Taiwan’s Next Media Animation, which shot to fame late last year for its animated news clip of Elin Nordegren’s alleged attack against then-husband Tiger Woods, has turned its focus again to Sweden.
This time, it has targeted Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf following the publication of controversial biography “Carl XVI Gustaf – the reluctant monarch,” which details rumours of the king’s affairs.Just in case you missed it the first time around, here’s the Tiger video.
Hockey defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson of Eksjö east of Jönköping, winner of the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season, has a taste of home at the aptly named Tre Kronor in the Windy City’s Northwest Side on Friday.
The NHL website gave a sneak peek on Wednesday of the upcoming Elitserien season, which begins this week, coming strongly in favour of defending champion HV71 from Linköping and runner-up Djurgården in the race for the 2011 title. Writer Bill Meltzer also took note of talent that has left the league to play in the NHL in the upcoming season and looked back at Swedish stars from years past.
The New York Times goes House Hunting in … Stockholm and profiles a 4.5 million kronor ($620,000) two-bedroom apartment in Östermalm in its Great Homes and Destinations section on Tuesday.
True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård appears naked on the cover of Rolling Stone with real-life newlywed co-stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer.
There’s an old joke about a couple from Småland, a province in southern Sweden, who win a million kronor on the lottery. “What shall we do with all the begging letters,” asks the wife. “Keep on sending them,” her husband replies.
Perhaps, though, the Smålänningar (as the region’s allegedly tight-fisted inhabitants are known) will have the last laugh as the rest of the world braces for a bumpy economic ride.
The world’s most famous Smålänning, Ingvar Kamprad, appears to have braced IKEA for the downturn by living up to the stereotype. Instead of taking advantage of cheap credit, IKEA borrowed little. Instead of selling boom-time luxuries, Kamprad has always behaved as though every one of his customers was a stereotypical stingy Smålänning.
The words of current CEO Anders Dahlvig in this Time interview are perhaps testament to the virtues of living frugally:
This is a really good time for us. The way we’ve set up our business, we’re planning for a climate like this all the time. We have a very conservative policy when it comes to borrowing money. We basically only use our retained earnings and don’t borrow very much. We also have a very conservative policy when it comes to how we place our cash and our liquidity. We don’t place anything in equities, so we haven’t lost a dime so far. And the way we position our brand is as good value for the money. People know when they have less money what Ikea stands for.
Read Thomas L Friedman’s take in the New York Times on why it is in the best interest of Americans to embrace Swedes (along with a whole host of others):
Somebody better tell John McCain: We are all Swedes now. Forget about “Live Free or Die.” Until we get our financial act together, our motto is going to be: “Swedish spoken here – or Arabic or Chinese or German …”
Britain, we were led to believe at the weekend, is outraged at dastardly foreign attempts to banish busty beauties from the nation’s billboards. The root of their anger was Swedish politicians who, having failed to get sexist ads banned on the home front, scored a win in Brussels.
The Daily Mail, an organ never to miss an opportunity for a bit of Euro-bashing (or, indeed, dredge up images from old Wonderbra ads), was breathless with indignation after a committee of Euro-MPs demanded that EU countries put a stop to any ads that reinforce gender stereotypes. The person behind this controversial plan is none other than Eva-Britt Svensson, a Swedish Left Party MEP and vice chairperson of the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee. The author of the report seems to have swallowed an undergraduate gender studies textbook:
‘Gender stereotyping in advertising straitjackets women, men, girls and boys by restricting individuals to predetermined and artificial roles that are often degrading, humiliating and dumbed down for both sexes.’
Actually, the chances of any country being forced to ban anything is close to nil (no law has been passed – the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee has just recommended a course of action that governments are free to ignore, as they no doubt will, despite the parliament voting to adopt the report), but if you’ve been in Sweden for the past few years, the proposal had a familiar ring.
