Weekly Highlight: 30.09.2008


Majority support for abolishing shop law
29.09.2008 Print article (IE & NS 4+)
The Conservatives vote to abolish a law which keeps the majority of shops closed on Sundays.
Laws forcing stores to close on Sundays appear to be on their way out, after the Conservative Party changed its policy to offer support for a liberalisation of the shop law.
Delegates to the Conservative national convention voted on Saturday in favour of abolishing the law. The Conservatives have traditionally supported the law to protect smaller businesses, and many of their members are business owners and shop keepers.
Parliament is scheduled to take up the shop law next. Without the support of the Conservatives, the prime minister’s Liberal Party and its ally, the Danish People’s Party, no longer have a majority for keeping the laws in place.
Currently, most stores must close on Sundays – with the exception of the first Sunday of the month, Sundays in December and six additional Sundays. Businesses with a smaller turnover are also allowed to remain open on Sundays.
Conservative commerce spokesman Mike Legarth was in no doubt about the new party line.
‘I personally believe that we as Conservatives can’t set limits on when a shop should be open and when consumers can shop,’ Legarth told public broadcaster DR. (kr)


Many Finns Admit to Doing Illegal Work
Published 28.09.2008, 16.57

One in four Finns would be ready to circumvent taxes by doing work off the books, according to a new study. A quarter of those surveyed admitted that in fact, they have already done so.
The poll was commissioned by the newspaper Aamulehti and conducted by the financial pollster Taloustutkimus.
Young people and those in lower income brackets were the most ready to participate in a little black-market work.
In addition, people who live in Lapland were considerably more open to the idea than residents of other provinces. This may be because the region has a great need of seasonal and temporary workers for its tourism industry.
Markku Hirvonen, a Finance Ministry expert on shady bookkeeping, says that the IT and stock market trading sectors present a particular challenge, because people are more adept at covering their tracks.


70% fail to prepare for interviews
Monday 29 September 2008

Some 70% of people going for a job interview in the Netherlands do little or nothing to prepare, according to a survey by jobs site nationalevacaturebank.nl.
Only half do even the most minimum in terms of preparation and just 27% put on smart clothes. The website says the tight job market in Holland has made interviewees lazy.


Conservative U-turn on alcohol liberalization
First published: 22 Sep 2008, 12:16

The existing alcohol policy has reduced consumption and resulted in less alcohol related illness in Norway than in other countries. To liberalize alcohol rules would be irresponsible, concludes Høyre’s public health policy committee.
Previously, the Conservatives have been in favour of allowing the sale of wine in super markets, lower taxes on alcohol and longer opening hours. At present only beer may be sold in local shops. Wines and spirits are only available in government owned stores run by the state monopoly Vinmonopolet.
“The change of policy is the result of well-documented research which shows that alcohol-related illness increases with availability,” says Høyre spokesman, Inge Lønning.
“This doesn’t mean that we want to become more restrictive. In general, we think that the way things are at the moment represents the best solution,” says Lønning to daily newspaper Aftenposten.
Next year’s party congress will decide whether to adopt the committees’ suggestion.


Teachers report sexism common in Swedish schools
Published: 25 Sep 08 08:22 CET

A new survey shows that 73 percent of Sweden’s teachers feel they’ve experienced disturbing examples of sexism while on the job.
In addition, 58 percent of the teachers surveyed said that they hadn’t received adequate training or preparation in questions related to basic values.
Every fourth teacher also reports that they witnessed situations at school relating to racism, xenophobia, sexism and/or homophobia.
The results come from a study carried out by the Sifo polling firm on behalf of the National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas riksförbund) and published in an article by union chair Metta Fjelkner and Eva Swartz, head of the Natur & Kultur foundation, in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
Sifo conducted in-depth interviews with 500 elementary and high school teachers about their views on how schools deal with issues related to basic values.
Nearly 90 percent believe their own schools aren’t especially active and nearly one in three say the leadership at their schools aren’t actively engaged in questions of basic values.

Netherlands: Absenteeism 1990 – 2006


MeThink: 180 000 Hits!


