Category Archives: Scandinavia

Putin Warns Finland Against Joining NATO

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Following a meeting with his Finnish counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement warning Finland against joining NATO, warning that such a move would mean the end of Russia keeping its troops 1,500 km from their mutual border.

Putin cautioned that in joining Finland would overnight put NATO at the borders of the Russian Federation, adding that “NATO would gladly fight with Russia until the last Finnish soldier,” but that neither Finland nor Russia would benefit from such a thing.

A Finnish government report from back in April was also cautious about the idea of joining NATO, warning it would lead to a “crisis” with Russia, potentially a really economically harmful one for the Finns, who trade heavily with Russia.

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Former Norwegian Minister: British Have Nothing to Fear Voting Brexit

Anne Tvinnereim, former Norwegian government minister, says there is nothing for the British to fear from leaving the European Union and they should vote to leave if they want to. (BBC Daily Politics)

Iceland’s Pirate Party Gains Popularity After Prime Minister Walks the Plank over “Panama Papers”: Interview with Birgitta Jónsdóttir

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman talk to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament and an unofficial leader of the Pirate Party, which has seen a surge of support following the publication of the Panama Papers. Polls show it is now the country’s most popular party with 43 percent support. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Stationing Tanks and Artillery In Cold War-Era Norwegian Caves

Ryan Browne reports for CNN:

Marines are prepositioning battle tanks, artillery and logistics equipment inside Norwegian caves as the U.S. pushes to station equipment near the NATO-Russia frontier.

“Any gear that is forward-deployed both reduces cost and speeds up our ability to support operations in crisis, so we’re able to fall in on gear that is ready-to-go and respond to whatever that crisis may be,” Col. William Bentley, operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said in a statement Friday on the Norwegian deployment that called the caves classified.

The deployment of new equipment to the Cold War-era caves comes amid renewed tensions between NATO and Russia. Russia shares a 121.6-mile long border with Norway. The border was heavily militarized during the Cold War, and the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet is in Murmansk, about 100 miles from the border.

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U.S. Government Jet Lay In Wait For Edward Snowden In Copenhagen

David Crouch reports for The Guardian:

A US government jet was lying in wait in Copenhagen to extradite the whistleblower Edward Snowden if he had come to Scandinavia after fleeing to Moscow in June 2013, the Danish government has revealed.

The twin-engined Gulfstream aircraft, which had previously been used to fly Abu Hamza to the US from the UK, landed shortly before the FBI called on Scandinavian police forces to arrest Snowden and hand him over for extradition.

Søren Pind, the justice minister, wrote to Danish MPs: “The purpose of the aircraft’s presence in Copenhagen airport is most likely to have been to have the opportunity to transport Edward Snowden to the United States if he had been handed over from Russia or another country.”

This week, Pind confirmed to the Danish parliament that the aircraft had been given high-level permission to land in Copenhagen, but said he did not know the purpose of its visit.

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Freeing Julian Assange: The Last Chapter

John Pilger writes:

JA.jpg[…] The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden. The Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape” and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and “railroading” her, protesting she “did not want to accuse JA of anything”. A second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.

The Assange case is rooted across the Atlantic in Pentagon-dominated Washington, obsessed with pursuing and prosecuting whistleblowers, especially Assange for having exposed, in WikiLeaks, US capital crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of civilians and a contempt for sovereignty and international law.  None of this truth-telling is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”.

Obama, the betrayer,  has since prosecuted more whistleblowers than all the US presidents combined. The courageous Chelsea Manning is serving 35 years in prison, having been tortured during her long pre-trial detention.

The prospect of a similar fate has hung over Assange like a Damocles sword. According to documents released by Edward Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. Vice-President Joe Biden has called him a “cyber terrorist”. In Alexandra, Virginia, a secret grand jury has attempted to concoct a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted in a court. Even though he is not an American, he is currently being fitted up with an espionage law dredged up from a century ago when it was used to silence conscientious objectors during the First World War; the Espionage Act has provisions of both life imprisonment and the death penalty.

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The Arctic and the Next Not-So-Cold War: Interview with James Bamford

Amy Goodman talks to investigative journalist James Bamford about his recent article: “Frozen Assets: The Newest Front in Global Espionage is One of the Least Habitable Locales on Earth—the Arctic.” Bamford is the author of a number of books including Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency and The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. (Democracy Now!)

