Saturday, January 31, 2015

Israel "Not Happy" At Abbas Invite To Sweden

Via The Local:

Israel’s ambassador has sharply criticised Sweden for inviting President Mahmoud Abbas to Stockholm next month, citing it as further evidence of the “energetic pro-Palestinian line” the country’s government has taken since coming to power after September's election.

“It does not make us happy to see Abu Mazin (Mahmoud Abbas) here on a visit to this completely new government which very rapidly decided to recognise Palestine”, Isaac Bachman told TT newswire.

The Swedish government announced on Friday that Abbas would visit Stockholm on February 10 on the invitation of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

In Stockholm, he will meet Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, King Carl Gustaf XVI, and Archbishop Antje Jackelén.

The honours to be showered on Abbas are a sharp contrast to the diplomatic snub Wallström suffered earlier this month from Israel.

Wallström, who has held leadership positions in the European Commission and United Nations, was forced to postpone a planned trip to Israel because the country’s government refused to arrange any official meetings for her, apparently in retaliation for her government’s decision to recognise Palestine in October.

After Sweden announced its decision last year, Israel recalled Bachman for a month in protest.

Friday, January 30, 2015

All Power To The People

One by one they were rolled back, blitzkrieg-style, mercilessly, ruthlessly, with rat-a-tat efficiency.

First the barricades came down outside the Greek parliament.

Then it was announced that privatisation schemes would be halted and pensions reinstated.

And then came the news of the reintroduction of the €751 monthly minimum wage.

And all before Greece’s new Prime Minister, the radical leftwinger Alexis Tsipras, had got his first cabinet meeting under way.

After that, ministers announced more measures: the scrapping of fees for prescriptions and hospital visits, the restoration of collective work agreements, the rehiring of workers laid off in the public sector, the granting of citizenship to migrant children born and raised in Greece.

On his first day in office – barely 48 hours after storming to power – Tsipras got to work.

The biting austerity his Syrizaparty had fought so long to annul now belonged to the past, and this was the beginning not of a new chapter but a book for the country long on the frontline of the euro crisis.

"A new era has begun, a government of national salvation has arrived", he declared as cameras rolled and the cabinet session began.

“We will continue with our plan. We don’t have the right to disappoint our voters”.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Greece Names Hardline Anti-Bailout Finance Minister

Via Yahoo! News:

Greece named hardline leftwing economist Yanis Varoufakis as Finance Minister, handing him the pivotal task of renegotiating the debt-stricken nation's bailout with international creditors after it voted overwhelmingly to reject years of austerity politics.

The appointment of Varoufakis to the potentially explosive role is seen as a signal that the new anti-austerity Syriza-led government will take a hard line in haggling over the 240-billion-euro ($269 billion) EU-IMF package.

The polyglot Varoufakis, 53, a professor nicknamed "Dr Doom" for his stance on Greece's economic woes, is a vocal critic of the conditions imposed in return for the 2010 bailout and argues the shattered country can never recover until they are relaxed.

His was the most eye-catching appointment in 40-year-old Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's new cabinet, which gave the first glimpse of a government that promises to challenge at every level the eurozone's belt-tightening measures.

Panos Kammenos was named defence minister in return for leading his small nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party into a coalition government with Syriza.

Kammenos threatens to be a controversial member of the government because of his claims that Germany, and its insistence on budgetary rigour, is the main cause of Greece's economic misery.

Greece's European partners have been quick to pour cold water on the issue of debt forgiveness since Syriza stormed to a stunning election victory in Sunday's snap general election.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said Monday that Greece's membership of the eurozone "means... sticking to its previous commitments".

Merkel offered warmer words to Tsipras on Tuesday, wishing him "much strength and success".

"You are taking office at a difficult time in which you face a great responsibility", Merkel said in the message from the chancellery.

But in a newspaper interview to appear Wednesday, a member of Germany's Bundesbank central bank warned Athens of "fatal consequences" if it rejected the bailout terms.

"If the continuation of the programme of aid for Greece is called into question... Greek banks would lose access to central bank funds", Joachim Nagel told the daily Handelsblatt. "It would have fatal consequences for the Greek financial system".

In a sign of the EU's willingness to engage with the new leaders in Greece, the head of the 19-nation Eurogroup countries who use the single currency, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, had a 15-minute telephone conversation with Varoufakis on Monday.

But Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, said there was "not a lot of support" for Tsipras's insistence that a chunk of the debt should be written off.

The Greek stock market plunged six percent earlier Tuesday, in a sign of nervousness at the new government's intentions as European stock markets too fell on growing anxiety that Athens was set on a collision course with its creditors.

Fears that Greece could be forced out of the eurozone if it defaults on its debt saw the euro briefly hit an 11-year low against the dollar Monday, but it rose on Tuesday.

The EU has set the end of February as the deadline for Greece to carry out more reforms in return for a seven-billion-euro tranche of financial aid from the 28-member bloc and the International Monetary Fund.

Tsipras, who has vowed to reverse many of the severe spending cuts and other measures that Greece's creditors insist on, must decide whether to prolong the deadline.

Syriza claims the stringent conditions attached to the bailout -- including wage and pension cuts and widespread privatisations --have caused a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Greece.

It wants to release an immediate 1.2 billion euro package to increase the minimum wage and pensions for the poorest.

The first foreign dignitary to visit Greece since Syriza took power will be the social democrat head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, on Thursday.

Analysts have described Syriza's coalition with ANEL as "unnatural" and potentially short-lived, saying that the smaller party is unpredictable, while the two parties differ starkly on immigration policy.

However, the two parties -- who together have 162 seats in the 300-member parliament -- share a common opposition to the EU-IMF bailout.

The IMF extended an olive branch to the new Greek government, saying it was prepared to continue its financial support to the country.

"We stand ready to continue supporting Greece, and look forward to discussions with the new government", IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said in a statement.

Greece's economy is set to emerge from recession after shrinking by a quarter in five years, leaving one in four out of work.

Many Greeks say that even if Tsipras can deliver on a fraction of what he has promised, their lives will improve.

After the new Prime Minister was sworn in on Monday, Eleni, 41, said: "We are just asking to be able to live like any other European citizen".

"At the moment if you go to a state-run hospital in Greece, you feel as if you are in a warzone".

"Repaying the debt does not justify subjecting people to such suffering", she said.

Sunday's poll was Greece's fourth in five turbulent years, including back-to-back votes in 2012.

Tsipras stands alone as Europe's first anti-austerity leader for the moment, but Syriza's victory could inspire other anti-austerity parties, including Spain's Podemos, which has topped several opinion polls and is aiming for an absolute majority in the Spanish election in November.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Swedish Soldier Stirs Row Over Help For Isis Fighters

Via The Local:

A Swedish soldier's Facebook post from Afghanistan is causing a stir, after he suggested that he was likely to get less help when he came back to Sweden than returning Isis fighters.

Frederick Brandberg's comments originally appeared as his Facebook status on Sunday afternoon before spreading across Swedish media.

Writing in both English and Swedish, he questioned his future situation upon returning to Sweden, including options for work.

"In a few months, I'm back in Sweden after being deployed in Afghanistan, against Talibans and others who have really jeopardizing development in this very sore country", he said.

"There is no permanent job waiting for me when I come home".

The officer, who is currently headquartered in Kabul on his third mission to Afghanistan then compares his situation to that of returning ISIS-fighters from Syria, noting recent calls from several Swedish government representatives who have argued that extremists should be given more help to re-integrate upon returning to Sweden.

The Swedish soldier addresses Mona Sahlin in particular, a former leader of the Social Democrat party who is now Sweden's official coordinator against violent extremism.

"I read that Mona Sahlin together with other Swedish political leaders are anxious to take care of Swedish IS-warriors coming home from being involved in Syria, with specially designed programs for work and other issues that would make them function well in our society".

Brandberg refers to his post as "Utmaningen" or, "The Challenge".

"It would be wonderful if I was met with a comparable program after my homecoming, after which I could feel safe in having a regular job, with monthly income and a social stable situation in the society where I wouldn't need to wonder whether I'm wanted or not", he argued.

There are currently 500 Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan.

The Armed Forces told The Local on Monday that what happens to soldiers upon their return from war was not an issue that falls under their mandate.

"We take care of soldiers while they are there on the ground," an armed forces official explained. "Once they're back home, it's no longer our business".

