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Svenska Dagbladet is a Stockholm-based daily and provides coverage of national and international news as well as local coverage of the greater Stockholm region. It has a circulation of 143,400 copies and identifies itself as liberal conservative.
Russia Warns Finland Over Joining NATO
In The News

Russia Warns Finland Over Joining NATO

Sharing an 800-mile border with Russia, the Nordic country has seen public support for NATO membership skyrocket following the invasion of Ukraine. Neighboring Sweden also looks set to join the military alliance later this month. Both countries had for decades avoided NATO membership for fear of provoking Russia.

Finland looks certain to join NATO after the country’s president and prime minister released a joint statement saying they are in favor of joining the military alliance.

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

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“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,”they said. NATO leaders indicated that the application would be approved rapidly.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned "corresponding symmetrical responses on our side," to Finland's accession to the military alliance.

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Macron, Part Deux: France And The World React In 22 Front Pages

Macron, Part Deux: France And The World React In 22 Front Pages

Newspapers in France and around the world are devoting their Monday front pages to Emmanuel Macron's reelection as French president.

Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen by a wide 58.5-41.5% margin ... oui, mais.

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Swedish police officers walk towards a cordoned-off scene in Gothenburg, after the Sept. 28 explosion at a multi-family complex
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.

The blast that left four people seriously injured and more than 20 hospitalized is still under police investigation. It is the latest in a series of explosions around Sweden linked to gang and mob violence; bombings in particular have increased dramatically in the last years, recalling the Mafia's campaign of violence on the Italian island of Sicily in the 1980s and 1990s.

From 2014, such targeted explosions in Sweden have risen from a handful to 107 in 2020 — the sharpest increase in any European country. Meanwhile, gun-related violence is on the rise too, with 366 confirmed shootings in 2020, claiming 47 lives, as daily Svenska Dagbladet reports. Today, lethal gun-violence in Sweden is almost three times higher than the per-capita European average, while the country's year-by-year increase is by far the continent's highest.

A wave of crime that sparked anti-terror debate

While overall crime levels in Sweden remain low, and homicide rates have fallen since the 1990s, it is particularly gang-related violence that worries authorities. A police report last year mapped out 36 different "clans" in major Swedish cities, tracking these family-based networks that often have roots in North Africa and the Middle East. These organizations engage in extortion and drug trafficking, fight each other over turf, and often have ties to other criminal outfits such as motorcycle clubs.

The crime wave has sparked a debate over extending the current anti-terrorism laws to also cover organized crime, which would grant courts the right to convict members of criminal groups even if no crime has yet been committed. Such a move in heavily unionized Sweden is particularly controversial as the country's welfare state was built on the right to association and organization.

In 2019, a government proposal for an extended anti-terror law was quashed after it was deemed incompatible with Sweden's constitutional freedom of association.

Criminal groupings represent a very small fraction of Swedish migrants.

Still, the Swedish government has recently proposed the largest-ever reform of the country's criminal code, including expanded surveillance rights, harsher sentences for organized crime and threatening witnesses, as well as a plan to add 10,000 police officers by 2024.

While some of the legal changes have already been implemented, Sweden's center-right opposition expresses doubts as to whether the measures proposed will be enough to curb the spread of violence, suggesting harsher action like deportation of non-Swedish citizens found guilty of committing crimes.

Photo of people looking at candles and flowers at a vigil in memory memorial of victims of a gang shootout in Norsborg, Sweden, in August 2020

A memorial for victims of a gang shootout in Norsborg, Sweden, in August 2020

Ali Lorestani / Tt/TT/ ZUMA

Tougher new laws in Germany and France

The rise in violence has also given ammunition to those opposed to the government's decision in 2015 to accept more refugees per capita than any other country — with 163,000 people applying for asylum that year. However, evidence points to the fact that these clan networks have been present in Sweden for decades, while some members have arrived more recently to give support to their respective clans in local conflicts or to expand the criminal network. It's also worth noting that criminal groupings represent a very small fraction of Swedish migrants. Between 2015 and 2018, only 8% of migrants born abroad were suspected of crime; and for second-generation migrants — with parents born in Sweden — the number was 3%, according to a government report cited in Dagens Nyheter.

