October 28, 2008 at 9:28 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
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.
October 24, 2008 at 5:32 pm (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark. Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden
Southern Denmark seeking to recruit German and Austrian doctors
German-speaking physicians are in demand in the southernmost region of the country
Region Southern Denmark has begun a programme to actively recruit physicians and nurses from Germany and Austria for its hospitals.
The programme is a cooperation between the region, the Danish Embassies in Germany and Austria, and the Austrian health ministry. Job fairs are already planned for Vienna, Hannover and Dresden in the coming weeks, and the region hopes to land 100 doctors and 200 nurses through the effort.
Annette Lunde Stougaard, head of the region’s HR recruiting department, said that although the region has a large number of German-speakers, it is not the main reason it is looking to Germany and Austria.
‘First of all, Austria currently has a surplus of physicians,’ she told The Copenhagen Post. ‘But experience has also shown that German-speakers with an advanced education are quick to learn Danish and have a fairly easy time integrating into Danish society.’
Stougaard acknowledged, however, that the many German-speakers in the region likely make it easier to market German-speaking doctors there.
German has official status as a minority language in Denmark, but Region Southern Denmark has no figures on how many people in the region speak the language. (rc)
New HIV Infections Frequently Occur Abroad
Published 24.10.2008, 17.46
The number of persons infected with HIV during visits abroad has grown in Finland. According to the National Public Health Institute (KTL), last year about one-third of new HIV patients were infected in foreign countries – mainly in popular holiday destinations like south-east Asia.
“Last year, the number of persons infected during sexual intercourse was particularly high in foreign countries. Time will tell if this is a long-term trend,” says Mika Salminen, the head of the HIV Unit at KTL.
Around 160 new cases of HIV are diagnosed in Finland each year. The majority of the infections were obtained during sexual intercourse. Ten years ago, only around half of HIV cases were spread during sex.
“Finns’ use of condoms as a birth control option is relatively rare,” says Salminen.
Meanwhile the number of infections from sharing contaminated drug syringes is down.
The Finnish Aids Council has launched a campaign on safety while travelling. Information pamphlets on HIV are being distributed in trains stations in cities including Helsinki, Tampere, Jyväskylä, Kuopio and Joensuu, as well as at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and at passenger ship terminals in Helsinki and Turku.
Private forestry is profitable
Friday 24 October 2008
Private forest owners made an average of €47 profit on every hectare of trees last year, according to calculations by the LEI agricultural institute.
Between 2001 and 2005 forest owners lost an average of €63 on each hectare. The turnaround is due to rising timber prices and subsidies, LEI said.
Norway won’t cut oil production
First published: 22 Oct 2008, 11:41
Støre, who’s been hosting his Algerian counterpart in Oslo this week, said Norway has no plans to cut production.
“Norway makes its own evaluations on an independent basis,” Støre said. He said Norwegian officials “of course” consult others, “but it’s Norway alone that makes these kinds of decisions.”
OPEC is due to meet Friday to discuss ways to boost prices, with production cuts high on the agenda as a means of cutting supply and thereby boosting demand. Algeria chairs OPEC, of which Norway is not a member.
Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil has urged Norway, Russia and Mexico to reduce production in line with OPEC. Algeria’s foreign minister Mourad Medelci said Tuesday that he doubted Norway would let itself be instructed by OPEC.
From a high of nearly USD 150 a barrel last summer, oil prices fell by more than USD 3 on Wednesday, to near their lowest level in 16 months. Prices below USD 70 were tied to mounting worries that production cuts by OPEC itself will not be enough to offset lower energy demand.
Some North Sea crude fell to USD 67.44. “People are just scared that the economy is going down the tube,” Tony Nunan, assistant manager of risk management at Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo, told Reuters. “There is a feeling that we are now going to see problems in the real economy; employment, real estate prices will continue to fall and the big concern now is how much economic growth is going suffer.”
A stronger US dollar means Norway stands to collect higher kroner revenues on every barrel sold, which may offset some of the price decline. There’s no question, though, that high oil prices in recent years fueled the strong economy Norway enjoyed until the international financial crisis erupted. Lower prices will mean far less money flowing into state coffers.
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that oil prices were well below USD 20, and the huge jump to well over USD 100 drove up costs for industry and most consumers. The high prices thus were a source of huge concern and complaints, making it almost ironic that the recent decline to a level that’s still over three times as high as prices once were, is now sparking concern and complaints as well.
Meanwhile, Norwegian oil and gas group StatoilHydro announced a new oil and gas discovery near its Visund field in the North Sea on Wednesday. StatoilHydro said the find in the Pan Pandora prospect was its 20th discovery so far in 2008.
“The area south of Visund has considerable remaining resource potential,” StatoilHydro said. StatoilHydro opeartes the field with partners Total of France, ConocoPhillips of the US and Norway’s state-owned Petoro.
Swedes cool towards ethnic diversity
Published: 24 Oct 08 12:19 CET
Greater numbers of Swedes are expressing hostility towards ethnic diversity, according to a new study.
According to the annual diversity barometer carried out by researchers at Uppsala University, the percentage of the Swedish population with extremely negative attitudes toward ethnic diversity has increased by 50 percent since 2005.
“The extremely negative attitudes are increasing, and we believe it’s in line with what’s happening in Europe. It’s not only older, but also younger who are negative,” said Orlando Mella, a sociology professor from Uppsala University, to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
However, Mella added that in comparison to the rest of Europe, Sweden is generally quite positive toward diversity.
Overall, 5.7 percent of the population in Sweden indicated they have extremely negative attitudes toward diversity, up from 3.8 percent in 2005.
Among men, the instance of negative attitudes has increased from 5.3 to 7.5 percent since 2005.
Unexpectedly, however, the prevalence of negative attitudes toward ethnic diversity among Swedish women has nearly doubled from 2.3 percent to 4.1 percent.
“It’s surprising for us that there are more women in the group [expressing negative attitudes]; that’s not something we expected. Swedish women tend to be quite positive toward diversity,” said Mella.
Despite the growth of unfavourable views towards diversity in Sweden, Mella believes the country is better equipped to integrate immigrant groups than other European countries and that public perceptions of social exclusion among immigrants in Sweden is exaggerated.
“The large number of immigrants are on the way to or currently are being integrated,” she said.
Nevertheless, Mella said that continued growth in the number of Swedes expressing hostility toward ethnic diversity has the potential to affect Swedes’ attitudes more widely, noting that rising unemployment presents a challenge for politicians.