The Swedish defense and foreign ministries were unavailable for comment.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sweden Mulls Ticket Controls For Jihadis

Via The Local:

Sweden could introduce controls over airline ticket sales and border crossings as part of a new anti-terror strategy aimed at preventing citizens going abroad to fight for extremist groups.

Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told TT newswire that he expected the new terror strategy to be in place by the summer.

“The strategy we have now does not take into account the realities of the world we live in”, Ygeman said, explaining that at the time it was developed no one expected Swedes to travel abroad to fight for extremist groups in such numbers.

“It must include measures to combat radicalisation and recruitment”, Ygeman said. “There is only extremely meagre treatment of this in the present one”.

Sweden’s present national terror strategy dates back to 2012, long before Isis (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq) and the Levant organisation officially declared an Islamic caliphate across a swathe of Iraq and Syria last June.

Ygeman said the government planned to assess and possibly add to the powers Swedish security services have to combat Jihadi extremists, potentially bringing new criminal offences into law.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Volvo Salutes Swedish Misery In New Advert

Via The Local:

Volvo pulls out every stop to emphasise its Swedishness in a deliberately melancholic new advert it describes as "a thank you to the cold, darkness, wind and rain".

The film — which features hockey legend Börje Samling, rapper Timbuktu, and high jumper Emma Green in various mournful poses -- stretches to more than four minutes of artistically shot Scandi scenes, all set to an echoey, Nordic soundtrack sung by Amanda Bergman.

Salming, the first Swedish hockey player to go international and play in the US, is shown putting a log into a wood burner, his deeply lined face lit only by the firelight.

Timbuktu (real name Jason Diakité) trudges in the early morning along Malmö’s Ribersborgs beach, an overcoat and Persian lambskin hat shielding him from the drizzle.

"This is a tribute to Sweden at its toughest", reads the advertising copy. "A thank you to the cold, darkness, wind and rain. Because without our harsh Swedish conditions we would never have made the cars we do".

The scenes are intercut with shots of Bergmanesque Swedishness — the corn rustling in the wind, aerial shots of remote snow-clad Lapland wilderness, the West coast fishing fleet skimming over the grey waters — much of it shot in near darkness.

Eva Ossiansson, a branding expert at the University of Gothenburg told Göteborgs-Posten that she found the film "incredibly beautiful, sensual, and very Swedish".

“They have dared to break the traditional pattern. The film is like no other car commercial”, she told DN newspaper. “I think that is absolutely right, at a time when we are awash with 3.000 commercial messages a day”.

Also, with the first exports of made-in-China Volvo cars beginning this year, the company’s Chinese owners Geely clearly feel the need to remind people of where the brand comes from.

The last Made by Sweden advert, featuring the footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic — got more than five million hits on YouTube, while a 2013 advert featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits between two Volvo Trucks was seen by some 77m people.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lynx Attacks Dog After Swedish Zoo Escape

Via The Local:

A teenage girl in northern Sweden had the fright of her life on Wednesday night when a lynx which had escaped from a local zoo leapt out of the woods and pounced on her two-year-old Siberian husky.

Emma Danielsson, 18, had taken Kira out for a walk near her house in the small Sami town of Lycksele at around 11pm when she heard something crashing around in the nearby woods.

"At first I thought it was a fox, but the dog was reacting very strongly and starting to growl", Emma told Aftonbladet.

Then the lynx leapt out of the undergrowth.

"It came out of nowhere. It started to hiss and claw my dog. I was completely in shock and did not know what to do".

The dog then bolted with the lynx in pursuit.

Irene Sjögren, the head of the local Lycksele Zoo, confirmed that lynx tracks found at the site indicated that the attacker was the same animal which escaped from her zoo in November.

"We now have permission to go out with guns", she told SVT’s Västerbottensnytt program.

"As soon as it gets a bit lighter, we will send out a hunter. We will either stun her, or if that is not possible we will kill her".

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Super Storm Leaves 40.000 Without Power

Via The Local:

The powerful storm which clobbered much of Sweden on Saturday night had left more than 40.000 without power by midday on Sunday, caused several injuries and disrupted road, rail and air traffic across the country.

The storm, dubbed Egon, raged across the country for more than fifteen hours, reaching hurricane strength of 32.6 meters per second in several places on the country's west coast around Gothenburg.