ERK’s rulings have led to accusations that it was trying to act as the ‘thought police’. They have also raised a number of questions: is sexy advertising always sexist? Why should advertisers be expected to be more politically correct than the consumers they target? Whatever happened to free speech? And besides, surely the whole business should be self-regulating: consumers won’t buy products if the ads are offensive? The controversial nature of ERK’s work also has the self-defeating side-effect that the ads it censures are guaranteed lots of free publicity in the tabloids.
ERK’s rulings don’t have the force of law, but earlier this year an official committee proposed going one step further and banning all material “with a commercial aim” that could be “construed as offensive to women or men.”
Equality minister Nyamko Sabuni refused to adopt the report’s findings, saying: “I don’t want to infringe on fundamental human freedoms and rights for a law the efficacy of which I question. This is not the way to win the fight for gender equity.” Defeated on home soil, it looks like Svensson is seeing whether the battle can be won elsewhere. She probably shouldn’t hold her breath – in the UK, at least, even the left-wing papers are subjecting the idea to ridicule.
Charlie Brooker in the Guardian wonders what effects non-sexist ads might have:
I can scarcely picture what kind of patronising hell we’d be creating for ourselves there. And what if it worked? What if all our ads were suddenly filled with ladylike men eating chocolates and butch ladettes swigging beer, and these images proved so influential that everyone started behaving that way in real life, until these brave new anti-stereotypes had become stale old actual stereotypes, so we had to start all over again by subverting our old subversions?
Equally cutting is an article by Claire Beale, editor of ad-industry magazine Campaign. Calling the report “fatuous bureaucratic meddling,” she describes it as “the legislative equivalent of one of those We Love the 70s programmes, a real trip down time warp lane.”
Ads are never going to be subtle, she continues:
Does advertising deal in stereotypes? Of course. When you’ve only got 30 seconds or a glance to make an impact on a broad group of people you don’t have time to invent a new language. You tap into common themes, ideas and images to create an instant connection.
Svensson’s poorly-presented arguments might leave an open goal for her opponents, but the failure to pass a similar law in Stockholm must beg the question: if rules like this haven’t worked in politically correct Sweden, how on earth could they be made to work elsewhere?
There is some good news for those who think advertising is sexist, though – things have improved over the past 50 years, as these ads show.
She might be a Swedish royal and the Duchess of Halland, but Princess Lilian, who turned 93 on Saturday is also one of the more illustrious daughters of the town of Swansea in Wales. Newspaper Wales on Sunday has marked the princess’s birthday by looking into her background and ancestry.
Like very few other royals, Lilian was born into a working-class family. She grew up in “a tiny terraced house” in Swansea. She met Sweden’s Prince Bertil during the Second World War, but the couple were barred from marrying by successive Swedish kings Gustav V and Gustav VI Adolf (several other Swedish princes married without the king’s permission, forfeiting their titles and rights to the throne). It was only in 1976 that the current king (Bertil’s nephew) relented and allowed Lilian into the family.
Ancestry researchers quoted by the newspaper sound thrilled with their ‘discoveries’:
“We were charmed, we didn’t realise it was the most magical story. It’s a real-life fairytale. She’s loved in Sweden where she has a reputation for being a wonderful woman.”
Read the full article here.
Sweden may still have a reputation for holding its doors wide open for Iraqi asylum seekers. If this reputation was once deserved it certainly is not now, as the Boston Globe has noticed. The reason: Swedish courts have decided that there is no civil war in Iraq, making it possible to turn away more Iraqi asylum seekers. Last year, 72 percent of Iraqi asylum seekers were allowed to stay. This year, the figure is just 43 percent.
The rise in the number of rejections may ostensibly be down to the perceived improvement in Iraq – the court said that the violence there did not meet the internationally accepted definition of an ‘internal armed conflict’. What is unescapable is that many people who arrived in Sweden from tragic circumstances in Iraq, Afgahnistan and Somalia are being sent back to live in grim conditions or are staying here illegally to avoid being sent home.