“But we should remember that there aren’t deep ethnic conflicts in Sweden like there are in France or Great Britain,” she said.
October 14, 2008 at 10:22 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Nertherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
Child abuse a national problem
Eight children die as a result of abuse or neglect in Denmark each year, according to the Social Services Board.
Recent statistics released by the National Board of Social Services show that between 600 and 1000 cases of child abuse are registered with the agency each year.
Susanne Dal Gravesen, project leader in the agency’s youth and children’s division, says the figure is at the most conservative end of the scale.
‘The statistics show only the tip of the iceberg. Child abuse typically takes place behind closed doors and is a very taboo issue,’ she said.
Police receive up to 4000 reports of alleged child abuse or neglect nationwide each year, only a fraction of which end up as concrete cases for the Social Services Board.
A recent Rambøll/Jyllands-Posten survey also showed that 8 percent of parents support corporal punishment for children when they misbehave.
Lola Jensen, a family counsellor, said the frustrations of many otherwise reasonable parents simply boil over as children become more and more difficult.
‘Children today generally have less respect for adults, authority, the police and the law,’ said Jensen. ‘I deal with many parents who swore they would never hit their child, but have done so because they felt powerless over the poor upbringing of their child, for which they themselves are responsible.’
The government has recognised the problem and set up the ‘Children from battered families’ programme, which was launched in August and includes a 51 million kroner allocation. But Jensen admits taming the problem is an uphill battle.
‘It will be a long time before our population consists exclusively of children who were never beaten by those that love them the most.’ (rc)
Smoking Shaves a Decade off Men’s Lives
Published 13.10.2008, 17.21
Middle-aged men who don’t smoke live about ten years longer on average than their heavy-smoking peers.
According to research carried out by the University of Helsinki, University of Oulu and the National Public Health Institute, non-smoking men also enjoy a somewhat higher quality of life in their later years.
Some 1,600 men born between the years 1919 and 1934 were included in the study. Their smoking patterns and health risks during the 1970s were analysed.
Dutch want to be in the dark
Tuesday 14 October 2008
A majority of the population would like it to be darker at night as long as this does not affect security, according to research by the environmental organisation Natuur en Milieu.
Some 75% say too much light disturbs nocturnal animals and 82% think it is a waste of energy, reports the Telegraaf.
Nearly half of those questioned complain that artificial light means they cannot see the stars.
According to survey, the Netherlands is one of the most lit up countries in the world, and it gets 3% lighter each year.
‘Lower growth, higher unemployment’
First published: 13 Oct 2008, 11:50
“The international finance crisis will yield clearly weaker growth impulses from abroad than earlier thought,” wrote SSB in its prognosis released at a seminar Monday morning.
SSB researcher Torbjørn Eika said it’s difficult to make predictions, though, given the market volatility unleashed by the financial crisis. He made the following anyway, saying Norway can expect:
a longterm international economic downturn
a decline in the price of raw materials
a decline in investment
weak growth of GNP
lower wage growth
The downturn is likely to continue until 2011, before there may be what Eika called a “moderate” upturn.
He also thinks interest rates will fall again, down to 3.5 percent by the spring of 2010 from 8 percent in 2009. “We assume that the authorities will do what’s needed to gain control over interest rates,” Eika said.
Sweden contemplates alcohol locks for drunk drivers
Published: 10 Oct 08 08:52 CET
A new form of punishment for drunk drivers under consideration in Sweden would allow some offenders to keep their driver’s licences provided they installed an alcohol lock on their vehicles.
A report issued on Thursday by a government commission studying the use of alcohol locks did not propose implementing a general requirement that all new cars be outfitted with an alcohol lock.
The device prevents someone from starting a vehicle if it detects traces of alcohol on the driver’s breath.
The commission explained that a general requirement for alcohol locks could be considered to impede competition, and would thus require approval by European Union authorities in Brussels.
According to the commission’s findings however, a person who has been convicted of drunk driving could then be required to drive using an alcohol lock for one or two years, depending on the severity of the offence.
Other mitigating factors relating to the drunken driving transgression, as well as any diagnoses of alcohol dependence or abuse would also affect the required length of time for using the lock. In order to once again drive a car without the alcohol lock, the offender would have to avoid receiving any traffic citations during the probationary period and pass a test.
People who have their licences revoked after having driven while intoxicated must then request permission to instead drive with an alcohol lock.
The application, which would need to be accompanied by a doctor’s certificate, would be approved if the personal and medical conditions are accepted.
The government is expected to put forward a formal legislative proposal regarding alcohol locks sometime next year.
September 30, 2008 at 9:57 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
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.
September 23, 2008 at 7:39 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
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.
September 16, 2008 at 9:22 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
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.
September 9, 2008 at 7:42 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
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.”
September 2, 2008 at 11:18 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
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.
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.
August 26, 2008 at 7:06 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
Poll: Danes against higher petrol tax
The majority of Danes are against increasing petrol taxes and prefer to see introduction of a road pricing system.
Three out of four Danes are opposed to an increased tax on petrol and diesel, according to a new survey from Børsen financial daily.
As the prime minister has called for environmentally friendly tax reforms, speculation is rife that the tax commission will recommend increased fuel taxes in February.
A survey by the Greens Analysis Institute found that 75 percent of respondents are against increasing fuel taxes, while 68 percent are against increasing energy charges.
However, 46 percent of people would be in favour of replacing the current registration tax with a road pricing system. This could see the introduction of charges per kilometre on vehicles.
Both the Confederation of Danish Industries (DI) and Danish Transport and Logistics (DTL) feel that introducing road pricing would further increase levies on an already struggling transportation industry.
‘We don’t support road pricing, because we see it as a tax on mobility,’ said Michael Svane, head of DI Transport.
The DTL would like to see the government invest more in infrastructure and public transport than create more charges in the industry.
Meanwhile, experts have said that an increased fuel tax would have the greatest benefit for the environment.
Mogens Fosgerau of the Danish Transport Research Institute said that the proposal by the Social Democrats to lower the registration tax on vehicles and substitute another type of road tax would make cars more affordable and put more vehicles on the road.