"It looks like the winds will subside over the course of the afternoon, and then we will start to downgrade warnings", Lisa Frost, a meteorologist at the national weather institute SMHI told TT on Sunday.

Class two storm warnings remain in place on the islands of Öland and Gotland.

In Gothenburg, one person was hospitalized after the heavy winds overturned his car. Another came home on Saturday to find a neighbouring car had been physically lifted up by the winds and thrown into his house. A third was sheltering in her house when a gigantic pine crashed down onto the roof.

Stockholm police reported 16 accidents taking place as a result of the storm. The coast around Malmö was less severely hit, but the authorities nonetheless decided to close the Öresund Bridge to Copenhagen on Saturday night, reopening it on Sunday morning.

About 55 people were evacuated from their homes in Denmark after Egon and Dagmar, the storm which preceded it, pushed sea levels in parts of the country to the highest levels ever recorded.

In Norway’s second city, Bergen, the sceptre of the Rosenkrantz Tower was snapped off by the wind and collapsed onto the wall of the Bergenshus fortress.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Children's "Genital Song" Goes Viral In Sweden

Via The Local:

A video about penises and vaginas from a Swedish children's programme has gone viral, causing wildly varying reactions from the Swedish public.

In the video, a cartoon penis and vagina dance around to a light and catchy melody. A man's voice sings over the top.

The lyrics (which sound much, much better in Swedish) include lines such as "Here comes the penis at full pace", and "the vagina is cool, you better believe it, even on an old lady. It just sits there so elegantly".

While the lyrics are discussing the old lady, a smiling cartoon vagina with a walking stick and glasses dances to the tune.

The song uses the children-friendly words for the genitals - snipp and snopp.

The clip, which is part of the TV show Bacillakuten on Swedish public service broadcasters SVT, has divided audiences in Sweden.

On Facebook, the video has amassed over 500.000 views and thousands of comments.

Some of the comments have been so crude that SVT was forced to step in and point out that the Facebook page has many young fans, warning users to watch their language.

"How a clip like this got the green light is the most bizarre thing of the year - and the year is only eight days old", one person wrote, sharing the meme which says "I don't want to live on this planet anymore".

Other commentors have been more positive.

"What a great song about the most natural thing there is. I think it was my daughter, however, who was bopping along the most", wrote one.

The program will air on Sunday at 6:25pm, and aims to help children understand the human body and everyday diseases.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

EMU Deflation Is The Final Betrayal Of Southern Europe

Via The Telegraph:

The victim states of southern Europe have retrenched heroically, yet deflation effects are overwhelming them.

The eurozone has let it happen. Europe's authorities have so mismanaged monetary and fiscal strategy that the whole currency bloc has tipped into deflation.

The drop in the eurozone's headline price index to -0.2pc in December scarcely captures the significance of what is happening. Deflationary forces have been gaining a grip on all the crisis states of the South for 18 months.

A chorus of economists began warning two years ago that the region was sailing close to the wind by letting inflation drift ever lower, leaving itself one shock away from a loss of policy traction. That shock is now hitting in successive waves: the Russia crisis; China's over-investment glut; and now the collapse of oil prices.

Textbook theory suggests that a halving of energy costs should be cause for celebration, a tax cut for consumers. It is very different calculus when inflation is already zero, bond yields are plummeting to 14th century lows across the world, and market psychology is becoming "unhinged" - to use central banking vernacular.

"Normally, any central bank would prefer to look through a positive supply shock", said Peter Praet, the European Central Bank's chief economist. "But we may not have that luxury at present. Shocks can change: in certain circumstances supply shocks can morph into demand shocks via second-round effects".

Mr Praet said families and firms are already adapting pre-emptively to the new order, describing what amounts to a classic deflation trap.

"There is a risk of a real economic vicious cycle: less investment, which in turn reduces potential growth, the future becomes even grimmer and investment is reduced even further", he told Börsen-Zeitung.

Mr Praet warned that an "underemployment equilibrium" is setting in, invoking the term used by Keynes in the 1930s.

He exhorted "all the authorities", including governments, to step up to their responsibilities and take "urgent action". This is a man who knows that monetary union is in deep crisis.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sweden's PM Condemns Fatal Paris Shootings

Via The Local:

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has condemned the killing of twelve people at a French satirical magazine in Paris on Wednesday, describing it as "disgusting".

