Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's state-owned energy group Vattenfall on Tuesday said it planned to shut down two nuclear reactors in 2018 and 2010, up to seven years earlier than expected. Vattenfall said reactors 1 and 2 at the Ringhals plant in south-west Sweden were too costly to keep in production until 2025 as previously planned. “Ringhals 1 and 2 may be closed down between the years 2018 and 2020 instead of, as previously announced, around 2025”, Vattenfall said in a statement. “The reason is declining profitability and increased costs”, it said. Sweden has 10 reactors at three nuclear power plants across the country, which generated 39 percent of the electricity used in the country in 2013. Ringhals reactors 3 and 4 are expected to remain in service until the 2040s. Vattenfall, which holds 70.4 percent of the Ringhals plant, said it had informed Germany's E.ON, which owns the remaining 29.6 percent, of its decision. The final closure decision will be made by Ringhals' board of directors and required unanimity between Vattenfall and E.ON. The Swedish group has been struggling to improve profits for several years, suffering from weak demand and plunging electricity prices. As the Local reported earlier on Tuesday, the news comes at the same time as the company announced 1.000 job cuts. “Vattenfall's decision is business driven. It is of course regrettable to close down well-functioning production units but sometimes this is inevitable”, Vattenfall's head of electricity generation, Torbjörn Wahlborg, said in the statement. The pros and cons of nuclear power have formed part of a long running debate in Sweden. In October, the center-left coalition government – made up of the Social Democrats and the Greens – agreed to freeze nuclear energy development. The previous center-right government had been in favor of expanding the country's nuclear power capacity.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Via The Swedish Wire: Swedish passports have been ranked the most powerful in the world, according to a new infographic by travel firm GoEuro. But it comes with a problem – they are the most sought-after passports on the black market. The Daily Mail reports that Swedish passports are among the most frequently sold in underground trading, as there is no upper limit on the number of replacements available to the rightful holder. They can sell for more than 9.000 USD each. That can be compared to the around 40$ fee that Sweden’s government charges for new or renewed travel documents, the newspaper said. “The Swedish passport ranks higher based on a combination of visa-free access and ease of obtaining the document”, Molly Levinson, a spokesperson for GoEuro told The Local. “This places Sweden higher than countries such as Switzerland which offers visa-free access to fewer countries and has a more expensive passport".
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Via The Telegraph: A large earthquake in Kathmandu has triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing eight people at base camp. A powerful earthquake in Nepal on Saturday triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, climbers said, raising fears for those on the world's highest peak a year after another avalanche caused the deadliest incident on the mountain. An official from the Nepal tourist board confirmed that part of Everest base camp had been buried, and that eight people had been killed. "The toll could go up, it may include foreigners as well as sherpas", said Gyanendra Shrestha. Tiku Gurung, an executive committee member of the Expedition Operators Association, which represents Everest's Sherpas, said there were reports that five climbers had died. It was not clear whether this was in addition to the eight killed at base camp, or an alternative toll. "We're not exactly sure but we believe five are dead", he said. "There are so many people injured but we do not know the exact number. The avalanch came from so many sides", he told the Telegraph. He said there were currently between 700 and 800 climbers on the mountain. Romanian climber Alex Gavan said on Twitter that there had been a "huge avalanche" and "many, many" people were up on the mountain. "Running for life from my tent", said Mr Gavan.
