting in praise of her government's decision to recognize Palestine in October. Her canceled opening speech - published by the Swedish foreign ministry - mentioned neither Saudi Arabia nor Wallström's feminist foreign policy agenda but stressed women's and human rights. Wallström's press secretary Erik Boman told The Local on Tuesday that the Arab League's statement "should be interpreted as a way of Saudi Arabia trying to save face". "The statement was made public yesterday, and we knew about it", he said. "It is one of very many statements on different issues released by the Arab League after a meeting - by tradition they do that kind of thing". Earlier in the day, Sweden's Prime Minister said it was right to question Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. “Margot Wallström was invited as a guest of honor. Of course it’s a pity it was canceled but when we see something wrong, like human rights violations, we have to express what we think”, he told Swedish public broadcaster SVT. On Monday Wallström said it was a "shame" that she had been blocked from speaking. "The explanation we have been given is that Sweden has highlighted the situation for democracy and human rights and that is why they do not want me to speak", she told Swedish news agency TT. An Arab diplomat confirmed to the AFP news agency that Saudi Arabia had stopped the Swede from making her opening speech. Meanwhile the EU has expressed concerns over the move. "We regret that the Swedish foreign minister was not able to deliver her speech", European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told a press briefing on Tuesday. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will speak to Wallström and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi "to understand this situation", she added. Wallström has rarely commented on Saudi Arabia but in January she slammed the kingdom's treatment of blogger Raef Badawi, who had been sentenced to 1.000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.
Monday, March 09, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden’s national debate about a controversial arms deal has sparked anger in Saudi Arabia and formed the backdrop to its move to block the Swedish Foreign Minister’s planned speech at the Arab League, according to an expert on Saudi politics. Thord Janson, a Saudi Arabia expert at Gothenburg University, said: “This isn’t a slap on the hand; it’s a punch in the nose”, he told news agency TT. The decision by Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse, to prevent Wallström from speaking in Cairo on Monday appeared designed to cause embarrassment, he said. “From a diplomatic perspective it’s incredibly harsh. One couldn’t be more clear”. Janson predicted that Saudi Arabia would now make life trickier for Swedish firms operating in the wealthy Middle Eastern oil state. “The authorities might make it more difficult for them to import goods, deliveries might get slowed down in customs, and it could become hard to get certain permits”. The very public discussion in Sweden on whether to extend a military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia had sparked strong reactions in Riyadh, said Janson. Sweden’s Green Party, the junior partner in the Social Democrat-led government, wants to scrap the deal, as do several members of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s own party. Swedish criticism of the flogging of the blogger and human rights activists Raif Badawi may also have played a part in the Saudi decision. “They thinks it’s an internal matter”, said Janson. “They don’t understand why a morally decadent country like Sweden is getting involved in the Saudi legal system. “They have sharia; they consider it just and the only law, and it includes lashings and other punishments that we see as outdated”. Sweden’s government has come under pressure in recent weeks to end a controversial military arms deal with Saudia Arabia. In November 2005 the then Social Democrat government signed a so called memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia. The deal was extended by the center-right Alliance government in 2010 and will be extended for another five years in 2015 unless either party chooses to end it.