The Social Democrat leader released a statement, saying: "I condemn the horrific attack which took place in Paris today. My thoughts go to the victims and their families".

The Prime Minister added that the shootings at the magazine's office amounted to "a disgusting attack on democratic foundations", adding that it underscored "our responsibility to always stand up for freedom of expression and press freedom".

He said he planned to send a telegram to fellow socialist President François Hollande and promised that Sweden would give its support to France "at this difficult time".

Men armed with automatic weapons opened fire at Charlie Hebdo's headquarters on Wednesday morning, with prosecutors later confirming that a dozen people had been killed including two police officers.

The same offices were firebombed in 2011 after the magazine published cartoon images of the prophet Mohammed.

France raised its terror alert status to highest level after the shootings, with three gunmen reported to be still on the run.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström took to Twitter earlier on Wednesday to voice her concerns, describing the attack as "horrendous".

The attack was also criticized by the president of Sweden's journalism organisation SJF - Jonas Nordling - who described it as "a heinous deed".

"Those who silence anyone by resorting to violence, must be condemned in the most serious way", he told Swedish broadcaster SVT.

According to Nordling, Swedish police are not aware of any organized threat against Swedish journalists, but he still worried about future attacks in the country.

"There are at least a few people who believe they have the right to kill people because they do not share their view. This is a threat that exists in Sweden", he said.

But Jonathan Lundqvist from Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for free speech within journalism, argues that different traditions in public discourse could mean that Sweden is less likely to be attacked than other European countries.

"In France they are less afraid to provoke and have a lively political discussion. They chose for example, to publish the cartoons, while newspapers in Sweden abstained", he told SVT.

Speaking about the potential future consequences of the attack in Paris, he said: "In the short term, editorial offices in France and around Europe need to review their security practices... In the longer term the great danger is that journalists begin to self-censor themselves. That would be devastating".

The Editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, was featured on Al Qaeda's Most Wanted List in 2013, alongside Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has also published drawings of the prophet Mohammed.

Speaking after the Paris attack on Wednesday, he told Swedish local newspaper Helsingborg Dagbladet that he had been "shaken" by what he had heard.

But he said he would not let the shootings affect his plans for the coming year, which include giving lectures at the University of Linköping in southern Sweden.

The artist already enlists the help of security guards.

"You cannot give up freedom of expression. The attack in Paris tells us something about the times we are living in today".

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

France: EU-Russia Sanctions "Must Stop Now"

Via euobserver:

French leader Francois Hollande has dangled the prospect of lifting EU sanctions on Russia ahead of the year’s first Ukraine crisis summit.

"I think the sanctions must stop now. They must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress the sanctions will remain", he said on France Inter radio on Monday (5 January).

"[Russian

Hollande spoke on France Inter for two hours in a Q&A dominated by French economic problems.

His remarks come ahead of a summit of French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian leaders - the so-called Normandy format - in Kazakhstan on 15 January.

They also come ahead of EU foreign ministers’ talks in Brussels four days later on whether to renew Russia sanctions when they begin to expire in March.

At the same time, Moscow has called for new EU talks on trade co-operation with the Eurasian Economic Union.

The New Year diplomacy is also set to see Putin go to the Czech Republic and to Poland for a World War II memorial on 27 January.

Hungarian media report he might visit Budapest in March and Russia has invited select EU leaders to attend a WWII military parade in Moscow on 9 May.

Foreign ministry officials from the Normandy states met in Berlin on Monday to prepare for the Kazakhstan event.

But both Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel have said they won't go if there is no chance of a breakthrough.

"I will go to Astana on January 15 on one condition, which is that there should be a possibility of making new progress. If it's just to meet and talk without making any actual advances then there's no point. But I think there will be progress", Hollande told France Inter.

Commentators in Russian media, such as RT, said his remarks mean Russia is off the hook for annexing Crimea and that France is keen to resume delivery of two warships to Russia.

Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, the German centre-left SPD party, and EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini have also said they want to re-engage with Russia.

But a US state department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said in Washington on Monday that Hollande’s words say nothing new.

"Hollande said sanctions would be lifted if, quote, ‘progress is made’ toward a lasting peace. This has been our position, as well as the position of our European and other partners from the very beginning", she noted.