10-06-2007: 10 000 hits.
04-09-2007: 20 000 hits.
21-10-2007: 30 000 hits.
25-11-2007: 40 000 hits.
25-12-2007: 50 000 hits.
27-01-2008: 60 000 hits.
21-02-2008: 70 000 hits.
11-03-2008: 80 000 hits.
28-03-2008: 90 000 hits.
14-04-2008: 100 000 hits.
30-04-2008: 110 000 hits.
18-05-2008: 120 000 hits.
03-06-2008: 130 000 hits.
25-06-2008: 140 000 hits.
18-07-2008: 150 000 hits.
13-08-2008: 160 000 hits.
08-09-2008: 170 000 hits.
27-09-2008: 180 000 hits!!!!

OECD Marriage and Divorce Trend: 1960 – 2005

A recap of some of the OECD countries’ trend in marriage and divorce rates (per 1000 population):

01. Austria
02. Belgium
03. Denmark
04. Finland
05. France
06. Germany
07. Greece
08. Iceland
09. Italy
10. Japan
11. Korea
12. Netherlands
13. New Zealand
14. Norway
15. Portugal
16. Sweden
17. UK
18. US

Picture: Smurf and Mushroom

Life in Akalla, originally uploaded by micpohling.

Mushroom, the perfect place for smurf family!

Austria: Absenteeism 1990 – 2006


Weekly Highlight: 23.09.2008


Prostitutes create protest website
22.09.2008 Print article (IE & NS 4+)

An organisation representing prostitutes has created a website in response to what it believes is misinformation on a site set up by the social services board.
A Social Affairs Ministry campaign aimed at discouraging young people from buying sex has been criticised by prostitute organisation Sexarbejdernes Interesse Organisation, which has now created its own counter website.
SIO believes the ministry’s campaign, carried out by the National Board of Social Services, is full of false information and only serves to increase prejudices against prostitutes.
‘For example, the website says that prostitutes must suffer from ‘shell shock’, lack of sex drive, low self-esteem or physical handicaps,’ ‘Sus’ of the organisation told public broadcaster DR. ‘I think the website should be shut down or thoroughly edited.’
SIO’s new website uses the same graphic background as the board’s and challenges the official website’s use of celebrities to criticise prostitution. In addition, the organisation has complained to the social welfare minister and written to schools, urging students to look at both websites before passing judgement on the profession.
Sexologist Christina Tatarczuk said it was naïve to believe that prostitutes do not suffer mentally from their profession.
‘It’s a big delusion,’ she told avisen.dk. ‘The women I’ve spoken to say they battle several years with the experiences they’ve had.’
You can view both websites at (in Danish only): http://www.hvembetalerprisen.dk (National Board of Social Services website); http://www.hvembetalerprisen1.dk (SIO’s counter site). (rc)


Finland Leads Europe in Workplace Bullying
Published 22.09.2008, 10.20 (updated 22.09.2008, 20.44)

Workplace bullying is more common in Finland than in other member states of the European Union, according to Finnish and European studies on conditions at work.
One in five Finns report being harassed at work. Women are more likely to be victims than men.
Olavi Parvikko of the occupational safety section of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health says that Finns top European statistics in violence and workplace bullying.
“The two go hand in hand to a large extent. This kind of a culture, or a culture poor treatment of others can emerge,” Parvikko says.
Finns fall victim to workplace harassment approximately twice as frequently as the European average.
According to EU 27 statistics, countries that come after Finland in workplace harassment include the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, and France. The problem is significantly lower in the other Nordic countries. For instance, in Sweden, the figures are just one quarter of that of Finland.
“Sweden has managed to improve the situation significantly, Finland, not at all,” Parvikko laments.
“In Sweden, there has been public debate about bullying for a long time. Still they have lower figures than Finland,” says Anna-Maija Lehto of Statistics Finland.
New Figures out by Year’s End
Statistics Finland is working on new Finnish figures, which are expected to be ready by Christmas. Initial data indicates that bullying is actually in the increase in Finland. Women are typically bullied by co-workers, while men tend to be harassed by bosses. Teachers, for instance, are sometimes harassed by their pupils.
Harassment is seen as most typical in state and municipal workplaces where most of the employees are women. Professions include health care, social work and teaching. Especially prone to bullying are professions where there is high stress, frequent major changes and low job security.
Parvikko notes that rules of good behaviour have been drafted at many work places to avoid harassment and bullying. Unfortunately, no decline in bullying has been noted yet.


