Weekly Highlight: 19.08.2008

Denmark:

PM: raise petrol prices
12.08.2008

A leading New York Times columnist writing about Denmark’s green energy policies said the prime minister told him he favoured an increase in petrol taxes.
Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this weekend that the answer to the crisis of rising oil prices is to make petrol even more expensive, according to the New York Times.
One of the American newspaper’s leading columnists, Thomas Friedman, visited both Greenland and Denmark as part of the research for his upcoming book on climate change, ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’.
In his editorial column on Sunday, Friedman said he met with the prime minister, who told him he wanted higher taxes on petrol.
‘I have observed that in all other countries – including in America – people are complaining about how petrol prices are going up,’ Friedman quotes Rasmussen as saying.
‘The cure is not to reduce the price, but – on the contrary – to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy, and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income. That way we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy,’ the prime minister told Friedman.
Rasmussen’s comments were lauded by the Socialist People’s Party, but criticised by the Danish People’s Party, which believes transport costs are crippling the Danish economy.
Friedman’s article also praised Denmark for its existing climate initiatives, such as the country getting 20 percent of its energy from wind power. He spoke to Connie Hedegaard, the climate minister, who said wind turbines have helped change the country’s entire energy perspective.
‘The wind power industry was nothing in the 1970s, but today one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark,’ Hedegaard told Friedman. ‘Now it’s one of our fastest-growing export areas. And we used to get 99 percent of our own energy from the Middle East – today that figure is zero.’
Friedman’s article also gave kudos to Denmark’s use of recycled waste for energy and its anti-pollution bicycle culture. (rc)

Finland:

Many School Children Lonely
Published 16.08.2008, 17.42

A growing number of school children are lonely, says the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare. The finding is based on calls made by children and young people to the League’s helpline.
Conversations reveal children, in particular, need the ordinary attention of adults with whom they can talk, writes the Centre Party web paper Apila.
According to the paper, the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare received around half a million call attempt last year but was only able to answer just over one in ten. The number of phone calls has remained about the same this year.
The League needs extra staff in order to train volunteers to man its helpline,which was established in 1980.

Netherlands:

Eight out of 10 Dutch are regularily online
Monday 18 August 2008

When it comes to internet use, the Dutch are ahead of most of the rest of Europe with eight out of ten people regularly online, according to a study by Forrester Research.
The report also shows that Dutch 16 to 34-year-olds use the internet for an average 16 hours a week. Only the Scandinavians are online as long.
While online last year, the Dutch spent an average of €365 per head buying everything from secondhand comic books to houses, according to another study also out on Monday.
The total amount spent online through sites like Marktplaats.nl is estimated at €4.6bn in 2007, research group Blauw said. This figure does not include purchases made through webshops.

Norway:

Violent foreigners avoid deportation
First published: 18 Aug 2008, 12:44

New, stricter rules adopted in 2004 were supposed to make it easier for police to quickly deport foreigners charged with violent crimes. They’re not working.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that Norway’s 25 police districts identified 797 persons between 2005 and 2007 who were candidates for quick deportation. The offenders had committed violent crimes, including murder, but by the end of last year, only 21 had actually been sent out of the country.
The unruly foreigners avoided deportation either because investigations into their crimes were suspended or because their cases were delayed in the courts.
Police and immigration officials also claim the new rules are difficult to understand and interpret. They conceded that collection of data and the organization of cases involving violent foreigners is poor, and there’s a lack of coordination between the police and immigration agency UDI.
Both police and UDI officials also concede that it hasn’t been a priority for the police to determine the residence status of offenders, reported Aftenposten.
Cases involving domestic violence can also leave police open to criticism that victims can use the new rules to rid themselves of troublesome family members. The new rules were opposed by the Norwegian state church and immigration advocates, among others, who warned that quick deportation would be equivalent to a double punishment for violent crimes and could expose foreigners to false charges.
The new government minister in charge of immigration issues, Dag Terje Andersen, has nonetheless asked the police districts for new measures to help ensure that the stricter rules be used. Justice Minister Knut Storberget, in charge of the police, declined comment.

Sweden:

Swedish women’s pensions lower than men’s
Published: 15 Aug 08 16:21 CET

Yet another Swedish report proves that Swedish women draw the short straw when it comes to pensions, which are only worth 80-90 percent of men’s on average.
Prolonged maternity leave, periods of unemployment and part-time work while the children are young lowers women’s pensions to levels way under men’s.
Economist Göran Normann conducted an investigation on behalf of Länsförsäkringar Bank, looking at men and women’s pensions levels in Sweden. With 24 independent regional insurance companies and the jointly owned Länsförsäkringar AB, Länsförsäkringar is Sweden’s only customer-owned and locally based banking and insurance group.
The men and women in Normann’s report were all of the same age and from four different professions. Normann’s concluded that women’s pensions were 80-90 percent of men’s on average.
“And when you look at those women who had the lowest incomes, then there is a marked difference compared to men. An average woman in this group has a pension that is roughly 70 percent of her average male colleague”, Göran Normann told the TT news agency, referring mainly to people in the nursing profession.
The main reason for the gaping inequality is that women often have lower salaries than men. In addition, in order to combine family life with work, many more women than men work part-time, which lowers their income and thus their pensions.
Many mothers often take a longer period of absence from work to extend their maternity leave, which leaves them without pension payments. Some women also go through periods of unemployment in order to look after young children.
Although the Swedish social system does pay women to be off work while on parental leave or looking after a sick child, this is far less important for one’s pension than an actual salary.
Göran Normann believes that one way to create greater equality between the sexes would be for men to contribute towards their partner’s pension, if and when she works part-time while the children are growing up.
“It is important that there be some kind of compensation between partners regarding pension points. The man could give part of his pension to the woman”, he said.

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