But some say Iraqis are being turned away for essentially political reasons. Left Party spokesman Kalle Larsson tells the Boston Globe: “the system is sending political signals to the courts and to the migration board,” he said. “And these signals are saying, ‘There are too many people coming to Sweden.’ ”
Larsson’s explanation is hard to digest: we should all be concerned if courts are subject to political pressure. There’s no doubt, though, that the decision was politically useful for the government: Sweden was taking many more Iraqis than either the US or UK, the western countries most responsible for the Iraqi refugee problem. At the same time, voter tolerance for Sweden’s perceived generosity was beginning to wear thin.
With all parties worried by the rise of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats – and with any economic slowdown liable to increase that party’s appeal -there has been every incentive to clamp down on immigration.
This is particularly true of the Social Democrats, the main opposition party and current best bet to win the next election.
The Social Democrats’ traditional working-class, unionised supporter base is, according to pollsters, more likely than the average voter to vote for the Sweden Democrats.
This has necessitated a reaction – painful for a party with a history of generosity to asylum seekers. Leading Social Democrats have called for immigrants to be moved away from multicultural cities like Malmö and Södertälje. This kind of ‘tough love’, it is hoped, will appeal to poorer Swedes who feel their needs are being forgotten, while also being palatable to the party’s pro-immigration wing. Hardly suprising, though, if the party leaves thorny issue of interpreting the rules about who can and cannot stay to the courts – just as the current government has done.
The Local was caught off guard this week when several overseas media outlets ran a story on a Swedish woman being married to the Berlin Wall.
Our surprise, however, was not that we were scooped (after all, Aftonbladet ran a story on Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer back in 2002 and Svenska Dagbladet mentioned her in a piece about the Berlin Biennal art festival earlier this month).
Rather, we were curious to know why the story suddenly popped up just now.
Our best guess is that a film about the wall shown at the festival featured Ms. Berliner-Mauer, and caught the eye of the British tabloid press.
Anyone else have a better (or more interesting) theory?
People like to complain that American news outlets never spend any time covering foreign news. In contrast to Swedish broadcasters, which spend ample time covering international affairs, US national news programs rarely devote much air time to other countries (save those with which the US may be at war).
Thus, imagine our surprise upon seeing that NBC News, one of the traditional ‘Big 3′ television news networks in the US, devoted a precious 3 minutes and change (more than 10 percent!) of Monday evening’s broadcast to Sweden and it’s penchant for green living.
The King is eloquent as usual, but the mayor of Växjö left us puzzled with his talk of ‘whips and carrots’. See for yourself:
Now the question is whether SVT would ever bother to find a topic where the US can teach Swedes a thing or two, and dedicate an equal amount of air time to it.
What would you suggest?
For Polly Toynbee, doyenne of the column pages of the Guardian, Sweden has long been the promised land. For her, it was the one place that prioritised welfare over tax cuts, took redistribution of wealth seriously and gave the state a sufficiently big role in the lives of its citizens. She has vehemently expressed her displeasure with the Swedish electorate for voting out the Social Democrats in 2006. So far, fair enough.
Problem is, to judge by her latest article, she doesn’t really know an awful lot about Sweden. Despite frequent trips over here, the article is riddled with misunderstandings and embarrassing factual errors – as contributors to our discussion forum have pointed out.
It’s tempting to leave Polly be, given that we’re bound to be accused of grinding political axes, but the readers of her article deserve to be given an accurate account of the facts. Here is what she got wrong:
What has Reinfeldt done? A lot more than voters bargained for. Welfare reform has been radical: benefits are cut and so are taxes. Everyone in work gets new tax credits: in Britain tax credits are benefits aimed at the poorest, in Sweden they are tax cuts for all.
All this was in the Alliance’s joint manifesto and was debated ad nauseam in the run-up to the election in endless news programmes and televised debates.
Tax credits for people in work were a central plank of the Alliance’s plan to get more people into the labour market.
The Swedish media are nothing if not thorough when it comes to debating the minutiae of policy, and this proposal was no exception. Other tax cuts included the reform of property tax. In fact, the cuts to this tax have been smaller than initially suggested.