Minimum income keeps 120,000 households
Monday 22 September 2008

Last year 120,000 households in the Netherlands lived on the official minimum income, just under 2% of the total, says the national statistics office CBS.
The legal minimum income for a couple without children is €1,273 a month which is the same as the basic welfare payment.


Electricity price may jump as exports increase
First published: 22 Sep 2008, 15:38

Large exports of power to the Netherlands and higher coal prices may add NOK 10,000 (USD 1,800) to household electricity bills.
If the price of a Kilowatt/hour (kWt) climbs from NOK 0.30 to NOK 0.80 the average Norwegian household’s bill would increase by this amount.
Norway has traditionally had lower electricity prices than on the European continent, but as new cables increase export capacity, the difference is becoming smaller.
Electricity prices have risen steeply this summer and experts predict a price approaching NOK 0.80 / kWh by January, writes news bureau NTB.
Most electricity in Norway, comes from hydro power. The water level in the reservoirs, give an indication of electricity prices in the months to come.
“In June there was water enough to produce 14 teraWatt hours (tWh) more than usual in Norwegian reservoirs. At the moment we have 2 tWh less than normal. The main reason is a huge export of power to the Netherlands through the new cable,” says Kjell Rønningsbak, editor of the power generation website, Kraftnytt.no to daily newspaper Bergensavisen.
“The rainfall this autumn will affect electricity prices this winter. Increasing prices of Danish coal powered production will also raise prices in Norway. Higher coal consumption in China and India and higher carbon emission taxes in the EU, will increase the price of electricity from coal fired power stations. As Norway is part of a common Nordic power market this will raise prices here too;” says Rønningsbak.


Parents to get truancy reports via text message
Published: 23 Sep 08 07:27 CET

When students cut class in Gothenburg, their parents receive a text message in their mobile phones alerting them of the offence.
The city will be in the first in the country to implement the service for all public high schools, according to Sveriges Television.
The measure is just one more way to combat the growing levels of absenteeism in area high schools.
Last year, around 12,000 Swedish high school students skipped classes.
In Gothenburg alone there were 800 students and the number of reports of truancy has increased by 70 percent in two years.
According to the schools code, since 2006 parents are to be contacted when their children have an unauthorized absence from high school.

Sweden: Absenteeism 1990 – 2003

The graph…


and the interesting read from this article.

Picture: Sunflower in Kristianstad

Kristianstad 25.07.2008, originally uploaded by micpohling.

Weekly Highlight: 16.09.2008


Public transport losing out to cars

A new independent report shows that the billions of kroner set aside to improve public transport have not lured people away from their private vehicles.
Despite the government setting aside 25 billion kroner to improve public transport in Greater Copenhagen, passenger numbers have not increased over the past five years, according to a new independent report.
The report from engineering and planning consultancy COWI cites rising ticket prices, disruptions in bus and train service and notable increases in people’s disposable income as all having a hand in putting a dent in overall public transport passenger figures.
In 2002, there were an estimated 255 million trips on the city’s trains, busses and Metro system – roughly the same figure as in 2007. The government had estimated a passenger increase of 30 million for the period.
The COWI report indicates that ticket prices for public transport in the city have risen 29 percent over the five-year period. In contrast, petrol prices rose by ‘only’ 20 percent during that time. A strong economy has also been partly to blame for stagnant passenger figures, as more people have been able to afford buying vehicles.
And automobiles are the biggest problem, according to many traffic experts. They point out that while the government has poured billions into public transport, it has poured even more into bettering conditions for vehicle traffic.
‘Investment in road construction is the worst thing for public transport,’ Per Homann Jespersen, traffic researcher at Roskilde University, told Berlingske Tidende newspaper.
‘When you improve motorway conditions to and from the city, demand for the use of those roads increases. And that will only lead to more traffic congestion in the near future.’
Some experts also point to a 100 million kroner government public transport subsidy for city residents that was revoked in 2004. The money was instead put toward nationwide rail renovations.
But while passenger figures for the capital region have been disappointing, Søren Eriksen, managing director of national rail service DSB, said the company has seen record growth in its passenger numbers. As of the first half of 2008, DSB had a 3 percent increase in passengers since last year. But Eriksen agreed that focus on private vehicle transport does not helped train and bus figures.
‘When you create better conditions for private vehicles it weakens the ability for public transport to compete,’ he said.
‘But the way to solve the problem isn’t to make driving more difficult but rather significantly improve public transport and improve the infrastructure. That will undoubtedly result in more passengers.’ (rc)


