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Sweden

Economy

Will COVID's Boost For Labor Unions Last? Check The Swedish Model

The pandemic has spurred a resurgence in labor unions around the world. But their return to prominence also raises the question of whether they’re the best way to protect workers in a globalized world.

Unions around the world have been on a steady decline over the last half-century: crippled by globalized economics and confounded by the accelerating changes in our work culture, average trade union membership in OECD countries has fallen from 30% in 1985 to 16% today. In the U.S., one-third of workers belonged to a labor union in the 1950s — a far cry from today’s 10.7%, including a meager 6.4% of private-sector workers.

A pandemic was bound to shake the status quo for the world of labor: from a newfound appreciation for what we’ve come to call “essential” workers to a series of layoffs in other sectors to the Great Resignation, which saw individuals reassess what they really want from their career.

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Does NATO Deter Or Provoke Russia? Look To Finland And Sweden For The Answer

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has rekindled the Nordic debate over the possibility of joining NATO, prompting Russian threats. It's a microcosm for the conflict itself.

Like elsewhere, Sweden and Finland have taken historic decisions in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month — each breaking their respective policy of not providing arms to countries at war, by sending military aid to Kyiv.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Indeed, for Sweden, the last time it happened was during the Winter War of 1939, when it gave assistance to Finland to counter an invasion by the Soviet Union.

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We’re All Sweden Now: How COVID Fatigue Brought Us Back To Herd Immunity

Early in the pandemic, Swedish authorities were roundly criticized for the lack of COVID-19 restrictions and for arguing for a different cost-benefit calculation in trying to eliminate the virus at all costs. Now, more and more countries are dropping all restrictions even as Omicron continues to spread. But is this really about herd immunity?

Since Denmark became the first European nation to drop all COVID restrictions in late January, a slew of countries around the world have followed suit — including Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic and, most recently, the UK. After almost two years of curfews and mask mandates, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared Monday it was time to “live with the coronavirus.”

And the list of others taking the same path is set to grow: Italy and Spain recently lifted masking mandates for outdoor spaces, while French authorities have announced indoor masking will no longer be mandated starting next week. Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer harkens “a dignified spring awakening” with most restrictions to be lifted by March 5 — while German Chancellor Olof Scholz hailed last Wednesday “a very special day of the pandemic” after agreeing with 16 state governors on a schedule to drop most restrictions in the coming months.

But all of this rosy talk and rescinded restrictions also begs the question of why this is a special time. Why, as the Omicron variant is spreading far faster than previous versions, and when it’s clear that no nation on Earth has come close to conquering COVID, is it time to abandon containment efforts?

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Games Of The Absurd: Beijing’s Olympics Of Politics And Pandemic

With both fans and diplomatic dignitaries missing, it’s an Olympics that recalls politically combustible Games of the past. COVID-19, like it did for the Summer Games in Tokyo, will also help haunt the premises. The good news is that the athletes will most likely take over our attention as soon as they hit the ice and snow.

-Analysis-

The Olympic script includes the invoking of the spirit of friendly competition as a respite from geopolitics.

Yet the global sporting event has long struggled to separate itself from the biggest social and political events of the day: from the 1936 Berlin Games during Hitler's rise to power to the Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Games to the PLO killings of Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. There were also major tit-for-tat U.S. and Soviet boycotts of the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.

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Green
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Inside Sweden's "100,000-Year" Solution To Bury Nuclear Waste

As experts debate whether nuclear power can become another leading renewable energy source, Sweden has adopted a first-of-its-kind underground depository for nuclear waste — and many countries are following their lead.

As last fall’s climate summit in Glasgow made it clear that the world is still on route for major planetary disaster, it also brought the question of nuclear power squarely back on the agenda. A growing number of experts and policymakers now argue that nuclear energy deserves many of the same considerations as wind, solar and other leading renewables.

But while staunch opponents to nuclear may be slowly shifting their opinion, and countries like France, the UK and especially China plan to expand their nuclear portfolios, one main question keeps haunting policymakers: how do we store the radioactive waste?

In Sweden, the government claims to have found a solution.

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Geopolitics
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Trying To Gauge Russian Ambitions? Look How Nervous Its Nordic Neighbors Are

The eyes of the world are on the Russian-Ukrainian border as Putin threatens an invasion. However, the more vital stage of the Kremlin’s military ambitions is the Baltic Sea, where the likes of bordering countries like Finland and Sweden are mobilizing troops as Moscow tries to undermine the allegiance of the EU and former Soviet states.

While tensions between the U.S and Russia mount with the Kremlin gathering troops at the border of Ukraine, countries farther north are preparing for the worst.

In Sweden, Dagens Nyheter reports that the country of 10 million people deployed armored vehicles and 100 soldiers to patrol streets on the island of Gotland on Friday in response to Russian landing ships sailing into the Baltic Sea. Even if the Swedish Armed Forces announced soon after that the ships were leaving, serious questions about Russia's military ambitions remain.

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Coronavirus
Irene Caselli and Carl-Johan Karlsson

COVID School Chaos, Snapshots From 10 Countries Around The World

Teachers, students, parents and society as a whole have suffered through the various attempts at educating through the pandemic. Here’s how it looks now: from teacher strikes in France to rising drop-out rates in Argentina to Uganda finally ending the world’s longest shutdown.