‘Petrol tax is the best way of regulation to benefit the climate. If you only regulate how far someone drives and how much petrol they use in relation to the norm, then you don’t take into account how someone drives. How fast someone drives or accelerates has a big effect on fuel consumption,’ Fosgerau said. (kr)
Poll: Majority of Finns Say Inequality Rising
Published 25.08.2008, 18.35
Three-fifths of Finns say inequality has increased in Finland in the last decade, according to a poll commissioned by YLE.
Just one-sixth said inequality has decreased.
Many respondents said they were most troubled by a growth in regional inequality. Some 61 percent said they were concerned about deteriorating basic services in sparsely populated areas. Half of those polled said regional policies should strive to improve services in rural areas. Residents of eastern and northern Finland were the most concerned about regional inequality.
Respondents also said they’ve noticed an increase in economic inequality. Over half said tax breaks have benefited those who are already well-off. Meanwhile fifty percent of those polled said a significant number of people are forced to work longer hours just to make ends meet.
Members of the Centre Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Left Alliance were the most concerned about inequality. Just two-fifths of the members of the conservative National Coalition Party said they were worried about rising inequality. Meanwhile over half of the members of Finland’s other political parties said they believe inequality has grown in the past decade.
Pollster TNS Gallup interviewed 1,170 people from across Finland over a five-day period in May and June of this year. The margin of error was three percentage points.
More disappointed at work atmosphere
Friday 22 August 2008
Some 28% of Dutch workers describe the atmosphere at work as not nice, or disappointing, while 24% think it is motivating, according to research by jobs website StepStone.
In Europe as a whole, some 20% of workers are positive about the atmosphere on the work floor.
Murder rate jumps
First published: 25 Aug 2008, 13:51
Ten persons have been murdered in Norway so far this month, with the latest victim being a little boy caught in what police said Monday was an apparent murder-suicide. Last year, the murder rate amounted to 10 during a six-month period.
Police in Østre Toten reported Monday that two persons were found dead in a home at Kapp, on the shores of Lake Mjøsa. The victims included a man and a little boy, and police suspect the man killed his young son and then himself.
“We think this involves a family tragedy,” Jens Petter Værland of the Vest Oppland Police District told Aftenposten.no.
The flag was flying at half-mast at Kapp School, where the little boy had just begun in first grade. Both bodies were being sent for autopsy on Monday.
Police in Heimdal, just south of Trondheim, meanwhile, continued to investigate the execution-style murder of a 46-year-old Norwegian-Somalian man. He was found with five gun-shot wounds near what police believed was his own car on Ringvolveien in Heimdal.
“It sounded like a liquidation,” said one witness who heard the shots around 1:30am Saturday. Police had few clues to pursue and were asking for help from the Somalian community and the public.
The day before, on Friday, a 67-year-old man and his 55-year-old wife were found dead in a house in Hemne. Police have charged their 21-year-old son with the double-homicide.
On August 16, an Italian citizen was stabbed to death in a flat at Nordstrand in Oslo. A 42-year-old man, the former boyfriend of the owner of the flat, is charged in the case, which police believe was fueled by jealousy.
Two children and a woman were also found dead in Oslo’s Grefsen district on August 14. The woman’s 44-year-old husband has been charged with the triple murder. A 61-year-old man and a 73-year-old man were also found dead and believed murdered earlier in the month in Oslo.
Justice Minister Knut Storberget had reported a decline in the murder rate in July, compared to the first half of 2007. The homicide rate in August has turned that trend around.
Abortion increase blamed on declining use of pill
Published: 24 Aug 08 14:04 CET
The number of abortions performed in Sweden increased by 17 between 2000 and 2007. Sale of morning-after pills (ECP) have increased three-fold in Stockholm over the period, Dagens Nyheter reports.
“The declining use of contraception is the most important reason. There is general concern over the use of the contraceptive pill, and abortions and abortion-pills increase as a result,” said Lena Marions senior physician at Karolinska University Hospital to Dagens Nyheter.
Since the morning-after pill became a non-prescription drug in 2001 sales in Sweden have doubled; in Stockholm they have more than tripled to 61,000 doses.
Abortions have also increased and 37,205 operations were carried out in Sweden in 2007, up 20 percent from 30,980 in 2000. In Stockholm 10,259 operations were carried out in 2007, an increase of 6.9 percent on 2006.
The declining popularity of the contraceptive pill is considered by Lena Marions to be the main explanatory factor. The responsibility for protecting against unwanted pregnancies it seems remains with the woman and the use of alternative forms of contraception have not increased sufficiently to compensate.
Figures from the national pharmacy monopoly Apoteket indicate that use of the pill has been in decline since 2005.
Fear of the side effects of the contraceptive pill are to blame for the trend; these fears are exaggerated according to Marions, who is head of the sex and cohabitation clinic (SESAM) at Karolinska University Hospital.
“There is broad concern over the side effects of the contraceptive pill. As soon as the media make a fuss about a blood clot then use of the pill declines dramatically.”
Agneta Zellbi, senior physician at Stockholm South General Hospital (SÖS), concurs in that the main reason for the increase in abortions and the use of morning-after pills is the declining use of the pill but also notes other factors behind the trend.
Zellbi argues that that changes to sexual habits, delayed parenthood, shorter relationships and primarily the woman’s relationship situation at the time of the pregnancy are decisive factors.
Zelbi underlined that there are positive effects to using the pill also.
“It does not affect future fertility and reduces menstrual bleeding and associated pain and even the risk of ovarian cancer,” she told Dagens Nyheter.
August 19, 2008 at 10:57 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark. Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
PM: raise petrol prices
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
August 12, 2008 at 10:57 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
Bullies bring lawyers to school
Primary and secondary school administrators’ efforts to punish students for misbehaviour and truancy is often being met by parents defending their children with lawyers.
More and more parents are fighting schools’ crackdown on truants and bullies by retaining lawyers and threatening lawsuits against the institutions if their children are disciplined, according to Berlingske Tidende newspaper.
A survey taken by the newspaper’s research department found that one in 11 schools – 36 in all – has experienced the dilemma – a development that worries Bertel Haarder, the education minister.
‘It’s a well-known fact that not only the students have become more difficult but also the parents,’ said Haarder. ‘But I strongly discourage the practice of hiring a lawyer in these situations.’
As current ministry rules stand, students from grades 3 to 10 are allowed to be punished by school administrators with up to an hour’s detention, suspension for up to one week, transfer of a student to another class at the school, or relocation of the student to another school. Expulsion can only be used against 10th grade students.