In short, while it can be claimed that the ideas have since lost popularity, Toynbee should not imply that the policies of the government differ from those on which they won the election.
Cuts have been made to benefits for the long-term unemployed and to people on long periods of sick leave.
Again, all in the manifesto.
Also, worth remembering that Swedish unemployment benefits are still pretty generous compared to most other countries. For a start, even now Swedes who are members of the unemployment schemes earning under 23,000 kronor a month (about £23,000 a year) get 80 percent of their former income for the first 80 days of unemployment. The difference is that after 200 days this falls to 70 percent. After 450 days it falls to 65 percent. People whose previous earnings were over 23,000 a month get 680 kronor a day for the whole time.
National insurance contributions have been raised sharply, with the unplanned effect that nearly half a million of the lowest paid have walked away from the scheme, leaving them nothing if they lose their jobs.
What Polly is referring to is premiums to the union-run unemployment insurance (A-Kassa) schemes. The rises have indeed led to lots of people leaving the schemes.
However, those who leave the schemes are not ‘left nothing if they lose their jobs’, contrary to what Toynbee says. Everyone is eligible for council-administered subsistence benefits, even if they are not members of the A-Kassa.
Since the scheme is administered via the unions, union membership has dropped by the same amount
True that union membership has fallen, but wrong to imply that this is simply down to A-Kassa changes. The picture is more complex.
Contrary to what Toynbee appears to believe, although the A-Kassa schemes are run by the unions, membership of the A-Kassa and membership of the union are today completely separate. You don’t have to be a union member to belong to a scheme, nor is there any obligation on members of most unions to belong to a scheme.
In service sector union TCO, for example, many have left the A-Kassa while staying in the union. TCO’s boss, while blaming the increased A-Kassa premiums for a portion of the drop in membership, has admitted that much of the fall is due to the fact that many young people no longer see the point in joining a union. Union membership was already falling before the current government took office.
This wasn’t what the public voted for and polls show Reinfeldt’s government extremely unpopular.
The second half of this statement is partially true, to judge by opinion polls (see below). The first half is more debatable – pretty much everything the government has done was in its manifesto.
Meanwhile more of the health service is contracted out, with GPs free to charge for the first time, raising alarms that they are moving out of poor areas to richer places where they can earn more.
It is true that healthcare providers in Stockholm have been given more freedom to decide where and how to establish surgeries. It is also true that there are signs that this is leading to clinics leaving poorer areas and moving into middle-class areas. But it is not true that GP’s are ‘free to charge for the first time’. Even under the Social Democrats, Swedes had to pay to use the health service – including paying a fee every time they visited the doctor, had an x-ray, went to the dentist etc. That remains true today, but the current government is not to blame.
State-owned Absolut vodka has been sold to the French, and state-owned liquor stores are about to be sold off too.
First part true; second part absolutely made up. Some people in the Moderate Party would love to abolish the Systembolaget liquor stores, but it is light years from being government policy. In fact, the government has made strenuous efforts to defend Systembolaget against challenges to various aspects of the monopoly from the European Commission.
Something Toynbee also seems to have failed to notice is that this is not a Moderate Party government, it is an Alliance government of four parties, three of which are strongly opposed to getting rid of Systembolaget. In fact, the public health minister, responsible for Systembolaget, is a Christian Democrat – and they are if anything even keener than the Social Democrats of keeping booze sales in government hands.
Museums that were always free now charge high entry fees – for British visitors a crisp reminder of the Thatcher years.
True that museums are now charging entry fees. False that they were ‘always free’. Entry charges were abolished by the Social Democrats in 2005.
At present, the Swedes look certain to vote out the right: the nation’s history is of social democracy punctuated by brief evictions as wake-up warnings. This time they voted for a wolf in sheep’s clothing and are now appalled at what may be permanent damage to the successful Swedish model of cooperation between unions and industry, with high taxes and a generous welfare state.