The opposition has also pointed to other European countries that have introduced tougher anti-terror legislation in the last decade. Germany passed a law in 2015 that made it a crime to travel outside the country with the intent to receive terrorist training. More recently, France adopted new legislation in July that reinforces anti-terrorism and intelligence-gathering legislation by incorporating emergency regulations into regular law.

It remains to be seen if Sweden follows suit. And while the country's recent wave of violence resembles gang warfare more than ideological or religious terrorism, experts note that the criminal networks often operate in similar ways — and eventually can be dismantled in the same way too.

COVID-19 is still a largely mysterious pandemic
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Growing Evidence Of COVID-19's Neurological Impact

The most common symptoms are fever, a dry cough and loss of taste and smell. The majority of deaths are due to respiratory failure. But more studies about COVID-19 are now focusing on neurological factors in what is still a largely mysterious pandemic. In the last few weeks, findings from around the world give support for earlier indications of coronavirus infections being linked to the brain.

  • Sweden: A study from the University of Gothenburg shows that certain patients in ICU care have suffered brain damage, reports daily Stockholm-based Svenska Dagbladet. Doctors already knew that severe infections impaired cognitive abilities, but it turns out that even patients not in need of respiratory assistance have experienced similar complications. Swedish scientists are now investigating whether the damage is caused directly by the virus or by immune system failure.
  • Italy: Up to 30% of COVID-19 patients have had some impact on the brain, according to Professor Alessandro Padovani, head of the neurology unit at the University of Brescia, who launched a "NeuroCovid" center to study the effects of the virus on the brain. Padovani told Corriere della Sera that the impact on the brain of COVID-19 patients is a more severe version of the potential neurological risks of a typical flu, particularly for the elderly, including a 1.5% higher likelihood of suffering a stroke. This is one of the reasons it is advisable to get a flu shot, Padovani said.

Inside the COVID department of a hospital in Palermo, Italy — Photo: Igor Petyx/IPA/ZUMA

  • France: Director general of health Jérôme Salomon confirmed in April that neurologic lesions were often identified in patients in intensive care — lesions that were sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent. The first symptoms of neurologic lesions that were highlighted in France were anosmia and ageusia, alteration of the sense of smell and the loss of taste functions.
  • UnitedStates: In some cases, impaired respiration is due to damage in the brain center that controls breathing, according to findings from a research team from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. They also identified an inflammation in the area of ​​the brain that determines the respiratory rate. The study shows that injecting anti-inflammatory drugs into the central nervous system reduces inflammation both in the brain and in the lungs.
  • China: A Chinese study published in the Journal of Medical Virology also suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can induce neuronal damage. The study compared the novel coronavirus to previous ones, like HEV67 and avian bronchitis virus, which can first invade the peripheral nerve endings and then access the nervous system.
Ebrahim Raisi arrives at his first press conference as Iran’s newly elected president, in Tehran.

The Latest: Vaccine Record, Catalans Pardoned, NFL Coming Out

Welcome to Tuesday, where India sets a daily vaccination record, Spain's prime minister seeks reconciliation with Catalonia and Australia's Great Barrier Reef could join the list of endangered World Heritage sites. Les Echos also takes us to Japan, where the business model of its notorious yakuza crime syndicate is crumbling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Global vaccination, good news & bad: Cuba reports its Abdala shot is 92.28% effective, China has administered its one billionth dose of its own vaccine, and India is also setting records, after campaigning to make vaccinations free for all adults, more 8.3 million doses were administered on Monday. However, shortages remain, namely in Venezuela where people are seeing second-dose appointments cancelled.

• Spain to pardon jailed Catalonian leaders: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will pardon nine jailed Catalonian separatist leaders who were involved in the region's attempted secession in 2017. Sánchez hopes the move will inspire reconciliation with the Catalan region.

• Renewed tension in Jerusalem neighborhood: Tensions have reignited in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood after a night where Palestinians and Jewish settlers threw stones, chairs and fireworks at each other. Forced evictions of Palestinians in the contested East Jerusalem neighborhood ignited the protests and 11-day war last month, which killed hundreds and left more than 100,000 civilians displaced. The Red Crescent reports that it is treating 20 Palestinians for injuries in the latest clashes.