Anders Balle, president of the schoolmasters’ union, understands that parents want to stick up for their children. But he said bringing lawyers into the fold creates a huge challenge for schools. He wants the Education Ministry to draft new regulations that would prevent parents from making school disciplinary cases into legal ones.
But Solveig Gaarsmand, head of the Parents’ Advisory Council, said the schools themselves are often to blame for what she believes is a ‘communication problem’.
‘Parents feel that they’re not being listened to by the schools,’ she said. ‘I believe it’s the schools that have to overcome the barrier – they’re the professionals and they have a duty to see that things function properly.’
Gaarsmand also pointed out that it is not just bullies’ parents who feel the need to retain lawyers but also the parents of children who are being harassed by other students.
‘Many parents feel like the losers in the battle if they have to move their child to another school,’ she said. ‘But there shouldn’t be any battle, and there are limits as to what a child should have to go through.’
‘So in many cases it’s better for the parents to simply move the student to another school.’ (rc)
Traffic Safety Expert Wants Lower BAC for New Drivers
Published 10.08.2008, 17.44
The Central Organisation for Traffic Safety, Liikenneturva, wants to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for young motorists and professional drivers.
The organisation’s director, Matti Järvinen, told the Centre Party’s online paper Apila that he is especially worried about the penchant for young drivers to drive drunk and cause accidents. For the first two years after getting a license, he says, the limit should be lowered from the current 0.05 percent to 0.02 percent BAC.
“The first two years are still a practice phase, and it makes sense to have a lower permille limit during this time,” says Järvinen.
As for repeat drunk drivers, Järvinen feels that social and health workers should be given the tools to get involved and break the habit early. He says this requires better co-operation with police.
Little backing for Amsterdam’s English plan
Monday 11 August 2008
A majority of Amsterdam city councillors are not in favour of making English an official second language, the Parool reported at the weekend.
Last week D66 councillor Jan Paternotte suggested that by becoming bilingual, Amsterdam would become a real ‘world city’ and be more attractive for both tourists and industry.
‘The city is already English enough,’ says Labour councillor Daniël Roos. ‘It would be too much hassle.’
And Socialist councillor Carlien Boelhouwer tells the paper that the suggestion is ‘ridiculous’. ‘Why not go for Moroccan or Turkish?’ she asks, adding that ‘expats could learn a little Dutch as well.’
But Liberal councillor Huub Verweij sees merit in the plan. ‘And then we should adopt the American attitude to service, German discipline, the beauty of northern Scandinavia and a real Liberal government for the city,’ he says on his weblog.
Children safer than ever
First published: 11 Aug 2008, 16:04
The chances of a boy dying of an accident today, is one tenth of what it was 50 years ago.
At the beginning of the 1950’s, more than 55 boys in 100.000, between the ages of one and three, died in accidents. The figure has now come down to six per 100.000 for the same age group. The trend is the same for girls and also applies to toddlers and bigger children, according to Statistics Norway (SSB).
“Even though these results are very good, they may also show that children today live lives where critics may say that they are overprotected,” says SSB sociologist Dag Ellingsen.
Ellingsen notes that life as a child was most dangerous during the 1950’s and 1960’s, when mothers were often at home with their children. He thinks the reason for this was that they would send their children out to play on their own and that the accident figures indicate how children spend their time.
Today, most children under ten, spend most of their time under adult supervision and a lot of play takes place in front of computer screens.
The differences between accident rates for boys and girls are disappearing. Only when children grow into teenagers do differences become visible again.
The causes of death have also changed. In the 1950’s most died by drowning. Towards the end of the 1960’s more died in traffic accidents, whereas the 19 deaths, effecting ten year-olds and younger, in 2005, were evenly divided between drowning, asphyxiation and transport-related accidents.
Swedish pharmacies’ sex toys ‘discriminate against men’
Published: 11 Aug 08 10:06 CET
Swedish state-run pharmacy Apoteket has been reported to the Swedish Equal Opportunities Ombudsman agency JämO for only selling sex toys suitable for women, thus apparently discriminating against men.
As of June this year Swedes have been able to buy sex toys from their local pharmacy, but now the state-run pharmacy chain has been reported by two men who apparently feel insulted and excluded by the wide selection of clitoris vibrators, vagina balls and dildos that are marketed mainly to women.
One of the men complaining wrote that he thought the pharmacy’s selection clearly showed that the pharmacy chain “had a misguided and untrue view on sexuality where a woman with a dildo is seen as liberated, strong and independent, whereas a man with a blow up plastic vagina is viewed as disgusting and perverted.”
Eva Fernvall is head of products at the state-run pharmacy chain and told Expressen newspaper that they had no such thoughts whatsoever.
“As I understand it, there are no products of good quality for men on the market. Should there be such products specifically for men, then there is nothing stopping us from selling them”, she said.
The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman agency JämO has already decided that one of the reports filed has no grounds, and doesn’t discriminate against men.
“Apoteket’s goods are made available to men and women, and therefore Apoteket does not break the law regarding sex discrimination”, JämO writes in its decision.
August 5, 2008 at 3:26 pm (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
Fewer applying to university
A decrease in applications to post-secondary schools is forcing officials to question admission requirements.
This year’s admission figures for further education, released yesterday, and show a dip of 12 percent compared with 2007.
Experts are blaming the drop on increased employment opportunities that encourage would-be students to forego further education. They also fear the admission requirements are not as relevant as they should be.
If a student applies to study a humanities degree at university, they currently require English at a B grade and another foreign language at an A grade. This applies even if the chosen subject does not involve languages.
Helge Sander, the science minister, told Politiken newspaper he wants to see admission requirements reflect the subject choice and hopefully stop the declining rate of applications.
‘It is unbelievably important that we focus on new admission requirements. We need to strengthen the subject knowledge level from the time the student begins their studies to reduce the drop out rate.’ (kr)
Poll: Law Hasn’t Curbed Prostitution
Published 02.08.2008, 15.12 (updated 02.08.2008, 21.30)
The majority of Finns believes that the 2006 partial outlawing of the purchasing of sexual services hasn’t put a damper on prostitution.
Some 60 percent of Finns deem that prostitution has not decreased since the enactment of a law in 2006 that criminalised the purchasing of sexual services in circumstances involving pimping or human trafficking, finds a poll by daily tabloid newspaper Iltalehti.
