England, Croatia win world cup quarter finals

In the early hours (NZ time) England beat Sweden 2-0 in the third football world cup semi final. Hoes of something great are rising in England.

WTF is SWEENG?

England’s semi-final opponent is still to be determined, with the Russia versus Croatia game due to start soon.


Russia v Croatia 1-1 after 75 minutes of game time.

Still 1-1 at the end of normal time, so the game will go in to extra time.

Both scored goals in extra time, ending 2-2, so now a penalty shootout.

Croatia win the shootout 4-3.

Russia did very well to get this far, they were ranked 70 going into the tournament. Croatia was 20.

Semi finalists:

  • France versus Belgium (Wednesday 6:00 am NZ time)
  • England versus Croatia (Thursday 6;00 am NZ  time)

 

“The role and potential of women in sustainable urban mobility”

It is difficult to understand what this is about let alone what benefits may come of it.

Julie Anne Genter: Minister to speak on women and transport at international events

Minister Genter will give the keynote address at the Women Mobilise Women conference, organised by the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative. The initiative aims to generate a debate on the role and potential of women in sustainable urban mobility.

“This is the first conference to empower women in transport and I am excited to be addressing this event focused on implementing sustainable mobility solutions on the ground by women, for women,” Ms Genter said.

I guess Genter will explain to the conference what she means, or maybe attendees already understand this sort of language.

I don’t know why women need to look separately at sustainable mobility solutions in urban areas. Separate women’s carriiges, buses or cycle lanes?

Genter will then go to something that looks more understandable and worthwhile:

The Minister will then join Ministers and government officials from around the world at the 2018 International Transport Forum Summit (ITF). This year’s theme is transport safety and security.

Minister Genter will participate in sessions addressing climate change and transport, ensuring long-term resilience of transport infrastructure funding, and how to increase safety on city streets.

Following the ITF Summit, Minister Genter will travel to Denmark and Sweden to meet with officials and experts on transport safety, particularly to discuss their implementation of ‘Vision Zero’ which aims to achieve a transport system with no fatalities or serious injuries.

“Sweden is one of the safest countries in the world having cut its road death rate by investing in safety infrastructure and setting safer speed limits. Earlier this year I announced that the Government will investigate adopting Sweden’s ‘Vision Zero’ approach to road safety in New Zealand. I am looking forward to learning from their experience while I am there,” Ms Genter said.

It is good to look at successful road safety initiatives elsewhere in the world.

I hope Genter learns a more realistic approach than “aims to achieve a transport system with no fatalities or serious injuries”. Goals are best when they look achievable.

I think a better goal would be to halve deaths and injuries in x number of years. If successful that can be repeated to slash the road toll, but it can realistically never reach zero.

And a focus on men might make sense where road safety is concerned, given they are generally more dangerous on the roads.

Sweden warn’s about “security situation in neighborhood”

Sweden is bringing back conscription and is sending out leaflets urging citizens to prepare for “different kinds of attacks on society and Sweden”.  One concern is “Russia aggression”.

CNN: Sweden to publish leaflets warning citizens over potential war

Sweden is preparing to issue leaflets to 4.7 million households this spring amid growing fears it could be dragged into the perils of war.

The leaflets, which urge citizens to prepare for “crisis and catastrophes in peacetime, but also for different kinds of attacks on society and Sweden,” is the latest step in the country’s revamped defense strategy in response to perceived Russian aggression.The pamphlet is prompted partly by the “security situation in our neighborhood,” meaning the Baltic area, a Civil Contingencies Agency spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday.

The leaflets, which will be published later this year, aim to educate Swedes on how to prepare in case “their world gets turned upside down,” and ask municipal regions to ready previous Cold War bunkers.

According to a spokesperson for the Civil Contingencies Agency, the literature will also provide practical tips to ensure citizens have all the necessary food, water and blankets stocked at home.

The country suspended conscription in 2010 and instead adopted a recruitment system which relied on volunteers.
But it changed tack in March 2017, announcing conscription would return in 2018.

In May 2017 Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told CNN: “The Russian regime has showed they are ready to use military powers to fulfill political goals.”

We often don’t appreciate how lucky we are here on the other side of the world.

Sweden drops charges against Assange

Sweden has dropped the charges against Julian Assange relating to allegations made seven years ago.

Stuff: Julian Assange all smiles after seven-year rape investigation is dropped

Sweden has dropped its investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who says he won’t forgive or forget the slandering of his name following an “important victory”.

The country’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Marianne Ny, made the announcement in Stockholm on Friday.

“Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny has today decided to discontinue the preliminary investigation regarding suspected rape concerning Julian Assange,” the prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

Ny said it was “not possible to take any further steps that would move the investigation forward”.