• Myanmar military and resistance group clash: The Myanmar military and an anti-junta resistance force clashed in the country's second largest city, Mandalay. This is the first time direct fighting between the junta and breakaway security forces has occurred outside of small towns and villages.

• Rights group calls on UN to increase pressure for Ortega regime: After a series of politically motivated arrests in Nicaragua, including that of a fifth presidential candidate and the former first lady, Human Rights Watch will release a report calling on the United Nations to condemn the regime of President Daniel Ortega.

• UNESCO: Great Barrier Reef "in danger": The UN cultural and preservationist body has recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be added to the list of world heritage sites that are "in danger," as the reef has seen mass bleaching due to climate change. The Australian government is "strongly opposed" the recommendation.

• First NFL player comes out as gay: Carl Nassib, a defensive lineman for the Las Vegas Raiders, shared a video on social media publically declaring that he is gay, making him the first active player to do so in the league's 101-year history.

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All together on the streets of Stockholm
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Sweden's Economy v. World On Lockdown

Not surprisingly, early indicators point to a less bleak future for Sweden's still-open economy than for that of its European counterparts. A recent study by Swedbank shows that private consumption in Sweden shrank 17% between April 6 to April 19 compared to the same period last year, while revenue from hotel and restaurants was down 50%. Swedbank's chief economist Andreas Wallström, commented in daily Svenska Dagbladet that the economy is bleeding, but not to the extent as in countries where strict lockdowns were put in place.

In Norway, unemployment has shot from 5% to 10% since mid-March, while Sweden has seen only a 1% increase to 8% since late February. Meanwhile, in harder-hit countries such as Spain, the unemployment rate, which ended 2019 at 14%, is now expected to climb to nearly 21% in 2020, reports Spanish daily El Pais. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund predicts a drop in Spanish GDP of 8%, a drastic turn from the solid growth of 2% in 2019, while similar forecasts of an 8% drop in Portugal, Latvia and Lithuania, while in Italy and Greece, the IMF predicted the fall will be even greater: 9.1% and 10%, respectively.

We now live in an economy that is both infinitely more dynamic and geographically interconnected.

Still, early indicators offer little guidance for what to expect for the future, and tell us even less about the extent to which lockdowns should be held accountable for current economic impacts. Norway, as an example, might be seeing a steeper rise in unemployment rate than Sweden due its heavily oil-dependent economy, while countries like Spain and Portugal are almost certainly suffering worse downturns due to its already frail economies, which could crumble further if the summer tourist season is effectively canceled.

Other unknowns include how a possible second wave of COVID-19 would affect countries with different degrees of lockdowns, and the corresponding pace of post-pandemic recovery. A recent study led by two economists with the U.S. Federal Reserve shows that while areas most affected by the 1928 flu pandemic saw a persistent decline in real economic activity, cities that implemented early and stringent social distancing measures suffered no adverse economic effects over the medium term, but rather saw a relative increase in real economic activity after the pandemic subsided.

Still historical analogies have their limits: We now live in an economy that is both infinitely more dynamic and geographically interconnected, and while some national responses may emerge as blueprints for others, the global economic impact of the crisis will be just that — global.

Outside in Stockholm
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Sweden And Herd Immunity: Simple Math Or Plain Madness?

Sweden's lax regulation during the coronavirus crisis continues to perplex the outside world.

From Italy, one of the hardest hit countries and the first in Europe to impose strick lockdown measures, this is how the contrast with Sweden looks: "We're inside our homes and they're not. Our schools are closed and theirs stayed open. We can't go out and exercise, they can," begins an article in Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera. "Are these Swedes crazy? No, say the Swedes, you're the crazy ones."

Even reporters from its Nordic neighbors — where heavy restrictions were imposed last month — are perplexed, with a Danish journalist describing the Swedish strategy like "watching a horror movie," as the death toll in Sweden is four times higher than in Denmark, surpassing 1,300 on Friday. Meanwhile Norwegian and Finnish newspapers have reported on their respective populations' fears of being infected by Swedes crossing the border.