Beer Sales Decline, Wine Sells Well
Published 12.09.2008, 17.19 (updated 12.09.2008, 19.40)

Sales of alcoholic beverages declined in the first half of this year by three percent. Sales in restaurants and bars declined by eight percent, while retail sales went down by just two percent.
According to figures put out by the National Product Control Agency, sales of beer declined by nearly four per cent at the beginning of the year, while sales of wine rose by just over a percent. Sales of fortified wine was also rising slightly.
Sales of strong spirits went down by more than four percent. 


Offshore wind power targets will not be met
Monday 15 September 2008

The government will not meet its goal of having around 30 offshore windparks (total capacity 6,000MW) in the North Sea by 2020 if it maintains current policy, reports Saturday’s Financieele Dagblad.
After 10 years of dithering on issues such as locations and subsidies, the Netherands has managed to build just two offshore windparks with combined capacity of 228MW, enough to supply electricity to 225,000 households, the paper says.
In 2011 there will be another three windparks at the most, leaving the country far behind its own target and those of neighbouring countries, says the paper.
Project developers have to negotiate with five ministries for licences and it is often unclear what the criteria are. This means investors are going abroad, Marcel Gerritsen, head of project financing at Rabobank, tells the paper.
The price of electricity in Europe is between 8.5 euro-cents and 11 euro-cents per kilowatt hour. Producing electricity from offshore turbines costs between 14 and 16 euro-cents, says the FD.


Malpractice kills 2,000 each year
First published: 11 Sep 2008, 16:59

At least 2,000 patients die as a result of an “unfortunate occurrence” in hospitals each year.
No one knows the exact figure as patients may already be severely ill and many errors never get reported to hospital managers.
We need greater openness at all levels. We have to be willing to admit that this is a problem and the authorities have to accept that this is a big figure,” says Øistein Flesland, who heads the National Body for Patient Safety to news bureau NTB.
The first Norwegian conference on patient safety was held in Oslo on Wednesday. Flesland wants future conferences to address patient safety in primary health care and psychiatric care.
“If we are going to improve patient safety we have to look at survival statistics from hospitals, count cases of hospital infections and to be able to report unwanted occurrences,” says Flesland.
Incorrect medication and infections are the main errors which cause severe illness or death in patients.
“Some improvements are both cheap and simple to implement,” says Flesland. For example, two medicine bottles containing different concentrations of morphine may have almost identical labels. Why not give them different colours?” says Flesland.
State Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dagfinn Sundsbø, estimates that as many as 10 percent of hospital patients may experience an “unfortunate occurrence”, which in some cases might lead to death.
“We have to learn from our mistakes and work towards a working environment which is both more open and which allows mistakes to be reported freely,” says Sundsbø.
Anders Baalsrud, who heads a department at the National Hospital in Oslo, says that Norway is known for being good at safety in the oil industry. “Why aren’t we equally good at hospital safety,” he asks.
Baalsrud estimates “unfortunate occurrences” in hospitals rank fourth in the list of causes of death in Norway, after coronary disease, cancer and respiratory illness.


Study: Swedish men sensitive and lazy
Published: 15 Sep 08 14:38 CET

While Swedish men are more willing to accept their role in raising children than men in other parts of Europe, they can’t seem to be bothered to do much about it, according to a new study.
Unsurprisingly, Swedish men rank the highest in Europe when it comes to equality between the sexes, with 78 percent agreeing that a man can raise a child just as well as a woman, reports the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper.
The results come from a study ordered by media company Discovery Networks in order to learn more about the attitudes of their male viewers and involved a survey of 12,000 men in 15 countries.
Nearly two-thirds of Swedish men also believe it’s more important for fathers to provide emotional support than economic support.
However, the study also reveals that Sweden’s sensitive, new-age men may have shed the Protestant work ethic behind the traditional stereotype of the stoic, hard-working Swede who puts his head down and does what is necessary to complete the task at hand.
Only 63 percent of Swedish men agreed that “The most important thing for me is to support my family”, the lowest figure recorded in Europe.
Furthermore, only 35 percent reported that staying in shape is a priority, again the lowest among men from other European countries included in the study.
And more Swedish men, 35 percent, also see going on holiday as an excuse to do nothing when compared to men from elsewhere in Europe.
The study also confirmed some broader trends that European men in the 25- to 39-year-old demographic are delaying the traditional milestones of adult life, such as having children, purchasing a home, and becoming economically independent from their parents.