Sunday, March 08, 2015
Via The Local: The pilot strike affecting flights operated by Norwegian continued on Sunday with 20.000 passengers set to be hit as the conflict entered its ninth day. Saturday night's negotiations yielded no concrete results and the airline and unions remained some distance apart on Sunday. Both sides claimed to have "made real attempts to find a way out of the frozen conflict" and Norwegian's management said that the company has budged a fair way in its negotiating position. "There are ongoing negotiations and that's all I can say", said Norwegian's communications head Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson to news agency TT on Sunday morning. The airline announced that almost all domestic flights in Sweden and Norway, as well as a limited number in Denmark, were to be cancelled on Sunday. Passengers have been urged to check the airline's website to confirm the status of their flight. Meanwhile the Finnish aviation trade union IAU announced a 14 hour sympathy strike, which has meant canceled and delayed flights from Helsinki. According to news agency FNB, Norwegian considers the strike illegal and has warned IAU over the economic consequences. As the bitter stand off entered its ninth day, Norwegian estimated that a total of 130.000 passengers had to date been affected by the strike and the estimated cost has exceeded 100 million kronor ($12 million). The exact amount remained unclear, but experts estimate that the cost is climbing by tens of millions kronor each day. The conflict stems from a demand from the pilots to sign a collective agreement directly with the parent company Norwegian Air Shuttle, NAS, instead of its subsidiary, Norwegian Air Norway, NAN, where they are employed. The demand is considered by the company to be completely unreasonable and during the conflict the pilots have been transferred into three newly formed subsidiaries: Pilot Services Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.
Saturday, March 07, 2015
Thursday, March 05, 2015
Via The Local: Scandinavian budget airline Norwegian is transferring all its pilots in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark to three new daughter companies, it announced on Thursday afternoon, as tensions grew on the sixth day of industrial action. After an extra board meeting Norwegian said it has created three new subsidiaries for its pilots in Scandinavia. The collective agreement will apply in the new firms, including the right to strike, said the airline. All 700 pilots employed by Norwegian Air Norway (NAN) are on strike and 800 cabin staff have been sent home without pay in a Norwegian-imposed lockout. Earlier on Thursday, Norwegian gave pilots’ unions NPU and Parat until 3pm to begin negotiations – but the unions did not show up. Hans Erik Skjaeggerud, chairman of Parad, likened the deadline to a gun to the head. “We recognize this and our members are used to it. We negotiated last night and have agreed to some changes concerning pensions and insurance. But the company gives nothing back”, he told Norwegian broadcaster TV2. But Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos told Norway’s news agency NTB: “They have been given the opportunity to negotiate even after the deadline. This is the opposite of a threat”. More than 100.000 travelers have been hit by the strike. As good as all domestic flights in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, as well as flights within Scandinavia, have been canceled for two days. On Thursday passengers traveling from the Sweden to other European destinations including Paris were sent text messages overnight to say that their flights would be operated by Small Planet Airlines, a budget carrier based in Lithuania and Poland. Passengers were advised to check online before traveling to the airport. Those who texted to say that they would be flying on Small Planet Airlines carriers were told: "The departure time, flight number and booking reference is the same. If you choose not to travel, we can offer you a full refund by contacting our Contact Center by phone. Norwegian apologizes for the inconvenience".
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Via The Local: Islamist extremist group Isis, a controversial Saudi arms deal, and the Israel-Palestine conflict are likely to be hot topics when Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström speaks at the opening of an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Monday. Wallström has been invited as a special guest by the Arab League’s Secretary-General Nabil al-Araby to speak at a meeting of the member states’ foreign ministers. “It will be the perfect opportunity to talk to important representatives”, she told Swedish news agency TT. “This is a chance to discuss not least terrorism around the world, the situation in the Middle East and the Israel-Palestine conflict”, she added. The Arab League has 22 member states in and around north Africa and south-west Asia, although Syria's membership has been suspended since the start of the civil war in 2011. Wallström’s invitation to speak at its meeting in Egypt comes against the backdrop of Sweden's recognition of Palestine. “It plays a part, I’m sure, but our relations are solid so this feels good”, she told TT, but added she did not think it would adversely affect Sweden’s relations with Israel. “I can’t imagine that [it would]”, she said. Relations between Sweden and Israel have been strained since Sweden in October last year became one of the first countries to formally recognize the state of Palestine, a decision that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador. In January, Wallström made headlines when she canceled a scheduled trip to Israel. The visit was postponed indefinitely. The Foreign Minister, along with Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, recently came under criticism on home soil as well, after it was reported the government would not seek to end a controversial military agreement with Saudi Arabia. When asked by TT on Wednesday if Wallström would meet her Saudi Arabian counterpart to discuss the arms deal on her visit to Cairo she replied, “yes, it is likely he will want to meet me too”.