Via The Local: Sweden's Badou Jack claimed the World Boxing Council's super middleweight title as he outpointed previously unbeaten Anthony Dirrell in Chicago on Friday night. The 31-year-old Jack received winning scores of 116-112 and 115-113, while the third judge scored it a 114-114 draw. Jack, who fights out of Las Vegas, easily won the ninth round and appeared to be the fresher of the two fighters in the later rounds. Jack improved to 19-1-1 while Dirrell dropped to 27-1-1. "I was in great shape and I believed in myself", Jack told reporters after the fight. "All that talk don't matter. I knew they couldn't rob me. I thought I clearly won. It was a tough start to my career, but now I'm a world champ". Jack has won three consecutive fights after being stopped in the opening round by Derek Edwards last year. American Dirrell won the title in August with a hard fought decision over Sakio Bika. Dirrell, 30, had to put his boxing career on hold for 20 months after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has said that he's prepared to send Swedish Coast Guard surveillance ships and planes to the Mediterranean to help look out for migrant ships, in the wake of the growing humanitarian crisis in the region as refugees seek to enter Europe. The Social Democrat leader said on Thursday that he was willing to answer any call for from help from Frontex, the EU agency that manages cooperation between national border guards to try and protect the 28 member bloc from illegal immigration and human trafficking. His comments came ahead of an emergency EU summit taking place on Thursday. Country leaders have scheduled the meeting after it was revealed that around 800 victims, including an unknown number of children, died in hellish circumstances off the coast of Libya on Sunday. The migrants had been locked in the hold or the middle deck of the 20-meter boat, according to survivors, which capsized when it collided with a Portuguese vessel. UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday that the incident had occurred due to a "monumental failure of compassion" by the continent's rulers. Meanwhile the head of the UN's maritime agency has warned that the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean could surge to 500.000 this year, with deaths at sea reaching thousands if no action is taken against the people who traffic them. Amnesty is among the campaign groups calling for a multi-country rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Iverna McGowan, acting director of the organization’s European institutions office, told The Local: “The European Union is the sum of its member states, this is a regional issue. Their credibility on human rights is seriously at stake here". While she said there had been “a glimmer of hope” this week as European governments had called for action, McGowan remained cautious of leaders’ willingness to act. “The record over the past year and a half has been a cause for concern, there have been emotional statements but there hasn’t been action. Thursday is going to be the litmus test on the EU saving lives”, she said. Sweden has previously sent planes and ships to the Mediterranean to help spot migrant boats. The coast guard took part in Mediterranean operations in 2009, 2010, and 2013 and has contributed twice to the EU's anti-pirate mission off Somalia.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Via The Local: Almost 30 percent of board members on Swedish companies are expected to be women this year, a rise of around five percent. The increase comes ahead of a possible law change in 2016, as the coalition government seeks to ensure the figure rises to 40 percent. While Sweden has a global reputation for gender equality, men continue to dominate two thirds of management teams on the Swedish stock market. But the proportion of women on company boards appears to be rising faster than ever. According to Allbright, a Swedish foundation that works for more women in leadership positions and more diverse management teams and boards, many firms are "feeling the pressure" ahead of government plans to introduce quotas of 40 percent next year and have therefore already started to compile more diverse top teams. "It's a combination of things. There is an intense debate going on right now so some compaies are feeling the heat because of that, some are worried about the threat of formal legislation and others are just getting more knowledge when it comes to more diverse recruiting", Allbright's CEO Amanda Lundeteg told The Local. "The problem in Sweden is we tend to have small powerful networks of people in business in Sweden and they recruit people who are also part of those networks and they are mostly men", she added. "Another issue is that I think people are a little bit afraid of people who are different to themselves and they tend to hire people who remind themselves of them", said Lundeteg. Among the 95 Swedish companies that have already held their annual meetings this spring, 31.5 percent of board members are now female, compared with 27.5 percent last year, the foundation has discovered. It predicts that once all 239 stock market listed corporations in Sweden have reported on their staffing for 2015, the average percentage of women on company boards will dip to 29 or 30 percent, up from 25 percent a year ago. But Lundeteg argues that Sweden still has a lot to do to catch up with neighboring Norway, which formally introduced 40 percent quotas in 2008 as well Iceland, where the figure is 48 percent, following similar legislation. She also cites Latvia as a positive example. Here, 31.4 percent of top executives are women, the highest proportion among European countries that have no special quotas for female representation. "There is a lot we can learn from other countries. Sweden may have a reputation at being the best for gender equality, but that is not the case". Swedish investment firm Investor, which is owned by the country's iconic Wallenberg family is among the companies thought to have made some of the biggest changes to staffing over the past 12 months, with female board members increasing to 40 percent from 25 percent a year ago. Chairman Hans Wibom, told the TT news agency that it was "hard to avoid" thinking about the Social Democrat-Green coalition's proposed law change, but insisted that all appointments at the firm were made with the company's "best interests" in mind. Earlier this year the ten largest listed companies in Sweden were criticized for failing to display ethnic diversity on company boards, with just eleven out of ninety top staff having a non-European background.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Via The Local: A Swedish MEP is stepping up a pan-European cross-party campaign for "legal and safe routes to Europe" for migrants in the wake of the latest Mediterranean boat disaster. Cecilia Wikström, has told The Local that EU member states are currently doing so little to help guarantee safe passage that future generations will compare their actions to Sweden "turning a blind eye" to the Holocaust. The MEP – who is a long-time advocate of safer passage for refugees seeking safety in Europe – made headlines on Monday after she initially told Swedish television network SVT that future generations would liken the approach of EU governments to the policy of appeasement during the Second World War.