Seventy-three percent of men would not fully criminalise the procurement of sex, whereas about half of women would like to see a total ban on prostitution enforced, state poll results.
The majority of the people interviewed likened prostitution to exploitation. A third of women said buying sex is equivalent to inflicting abuse; however, only a tenth of the interviewed men held the same opinion.
Over 1,000 people were interviewed in the poll carried out by pollster Taloustutkimus and commissioned by Iltalehti.
90% hospitals struggle financially
Tuesday 05 August 2008
Some 90% of hospitals find it difficult to remain financially healthy, according to a report published by Trouw on Tuesday.
Small hospitals in the Randstad area (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) in particular face an uncertain future, says research agency Strategies in Regulated Markets which examined the annual reports of 77 hospitals.
Small healthcare institutions in the Randstad may not survive if their profit margins do not pick up within the next few years, the researchers told Trouw. ‘They could be taken over by larger hospital groups,’ researcher Jan-Peter Heida told the newspaper.
The survey showed that only 10 of the hospitals studied are making enough profit to survive, while 16 are in the red. The rest make a profit, but less than the 2.5% which Heida believes is necessary to ensure financial security.
Heida also said that the free market will eventually solve some of the problems as hospitals will become more competitive by specialising in certain treatments.
Four out of ten cheat the tax man
First published: 04 Aug 2008, 17:41
Higher income groups aged 40 to 59 are most likely to avoid paying tax when buying goods and services.
Four out of ten think it’s OK to pay cash and avoid tax if they need odd jobs done around the home or the “hytte”. The same proportion of the population say they have avoided tax, according to a recent study by Synovate on behalf of the Tax Payer’s Association.
“Tax evasion is more acceptable to women and moderately affluent income groups,” says Association boss, Jon Stordrange.
Despite campaigns to limit tax cheating, attitudes remain the same as in studies carried out in 2006 and 2007.
Stordrange thinks that tax rules have to be made simpler if people who clean and baby-sit are going to pay tax. He also wants the tax free limit raised from NOK 2.000 to NOK 10.000 (From USD 400 to USD 2.000).
“That way a retiree could hire his neighbour to paint his fence or remove the snow and still have a clear conscience,” says Stordrange.
Job loss insurance plans shed 500,000 members
Published: 4 Aug 08 17:03 CET
An estimated half million Swedes have left unemployment insurance funds (a-kassa) in the last two years, leading some to worry about the effects of potential job losses that may result from Sweden’s slowing economy.
“3.8 million members have become 3.3 million,” said Peter Schönfeld from the Swedish Federation of Unemployment Insurance Funds (Arbetslöshetskassornas Samorganisation – SO) to the E24 economic news website.
Since coming to power in 2006, Sweden’s centre-right Alliance government has made a number of changes to the rules governing the country’s unemployment insurance programmes.
Fees have been raised and income replacement levels lowered, resulting in a 13 percent reduction in the number of people choosing to participate in the programmes.
The new rules have also made it harder to attract students, who usually help replace members who retire.
Schönfeld explained that the loss in membership is significantly greater than the usual loss of 80,000 to 100,000 members who leave unemployment insurance funds every year.
He estimates that the between 30,000 and 40,000 have chosen not to sign on to some form of unemployment insurance scheme, leaving them vulnerable in the case of layoffs as they lack any form of income replacement.
The higher fees have also caused larger numbers of workers near retirement age to leave the plans, either because they don’t have the means to pay the new fees or because they don’t fulfill the new criteria for income replacement.
“The hotel and restaurant employee’s unemployment insurance fund has lost nearly 30 percent since October 2006,” said Schönfeld.
“[Many] are low-paid and many have few working hours, and many are perhaps unsure of whether they would receive any income replacement.”
Elsewhere, Småföretagarna, the fund for small business owners, and the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel), have lost 25 percent and 30 percent of their members, respectively.
Workers who aren’t a member of any unemployment insurance scheme but have been employed full time for at least one year are eligible for basic income replacement of 320 kronor ($53) a day.
The government has plans to introduce obligatory unemployment insurance, set to take effect in 2010, which would cover 4.2 million Swedes.
Plans for the new scheme have yet to be finalized, however.
August 5, 2008 at 2:37 pm (Norway, OECD, Statistic)
Tags: birth, Norway, TFR
Year / TFR
1986 — 1.710
1987 — 1.745
1988 — 1.841
1989 — 1.887
1990 — 1.932
1991 — 1.918
1992 — 1.885
1993 — 1.860
1994 — 1.865
1995 — 1.869
1996 — 1.889
1997 — 1.857
1998 — 1.814
1999 — 1.845
2000 — 1.851
2001 — 1.784
2002 — 1.754
2003 — 1.797
2004 — 1.828
2005 — 1.836
2006 — 1.904
2007 — 1.901
Source: Norway Statistic
July 15, 2008 at 6:57 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
Denmark slides in affluence ranking
OECD figures show Denmark’s GDP has been overtaken by other countries.
Denmark fell to 11th place in May 2008 from 7th place in 1996 in terms of gross domestic product per capita, adjusted for purchasing power, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Although Denmark has had a strong economy, falling unemployment and rising private consumption, its GDP per capita was overtaken by Canada, Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands in the period from 1996 to 2008.
The OECD also sees economic growth in Denmark reaching only one percent a year from 2010 to 2014 – the lowest growth rate among the organisation’s 30 member states. This means that Denmark’s GDP growth will be overtaken by Sweden and Britain.
‘There is a very large group who could be active in the labour market, but who receive transfer incomes because they are ill or on early retirement, or who receive other welfare benefits,’ said Jens Lundsgaard, who heads the OECD’s office for Denmark and Sweden.
‘This means that the overall number of people available for work is not as high as we believe. In addition, we don’t work as many hours as in other countries.’ Productivity is also comparatively low, he added. (mdl)
Half a Million People in Finland Feel Discrimination
Published 11.07.2008, 18.27 (updated 11.07.2008, 18.28)
Over half a million people in Finland have experienced discrimination, according to a Eurobarometer study. Some 15 percent of the population says they were discriminated against last year.
Discrimination due to age and gender was the most widespread. A large portion of ethnic minorities also felt discriminated against.
Nearly two-thirds of Finns say they know their rights if they are discriminated against. Throughout the EU, that number was on average just one-third.
Finns also say they are satisfied with government’s programmes to prevent discrimination. Nearly two-thirds say the government does enough to stop discrimination. Again, in the EU, that number was just one-third.