Frozen Assets: Inside the Spy War for Control of the Arctic

James Bamford writes for Foreign Policy:

Arctic Circle Map[…] Worth an estimated $17.2 trillion, an amount roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. economy, these resources have been trapped for eons under a dome of ice and snow. But now, with the Arctic warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, that dome is getting smaller and smaller. According to scientists at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center, about 65 percent of the ice layer above the Lomonosov Ridge melted between 1975 and 2012. In layman’s terms, says Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, this means one thing: The ice cap is in a “death spiral.”

For the countries that border the Arctic Ocean—
Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark (through its territory of Greenland)—an accessible ocean means new opportunities. And for the states that have their sights set on the Lomonosov Ridge—possibly all five Arctic Ocean neighbors but the United States—an open ocean means access to much of the North Pole’s largesse. First, though, they must prove to the United Nations that the access is rightfully theirs. Because that process could take years, if not decades, these countries could clash in the meantime, especially as they quietly send in soldiers, spies, and scientists to collect information on one of the planet’s most hostile pieces of real estate.

While the world’s attention today is focused largely on the Middle East and other obvious trouble spots, few people seem to be monitoring what’s happening in the Arctic. Over the past few years, in fact, the Arctic Ocean countries have been busy building up their espionage armories with imaging satellites, reconnaissance drones, eavesdropping bases, spy planes, and stealthy subs. Denmark and Canada have described a clear uptick in Arctic spies operating on their territories, with Canada reporting levels comparable to those at the height of the Cold War. As of October, NATO had recorded a threefold jump in 2014 over the previous year in the number of Russian spy aircraft it had intercepted in the region. Meanwhile, the United States is sending satellites over the icy region about every 30 minutes, averaging more than 17,000 passes every year, and is developing a new generation of unmanned intelligence sensors to monitor everything above, on, and below the ice and water.

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Lessons from Iceland’s “pots and pans revolution”

Philip England writes for The Independent:

[…] Whether nationalising banks, jailing bankers, imposing controls on the movement of capital out of the country or holding two national referendums on whether or not to pay back foreign debtors, Iceland’s response to their devastating financial crash bucked all trends. Yet, six years later, the approach seems to have been a resounding success. In March, the IMF praised Iceland for being “one of the top economic performers in Europe over the past several years in terms of economic growth [with] one of the lowest unemployment rates”, and for being on course to pay back its IMF loans early.

However, since May 2013 the right-wing parties that set the conditions for the banking crisis have been back in power and some worry that they may be reverting to their old ways. Earlier this month the government proposed lifting capital controls by the end of the year (but said it would impose a one-off 39 per cent tax on investors withdrawing their money from the country). If Iceland sees a return to crony capitalism, then the economic bounce-back could be a short-lived phenomenon.

In the long run then, what may turn out to be a more significant outcome of the revolution is the cluster of citizens’ initiatives that emerged, dedicated to improving the way democracy works. Rather than focusing on banking reform, the post-revolution push from Icelandic civil society has been on fundamental democratic reform. The logic runs: why treat the symptoms of a system that has become corrupt when you can tackle the disease itself?’

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Sweden “ruled by unelected policy plotters”

From The Local:

'Sweden is ruled by unelected policy plotters'[…] There are many ideas about the causes of this crisis of confidence for Swedish democracy’s central institutions. In a recently completed research project at the Institute for Future Studies (Institutet för framtidsstudier) we have chosen to investigate a largely unknown category of political powerbrokers whom we have chosen to label ‘the policy professionals’. These are people who are neither elected nor selected by the members of, for example, a large trade union, but are hired to conduct politics. They can be found virtually everywhere in the political system, for example in government and parliament offices, within the political parties, in local authorities, in trade unions and other lobby organizations as well as, not least, at PR firms and so called think tanks. They have a plethora of different titles: common ones are policial expert, press officer, political secretary, head of social policy, speech writer, communications director and so on.

It is true that people of this kind have long existed in our political system, ever since former Prime Minister Olof Palme was hired as secretary to the sitting Prime Minister at the time, Tage Erlander, in 1953. What has happened over the past two decades is that this group has grown to such an extent that one can speak of this as a qualitatively new means of political influence. To quantify the group is not easy, but according to our estimate it today includes at least 2,500 people. For the past ten years, a Swedish Prime Minister has had more political appointees in his government offices than the number of parliament MPs needed to run the country. Our investigation shows that this is a group that exerts a significant but largely invisible influence on Swedish politics. This is by no means a group that only serves its elected officials but they participate directly, and often on their own initiative, in the formulation of policies, proposals and strategies.’