Pew Global 2007: Support for International Trade

% of people who said international trade is very  good for country…

Very good by Country

Picture: Öland

Öland 24.07.2008, originally uploaded by micpohling.

OECD 2006: Female vs Male Entry rates to Tertiary Education

Entry rates: % of the secondary school leavers.

Female and Male Entry Rate to Tertiary Education in OECD countries 2006

OECD 2006: Difference between Female and Male Entry Rates to Tertiary Education

I wonder what would they do about such huge discrepancies among male and female students intake to tertiary education…

Difference (F-M) by OECD countries

Weekly Highlight: 09.09.2008


Mayor calls for help with Copenhagen crime

Copenhagen’s lady mayor has called on the government to step in and help clean up street crime.
Violence, vandalism and 30 shootings on the streets of Copenhagen this year, has prompted Ritt Bjerregaard, the city’s lady mayor, to call on the government to set up a national fight against street crime.
Bjerregaard said the council was not able to solve the problem by itself. She has also met with Hanne Bech Hansen, the superintendent of Copenhagen Police, to voice her concerns.
As a result, the police have promised 50 extra officers on the streets of Copenhagen.
‘It’s positive, but naturally I can’t judge if it’s effective yet. In any case, the important thing is to crack down on minor crimes. If people report crimes and don’t see any action being taken, then we are sending a very dangerous signal,’ said Bjerregaard.
Copenhagen Council continues its crime prevention efforts, including opening more youth clubs in problem areas.
Bjerregaard said investigations into the Copenhagen street fires and vandalism in the past few years has found that many of the young people involved had no social outlet available.
Per Larsen, the Copenhagen chief of police, said he supported more policing the streets in an effort to cut down violent crime.
‘We, like Ritt, are tired of the shootings in the city. We do what we can, and recently have decided to set up CCTV cameras in many areas of Copenhagen, and also created search zones for bikers.’
The latest street troubles saw almost 100 young immigrants take to Jægersborggade street in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen Sunday night. In the space of five minutes they smashed cars and shop windows in the well-known biker area. It is the latest in a series of run-ins between immigrant and biker gangs. (kr)


Farmers Exaggerate EU Subsidy Claims
Published 08.09.2008, 07.59 (updated 08.09.2008, 14.59)

Half of the country’s farmers apply for excessive subsidies from the European Union.
Some farmers apply for aid in excess of their actual arable acreage, reports the newspaper Keskisuomalianen. Only a few, however, greatly exaggerate the actual size of their land.
Last year 65 farms were refused subsidies due to false declarations. Most of the cases were in Central Finland.
Some 65,000 farms are applying this year for farm aid on the basis of their land size.


Dutch products favourite with 34%
Friday 05 September 2008

One-third of Dutch consumers prefer to buy national products rather than foreign brands according to a survey by consultancy Deloitte on Friday.
Around 34% said they would buy Dutch products if price and quality was equal to foreign alternatives, 64% said they had no preference and 2% said they would choose for makes from abroad.


