Weekly Highlight: 22.01.2008

Denmark: the rising of the food price…

Rising food prices a concern for consumer groups
21.01.2008

Increases in the price of food are outpacing inflation. Consumer advocates want to know why. 
The national competition authority has announced that it intends to investigate whether a lack of competition is to blame for skyrocketing prices for basic foodstuffs, reports Berlingkse Tidende newspaper.
Since December 2006, the price of basic food items such as bread, milk and vegetables have increased by as much as 15 percent. Over the past year, the average price of all foodstuffs rose by 6.8 percent, while price increases for goods and services in general ran at 1.7 percent.
The Competition Authority is expected to release findings from a preliminary study later this week. Based on those results, it said it would decide whether to investigate retailers, wholesalers or producers themselves.
Rising fuel and grain prices and the emergence of countries such as China as new consumer powers are typically cited as the reason for increasing worldwide food prices. But the Consumer Council, an independent consumer watchdog, said its studies show that those factors were not enough to explain all of the price rises in Denmark.
Representatives from the food industry said the extra increases could be explained by a shift in consumer preferences towards higher-priced goods.
‘Consumers are buying more organic milk and vegetables. They are more expensive, but it’s tough to see that when you look at periodic statistics,’ said Henrik Hyltoft, of the Danish Chamber of Commerce.
According to recent EU statistics, consumer prices in Denmark are 39 percent higher than the union average.

Finland: thinking of implementing “chemical castration” onto paedophiles…

Mandatory Treatment Planned for Paedophiles
Published 22.01.2008, 09.48

Finland’s Ministry of Justice is looking at plans to mandate chemical treatment for offenders convicted of sexually abusing children. The Ministry has also started a review of the variation in sentences handed down to paedophiles in different courts.
The Ministry of Justice is now making plans to mandate paedophiles to undergo medical treatment – what is known as “chemical castration” – the use of medications that sharply reduce or eliminate sexual urges.
Officials say that this could probably be implemented under the present system of criminal offender supervision. The chief of the Ministry’s Department of Criminal Policy, Jarmo Littunen, told YLE that new medications are both effective and have few side effects.
Internationally, there is a body of data claiming success for the chemical treatment of paedophiles. In Denmark, it has been seen that chemical treatments have been effective, at least in the cases of paedophiles who want to avoid repeating their offences.
Kauko Aromaa, Director of the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, told YLE, “If on the other hand, this person sees nothing wrong in his own behaviour, as is often the case with child abusers, then apparently mere medical treatment has limited or no effect.”
Aromaa also points out judges do not have the education, and rarely the experience, to fully understand the effects of abuse on the child. For this reason, some offenders who are in need of treatment get off with light sentences.
The Justice Ministry has now ordered a review of the details of child abuse cases that have been sealed by the courts. A year’s cases and the sentences imposed are being analyzed to provide judges with an overview that can be used as a guideline for future sentencing.
The Finnish Police College has begun collecting information on the experiences of the potential victims of paedophiles. This week and next, the College is distributing questionnaires to the nation’s schools in an effort to determine how common child abuse really is.

Netherlands: no free textbook

Free text book plan delayed
Friday 18 January 2008

The introduction of free text books in secondary schools is to be delayed until the 2009/2010 academic year but the cabinet is considering compensating parents by a one-off payment of €300, reports Friday’s Volkskrant.
The postponement of free text books is needed to give schools time to buy books. European rules, which mean these type of contracts must be put to public tender, are being blamed for the delays.

Norway: the elderly care…

Elderly not getting the care they need
First published: 18 Jan 2008, 16:57

Norway’s fabled “cradle to grave” security seems to be disappearing, with a new study showing that only the most acute needs will qualify a patient for a spot in a nursing home.
Norwegians have complained for years over the long waiting lists they face for care at local hospitals. Now a new report shows that care for the elderly is far from sufficient in what’s widely billed as one of the world’s wealthiest countries.
A survey of 80,000 elderly persons living in 162 Norwegian townships indicated that only those with the most serious medical ailments and disabilities received a room in a nursing home.
Half of those who need help with everyday routines were still living at home, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday.
Limited alternatives
Most elderly who are turned away from nursing homes are offered some form of help at home, but it can be erratic and far from adequate.
Private solutions for the elderly are limited in Norway, where the vast majority of nursing homes are run by the public sector or public foundations. Independent- and assisted-living facilities so common in the US, for example, haven’t taken root in Norway, where most citizens expect to receive mostly state-funded care after a long life of paying high taxes.
Patients living in a public nursing home are usually charged 80 percent of their current income, but their estates are left intact. Living in a nursing home thus isn’t “free” in Norway, but it won’t threaten to deplete a patient’s estate, either.
The problem is that there now seems to be an acute shortage of nursing homes in Norway, and demand is only growing as the population in general ages.
Most townships will retort that they’re not getting enough funding from the state. There have been widely publicized cases of neglect in recent years, including one recently where an Oslo hospital simply sent home a sick and frail 94-year-old woman to the apartment where she lived alone.

Sweden: illegal drug…

Sweden’s cocaine use on the up
Published: 20 Jan 08 13:53 CET

Cocaine use in Sweden is on the up and up, thanks in part to a sharp fall in street prices, police say. Swedish law enforcers are now considering stationing a police officer in South America to gather intelligence on the drugs trade.
The new report says cocaine use is increasing particularly among young people in Sweden’s cities. Less cocaine – 23 kilos – was seized in Sweden last year than the year before. But 2006 was untypical, as that year customs officers seized two major consignments of a total of 1,300 kilos. Last year the number of seizures was up to 105, from 89 the year before.
Swedish Customs estimates that 5-10 percent of all narcotics entering Sweden are detected. In order to increase that figure, better intelligence from authorities in other countries in needed, said Westberg. Another important challenge for Swedish police is to get to the core of the smuggling networks, many of which are recruited from particular ethnic groups.
“An individual courier is quite easy to replace,” said Westberg.
The report also says that amphetamines, originating mainly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland, are common in Sweden.
Cannabis remains the most common illegal drug, although use is not rising significantly. 80 percent of the cannabis in Sweden comes from Morocco. Swedish authorities need to improve cooperation with these countries too, said Westberg.

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