Danes used crappy spying tactics on Khrushchev
28.10.2008 Print article (IE & NS 4+)
Danish Defence Intelligence Service sifted through Khrushchev’s toilet contents for signs of illness, claims new book.
The Danish Defence Intelligence Service (FE) had some crappy assignments back in the 1960s according to a new book, detailing events of Danish spying during the Cold War.
In ‘Spionerne Krig’ (The Spies’ War’), Hans Davidsen-Nielsen describes the bizarre surveillance operation that FE undertook during Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Copenhagen in 1964. Intelligence operatives gathered the waste and urine from Khrushchev’s hotel toilet to investigate claims that he was seriously ill.
The Soviet leader’s visit came just six months after the assassination of President Kennedy and following a tip from American intelligence agents about the health of Khrushchev, the Danes decided to put their operation into effect.
Khrushchev was staying in a luxury suite at the SAS Royal Hotel during his June visit. With the help of some ingenious plumbing, FE managed to ensure that the contents of his toilet would be stored for later inspection by the intelligence services.
Shortly after his return to the USSR, the Soviet leader was ousted from his position by his eventual successor Leonid Brezhnev, among others. The Kremlin cited his poor health at the time as one of the reasons for his forced resignation.
However, thanks to the unusual investigation by the Danes, Peter Ilsøe of FE was able to tell international intelligence colleagues at a Paris conference in November 1964 that this was not the case.
‘With reference to Khrushchev’s illness, as you might know, we made a special effort during his visit to clarify the state of his health….We reached the conclusion in June, taking his 70 years age into account, that he was in no way displaying signs of advanced hardening of the arteries,’ Ilsøe said at the time. (kr)
Electronic Voting Receives Big Brother Anti-Award
Published 26.10.2008, 16.22 (updated 26.10.2008, 19.30)
Electronic Frontier Finland has awarded its “Big Brother” prize (Isoveli) to the Justice Ministry for its pilots of electronic voting in the 2008 municipal elections. Electronic Frontier Finland is an interest group established to ensure openness on the Internet and to protect the electronic rights of Finnish citizens.
The Big Brother award is granted to individuals or organisations that are seen to promote the watchdog society in Finland. In granting the dubious distinction the organisation criticised the electronic voting pilots because they weakened national information security.
IT services company Tieto-Enator also received the award for its role in developing the electronic voting system.
Voters in the 2008 municipal elections were able to cast electronic ballots in three pilot areas: Vihti, Karkkila and Kauniainen.
Officials report that electronic voting proceeded without any problems in the test districts on election day.
In Kauniainen, where voter turnout is traditionally high, a majority of voters opted for electronic voting.
Savings guarantee is being abused
Tuesday 28 October 2008
The cabinet is taking undue risks by guaranteeing savings at the foreign branches of Dutch banks for up to €100,000, according to MPs, reports Tuesday’s Trouw.
If a bank goes bankrupt, savers can claim up to €100,000 from the Dutch state. The limit was increased earlier this month from €38,000 and applies not only to ING and Rabobank, but to all banks based in the Netherlands.
‘There are a lot of Turkish banks which are active in other countries but have their headquarters here,’ MP Pieter Omtzigt, of the ruling Christian Democrats is quoted as saying by the Trouw.
‘And lots of Russian banks fall under the Dutch ruling as well. Are they well supervised by the central bank?’ he asks.
Advertising in Italy and France
On Monday, the Parool reported that ING is advertising in Italy and France offering an interest rate of 6% and drawing attention to the government’s guarantee.
Turkey’s Garantibank International advertises 6.5% interest rate in Germany and also alerts savers to the increased limit.
‘We want to know how much foreign savings the Netherlands is guaranteeing,’ CDA MP Ellie Blanksma is quoted as saying in the Parool.
Last week Bos said banks are not supposed to draw attention to the guarantee in their advertising.
At the weekend, economist Willem Buiter of the London School of Economics warned that the guarantee is a danger to the Dutch economy and is being abused by banks to attract foreign savers.
Optimists abound in Norway
First published: 23 Oct 2008, 12:35
The poll, conducted for newspaper Aftenposten last week, showed that fully 73 percent of those questioned retain full confidence in their banks. Nearly 60 percent indicated that they don’t think their jobs are in danger.
Only 5 percent were considering converting their mortgages to fixed-rate loans, suggesting that they predict interest rates will decline instead of rise.
Less than half think they will make significant cuts in their own consumption, and eight out of 10 questioned think their own personal financial situation will be at least as good or better 12 months from now.
The Norwegians, it seems, aren’t letting the international financial crisis scare them. Even though several companies (including local media firms, real estate brokerages and industrial concerns) are already cutting back, a majority of those questioned don’t fear rising unemployment.
“I of course am thinking about what’s happening, that things can go wrong,” Kari Lovise Flood told newspaper Aftenposten. “But you have to stay positive.” She just opened her own, new flower shop in Oslo and has no regrets.
Flood, age 27, even thinks the current financial drama is “healthy” for the Norwegian society. “We have had such an incredibly strong period lately,” she said. “People have been buying new furniture and throwing it out again after just a year. It’s good if people think twice before spending so much.”
Even 55-year-old John Ek, who sells equipment for construction workers, is remaining optimistic. With construction projects already grinding to a halt, or being taken off the drawing board, doesn’t he worry about demand for his goods? “Not really,” he told Aftenposten. “We’re pretty strong, and we’re used to the cycles in this branch.”
Public sector workers also feel secure. “Both my wife and I work for the state, and that gives a degree of security,” said Rune Bergsvendsen, age 49. “But we are postponing some things we had thought about doing, like some home remodelling. We’ll wait and see what happens with interest rates.”
Only 1 percent of those questioned by research firm Respons for Aftenposten said they were seriously worried about their jobs, while 58 percent said they weren’t worried at all. The survey was conducted October 13-15, when stock markets briefly rallied but economists came with predictions of lower growth and higher unemployment in Norway next year.
Swedish breast cancer survival rate nears 90 percent
Published: 28 Oct 08 06:58 CET
Nearly nine out of ten women in Sweden suffering from breast cancer are likely to beat the disease, according to a new report.
The trend is positive, but the Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden) believes even more women can survive if county councils devote more resources to mammography.
Twenty years ago, an average of 87 percent of women with breast cancer survived. Today the figure is up to 87.4 percent, according to the Cancer Society’s breast barometer, which is based on statistics from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).
“When viewed in an international perspective, we have great numbers. But we’re not giving up until we’ve reached the maximum. Over 10 percent still don’t survive,” said Cancer Society secretary general Ursula Tengelin.
Several factors have contributed to the increase in Sweden’s breast cancer survival rate, according to Tengelin.
For starters, Sweden was early in implementing universal mammograms, which allows more tumors to be discovered at an early stage.
Swedish hospitals have also had access to modern treatment methods, while at the same time research conducted in Sweden has led to increased knowledge about breast cancer and its mechanisms.
“Swedish research is important for Swedish patients. Doctors don’t have second-hand information and new knowledge gets out to the healthcare system much quicker,” said Tengelin.
But the probability of a patient surviving breast cancer isn’t the same in every Swedish county. The variance is reflected in the differences in survival rates around the country.
Stockholm shows the highest chance of survival at 89.2 percent, followed by Dalarna and Uppsala in central Sweden.
Ranking last on the list of how many woman are still alive five years after having been diagnosed is Blekinge in southern Sweden, with 85 percent.