Half the whale quota caught
First published: 04 Sep 2008, 15:48

The end of August marks the close of the 2008 whaling season. For the third year running, only half the quota has been caught.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs have set a quota of 1052 minke whales. The total catch this year is 534 animals.
“It’s time we asked ourselves whether there’s any point in having a quota at all, when they are regularly unfilled. Clearly whaling serves a niche market which is in decline,” says sea mammal advisor to the animal rights organization, Dyrebeskyttelsen


Swedish prostitutes want to pay taxes
Published: 8 Sep 08 13:51 CET

More and more Swedish prostitutes want to pay taxes in order to receive the social welfare benefits that come with doing so.
“So far this year I’ve spoken with several women who want to make things right,” said Pia Blank Thörnroos, a legal expert with Sweden’s Tax Authority, to the Göteborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper.
While it remains against the law to purchase sex in Sweden, selling sex is perfectly legal according to Sweden’s unique prostitution law, which came into force in 1999.
Moreover, prostitution has been considered a business activity in Sweden since 1982 and as a result proceeds from the sale of sex subject to taxation just like any other form of income.
“You have to keep track of all your income and expenses; all compensation should be accounted for,” explained Blank Thörnroos.
“One should really have accounting records. And in actuality [customers] should write out a receipt, because the transaction is considered a private operation which is subject to value added tax. But customers’ names need not be on the receipt.”
Income recorded on prostitutes’ tax returns gives them the right to sick-leave pay, parental leave benefits, and a pension.
“It’s important to pay taxes if you want to live a normal life,” said ‘Lisa’, a prostitute who spoke with the newspaper.
But Christian Democrat Riksdag member Désirée Pethrus Engström thinks that legitimizing prostitution by collecting taxes on the proceeds sends the wrong message.
“Economic security is something which makes a situation permanent. And that in turn can encourage prostitution, which is wrong,” she tells GP.
“It’s indirectly illegal to be a prostitute because it’s illegal to buy sex. But it’s a tough question to which there isn’t a simple solution.”

MeThink: 170 000 Hits!!!

Another milestone for me 🙂
10-06-2007: 10 000 hits.
04-09-2007: 20 000 hits.
21-10-2007: 30 000 hits.
25-11-2007: 40 000 hits.
25-12-2007: 50 000 hits.
27-01-2008: 60 000 hits.
21-02-2008: 70 000 hits.
11-03-2008: 80 000 hits.
28-03-2008: 90 000 hits.
14-04-2008: 100 000 hits.
30-04-2008: 110 000 hits.
18-05-2008: 120 000 hits.
03-06-2008: 130 000 hits.
25-06-2008: 140 000 hits.
18-07-2008: 150 000 hits.
13-08-2008: 160 000 hits.
08-09-2008: 170 000 hits!!!

Pew Global 2007: We should further restrict Immigration…

% of people agree/disagree with further restriction on immigration…

We should further restrict and tighten Immigration...

Weekly Highlight: 02.09.2008


Martyr to become a taboo word

The Danish Intelligence Agency has recommend authorities avoid using certain words to describe terrorism.
A new document from the Danish Intelligence Agency (PET) advises authorities to refrain from using certain words when debating terrorism.
PET is worried that religious terms used to describe terrorism are creating a harmful link between the public’s perception of Islam and terrorism.
The document is entitled ‘Language use and the fight against terror’. It recommends avoiding the use of words like martyr, jihad, fundamentalist, Islamism and mujahedeen when talking about terrorism.
Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen, PET’s head of preventative security, said that adopting the language and phrases used by extremists can legitimise their actions.
Dalgaard-Nielsen said that introducing new language guidelines will help prevent radicalization of Muslim citizens, who often feel labelled as terror suspects.
‘Terrorist groups often try to legitimise their actions by associating them with religion, using words such as ‘jihad’,’ she said. ‘However, a jihad also has peaceful and positive meanings, and it is unfortunate if the authorities repeat it and strengthen the extremists’ use of the word.’
The prime minister and integration minister had not yet seen the report, but other politicians had mixed reactions.
‘I’ll say what I want to say, and I think PET should keep to itself when it comes to the need for political correctness in public debates,’ Martin Henriksen, the Danish People’s Party’s integration spokesman, told Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper.
Karsten Lauritzen, the head of the parliamentary integration committee, said it was naive to think avoiding certain words would fight terrorism.
‘But I’ll say that PET is right that the authorities should understand certain words before they use them. For example, ‘sharia’ is not just a brutal justice system, but also an education in how to be a good Muslim. It’s not always seen that way though, and the authorities should debate on an informed basis.’