"If Russia and the separatists implement the commitments each party made in Minsk [at ceasefire talks in September], we’ll be in a position to begin a rollback of some of the sanctions. But there can be no rollback until there is tangible progress on the ground … It’s not just simply words. It’s actions".

A spokeswoman for the EU foreign service, Catherine Ray, the same day said there is no change in the EU position as spelled out in summit conclusions in December.

"The EU will stay the course. The European Council is ready to take further steps [against Russia] if necessary", the conclusions say.

Meanwhile, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics - whose country took over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January - urged EU leaders not to break ranks.

Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania - former Soviet republics which host Russian-speaking minorities - fear that if Putin gets away with partitioning Ukraine he will cause trouble in the Baltic states in future.

WWII memorials are said to be sacrosanct from contemporary disputes, but end up turning into informal summits.

Asked on Monday whether the Latvian president would go to Moscow for the 9 May parade, Rinkevics told Latvian broadcaster 900 Sekundes: "At the moment, I would really like to see the EU take a joint position. Before any decisions are made, the EU ought to discuss this matter".

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are Europe's most dangerous countries and the biggest threats to peace in Europe since WWII.

My suggestion is that Finland takes over Estonia, and that Sweden takes over Latvia and Lithuania.

Especially Lithuania which is a NATO country and ruled by Nazis should by militarily attacked, crushed, and subdued by Sweden in a firm way.

This is the North - not the West or the East. We cannot show weakness.

The important thing is to get Russia and Germany to accept it. Let the Americans protest.

The Americans will never be happy until they have world hegemony anyway.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Euro Crashes To Nine-Year Low On "Grexit" Fears

Via The Telegraph:

Report that Germany is prepared to let Greece exit the single currency has spooked markets.

The euro tumbled to its lowest level against the dollar in nearly nine years on Sunday night amid mounting fears that Greece could exit the eurozone.

The sharp slide came as Asian markets accelerated a sell-off sparked on Friday, when Mario Draghi gave his strongest hint ever that the European Central Bank was ready to launch quantitative easing to tackle the threat of deflation.

A separate, though disputed, report in Der Spiegel on Friday, claimed that Angela Merkel's government in Germany now believes the eurozone could handle a Greek exit, piling even more pressure on the single currency.

The German government has since countered that it is confident Greece will stick to the bailout terms set out by the EU and the IMF.

Georg Streiter, a spokesman for Mrs Merkel, refused to comment on reports that she believes the eurozone is now robust enough to cope with the potential exit of Greece should the looming general election in Greece reignite the eurozone crisis.

Mr Streiter said that Greece had fulfilled its obligations in the past, and that the German government “assumes it will continue to fulfil its contractual obligations to the troika" in the event of a change of government in Athens after the January 25 election.

Another spokesman reiterated the Bundestag's position on Monday morning. Steffen Siebert said the aim of the German government was "to stabilise the euro zone with all its members, including Greece".

However, fears in Europe are growing that a lurch to the left in Greece could bring about a dramatic shift in the government's attitude towards its creditors.

European stock markets were also subdued by the spectre of a Greek exit.

By 12.30pm, the FTSE 100 was down 0.9pc, the Cac had fallen 1pc, and the Dax in Germany had slid 0.7pc. Equities in the eurozone periphery were even more gloomy, with Spain's Ibex down 1.4pc and Italy's Mib dropping 1.7pc.

The Athens Stock Exchange took the worst hammering, tumbling as much as 4.4pc.

Archaeologists Say They've Located The Possible Site Of Trial Of Jesus

Via FOX News:

Archaeologists in Jerusalem say they may have uncovered the remains of Herod the Great's palace, the site where the trial of Jesus Christ may have taken place prior to his crucifixion.

The Washington Post reports that the remains are being opened to the public through tours organized by the Tower of David Museum, which is located close to the site. According to the paper, the remains of the palace were uncovered more than a decade ago by archaeologists who had been excavating an abandoned prison adjacent to the museum as part of a planned expansion.

Archaeologist Amit Re'em told the paper that among the uncovered remains were foundation walls and an underground sewage system that likely supported the palace.

Historians and archaeologists say there's little doubt that Herod's palace was located on the western side of Jerusalem's Old City, near the present-day museum. But the question of whether Jesus was actually examined there by the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate remains a contentious one.