True that the Alliance has trailed in the polls since being elected, and the Social Democrats look like a reasonably fair bet for 2010, but it is frankly taking it a bit far to suggest that they ‘look certain to vote out the right.’ In a Skop poll two days ago, the opposition was leading the government by about 5 points, Reinfeldt & Co having closed the gap substantially since their nightmare start. If Reinfeldt’s five percent poll deficit is a signal of certain defeat, then Gordon Brown, trailing by 11 points, must be heading for electoral annihilation.
The Swedish social democrats have a popular new leader in Mona Sahlin.
Well, she’s reasonably popular, and certainly more popular than Göran Persson was in the run-up to the last election. Thing is, she’s still less popular than Fredrik Reinfeldt, according to a poll published by Synovate last month. In another poll released by Demoskop last month, Reinfeldt is more popular among both women and men, and beats her in all age categories.
In Be Kind Rewind, a new film starring Jack Black, the zany actor brings a new word to the lexicon of film: to Swede.
According to the film’s website:
Sweding is re-making something from scratch using whatever you can get your hands on.
Hmmm…not sure what to make of that.
For more background, you can also check out this YouTube clip:
The question we have is how Swedes themselves feel about having been made into a verb, and whether or not the act of ‘Sweding’ is at all reflective of Swedes or Swedish culture.
“Do not most developed countries have personal ID numbers for their citizens? Should not New Zealand follow this order?”
Thus wondered Cecilia Hall, a Swede trying to establish an au pair business in New Zealand. Cecilia’s father, Ian, a Brit resident in Sweden for 37 years, moved to NZ to be with his daughter but found himself credit-blacklisted shortly after he arrived. It turns out that there’s another person in New Zealand called Ian Hall and – well, you get the idea.
Cecilia offered more advice from the developed world:
“The only way you can ever protect [against] this happening in New Zealand is for people to have unique identifiers,” she said.
A Swedish tourist got lost after he went for a walk to escape a swarm of sand flies, New Zealand’s TV3 reports.
Sweden abroad: July 19th, 2007 by PR
Here’s one for our many readers in the US. If reading The Local every day has made you pine for…
…a Viking encampment; trolls; Danish hotdogs, IKEA’s signature Swedish meatballs and other Scandinavian delights; storytelling; children’s games; arts and crafts; the popular raffle; a soccer tournament; a vendors market offering hard-to-find Scandinavian products…
…then fear not. You’ll be able to experience all that and more at the Scandinavian Festival Atlanta 2007. The event will be held in October.
Now, I don’t usually think that bashing other media in Sweden, big or small, gets anyone very far, but just for the record I think it’s worth pointing out that Expressen.se is currently leading with a story that The Local was the first to break in Sweden yesterday.
The story, that US spies infiltrated the Swedish anti-Vietnam War movement, was revealed in newly declassified CIA documents. We know Expressen found it through us because Expressen’s reporter contacted our reporter, Paul O’Mahony, after seeing our story, to get a link to the document. Paul gave him the link.
When they published today, not only was there no reference to The Local (bad manners, but we’ll live), but the article was prefaced by the claim that ‘Expressen revealed’ the story. They have done their own interviews and gathered material, but their claim that they ‘revealed’ the story is inaccurate. As we know that they saw it on The Local first, it is more than inaccurate: it’s a deliberate untruth.
There can be few people in this world who love a lingonberry pie as much as Martin Cedillo from Illinois:
Cedillo, of Wayne, had his face so deep into the pie that when he came up for air there was purpleish filling between his eyebrows. When he looked satisfied that his pan was clean, he stood up and shouted “I love lingonberries!”
The Daily Herald reports that he had to fight off some stiff opposition before emerging as winner of the Swedish Days pie-eating contest:
Nobody got sick, but Jessica Barbeau, who works at Jitterbug’s in Geneva, said she came close, but it was worth it.
“I wanted to puke, but I kept going,” she said. “I wanted to beat them all. I just kept going.”
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