Direct Development Aid Stunting Development?
Published 01.09.2008, 18.15
Direct development aid given by Finland has stunted the development of recipient governments, claims a new report by Helsinki University professor Juhani Koponen.
His research shows that aid money has created a steady source of income, and minimized the pressure for the governments of developing countries to get their own taxation systems and legislative processes in better working order.
Aid money has also selectively strengthened areas of government, such as finance ministries, while other offices still struggle. Koponen observed this trend in countries where Finland has had long-standing development ties, such as Nepal, Tanzania, and Vietnam.

Money “Disappears”
Retired Ambassador Antti Hynninen, who co-ordinated Finland’s aid contributions for a time, agrees with the study’s findings. He says that for example, most of the money sent to Sudan and Egypt simply disappears.
He feels that Finland should stop indiscriminately raising its development contributions and actually take a critical look at what good it has done and how to improve its efficacy.


Most kids go home for lunch, survey
Tuesday 02 September 2008
The majority of children at primary schools go home for lunch and only 8% spend every midday break in the classroom, according to research by TNS Nipo reports the Telegraaf on Tuesday.
Schools believe tradition plays a major role in parents’ decision whether their offsdpring stay at school or go home during the lunch break. Only 9% said cost was the main factor.
Most schools prefer voluntary lunch supervisors to professional childminders, the researchers said.


Students cheating, too
First published: 01 Sep 2008, 10:12

Just a week after news broke that former members of Norway’s parliament are facing charges of collecting more pension benefits than they should, comes news that students are effectively cheating the system as well.
Newspaper Dagsavisen, which broke last week’s top story about pension overpayments to former MPs, also reported Monday that students are collecting far more student aid than they should.
That’s because they’re using false addresses, indicating they’re out on their own, when in reality they’re living at home with their parents. In most cases, that implies far lower housing costs than otherwise stated, and should result in much lower financial aid grants (called utdanningsstipend in Norwegian).
There is no tuition at state universities in Norway, as compared to the fees charged college students in the US, for example, but students are responsible for their books, supplies, various minor fees and all living expenses.
Parents in Norway are not viewed as being primarily responsible for the college expenses of their offspring, so most students over the legal age of 18 apply for grants and loans and many work on the side. This results in most students finishing their college years at much older ages than in the US, and in considerable debt.
Around 150,000 students in Norway currently are financing their studies through the student loan agency Statens Lånekassen. It distributes as much as NOK 17 billion annually (around USD 3 billion) in the form of loans and grants.
Just over 8,000 of those studying today have reported that they live at home with their parents. Another 43,000 report addresses close to their parents’ addresses, but can theoretically live at home.
Officials at Lånekassen recently ran a check of the students’ actual residential circumstances and found that 4.5 percent were collecting grants by using a false address, reported Dagsavisen. They collectively may have swindled the system for as much as NOK 65 million.
“This is very serious, said Astrid Mjærum of Lånekassen. “The dishonest students are stealing from society, and undermine the entire system.”
Those caught can be denied future student financing for life, and grants they have received will be turned into debt that they must repay.


Thousands of Swedes order home chlamydia tests
Published: 1 Sep 08 07:11 CET

Tests for the sexually transmitted disease, which are available for order over the internet, have proven extremely popular in Sweden.
So far nearly 30,000 tests have been carried out across the country.
What’s more, the home tests have been enticing new groups of people—especially more boys and men—to test themselves for the disease.
A record number of Swedes have been infected with chlamydia.
Since the start of the year more than 24,000 people have been diagnosed, with the majority being young people between the ages of 15 and 27.
To simplify testing for the disease, several county councils have been offering chlamydia tests over the internet.
Tests are home delivered through special websites, after which users can send the results in to a laboratory for analysis.
A few days later, the coded test results are made available and can be read online from a home computer.
As a result, caregivers reach a segment of the population that they might not otherwise have reached.
In Västra Götaland County, which has offered the tests online since 2006, more than 15,000 residents have tested themselves.
“It started tentatively, but now we’re seeing a successful increase. A big advantage is that we getting more gender balance—men have begun to approach women in terms of the number of tests [they have ordered],” said Peter Nolskog, an infectious diseases specialist with the Västra Götaland county council.
The fact that the internet is always open and that people can remain anonymous has attracted many, believed Nolskog.
The test have also been popular in Södermanland.
“We started in January and it’s increasing from month to month,” said infectious disease doctor Carl-Gustaf Sundin.