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October 24, 1975: 90% of Icelandic women went on strike

women striking in Reykjavik, Iceland, 1975

‘On Oct. 24, 1975, 90% of Icelandic women went on strike, refusing to do any work at their homes or their jobs. It was the largest demonstration in the nation’s history and shut down the entire country. Airports were closed, schools were closed, and hospitals couldn’t function. The strike had an immediate and lasting impact. The following year, Iceland’s Parliament (now half women) passed a law guaranteeing women equal pay and paid maternity leave. Four years later, Iceland elected the world’s first female President. And today, Iceland has the highest gender equality in the world.’ (US Uncut)

Witness Says Cartoonist Was The Main Target In Copenhagen Shooting

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten says it won’t print Prophet cartoons

Reuters reports:

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which angered Muslims by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad 10 years ago, will not republish Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons due to security concerns, the only major Danish newspaper not to do so.

“It shows that violence works,” the newspaper stated in its editorial on Friday.

Denmark’s other major newspapers have all republished cartoons from the French satirical weekly as part of the coverage of the attack which killed 12 people in Paris on Wednesday.

Many other European newspapers also republished Charlie Hebdo cartoons to protest against the killings.’

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Co-founder of Pirate Bay says it should stay closed

Daniel Cooper reports for Engadget:

‘Earlier this week, Sweden’s police took down The Pirate Bay, the world’s most contentious torrent site. One person who won’t be mourning the closure is co-creator Peter Sunde, who would be happier if the site never came back. Just one month after being released from prison, Sunde took to his blog to describe his disillusionment with what the website had grown to represent and its “distasteful” adverts.

TPB may have been founded with an anarchic spirit, but Sunde feels that successive owners did nothing to improve the site or help its community. In addition to the website become “ugly” and “full of bugs,” it became plastered with adverts for porn and viagra that, when he felt couldn’t get any more “distasteful, they somehow ended up even worse.”‘

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The siege of Julian Assange is a farce

John Pilger writes:

Czu.jpg[…] Ny has never properly explained why she will not come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, the Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US before the European Arrest Warrant was issued.

Perhaps an explanation is that, contrary to its reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had been in Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.

The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up; and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables.’

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Norway’s military conscription becomes gender neutral

DW reports:

‘The Norwegian Parliament on Tuesday adopted necessary amendments to extend mandatory military service to women. It’s the first peacetime European or NATO country to extend compulsory conscription to all citizens, regardless of gender.

Women will now likely face one year of military service from the summer of 2016.’

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Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee considers changes

Saila Huusko reports for Al Jazeera:

‘Alfred Nobel’s will, which set up guidelines for the prize, said it is to be awarded each year to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace and congresses.”

In recent years, however, the committee has been criticized over several decisions — such as awarding the 2009 prize to U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration has ramped up its drone program.

Some critics have accused committee members of letting domestic party politics influence their decisions, putting pressure on the decision-making body to help restore credibility to the prize by opening to a more diverse panel of judges. Suggestions have been made to include, for example, civil society figures or well-known international humanitarians on the committee.

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Does NATO’s Outgoing Head Have Kurdish Skeletons in His Closet?

teleSur reports:

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a news conference in September, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)‘The secret story of how the outgoing head of the most powerful military alliance landed his job “has everything,” according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“It has the Kurds. It has the destruction of an entire TV station. Corrupt deals between intelligence agencies and the judiciary. The corruption of a Scandinavian country, Denmark. And the head of that country, the prime minister, doing a corrupt deal to get his job,” Assange told teleSUR English in an exclusive interview.

Continuing, Assange lamented the “whole thing, signed off, explicitly by Barack Obama.”

The story with “everything” is now a pending case before the European Court of Human Rights, but it begins two years ago, with the prosecution of a Kurdish language television station in Denmark.’

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99% of Sweden’s waste is now reused

Science Alert reports:

‘Swedes generally waste as much as people in other countries, around 461 kilograms per person each year – but only one percent of that is ending up in landfill, thanks to the country’s innovative “recycling” program. While the Scandinavian country focusses primarily on reducing waste and reusing and recycling items, it has an important extra step in the waste cycle – it burns half its rubbish to generate energy.