The confusion stems from various interpretations of the four New Testament Gospels, all of which describe the trial of Jesus. Supporters of Herod's palace as the site point to the Gospel of John, which describes the trial as having taken place near a gate and on a stone pavement, details that would match archaeological interpretations of the site.

Others say that the Gospels' use of the Latin word "praetorium," or a general's tent in a military encampment, to describe the location of the trial is a clue that points to the Antonia Fortress, located in the northeastern part of the city near the Temple Mount.

The Rev. David Pileggi, an Anglican minister whose Christ Church is near the Tower of David, told the Post that the recent discoveries confirm in his mind that Jesus was taken to Herod's Palace before beginning his final journey to the crucifixion site at Golgotha.

"[This is] what everyone expected all along", he said, "that the trial took place near the Tower of David".

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Victoria’s Secret Swim 2015: Slow. Sultry. Swim.

Supermodels Candice Swanepoel, Lily Aldridge, Lais Ribeiro, Andreea Diaconu, and Nadine Leopold sizzle in the Victoria’s Secret Swim 2015 collection.

Raffaella Modugno Has A Nice Swimsuit

Via WWTDD:

They don’t just crown anybody to the position of Miss Curves of the Lazio Administrative Region of Italy.

It’s not like being named a U.N. Ambassador merely because you were in a movie where Africa didn’t look like a total shit hole.

This Raffaella chick is precisely the type of immigration get this country has needed for some time.

I understand that lettuce will double in price if we cut off illegal workers from Central America.

Here’s a fact. I don’t fucking eat lettuce.

However, Italian chicks with sweet breasts and liberal attitudes toward sex intrigue me to no end.

Let’s find some common ground on Capitol Hill. How much is this going to cost me?

30+ Days Of "Fire In Heavens" Coming NASA Reveals! “Civilization-Stopper!”

Via Before It's News:

Using phrases to describe the next 30+ days here on Earth such as "alter life as we know it", "destroying cities and knocking out transport and communication networks", "real show stoppers" and "civilization-stopper", this new story from the London Daily Express and brand new video from Dahboo777 warn a "fire in the heavens" is coming to visit our planet Earth after NASA revealed "scores of GIANT asteroids ARE on course to hurtle past our planet Earth within the next month!"

Moving at up to 70.000 miles per hour, experts warn there IS a possibility that "plumes of debris thrown into the atmosphere would change the climate making the planet inhabitable for all life including humans".

Though these experts say such an event is unlikely, they also warn:

If you are talking about a real major impact you are looking at one every few centuries, these are the real show stoppers and in history have sometimes been described as fire from the heavens.

However the smaller collisions happen more frequently, asteroids of 2km (1.2 miles) can cause a global catastrophe which would exterminate around two thirds of the human race, mainly due to the heat produced.

There is also the hazard brought by comets, and these occur on much shorter timescales.

It the Earth passes through the tail of a comet it will generate a massive plume of smoke, and this could be a civilization-stopper.

The future of mankind here on Earth will be an amazing adventure.

There’s a 90 percent chance that a nearby star will be approaching Earth within the next half million years.

Known as Hipparcos 85605, the stellar dwarf is currently 16 light years away from us, and it could come as close as 0.13 light years away.

So now we also know that a nearby star is on collision course with our solar system...

Greek Survey Gives Leftists 3.1-Point Lead Over Conservatives

Via Yahoo! News:

Greece's radical leftist Syriza party led the ruling conservatives by 3.1 percentage points in an opinion poll conducted after it became clear that a snap election would be called, the pollster Rass gave as good news on Saturday.

The survey for Sunday's Eleftheros Typos newspaper was conducted on Dec. 29 to 30, after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed to have his candidate elected president by parliament.

The poll put support for Syriza at 30.4 percent against 27.3 percent for the conservatives of Samaras's New Democracy party, if an election were held now, a slight narrowing from a 3.4 point lead in a previous Rass poll last month. The election has been set for Jan. 25.

In the latest survey, the KKE communist party was third on 4.8 percent, followed by the center-left To Potami with 4.7 percent, and the far-right Golden Dawn with 3.8 percent.

The Socialist party Pasok, which rules in coalition with New Democracy, polled just 3.5 percent.

Syriza has led New Democracy in opinion polls for months, but its lead has narrowed in recent weeks.