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Via The Local: Women's shelters in Sweden remain under pressure with a new report indicating that five women a day were turned away in 2014 due to over-crowding. At the same time, the number of women seeking help after being exposed to so-called wife import and honor-related violence increased. Some 38 percent more women sought help last year at one of the country's shelters in comparison with 2013, according to new statistics from the National Organization for Women's and Girls' Shelters in Sweden (Roks). Lack of available space led to the shelters being forced to reject an average of five women every day. "This carries major consequences for the women. We know that when the woman finally takes the step (to seek help), the risk of violence increases", said Roks president Karin Svensson. The reason for the chronic lack of space is that women living in shelters find it difficult to move on to independent housing, in part due to housing shortages in some municipalities and also due to economic pressures. These pressures are exacerbated by men ordering things in the woman's name without paying, or claiming to have paid a bill on her behalf when in fact it has been thrown away. This in turn leads to problems for the women with regards to credit history and thus borrowing money, Karin Svensson explained. The number of women who sought help after being exposed to honor-related violence nearly doubled last year, and the number of women victims of so-called wife import more than tripled. "We have worked to educate staff at the shelters of the specific vulnerabilities of certain groups and how we can extend help to more people and it has paid off", Svensson said. The government's spring budget promised more support to the non-profit shelters, a move welcomed by Roks. The organization would however liked to see the funds become permanent. "Shelters currently have a fairly solid financial situation, but investments are hampered because it is difficult to assess the longer term", Karin Svensson said. A total of 18.803 women and girls sought help at Roks' 110 shelters in 2014, compared with 17.144 the previous year. An average of around 200 women and children spend the night at one of the shelters. 1858 women were turned away from shelters in 2014, which is about the same number as in 2013, but nearly 500 more than in 2011. The number of applicants for assistance to victims of wife import increased from 340 to nearly 1.200 in 2014. The number of applicants for aid to victims of honor-related violence rose from 626 to 1.128.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Via The Hill: U.S. military officials are concerned that Iran's support for Houthi rebels in Yemen could spark a confrontation with Saudi Arabia and plunge the region into sectarian war. Iran is sending an armada of seven to nine ships — some with weapons — toward Yemen in a potential attempt to resupply the Shia Houthi rebels, according to two U.S. defense officials. Officials fear the move could lead to a showdown with the U.S. or other members of a Saudi-led coalition, which is enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen and is conducting its fourth week of airstrikes against the Houthis. Iran sent a destroyer and another vessel to waters near Yemen last week but said it was part of a routine counter-piracy mission. What's unusual about the new deployment, which set out this week, is that the Iranians are not trying to conceal it, officials said. Instead, they appear to be trying to "communicate it" to the U.S. and its allies in the Gulf. It is not clear what will happen as the convoy comes closer to Yemen. Saudi Arabia has deployed ships around Yemen to enforce the blockade, as has Egypt. An official said the ship convoy could try to land at a port in Aden, which the Houthis have taken over. Although the U.S. is assisting with the Saudi-led air campaign, it is not participating in the naval blockade of Yemen, said U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Pat Ryder. However, the U.S. Navy is in the region and has already "consensually boarded" one Panamanian-flagged ship in the Red Sea on April 1 on the suspicion it was illegally carrying arms for the Houthis. None were found, but the move raised alarm bells in Washington over an increasingly active U.S. military role in the conflict. The Pentagon indicated this week that more boardings could occur. "We will continue to vigilantly defend freedom of navigation and to conduct consensual searches in an effort to ensure that drugs, human trafficking, weapons trafficking and other contraband are limited", Army Col. Steve Warren said on Monday. Officials fear a naval confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia could escalate what has become a proxy war between the two countries. The U.S. has been supporting the airstrikes with intelligence and logistical support, and last week began refueling Saudi fighter jets. Administration officials say it is important to support Saudi Arabia. Earlier this week, a senior State Department official said the U.S. would try to ensure that a United Nations Security Council arms embargo against Houthi leadership is enforced. "We will be taking very careful look and examining very closely efforts to violate the embargo", senior State Department official Gerald Feierstein told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The deepening of the conflict comes as the U.S. hopes to reach a deal with Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Officials say U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition has not affected the negotiations with Iran. The conflict also threatens to complicate U.S.'s relations with Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an Iran ally, criticized Saudi Arabia for its airstrike campaign during a visit to Washington this week. U.S. officials say they are unsure why Iran is making the brazen move. One theory they have floated is that the Saudi-led coalition has effectively blockaded any air routes into Yemen and there are no other ways to resupply the Houthis. Another theory is that Iran is trying to distract the coalition from another ship it has tried hard to conceal that is currently docked at Oman — a potential land route for smuggling arms into Yemen. Yet another theory is that Iran wants to force a confrontation with Saudi Arabia that it believes it will win, because Iran views the Saudi military as weak and suspects the U.S. lacks the willpower to support its Gulf ally. Earlier this week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Twitter taunted Saudi Arabia, calling its military puny and smaller than Israel's. He also said the air campaign was tantamount to genocide of innocent Yemeni civilians and that the U.S. would also fail in Yemen. U.S. officials say they hope the airstrikes will force Houthis to the negotiating table in order to restore stability in Yemen, where America faces a terrorist threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). “We're assisting the Saudis to protect their own territory and to conduct operations that are designed to lead ultimately to a political settlement to Yemen”, said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday. “That's good for the people of Yemen, first and foremost. It's good for Saudi Arabia that doesn't need this on its southern border. And … it's good for us, among other reasons, because of AQAP's presence in Yemen. But for that to occur, it'll require more than military action”, he added.