Neighbourly Feelings Don’t Extend to Roma
The poll also asked respondents how they would feel if a member of an ethnic minority moved next door. A large number of Finns say they would be disturbed if a member of the Roma community became their neighbour.
However, according to the research, Finns are more often friends or acquaintances with Roma than EU citizens are on average. In addition, nearly half of Finns have an acquaintance who is an immigrant or a member of an ethnic minority. Throughout the EU, that number is slightly higher — or 55 percent of the population.
Seventy percent of Finns have friends or acquaintances with different religions or beliefs. That number in the EU is 60 percent. Some 1,000 people in Finland participated in the survey carried out in February-March of this year.
Survey backs Dutch only in public
Monday 14 July 2008
Some 66% of the native Dutch think people who live in the Netherlands should only speak Dutch on the street, according to a survey by MCA Communicatie for De Pers newspaper.
Men are keener on Dutch than women: 76% of men think other languages should be ruled out, compared with 56% of women.
The paper does not make it clear if people think speaking Dutch should be enforced by law, or that it is simply preferable.
The paper says ‘the good news’ is that younger immigrants are more in favour of speaking Dutch on the streets than their parents. Nevertheless, the large majority of newcomers think they should be free to speak which ever language they like, De Pers says.
Meanwhile, the Volkskrant reports that special classes at primary school for children who need help with Dutch are proving a success. The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam began experimenting with the extra classes two years ago.
‘Children whose Dutch is not well-developed are followed by it their entire school career,’ said The Hague’s education executive Sander Dekker. ‘These classes are a first-class way of dealing with that.’
Researcher urges more complaining in Norway
First published: 14 Jul 2008, 16:30
Norwegians often criticize themselves for being too quick to complain when they don’t receive the goods or services they expect. Wrong, claims a Norwegian researcher. He doesn’t think his compatriots complain enough.
“It varies from branch to branch, but research shows that more than 80 percent of (Norwegians) don’t complain when they’re dissatisified with something,” Bård Tronvoll, a lecturer at the College of Hedmark, told newspaper Aftenposten.
That’s too bad, Tronvoll maintains, because complaints can be positive. “By making it easy for customers to complain, companies can learn what’s wrong and use the opportunity to make it right,” said Tronvoll, who holds a doctorate degree in the subject of service.
Foreigners in Norway may tend to agree with Tronvoll. While Norwegians often accuse each other of complaining and never being satisfied — here’s even an expression for it, en kulture of sutring (a culture of whining) — outsiders often have a different impression.
Many of Aftenposten’s non-Norwegian readers, for example, have sent in comments over the years, bemoaning “Norwegian passivity.” Norwegians, they claim, merely accept everything from the country’s high prices, to the varying quality of produce in the market to the huge role the state plays in many aspects of human life.
“Sometimes I want to want to scream to my fellow shoppers in the grocery store, ‘why do you put up with this??'” wrote one immigrant from the US who had moved to a town on Norway’s southern coast a few years ago and was still reeling from the effects of sticker shock combined with a limited variety of goods on offer and poor, often unfriendly, service at the cash register.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, after all, and honest feedback from customers can boost business, Tronvoll believes.
“If customers don’t have a means of effectively complaining, they’ll simply be dissatisfied and have a poor impression of the business,” he said. “And they’ll pass on that impression to others.”
A recent survey conducted by research firm Synovate for an organization that promotes higher levels of service, HSMAI, found that the retail and travel branches scored slightly higher than the bank and indsurance branch and much higher than public services and the high tech/telecoms branches. But none of them scored much better than average.
“That’s not good enough, and there’s no excuse for it,” said Per Morten Hoff, secretary general of the information technology association IKT-Norge.
As Ingunn Hofseth of HSMAI put it: “Complaints aren’t a problem, it’s how they’re handled,” she said. “And here in Norway, we have a lot to learn.”
Study: violence increasing on streets of Stockholm
Published: 15 Jul 08 08:42 CET
Street violence in Stockholm is rising, according to a study by Stockholm South General Hospital (Södersjukhuset).
The study is based on data gathered over several years on patients admitted to the hospital’s emergency room.
“We have more injuries resulting from violence than we have heart attacks, and we have the most heart attacks of any hospital in the entire country,” said the hospital’s Sören Sanz, who authored the report, to Sveriges Radio.
While the study also reveals that there are fewer patients being admitted with knife and gunshot wounds, that doesn’t necessarily indicate that Stockholm’s streets are any less violent.
Rather than firearms and knives, attackers instead cut their victims with broken bottles, or kick them violently.
Kicking wounds have increased roughly six-fold since 2000, now accounting for nearly 45 percent of emergency room admissions due to violent injuries.
July 8, 2008 at 11:32 am (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
Poll: ban outdoor smoking
The nation that up until a few years ago had one of the most relaxed attitudes towards smoking is now ready to force smokers even further into a corner.
After resisting smoking bans while other European and North American implemented increasingly strict restrictions on lighting up indoors, Danes are ready to enact bans against outdoor smoking in public places, according to a poll carried out by weekly publication Mandag Morgen.
Nearly a year after a national ban on smoking in all indoor workplaces – including bars and restaurants – went into effect, the poll found 46 percent of Danes favour a ban against smoking in outdoor areas such as sidewalk cafés. Thirty-six percent said they were against such a measure.
Concerns about the effects of second-hand smoke were the primary reason many supported the ban.
Inge Hanustrup Clemmensen of the Danish Cancer Society said that even though studies show second-hand smoke present a health hazard, an outdoor smoking ban was neither practical nor necessary.
‘I’d rather see people show courtesy and not smoke in places where there are a lot of people gathered. The poll shows that people don’t want to be bothered by smoke outside, and it would be best if it became a custom that you just don’t expose others to second-hand smoke.’
Fact file | Smoking in Denmark
– The most recent revisions to laws against smoking in indoor public places went into effect on 15 August 2007.
– Smoking is banned in the vast majority of indoor public spaces
– The 2007 law specifically names workplaces, hospitals, schools, childcare centres and taxis as areas where smoking is not permitted
– Bars measuring less than 40m2 that do not serve food are exempt from the ban
– According to recent estimates 25 percent of Danes over 13 years smoke every day
– 12,000 Danes die annually from smoking-related illnesses (km)
Food Costs Rising at Far Beyond European Average
Published 05.07.2008, 18.51
The cost of food in Finland has risen far more in the past year than the European average. Groceries are nearly ten percent more expensive than a year ago, while the European average has risen only by 6.4 percent.