In the poll, 74.2 percent agreed that Greece must stay in the euro zone "at all costs", and 24.1 percent disagreed.

The survey was conducted on a sample of 1.002 Greeks.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Left Leader In Surprise Attack On Government

Via The Local:

The leader of Sweden’s Left Party Jonas Sjöstedt has strongly criticised Sweden’s new red-green coalition, condemning it of "chickening out" on EU-US free trade talks and being a "huge disappointment on climate change".

Jonas Sjöstedt’s attack, unleashed in an interview with Sweden’s Expressen newspaper, is a sign that the last-minute deal Prime Minister Stefan Löfven struck last month with Sweden’s right-wing alliance, while it prevented an emergency election, is causing strains with the the Social Democrats' traditional left-wing allies.

In his attack, Sjöstedt issued a stark warning that if the red-green coalition failed to stick to a deal struck last year to limit the extent to which private companies can profit from providing state services, it would no longer be able to count on his party’s support.

"If they betray us on the profit agreement, they can forget about negotiating a budget with us", he said in the interview. "I don’t think I can be any clearer than that".

He criticized the negotiating stance Sweden had taken in December's climate change talks in Paris.

"The government is a huge disappointment in terms of its work for the climate, the goals it has for climate change, and how it acts in the European Union", Sjöstedt said, before laying into its support for the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US.

"The government has chickened out", he said of the deal. "You should say 'no' to an agreement which means that companies can sue countries".

I agree with Jonas Sjöstedt. Absolutely.

Löfven took a pause from his visit to Brazil to defend his record, arguing that Sweden has an enormous amount to gain from the TTIP deal.

"Swedish exports make up about 50 percent of our GDP", he stressed. "Everyone should be able to understand how much we have to gain from free trade. The free trade deal between the EU and the US is fundamentally a good thing".

As for the climate change deal struck in Paris in December, Löfven pointed out that Sweden’s negotiating power had been limited.

"It’s not as if Sweden controls the whole European Union", he said. "We had higher ambitions, of course, but it’s important now that the EU still has has a clear objective".

Löfven today visited a children’s home in Brazil, where he reflected on of his own time in the orphanage where he was sent as a ten-month-old baby and posed for photographers playing table tennis.

"It is a part of my background. Now it is with a certain distance, but of course I think about it sometimes", he said. "It was incredibly fortunate that I quickly got sent to a family who could and would take care of me. It has given me incredible opportunities in Life".

Friday, January 02, 2015

Are Mosque Fires End Of "Paradise" Sweden?

Via The Local:

Three torched mosques within a week in Sweden led to demonstrations across the country in support of Muslims.

The Local's Oliver Gee watched the Stockholm rally unfold and spoke to leading campaigners from the Islamic community about what should happen next.

Headlines across the world screamed this week that three mosques had been torched deliberately and journalists were quick to point out that rising tensions followed the nationalist Sweden Democrats doubling their support to 13 percent at the last election in September and record numbers of refugees arriving in the country.

On the home front there has been a mixed reaction to the attacks.

Online forums saw some Swedes praising what had happened.

It became clear that whether or not the attacks turned out to be proven hate crimes or the work of a few drunk vandals oblivious to where their firebombs were heading, there was a community delighted that sacred buildings had gone up in flames.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Sweden's Princess Madeleine Moves Home

Via The Local:

The Royal Court has announced that Princess Madeleine and her husband Chris O'Neill have moved to Stockholm for the time being while they decide where in Europe to be based.

The Local reported last week that the couple were planning to leave their home in New York to move to Europe and the Royal Court has now confirmed that Stockholm will be their base for the near future.

"They have terminated the contract and have emptied their apartment. They will now be based in Stockholm", said Margareta Thorgren at the Royal Court to the Aftonbladet daily.

Princess Madeleine revealed the plans to return from the U.S. in the Sveriges Television program "A year with the royal family 2014", saying that she wanted to be closer to her family.

The couple currently live in Manhattan with their baby daughter Leonore.

The royal family recently made an announcement that the couple were expecting their second child, who will be sixth in line to the Swedish throne.

The baby is expected in the summer.

Princess Madeleine recently appeared at the Nobel festivities in Stockholm in December, after taking time out from her royal duties to focus on looking after her daughter.