Via Disclose.tv: Dr. Micheal Salla has indicated that there is a Military Industrial Extraterrestrial Complex or MIEC, and that Earth is being assimilated by an alien agenda which also operates on Earth's Moon. It appears that the Chinese who took a photo, have confirmed that aliens exist. The Chinese have probably been in contact with these aliens already. That would explain why so many radio telescopes are searching for signals from aliens, and more being built as we speak, yet no reported signals from aliens were reported to the public. The report stipulates: "I was sent some pictures by a source who claims China will be releasing Hi Res images taken by the Chang'e-2 moon orbiter, which clearly show buildings and structures on the moons surface. He also claims NASA has deliberately bombed important areas of the Moon in an effort to destroy ancient artefacts and facility's. Pictures yet to be released clearly show nuclear impact craters and building debris caused by explosions in an effort by NASA to destroy the truth. China is moving toward full disclosure of the Extraterrestrial reality, if these images and future ones are verified genuine then NASA should be investigated for fraud and treason. China will be releasing all the data and images from the Chang'e-2 in the coming weeks and months, lets hope this is the beginning of a new era". Have you ever wondered why we haven't returned to the moon again? The truth is that NASA is hiding a very dark secret from us. Is there an "Alien Base" on the Moon? More and more people are coming forward with stories that might prove this is true. Rumors say that there is an Alien Moon Base on the far side of the moon, the side we never see from Earth. Did you ever wonder why the Moon landings stopped and why we have not tried to build a Moon Base? It does seem like a better and easier idea than a floating space station with no access to any raw materials or supplies? According to the NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong the aliens have a base on the Moon and told us in no uncertain terms to get off and stay off the Moon! Sound far fetched? Milton Cooper, a Naval Intelligence Officer tells us that not only does the Alien Moon Base exist but the U.S. Naval Intelligence Community refers to the Alien Moon Base as "Luna", that there is a huge mining operation going on there, and that is where the aliens keep their huge mother ships while the trips to Earth are made in smaller "flying saucers". LUNA: The Alien base on the far side of the Moon. It was seen and filmed by the Apollo astronauts. A base, a mining operation using very large machines, and the very large alien craft described in sighting reports as mother ships exist there.
Via The Local: Swedish youngsters leave home earlier their European counterparts, surprising housing researchers. While the chronic housing shortage in Swedish cities is a perennial headache for newcomers, Sweden's youth leave home earlier than any other comparable group in Europe, according to new figures from Eurostat. Swedish women on average fly the parental coop when they are 19.3 years-old, while men follow closely behind at 19.9-years-old - an average of 19.6 years. This figure puts Swedes out front in Europe especially when compared It gives Swedes a leading position in Europe - especially when compared with Croatia (33.7) and Slovakia (32.1), according to europaportalen.se. Furthermore the trend in Sweden is toward an earlier departure from their childhood with the average dropping from 20.7 for women and 21.6 for men in 2011. The figures surprised researchers familiar with the debate about long waits for elusive apartments. "I was a little surprised at the numbers. But targeted housing investments have begun to emerge from, for example prperty companies", said Cecilia Enstrom Öst at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University. Enström Öst explained the situation in that not all young people live in the bigger cities, when housing queues are at the most onerous, and the expansion in higher education. "Pretty much everyone goes to university today, if one is to generalize and compare historically", said Cecilia Enstrom Öst. Students are also largely less discerning when selecting an abode. "I have looked at the importance of the condition of the property. When you want to study the only important thing is to be able to get hold of somewhere to live, regardless of size or standard", Enstrom Öst said. The Eurostat statistics clearly show that women are consistently - in all EU countries - younger than men when they leave home. The smallest gender gap is found in Sweden. The difference is greatest in Romania and Bulgaria, where men live at home 4.5 years longer than women.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Via The Local: President Bashar al-Assad has thanked Sweden for taking in record numbers of refugees during the war, but warned about a growing danger from "Scandinavian" Islamist extremists in his country. Syria’s President made the claims in a video interview in English with Sweden’s tabloid newspaper Expressen. “As long as we have terrorism growing in different European countries, Sweden cannot be safe”, he said when asked about rising numbers of Scandinavians traveling to and from the middle east to fight alongside Isis and other extremist groups. “The most dangerous leaders of Daesh and Isis in our region are Scandinavian…that’s what we have as information", he said. “Terrorism is not a domestic issue, it’s not even regional, it’s global”, the President also noted. The Expressen interview was published days after Sweden's Security Service (Säpo) told The Local there was "very little" it could do to stop people traveling to Syria to join al-Qaeda inspired groups, as EU officials estimated up to 6000 people from across Europe have now