Only a year ago consumers in Finland felt relief that food costs were rising far slower than in the rest of Europe. Now costs have leapt by 9.5 percent.
The rising price tag on dairy and meat products has been the biggest factor in the overall rise in food costs. For example, the cost of Edam cheese has increased by around 20 percent and the cost of fat-free milk by 25 percent.
A joint of beef is now a fifth more expensive, and wheat flour is more than 40 percent more expensive than a year ago.
Prices Driving Inflation
Statistics Finland development director Ilkka Lehtinen says that the rising cost of food is responsible for a third of the inflation experienced in Finland.
“For a long time the effect of food on inflation was minimal, almost nonexistent, but now the situation is far different than it has been in many years,” says Lehtinen.
But experts cannot agree on exactly why the cost of food has risen so quickly in the past year. One factor in certainly the rising cost of fuel, which is used in abundance to produce any food in such a relatively cold climate. But this alone doesn’t account for the increases.
Some experts believe that retailers have upped prices to increase their own profit margin, other blame the industry producers. Taxation on food is also higher in Finland than the European average.
Donald Duck tops student’s reading list
Tuesday 08 July 2008
One in ten Dutch students reads the weekly comic Donald Duck, making it the most popular magazine among college and university goers, according to research by marketing bureau StudentServices.
When they are not enjoying Donald’s adventures, students spend three hours a day watching television and five and a half hours on the internet, the research shows, according to news agency ANP.
The research also shows that sme 40% of female and 52% of male students still live at home. They spend between 25.5 and 27 hours a week studying and 10 hours a week working. Some 71% of the 1,775 students polled say they are never overdrawn and 64% have not borrowed money to be able to study.
Immigrants keep Oslo going
First published: 07 Jul 2008, 14:38
New figures from the City of Oslo indicate that every fourth resident of Norway’s capital has a non-Norwegian background. They may have come from Sweden, the USA, Vietnam or Gambia, and they’re playing an important role in the job market and the culture.
“Without the immigrants who work hard and do a great job, we could just forget trying to keep the restaurant branch going,” said the boss of the company canteen at the large German industrial concern Siemens.
Of the 10 persons working in Siemens’ canteen, for example, only two were born in Norway. The others come from Denmark, Sweden, Pakistan, Mexico, Gambia, Turkey, Morocco and Kosovo. All contend that they don’t really think about the international diversity.
“But we do talk a bit about the countries we come from, said Yaya Jallow Olsen from Gambia.
“And we laugh a lot together and have fun on the job,” added Lene Halstvedt from Denmark.
“We learn a lot from each other,” confirmed Yonus Kaplan from Turkey.
New data from the city and state statistics bureau SSB shows that of Oslo’s 560,484 residents, 137,878 are immigrants. That’s up from 85,550 in 1998, when the city had a population of 499,693 and immigrants made up 17 percent, not the 24.5 percent today.
The largest single immigrant group continues to be from Pakistan, with 20,313 living in Oslo. Next in line is Somalia, with 9,708 immigrants and Sweden, with 7,462. Other countries with relatively large immigrant groups in Oslo include Sri Lanka, Poland, Iraq, Turkey, Vietnam, Iran and Denmark. Eastern Europeans as a whole make up nearly as large a group of immigrants as those from Pakistan, with 19,721 registered as living in Oslo.
Foreigners also make up a fairly large portion of the population in Stavanger, where many expatriates are working in the oil and offshore industries.
Erling Lae, head of Oslo’s Municipal Executive Board, is pleased with the amount of foreigners in the capital. “When every fourth resident has a foreign background, I ask myself what the city would look like if they weren’t here,” Lae told newspaper Aften. “Oslo would have been in a deep crisis.
“It doesn’t matter where they’re coming from, but that they’re doing well and have a job. And most do.”
House prices ‘will keep falling’
Published: 8 Jul 08 10:18 CET
House prices are set to continue falling in many parts of Sweden during the autumn, according to a new report from mortgage lender SBAB. Apartments and houses in Gothenburg and Malmö will fall in value during the third quarter, while prices in Stockholm are set to remain stable, the report says.
The dampened housing market means that the difference between asking prices and sale prices will get smaller and that homes will take longer to sell.
Real estate agents blame the fall in prices on the large number of homes for sale combined with weak demand. Further rises in interest rates from the Riksbank could lead to a further fall in demand.
“Estate agents are expecting the housing market to remain weak in the third quarter. The time it takes to sell, which has already become significantly longer, is expected to get longer still. Bidding on properties is also expected to continue to get weaker, particularly in Stockholm,” wrote Tor Borg, SBAB analyst, in a statement.
SBAB based its report on a survey of 220 estate agents taken between 9th and 23rd June.
July 2, 2008 at 7:48 am (Denmark, Finland, Health, Norway, OECD, Statistic, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Norway, skin cancer, Sweden
A comparison of death cases by skin cancer reported in Scandinavia countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden from year 1997 to 2005:
Death rate by skin cancer per 100 000 population:
June 29, 2008 at 3:16 pm (Health, Norway, OECD, Statistic)
Tags: Health, Norway, skin cancer
Death caused by C43-C44 Melanoma and other malignant neoplasms of skin in Norway from year 1970 to 2005:
Sources: Statistic Norway
June 24, 2008 at 2:42 pm (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden)
Tags: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, News, Norway, Sweden
More find work after loss of social security
New rules introduced last year have forced more people into finding work after they lost their right to social security
A third of social security recipients, who lost their right to payments after a rule change, have now found work. Another 45 percent who lost their benefits are currently job seeking, according to a new study from the National Centre for Social Research and the Institute of Governmental Research.
The social security rules for married couples changed in April 2007. Couples where both partners were receiving social security payments had to have 300 hours of employment in the past two years, or risk one of them losing their benefits.
The new rule hit many immigrant families hard, with people born outside of Denmark making up 95 percent of those who lost their payments. Almost 700 people have lost their right to social security since last year.
However, the researchers feel that the rule change has helped some immigrant women to look for work outside of the home.
‘Many have been cut off from the workplace because of cultural reasons, but not all have chosen it to be so. For some immigrant women the 300-hours rule has been an argument that they can use over their partner,’ said Kræn Blume Jensen from the Institute of Governmental Research.