[…] However, it’s not a perfect solution – there is plenty of controversy surrounding the burning of garbage. Critics are concerned that the process is counteracting any positive affects by sending more toxins into the atmosphere. The WTE process produces filter ash and flue gas, both byproducts that contain dioxins, and environmental pollutant. But Sweden has heavily regulated their WTE plants to reduce emissions and according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the introduction of flue-glad cleaning has reduced airborne dioxins produced to “very small amounts”.’

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Finland and Sweden to strengthen ties with NATO

Associated Press reports:

Finland and Sweden plan to work more closely with Nato by signing a pact that allows assistance from alliance troops in the Nordic countries in emergency situations, officials said on Wednesday. The move comes as Nato prepares for a summit next week in Wales amid heightened tensions with Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,300km (800-mile) border with Russia.

The Finnish government said the host nation support agreement applies to situations which include “disasters, disruptions and threats to security”. It also enables joint training exercises and military cooperation. Finnish defence ministry senior adviser Mika Varvikko said Finland intended to sign the agreement at next week’s summit. Sweden is also expected to do so. Both countries, which already train and work closely with Nato in international operations, insisted the agreement did not mean they were moving closer to joining the alliance.’

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Iceland raises Bardarbunga volcano alert to orange

BBC News reports:

File photo: Bardarbunga, 7 November 1996 ‘The risk of an eruption at Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano has increased, with signs of “ongoing magma movement”, Iceland’s meteorological office says. The risk level to the aviation industry has been raised to orange, the second-highest level, the met office said. Any eruption could potentially lead to flooding or an emission of gas, the office added in a statement.

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in 2010, producing an ash cloud that severely disrupted European airspace. The Bardarbunga volcanic system is located under the north-west region of Iceland’s Vatnajokull glacier.’

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The Pentagon is adding to its arsenal of weapons in Norway’s caves

Dan Lamothe reports for The Washington Post:

‘In the heart of Norway’s countryside, the U.S. military is bolstering its arsenal of weapons with tanks, gun trucks and other armored vehicles along with hundreds of containers of equipment. The Marine Corps is overseeing the effort, which expands the existing Marine Corps Prepositioning Program. It stashes weapons, vehicle and armor in several locations across the world, including Norway, which first signed an agreement with the United States to do so in 1981, Marine officials said.

The equipment is kept in climate-controlled caves in central Norway, giving the Marines equipment that is closer than the East Coast to use in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Much of what stored in the caves was pulled out and sent to the Middle East ahead of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. It also bolsters the amount of military equipment in Norway as tensions with nearby Russia remain high.

[…] The planned U.S. military expansion in Norway has been under discussion since 2013, Marine officials said.[…] The U.S. military has  more than 700,000 square feet of facilities in Norway, including six climate-controlled caves and two airfields. The Norwegians have maintained the equipment there with the understanding that if they were invaded, U.S. troops will defend them using it.’

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Jacob Wallenberg, investor head with more influence than money

Editor’s Note: Jacob Wallenberg, along with his cousin Marcus, are key members of the elite and influential Bilderberg meetings. For more on these meetings, go here.

Richard Milne writes for the Financial Times:

Jacob Wallenberg is a Swedish banker and industrialist, currently serving as a board member for multiple companies.photo: Johan Jeppsson‘Jacob Wallenberg is used to fighting against misapprehensions. Perhaps the biggest is that Sweden’s leading industrialist and his family personally own their stakes in the likes of telecoms group Ericsson, home appliance maker Electrolux and drugs multinational AstraZeneca. Instead the shares are held by family foundations, with the largest giving SKr1.3bn ($190m) to Swedish research last year. This is healthy for two reasons, says Mr Wallenberg, who together with his cousin Marcus and brother Peter are the fifth generation of the family to be active in business.

First, he says, they look to develop companies for the benefit of the foundations rather than “squabbling about my money, your money, who gets what and so on”. He adds that while “in a Swedish context we’re well-off”, they do not have immense wealth by global standards, an assertion supported by the absence of Wallenbergs from a recent list of 136 Swedes worth more than SKr1bn ($150m), led by Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad. The second advantage of having the money tied up in foundations is personal motivation, he maintains: “When I wake up in the morning, like everyone else I need to go work, I need to earn a good, sound living.” Nonetheless, the 58-year-old is at the heart of the largest Nordic country’s business elite, with the Wallenbergs controlling companies representing 40 per cent of the total market capitalisation of Stockholm’s stock exchange.’