School, they say, is where the future is built. The next generation’s classroom learning is crucial, but schools also represent an opportunity for children to socialize, get help for special needs … and in some villages and neighborhoods, get their one decent meal a day.

COVID-19 has of course put all of that at risk. At the peak of the pandemic, classrooms were closed for 1.6 billion schoolchildren worldwide, with the crisis forcing many to experiment on the fly for the first time in remote learning, and shutting down learning completely for many millions more — exacerbating worldwide inequality in education.

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Switzerland

A Weird 2021 : Our Favorite "What The World" Stories

Tales of odds and ends from deep inside the world's newspapers....


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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Assange’s Extradition, Nicaragua & China, Sweden v. IKEA

👋 Сәлем!*

Welcome to Friday, where the U.S. wins bid to extradite whistleblower Julian Assange, Nicaragua breaks off ties with Taiwan to align with China and Sweden takes issue with IKEA branding. In the wake of New Zealand’s plans to ban all future cigarette sales, we take a look at toughening smoking laws around the world.

[*Salem - Kazakh]

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Son Of A Gunnar
Carl-Johann Karlsson

Germany or Sweden? Two Models Of Social Democracy Put To The Test

From afar, new Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz share much, both in their views and the political system where they rule. But subtle differences, which arose in the rubble of World War II, can be everything.

My dad has died ...

That was my first thought a few Fridays ago when I saw that Netflix had added another series to its growing Nordic-noir category: a six-part crime drama about the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.

Well, OK, my very first thought was trying to guess who they’d picked for the role of Palme’s assassin; but almost immediately after that, my second thought was that indeed, most certainly yes, Gunnar Karlsson had clocked out.

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Society
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Why Sweden Has An Antisemitism Problem

In October 1943, nearly the entire Jewish population of Denmark made a perilous crossing from their Nazi-occupied country to neighboring Sweden. Setting out from ports and beaches along the coast, some 7,000 people arrived in rowboats and canoes to the safe shores of the port city of Malmö.

Now, 78 years later, in the same city, Jewish books in a storefront have to be covered up due to fears of vandalism.
It was the Malmö City Archives that last week was preparing a display of Jewish literature to be open to the public on Friday. But at the end of the day, the books and posters were covered with a blanket — with the archivist fearing damage to the windows over the weekend, Swedish daily Expressen reports.

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Society
Carl Karlsson

Nordic Mob? Why Organized Crime Is Exploding In Sweden

While remaining a remarkably safe country, Sweden is facing a recent surge of gang crimes that worries authorities, including a bombing in Gothenburg on Sep. 28th that injured more than 20. The fact that these family-based networks often have roots in North Africa and the Middle East is fueling criticism about the country's immigration policies.


Is this Sweden … or Sicily?

An explosion in a multi-family complex in the western Swedish city of Gothenburg on Tuesday has sparked a national debate over harsher punishment for organized crime.

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SVT
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Jesus to Yoga, Sweden Finds Other Uses For Empty Churches

But in the end... is it enough?

So my fellow Swedes are turning churches into yoga studios. Live from the world's most atheist nation, the report from Swedish public broadcaster SVT adds to an ever-expanding list of houses of worship being turned into something else: sport centers, conference halls, art galleries, even camping sites.

Each time, critics lament the temporary or permanent, er, conversion as a troubling sign of the times, of the "undermining of the Christian faith." Some conservative lawmakers are now saying that repurposing churches might in fact violate laws on cultural heritage.

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Green Or Gone
Carl-Johan Karlsson

What Greta Thunberg Reminds Us About The Limits Of Adulthood

Now 18 and officially an adult, the climate activist's message isn't changing. And what about our own grownup rationalizations?

It's 2021, and that means Greta Thunberg can lawfully grab a beer in her hometown pub. Of course, to someone who's started a global movement, dressed down heads of state and fronted Time Magazine as Person of the Year, obtaining Swedish drinking rights may not seem like a big deal.

And yet in her unlikely rise from 15-year-old school protester to global icon, Greta's reaching official adulthood is noteworthy. She made global headlines on her 18th birthday back in January, taking the opportunity to troll her critics: "Tonight you will find me down at the local pub exposing all the dark secrets behind the climate- and school strike conspiracy," Greta tweeted.

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Sources
Carl-Johan Karlsson

A Swedish Preacher's Warning About QAnon Fundamentalism

God speaks to me in Norwegian. This will seem treasonous to my Swedish compatriots, so let me explain. Way back, I spent a couple of years waiting tables on a 600-passenger cruise ship on the Norwegian Sea, where the sparsely furnished staff cabins — located on the lower levels, underwater — featured two elementary amenities: a life vest and the Holy Bible.

I'll be honest: It's hard to take God seriously in Norwegian, especially in the guttural mountain tongue that was official on the ship. Still, having mostly slumbered my way through Religion 101 back in high school, those late-night Bible sessions were a personal record in religious immersion.

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Coronavirus
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Even Scandinavia Can’t Get Along: On COVID's Cold Diplomacy

-Essay-

What does it say at the bottom of a Norwegian ketchup bottle?

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