Even though a third of those affected have now found work some feel that the other two thirds are being abandoned by the social system, especially those who cannot work the 300 hours due to ill health.
‘Social politics in Denmark has always helped those who have been sick and unable to work. With the 300-hours rule, we are doing the opposite and pulling the economic security net from beneath them,’ said Bettina Post from the Association of Social Workers to public broadcaster DR.
The consequences for families where social security payments are taken away from one person, who is already unable to work, can be very serious. Over half had to borrow money from family and friends.
‘They don’t pay, what they can refrain from paying and some are cutting it very close when it comes to affording rent, electricity, gas and phone bills,’ said Henning Bach, a member of the research team to DR. (kr)
Shoplifting Hits Record Levels
Published 24.06.2008, 06.50
Police received a record number of reports of incidents of shoplifting last year, writes the newspaper Aamulehti.
According to Aamulehti, police received 45 000 reports of thefts from shops and shoplifting. In addition, large numbers of attempted thefts were handled by shops without involving the authorities.
The value of goods stolen is estimated in excess of one hundred million euros. The most common items taken by shoplifters are perfumes, expensive items of clothing, and electronics goods. Beer is also a favourite with Finnish shoplifters.
The report says that the number of incidents of theft from shops has risen by a quarter over the past decade. A retailers’ association working group is currently considering whether retailers can prevent additional crimes by identifying previous offenders to their colleagues and preventing them from entering shops.
Paternal leave on political agenda
Tuesday 24 June 2008
MPs will today debate a proposal by green party GroenLinks to increase the statutory paternity leave following the birth of a new baby from two days to two weeks.
MPs are evenly divided on the issue; the ruling Christian Democrats and ChristenUnie are opposed, alongside the Liberals (VVD). The left-of-centre parties and D66 back the plan.
The Volkskrant reports that the nine MPs of the anti-immigration PVV hold the key and are not revealing their voting intentions.
Employers are against the extra leave for new fathers, saying it will cost them € 200m a year.
Poor English skills plague politicians, and their listeners
First published: 24 Jun 2008, 11:43
Some top Norwegian politicians speak such poor English that they risk losing influence as they stumble through prepared speeches or try to express themselves to foreigners, claims a professor at the University of Oslo. He thinks it’s downright embarrassing.
Bernt Hagtvedt, a professor of political science at the University of Oslo, is tired of listening to Norwegian politicians speak broken English when addressing foreign audiences.
Hagtvedt is convinced that their lack of English proficiency damages Norway’s effectiveness in putting forth its positions on important international issues.
“When their grammar, nuances and vocabulary are so deficient that it adversely affects understanding, we have a problem,” Hagtvedt told NRK on its national morning radio broadcast.
He claimed that even though children in Norway are taught English in the schools, it’s “a problem that many Norwegians think they are fluent in English,” when they’re not.
“We speak a simple English, with 700-800 words we know,” Hagtvedt said. “And we don’t even try to pronounce them correctly.”
He called Norwegians’ lack of English proficiency “an illustration of a general laziness in Norway. We’re not concerned with standards, and have no interest in striving for anything beyond what we already know.”
Asked whether he gets embarrassed when he hears Norwegian politicians speak, he responded with an immediate “Yes!”
Hagtvedt said it’s “abundantly clear that we must improve knowledge of English in the schools. And we should expect that broadcasters, politicians and other top government officials work on their English.”
Some have. Many, including former cabinet minister Anne Enger Lahnstein when she was in office, have attended language schools in England. And several politicians over the years have exhibited an impressive command of English (former foreign aid minister Hilde Frafjord Johnsen comes to mind) and several other languages as well. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, for example, can move seemingly effortlessly from Norwegian to English to French.
Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was thoroughly embarrassed after he spoke of writing in his “day book” (a literal translation of the Norwegian word for diary, dagbok) after meeting former US President Bill Clinton.
“It’s clear that language is power,” said Hagtvedt. “My simple point is, ‘work on it!’”
Study: Swedish teens ‘more stressed out’ at school
Published: 24 Jun 08 12:19 CET
Swedish 15-year-olds feel more pressure in school than their counterparts in other countries.
In addition, fewer Swedish 15-year-olds say that they like going to school compared with youth elsewhere.
And Swedish young people also report suffering from headaches and feeling down to a greater extent than those of a comparable age in other countries.
The findings come from a study carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) which looked at the health and well-being of young people in 41 industrialized countries.
The Swedish study included in the report was presented by the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (SNIPH) two years ago.
The comparison shows that Swedish children feel rather well overall, but the situation for 15-year-olds deviates from the pattern, which is a cause for concern.
“It is to a large extent the 15-year-old girls which report that being stressed out and not feeling well. The situation looks similar in other countries. One explanation could be that the girls feel greater demands on them to do their schoolwork, while at the same time feeling the pressure of demands on their appearance and demands that they maintain their social relationships,” said Lilly Eriksson, an investigator with SNIPH.
“The study shows that younger Swedish children feel better than the average of similar aged children in other countries. Swedish 11-year-olds are clearly better than the average in other countries and 13-year-olds are also in good shape,” said Eriksson.
June 19, 2008 at 8:10 am (Health, Norway, OECD, Statistic)
Tags: Health, Heterosexual, HIV, MSM, Norway
New HIV infection cases diagnosed by man sex with man (MSM) and heterosexual contact, percentage (%) in Norway from year 1997 to 2006:
Year : MSM Cases ( % MSM )
1997 — 34 ( 29.1 )
1998 — 29 ( 28.7 )
1999 — 33 ( 23.9 )
2000 — 32 ( 19.2 )
2001 — 37 ( 23.0 )
2002 — 33 ( 16.2 )
2003 — 51 ( 22.9 )
2004 — 77 ( 28.3 )
2005 — 51 ( 25.4 )
2006 — 88 ( 32.5 )
Year : Heterosexual ( % Heterosexual )
1997 — 64 ( 54.7 )
1998 — 62 ( 61.4 )
1999 — 88 ( 63.8 )
2000 — 123 ( 73.7 )
2001 — 112 ( 69.6 )
2002 — 150 ( 73.5 )
2003 — 149 ( 66.8 )
2004 — 168 ( 61.8 )
2005 — 128 ( 63.7 )
2006 — 158 ( 58.3 )
1. WHO – European health for all database (HFA-DB)
2. Europe – HIV
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