fought in the war-torn nation. Säpo confirmed to The Local that at least 150 Swedish residents were known to have been to Syria or Iraq to fight for Isis or other extremist groups, with intelligence suggesting that at least 35 had died in the process. "About 50 of those known to have travelled to Syria have returned to Sweden. They travel to Syria, return to Sweden and tend to go back again", said press officer Fredrik Milder. But Milder added that "there is only very little we can do to stop people from traveling from Sweden to join al-Qaeda inspired groups". More than 215.000 people have been killed in Syria's four-year war, which is increasingly dominated by jihadist groups. When Expressen asked President Assad about his army losing control of vast areas to Isis (also known as IS or the Islamic State), he said: “You have ups and down, you have wins you have losses and that depends on many criteria”. “We are still running the country”. he insisted. More than 11 million Syrians have been forced from their homes since 2011, when pro-democracy protests against President Assad's government erupted and the country slid into civil war. Since then, Sweden is the only EU nation that has offered all Syrian refugees automatic and permanent asylum. “I think that is something appreciated around the world not only in our country”, Assad told Expressen. “This is a good thing to do to give people refuge, but if you ask the Syrian people who fled from Syria ‘what do you want?’, they don’t want to flee Syria because of the war they want to end that war”. Last month Sweden announced it was increasing its foreign aid to Syria and had earmarked 1.5 billion kronor ($174 million) for the middle eastern country in the coming years.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Via The Local: Gender neutral toilet signs at a Swedish museum have sparked debate in the Nordic country, known for its openness and tolerance. “We've had strong reactions, with some people commenting that it's 'fantastic' and others saying it's 'idiotic'. Many get provoked by people who aren't clearly divided into 'women' and 'men', but the reality is that there are many who don't feel at home in either of these categories", said Pompe Hedengren.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Via The Local: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist are understood to have sent out the invitations to their summer wedding in the Swedish capital, with guests set to include British and Danish royalty. Invitations wrapped in orange satin ribbon have been posted to royals, politicians and celebrities from across Europe, according to Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, which has published a list of guests. Those expected to join the Swedish royal family at the Royal Chapel in Stockholm include Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex from the UK, Danish Queen Margrethe and her husband Prince Henrik and Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Among the friends of the couple understood to have been invited are Marwan "Marre" Hitti, Sofia's hairdresser from her time on the reality television show Paradise Hotel and Louise Gottlieb, a long-term confidant of Princess Madeleine. The paper suggested that further attendees would be announced in the coming months. The Local has been unable to confirm the leaked guest list with the Swedish Royal Court. The wedding schedule will get underway on Friday June 12th, when the couple's friends and family will be invited to a private evening dinner, a statement from the court revealed last month. The following day, Saturday June 13th, a legally binding church service will take place in the Royal Chapel at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, starting at 4.30pm. After the ceremony, the bride and groom are set to take part in a horse and carriage procession around Stockholm, passing through areas in the city centre including the island of Skeppsbron and Regeringsgatan, Nybrokajen and Logården in the capital's old town (Gamla Stan). When the couple arrive at Logården they will be greeted by a 21 gun salute by Sweden's military. This will be followed by a military parade in Stockholm. The royal family is then set to host a banquet for guests, followed by dancing in Karl XI's Gallery in the Royal Palace. In a statement published on the Royal Court website last week, it was announced that the royal wedding will be officiated by the King’s chaplain Lars-Göran Lönnermark and Pastor Michael Bjerkhagen. Both clergymen also officiated at the wedding of Princess Madeleine and Christopher O’Neill, who married on June 8th, 2013 in the Royal Chapel. King Carl XVI Gustaf, crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl-Philip, Princess Madeleine and Princess Estelle were also baptized in the church. Hellqvist, a former fashion model who famously participated in the scandalous TV series Paradise Hotel, has dated the Swedish prince since January 2010. The couple met in 2009 at a club on Stureplan in Stockholm. They have lived together on the Stockholm island of Djurgården since 2011.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
The discovery of a 290 million year old footprint was made in New Mexico by paleontologist Jerry MacDonald in 1987. In the vicinity of this mysterious footprint there are fossilized impressions of birds and other animals. The discovery of the human impression has left MacDonald particularly puzzled and not he or anyone who has seen and studied the impression has been able to explain how this modern footprint could have been located in the Permian strata, which according to scholars dates from 290 to 248 million years, a time period which occurred long before man or even birds and dinosaurs existed on this planet, of course, that is according to modern science and scientific thinking.