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Interview with Dr Jan Oberg on the culture of Western militarism

‘Swedish and Finnish leaders have reinvigorated a push for their traditionally non-aligned countries to join NATO, in the face of what they say is a Russian threat. But does Russia really pose a threat to European security, or has it become a convenient scapegoat for growing militarism in Europe? How can Russia and the western world end the conflict in Ukraine, and rebuild peace by peace? Oksana is joined by the founder of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, Dr Jan Oberg, to examine these issues.’ (RT)

Bilderberger Carl Bildt and “his bulging contacts book” helps Sweden punch above its weight

Richard Milne writes for the Financial Times:

‘Not many European countries punch above their weight in foreign affairs like Sweden does. Much of this is down to Carl Bildt, foreign minister for the past eight years in this country of 10m people, and his bulging contacts book.

That is likely to end soon as polls ahead of Sweden’s parliamentary elections in September show the centre-left opposition way ahead of the governing coalition. But Mr Bildt, a former conservative prime minister in the 1990s, is showing no signs of slowing down.’

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Infographic: The New European Parliament

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Norwegian diplomat: White House was embarrassed by ‘fawning’ 2009 Nobel Prize

From RT:

Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjoern Jagland (L) applauses as laureate, US President Barack Obama hands the diploma and medal to Nobel Peace Prize at the City Hall in Oslo on December 10, 2009. (AFP Photo / Olivier Morin)‘The Obama administration reprimanded Norway after Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, saying it was a dubious award for a president who was only one year into his first term, a Norwegian diplomat said on Thursday. Morten Wetland, who was Norway’s United Nations delegate from 2008 to 2012, wrote in an article published in the Norwegian daily Dagens Naeringsliv that the award was not exactly a point of celebration for Obama’s young administration.

“My most embarrassing day at the UN, at the time when I was Norway’s ambassador there, was when Obama’s Nobel peace prize was announced. Nobody was talking about it,” said Wetland. “My colleague in Washington received a reprimand from Obama’s chief of staff [Rahm Emanuel, at the time]. The word ‘fawning’ was used,” Wetland added, according to AFP. Wetland said the award put Obama – who was nominated for the prize only weeks after taking office – in an awkward position.’

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Danish Officials Scrap Controversial EU Elections Cartoon Aimed At Young People

‘Officials in Denmark have retracted a controversial animated cartoon that was intended to inspire young people to vote in upcoming elections for the European Parliament. The 90-second video featured a mustachioed, muscular man aggressively interrupting a couple having sex and punching people into a polling station. It was posted late Monday on the Danish Parliament’s social media sites.

Parliament Speaker Mogens Lykketoft said Tuesday that the 179-seat Folketing should in future “be more careful with what we put our name to.” Lawmakers were cited by Danish media as saying it was done without their knowledge.Voting for the 751-seat European Parliament takes place in each of the European Union’s 28 member states, stretching over four days beginning May 22.’ (Associated Press)

No Longer a Force for Good? Sweden’s Elite More Loyal to NATO, the US, and EU than with Its People

Jan Oberg writes for CounterPunch:

‘Over the last 25-30 years Sweden’s military, security and foreign policy elite has changed Sweden’s policy 180 degrees. These fundamental changes were initiated by the Social Democratic government under Goran Persson and foreign minister Anna Lindh and have been carried through virtually without public debate.

The rapproachment with interventionism, militarism and US/NATO in all fields has been planned, incremental, furtive and dishonest; in short, unworthy of a democracy. This elite is more loyal with Brussels and Washington than with the Swedes.

If your image of Sweden is that it is a progressive, innovative and peace-promoting country with a global mind-set and advocate of international law, it is – sad to say – outdated.’

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Saudi Arabia criticises Norway over human rights record

Felicity Morse writes for The Independent:

Saudi Arabia has criticised Norway’s human rights record, accusing the country of failing to protect its Muslim citizens and not doing enough to counter criticism of the prophet Mohammed. The gulf state called for all criticism of religion and of prophet Mohammed to be made illegal  in Norway. It also expressed concern at “increasing cases of domestic violence, rape crimes and inequality in riches” and noted a continuation of hate crimes against Muslims in the country.

The Scandinavian nation came under scrutiny during the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review, in which 14 States are scheduled to have their human rights records examined. Russia meanwhile called for Norway to clamp down on expressions of religious intolerance and  and criticised the country’s child welfare system. They also recommended that Norway improve its correctional facilities for those applying for asylum status.

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