Domestically too, the health authorities are under fire, with 22 scientists from research institutes and universities urging the government, in an Op-Ed published by daily Dagens Nyheter, to shut all cafes and schools. Sweden is now the last holdout for what has been labeled the "herd-immunity" approach, but Swedish health authorities insist their strategy is not strictly herd immunity, reports dailySvenska Dagbladet, but to simply slow down the spread — just like everyone else. So what's the real difference?

Empty bar in Rome, Italy — Photo: Matteo Trevisan/ZUMA

In a nutshell, herd immunity is when a full population is protected from infection before all are immune. This occurs when those infected are surrounded by people who have achieved immunity either through vaccination or recovering from the virus. While the occasional contact is still susceptible and the odd transmission happens, it's not enough to sustain the disease.

Sweden would reach 60,000 deaths before herd immunity is achieved.

A pure herd-immunity approach would therefore be to let COVID-19 burn through the population until enough people have recovered and become immune. But the issue is the death toll. The "R0" of a disease is equal to the number of additional infections a typical case will cause before they recover — if R0 is greater than 1, the epidemic grows; if it's smaller than 1, it shrinks. Let's assume that RO is 3 (COVID-19 is estimated at R2-3) then the infection initially grows until two-thirds of the population become immune, meaning that two out of three infectious contacts will lead to no spread. However, if forecasting the lowest estimated fatality rate of COVID-19 — about 1% — then a country like Sweden, with 10 million inhabitants, would reach 60,000 deaths before herd immunity is achieved.

Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell reasons every country will eventually have to achieve herd-immunity to beat the virus, but the spread needs to be controlled so hospitals don't become overburdened and the most vulnerable don't get infected; and in that way herd-immunity can be achieved without massive loss of life. Tegnell says that Swedes are practicing social distancing measures just like every other population — the difference being that they come as recommendations rather than rules.

While there are encouraging signs of many countries now turning the corner on the most acute phase of the crisis, it's still to early to decide whether Sweden's will be a model for the future or the example to avoid. A key to determining that are two basic questions every government should be looking at: Will Sweden prove better equipped for a second wave of the virus? How will the socioeconomic impacts compare to those in the locked-down countries in the months and years to come?

Malmö, Sweden/March 30, 2020
Carl-Johan Karlsson

A Swedish Exception? Why Sweden Is Ignoring Calls For Quarantine

STOCKHOLM — As COVID-19 shuts down vast swathes of the world, Sweden has become Europe's last "open" holdout. In the 10-million strong Nordic country, borders, elementary schools, offices, gyms and even restaurants remain open. So far, some 5,500 have tested positive for the virus and more than 300 people have died, but the government stands firm: No lockdown is the order of the day. So, what's the rationale?

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell argues the virus will inevitably pass through a large chunk of the population, and that China-style containment will only cause it to flare up again. Rather, the better way is to manage the pace of the spread — for which a lockdown is superfluous.

Similarly, Public Health Agency general director Johan Carlson says locking people up for months at a time is a far worse "experiment," than controlling the spread over time. He says citizens will question rigid measures that make no sense: "Why can only one person walk the dog if there are two owners who live together?" Carlson asked in a recent interview with Public Service Television (SVT).

Sweden seems to have successfully implemented the approach Boris Johnson initially espoused.

It's worth noting that Swedish health authorities enjoy unusually high independence. For comparison, in neighboring Norway and Denmark the government ignored health authorities' recommendation to keep schools open. Tegnell, who gives daily briefs to the Swedish people, has been more successful in selling his strategy, which is supported by 52% of the population, according to a survey bySvenska Dagbladet.

So far, in fact, Sweden seems to be implementing the controversial approach Boris Johnson initially espoused in the UK. Tegnell is banking against a scenario predicted in the much talked-about study from Imperial College London that warned attempts to let the virus spread to eventually immunize the population would bring one million British deaths. Tegnell dismissed that study, which pushed Johnson to opt for a lockdown, as "not peer reviewed," and said he was surprised it had stirred up such as fuzz in the UK.

But some form of Swedish lockdown may be on its way. The death toll is considerably higher than in the other Scandinavian countries, and Sweden finally banned gatherings of more than 50 people earlier this week, reportsDagens Nyheter. Look for authorities to incrementally roll out more restrictions as the death toll climbs.