Via The Local: With inexpensive childcare and generous parental leave, Sweden is often painted as a family paradise. As the Nordic country once again comes out top in a poll of where in the world is best for raising children, three families tell The Local about their ups and downs of expat life in Sweden.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Via Reuters: The euro tumbled back towards $1.05 on Monday, hitting its weakest in four weeks as the dollar's resurgence continued on bets the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates from their historic lows in the coming months. The U.S. dollar rose against the euro on Monday in a continuation of last week's bets that the U.S. Federal Reserve will hike interest rates in the coming months, while the yen edged higher on uncertainty surrounding the Bank of Japan's easing policies. With little U.S. economic data on tap, recent commentary from Fed officials and minutes from the central bank's March policy meeting suggesting a June rate hike was possible supported the dollar against the euro. The dollar's strength against the euro was a "spillover" from last week's commentary from the Fed, said Alan Ruskin, global head of currency strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Via BBC News: U.S. President Barack Obama has said his meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro will help both countries "turn the page" after decades of hostility. He described the meeting on the fringes of the Summit of the Americas in Panama as "candid and fruitful". Mr Obama said that the former foes would continue to have differences but could advance mutual interests. The meeting was the first formal talks between the two countries' leaders in more than half a century. "What we have both concluded is that we can disagree with a spirit of respect and civility", said President Obama. "Over time, it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries". His remarks came at the end of a regional summit which has been dominated by the historic thaw between U.S.-Cuba relations. Cuban leader Raul Castro said that the two countries had "agreed to disagree" when necessary. "We are disposed to talk about everything, with patience", he said. "Some things we will agree with, and others we won't". Earlier, the Cuban leader referred to Mr Obama as an "honest man" after a lengthy speech largely taken up with the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. "When I talk about the revolution, the passion oozes out of me", the Cuban leader said. "I have to ask President Obama for forgiveness. He is not responsible for the things which happened before his time".
Saturday, April 11, 2015
Via The Local: More than 100 hand grenades and around a dozen automatic weapons on their way to Stockholm were confiscated on Friday when Bosnian police swooped down in on a weapons ring that had been on law enforcement’s radar since last year. A large criminal network began to unravel after police in Bosnia and Sweden confiscated a large number of illegal weapons and drugs that were meant for the Swedish market, news agency TT reported. Police became aware of the smuggling ring after a raid in Slovenia last September where five automatic weapons and 59 hand grenades were found in a car on its way to Sweden. Since then, police from Sweden, Bosnia, Serbia, and Slovenia have conducted reconnaissance missions in the Stockholm area and several countries in the former Yugoslavia. The international law enforcement operation went under the name Recoil. This latest haul by Bosnian police netted 105 hand grenades, around a dozen automatic weapons, several kilos of explosives and a large number of tablets classified as narcotics. Swedish police held their own raids, confiscating two automatic weapons. In Sweden, three people have been taken into custody, suspected of serious weapons and narcotics offences and attempted smuggling. “They came from the former Yugoslavia several years ago and a number of them were living under the radar”, said Gunnar Appelgren, chief of the reconnaissance section of the regional investigation unit in Stockholm. “Since then they made contacts with criminals and established a network for narcotics and weapon smuggling”, he added. Besides the three people being detained in Sweden, seven were taken into custody in Bosnia and in Serbia. Police in Sweden said while they suspected that the weapons had been ordered by criminals in the Stockholm area and other parts of the country, they were surprised at the size of the shipment itself. “Earlier you mostly saw smaller numbers, maybe one or two weapons were brought over the border at a time”, said Appelgren. “But in this case we’re talking about a bulk order, which is something new”.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden will send up to 120 troops to northern Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish fighters as part of the US-led coalition against Isis, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has announced. "In the first stage 35 soldiers will take part in the mission but the number can rise to 120", Wallström told news agency TT. "Increased military support is needed now". She added that the Swedish troops will provide "military advice and training... not combat units" and that they will focus on Kurdish peshmerga forces. "We're responding to a request from the Iraqi government... they can need everything from weapons training to mine sweeping", said Wallström. The Swedish forces are expected to be in place in June and will be under US command. No end-date for their participation has been announced. The international coalition fighting Isis (also known as the Islamic State or IS) in northern Iraq includes Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. It has been in place since August and has carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Sweden first announced it would join the US-led coalition against Isis militants in Iraq in January, initially suggesting it would contribute 20 troops that would train Kurdish peshmerga soldiers stationed near the city of Kerbil in northern Iraq. Thomas Hegghammer, a terror expert at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, told news