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Via The Local: Hundreds of workers could be sent home without pay as Scandinavian airline Norwegian threatens a lockout of workers if a strike affecting Swedish and Norwegian staff is not resolved by Wednesday morning. "If it ends up being a large strike where several hundreds of pilots take administrative action we will have to lock out cabin staff as well", Norwegian information officer Charlotte Holmbergh Jacobsson told Swedish newswire TT on Tuesday afternoon. Delays and cancelations affected several flights to Stockholm on Monday and Tuesday after 70 of the airline’s pilots based in Norway went on strike on Saturday after more than three months of fruitless negotiations over pay and conditions. The Swedish Pilot’s Union has pledged to mount a sympathy strike on March 4th if no agreement is reached between Norway-based pilots and the airline and has said that the strike action could end up involving as many as 700 pilots working for Norwegian across Scandinavia. Pilots based in Finland and Spain could be brought in if the strike expands, Norwegian has said. According to Holmbergh Jacobsson Swedish cabin workers will not be affected by the lockout because they are employed by recruitment firm Proffice. The strike comes amid growing speculation about the airline’s finances. On Monday the company’s board held a six hour meeting, but claims that the firm had been declared bankrupt were rejected by the company’s CEO Bjørn Kise, who spoke to Swedish media after the talks. Budget airline Norwegian is Scandinavia’s third-largest airline and has around 4.500 employees. It’s parent company Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) is partly owned by subsidiaries in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and Singapore. Around 150 Swedish pilots work for the firm, out of a total of 700. Staff working for fellow Scandinavian airline SAS have returned to work after a separate four day strike which led to dozens of canceled and delayed flights in and out of the Danish capital over the weekend, a key hub for travelers moving on to Malmö and other cities in southern Sweden.
Monday, March 02, 2015
Via The Local: A Malmö school that closed amid concerns of violence and criminality is set to reopen to pupils on Tuesday morning, after crisis talks were held between staff and directors on Monday. Roine Selind, chairman of the Malmö area of one of Sweden's two teachers' unions, confirmed to newswire TT that the Värner Rydén School is to reopen on Tuesday morning. "The pupils are welcome tomorrow. We have spent all morning and afternoon in discussions with the employer about what measures are deemed necessary. There are urgent issues that need to be solved tomorrow as well as more long-term solutions", he said. Crisis talks were held on Monday after the teachers’ union declared the school in the Rosengård area of Malmö too dangerous a place for students and teachers to attend due to widespread violence and criminality. The current situation has developed since the closure of nearby Örtagård School last autumn. Many of the school's students were relocated to Värner Rydén, bringing conflicts with them, as The Local reported over the weekend. Catharina Niwhede, of the other teachers' union in Malmö, told newswire TT on Monday that the two schools merging is one of the reasons behind the problem. "It has been unstable for some time now, we have been working with this all autumn. There hasn't been as much progress as we would have liked to see for it to feel like a safe place to work", she said. Jan Björklund, leader of the Swedish Liberal Party, criticized the school closure. He told TT: "Those fighting should be suspended, not all the others. These 10-15 pupils that this concerns perhaps need to be put in a special teaching group in a separate room". But he said more teachers, which both of Sweden's two teachers' unions have called for, is not the answer. "It won't solve any issues if you don't also reclaim some kind of authority. You cannot let the youths be in charge, that's the most important thing", he said. Värner Rydén pupil Mohammed Khalil told SVT he understands the teachers’ situation. “I understand that they feel afraid, because there has been too much disorder. After the merger we have far too many pupils here”, he said. The City of Malmö's education department told TT earlier that they will hire a security firm in order to make the school environment safer. Teaching staff will also be given help with security and conflict management.
Sunday, March 01, 2015
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.