agency TT earlier this year that the move could raise the threat level against Sweden. “It could motivate someone to carry out violent acts to protest”, he said, adding that the more Isis is threatened on the ground in Syria and Iraq, the more likely the group os to to carry out terror attacks. “There will be more attacks. We can already see a marked increase”. Anders Thornberg, the head of the Swedish intelligence service SÄPO has said that more than 100 Swedes have fought for Isis. The move to send Swedish troops to Iraq comes as a new law to allow Swedish authorities to confiscate the passports of Swedes who are known to have fought alongside extremists in Syria or Iraq is being drafted by the government. Sweden’s Home Affairs Minister Anders Ygeman has said he hopes the legislation will be passed by parliament and put in place by 2016. “We can take care of passports so that a person cannot leave Sweden”, he told Swedish broadcaster SVT last month, adding that he felt it was “terrible” that some Swedish jihadists were currently traveling back-and-forth between the Nordic nation and the Middle East.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Via The Local: A Swedish Roma activist has welcomed the government's plan to invest 52 million kronor ($6m) to promote Roma inclusion in society – but he told The Local on Wednesday that more needs to be done. The Swedish government announced on Wednesday that they are going to allocate 13 million kronor a year from 2016-19 in their spring budget to educating so called “bridge builders”, who will work to increase knowledge of Roma culture and language in education and social care sectors. “The way in which we have treated people with their roots in Roma culture and background is a very dark chapter of the story of our country and our development”, wrote Sweden's Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke in an opinion piece for newspaper Metro. “Much work remains to be done, but Sweden should be a country where everybody is treated equally”, she added.
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Via The Local: Sweden's diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia has had ramifications well beyond the human world, after four monkeys who were supposed to move from a Stockholm zoo to Riyadh were given the cold shoulder. The pygmy marmoset is one of the smallest primates in the world at just over 100 grams (3.5 oz) and is native to the rainforests of South America. A troop of four belonging to the Skansen zoo in Stockholm were supposed to be spending their spring moving to Saudi Arabia, but the plans have now been scrapped. “They didn't want any monkeys any more because of the political situation”, the director of the aquarium at Skansen, Jonas Wahlström, told The Local. Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Sweden in March and announced it would not issue any new visas for Swedish business people in retaliation for comments made by Foreign Minister Margot Wallström criticizing the oil-rich nation's record on human rights. But the Swedish Foreign Office said last week it was expecting Saudi Arabia to start issuing visas again as the ambassador's return to Stockholm was reported. However, it appears the improved relations do not apply to our primate cousins. During the Easter holidays Wallström received a phone call from the head of the zoological garden in Riyadh saying that they were no longer allowed to import any monkeys. “The little monkeys were supposed to have gone down there, it had been decided for some time. But then they called over the weekend and said that they had been told by their authorities that 'Sweden? No, no, we don't want that' ", said Wallström. “I certainly never would have imagined that this would happen, that we would get this kind of 'monkey business'. But we'll just have to keep an eye out for when they start issuing visas for businesspeople and try again. Perhaps then they will issue them for monkeys then too”, he added.
Monday, April 06, 2015
Via Before It's News: The truth is that Russia takes its responsibility and in fact protects both the E.U. and the U.S. and the whole world against an invisible enemy. History repeats itself. 10.000 B.C. Athens defeated and destroyed Atlantis. Greece paid a heavy price, but the world was freed. Today Russia is the Byzantine Empire, which bears the heritage of the brave.
Via The Local: Around eight million debt collection notices were sent out in Sweden last year, an increase over the year before, according to a trade group. A greater willingness to buy on credit these days means more people are unable to pay off their debts. The debt collection sector has enjoyed strong growth over the past few years. Intrum Justitia, one of Europe’s biggest credit management companies, saw a pre-tax profit of 1.2 million kronor ($140.4 million) last year – an increase of 20 percent over 2013. While the situation in Sweden has not been that dramatic, the sector has seen steady, gradual growth. In Sweden, collection notices in mailboxes are becoming increasingly common. “The growth in the number of credit purchases throughout the society has resulted in a situation where more people are unable to make their payments on time”, Claes Månsson, spokesman for the debt collection trade group Svensk Inkasso, told Swedish public radio SR Ekot. While many people are able to pay immediately when the collection letter arrives, for some, keeping up with the penalty interest payments is difficult. This is especially a problem for people with low or limited incomes. “Interest rates on debt can be between eight and 24 percent and then there are all the fees”, Olle, a retiree, told SR Ekot. “A debt that started off being 39 kronor can quickly get up to 3.900 kronor”. He wants collection agencies to stop imposing what he calls “sky high” penalties. But he has not gotten much support from the Data Inspection Board, the public authority that ensures that debt collection rules and regulations are followed by companies. “Based on our supervisory activities, our experience is that by and large, companies follow good collection practices, especially the larger firms,” said Malin Fredholm, a lawyer with Datainspektionen, told SR Ekot.
Sunday, April 05, 2015
Via The Local: Holders of a Swedish passport can visit 174 countries around the world without needing a visa, according to a global ranking, up from 173 countries in 2013. The world awaits. Sweden shares its coveted position in the top group with the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Germany. Following close behind are passports from Denmark and Canada, which open up visa-free travel to 173 countries. The ranking, called the Visa Restrictions Index and compiled by the residence and citizenship planning consultancy Henley and Partners, is based on findings from 2014. Swedish citizens have a little more travel freedom now than they did in 2013, when the survey found that they could visit 173 nations without obtaining a visa. On the other end of the scale are Afghanistan (able to visit 28 countries visa-free), Iraq, (31 countries), Pakistan and Somalia (32 countries) and the Palestinian Territory (able to visit 35). It appears that the world is becoming a little more open in general. The latest World Openness Report from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), 62 percent of the global population needed to obtain a visa before getting on that plane, boat, train or automobile in 2014, down from 77 percent in 2008.
Friday, April 03, 2015
Via The Local: Nearly every other Swede is in favor of a legal ban on begging, according to a new survey by the tabloid Aftonbladet. The opinion poll shows a dramatic increase in six months in the percentage who support such a ban. The opinion poll, conducted during the last week in March, asked 1,198 Swedes the question: “is the it a good or bad idea to ban begging?” Of those, 49 percent said it was a good idea. When the same question was asked in September last year, 36 percent answered in the affirmative. The percentage against a ban also sank from 46 percent in September to 36 percent in the recent poll. It does not appear that the Aftonbladet poll was an outlier. A similar survey conducted by Novus Group for Sweden’s TT news agency in early March found that 56 percent supported a begging ban. But Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told Aftonbladet that a ban was not something his government was considering. “Legislating against poverty is a waste of time”, he said. Norway's government dropped a plan to ban begging in early February after strong pushback from Norwegian opposition parties and rights campaigners around the globe. That legislation would have banned both begging and "cooperation" with beggars. Penalties would have included fines or up to a year in jail. The minority right-wing government had linked begging to rising crime rates. But rights groups described the proposed law as draconian and against Nordic traditions of tolerance.
Thursday, April 02, 2015
Via The Independent: Russia has threatened to use “nuclear force” to defend its "annexation" of Crimea and warned that the “same conditions” that prompted it to take military action in Ukraine exist in the three Baltic states, all members of Nato. According to notes made by an American at a meeting between Russian generals and U.S. officials – and seen by The Times newspaper - Moscow threatened a “spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military” if Nato moved more forces into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The Russians told the meeting, which took place in Germany last month, that an attempt to return Crimea to Ukraine would be met “forcefully including through the use of nuclear force”. And they said if Nato sent arms to Ukraine this would be seen as “further encroachment by Nato to the Russian border” and “the Russian people would demand a forceful response”. They added that “the same conditions that existed in Ukraine and caused Russia to take action there” existed in the three Baltic states, which like Ukraine have significant numbers of people who regard themselves as ethnically Russian. Russia was considering taking steps in the Baltics, according to the notes, but this would most likely be “destabilizing actions that would be even harder to trace back to Russia than those of eastern Ukraine”. The notes suggest Moscow would avoid “injections of troops and heavy weapons in favor of other tools”. “Russia would hope slowly to entice those Russian populations towards Russia without giving Nato a pretext to deploy troops”, the document adds. If Nato then responded, that would make it “a potential co-aggressor against Russian-speaking minorities in Baltic states”, a situation described as “potentially more dangerous than that in Ukraine to the United States”.
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Via WND: The best way for Russia to solve its problem with America would be to trigger a nuclear weapon at Yellowstone National Park and hope it would set off a supervolcano, destroying the continent, according to the chief of a Russian think tank. The suggestion is attributed to Konstantin Sivkov, who wrote in an article at the Russian language VPK News that as “a result, the U.S. will cease to exist”. While the rest of the world, he noted, would suffer a “catastrophe”, Russia likely would suffer little “due to the distance from the eruption site, the size of the territory and the location”. While the stress of such a disaster would affect all of civilization, he wrote, such a weapon “has the possibility” of stopping “all thought of aggression against Russia”. In the alternative, he wrote, a nuke on the San Andreas fault might set off earthquakes that also could decimate large parts of America. His hope would be that it would create a tsunami a mile deep that would wash across the U.S. nearly 1.000 miles inland. Sivkov, described as a geopolitical analyst, also accused the West of moving “to the borders of Russia” already.