“All prospects of pursuing the investigation are now exhausted,” she said. “It is no longer proportionate to maintain the arrest of Julian Assange in his absence.

“To continue with legal proceedings would require Julian Assange’s personal appearance in court. There is no longer any reason to continue with the investigation.”​

Assange, 45, who has been in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012, where he was granted political asylum, tweeted a smiling image of himself after the news broke.

In February last year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said Assange was in effect being arbitrarily detained against international law.

He wasn’t detained, I thought he chose to live in the Ecudorian Embassy to avoid facing the investigation.

So that is now over for Assange, but it may not be the end of his problems.

‘REAL RISK’ OF ARREST, EXTRADITION

​Swedish prosecutors interviewed Assange at the embassy last November and in mid-March received a full translation of the interview, which they have since been reviewing.

In May, Assange’s lawyers asked the Stockholm District Court to review the detention order and arrest warrant against him.

They argued that the US had expressed they were seeking his extradition to the US over alleged crimes relating to Wikileaks’ publication of classified documents.

Assange’s lawyer Per Samuelson said Assange faced a “real risk” of extradition from Sweden. He argued his client’s remand status should be changed so he could leave the embassy to travel to Ecuador.

He is limited to where he can travel in the world to avoid the possibility of extradition proceedings.

However Assange is not likely to celebrate by immediately leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he would still be arrested.

In a tweet, Wikileaks said the “focus now moves to the UK”.

US attorney general Jeff Sessions has said arresting Assange was “a priority”, over alleged crimes relating to Wikileaks’ publication of classified documents.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which has been staking out the embassy for five years, said there was still an outstanding warrant for Assange’s arrest in the UK for skipping bail. Wikileaks claimed the UK would arrest Assange “regardless”.

He may not find it easy to get out of Britain.

Melinda Taylor, a member of Assange’s legal team, said their next step was to push for the US to “clarify” Assange’s legal status.

“Their prosecution has been going on since at least 2010, that’s a hell of a long time,” she said. “He has been deprived of the ability to defend himself.”

His lawyers would approach the Department of Justice in the US and request that they either confirm their decision to seek Assange’s extradition, or drop the case altogether, she said.

Assange argues that he and Wikileaks are protected under freedom of speech laws, so he has no case to answer in the US.

Asked if Assange would consider agreeing to extradition to fight the case conventionally in the US courts, Taylor said Assange had already indicated earlier this year that he would do so “if he could rely on standard due process protections and assert a public interest defence”

Assange’s lawyers will also call on the UK to drop the outstanding arrest warrant against him.

They have a potential legal avenue: to approach the courts arguing that the Swedish decision constitutes a significant change in circumstances that means the warrant should be reviewed.

 

Swedish PM on terrorism and immigration

Following the truck attack in Sweden on Friday Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has spoken on terrorism and immigration, covered separately in contrasting reports.

Rakhmat Akilov, a failed asylum seeker from Uzbekistan, is currently in custody on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

UK Express: ‘Terrorism will NEVER defeat Sweden’ PM Stefan Löfven vows after Stockholm lorry attack

Speaking to SVT on Sunday evening, the Swedish PM said terrorism will never defeat the Nordic country and it will remain united in the face of such atrocities.

The declaration came after Mr Löfven was asked: “The Swedish people have shown solidarity and conciliation after this attack but the terrorists want to increase fear, to create division in society. How do you view this risk?”

To which he responded: “I believe today’s [gathering] was a clear message from Stockholm and Sweden that we intend to keep our open, warm and inclusive society.

“That was the message. Terrorism will never defeat Sweden.”

Speaking at a Social Democrat party conference this weekend, a visibly moved Mr Löfven also expressed his pride in Sweden for its response to the attack.

He said: “I am proud to have you as fellow countrymen. You can take this pride [in your actions] with you for the rest of your lives.

“Friends, this is our fundamental challenge, as social democrats and as Swedes, during this conference and this decade. We are here to respond to this uncertainty.”

The Swedish PM added the work to combat terrorism must continue across party lines: “We will now invite the other parties that passed the national strategy against terrorism so that this work can be continued.

“We must prevent, obstruct and defend against terrorism with all the resources at our disposal. We will chase these killers with all the strength of our democracy.”

But Fox News focuses more on the immigration angle in Stockholm terror: Sweden will ‘never go back’ to mass immigration, PM reacts

Sweden will “never go back to the days of mass immigration” after it emerged the Stockholm attacker was a failed asylum seeker, the Swedish prime minister has said.

Stefan Löfven spoke out against the recent mass influx of immigrants coming in to Sweden during the 2015 migrant crisis.

The Swedish Prime Minister said: “Sweden will never go back to the [mass migration] we had in autumn 2015, never. Everyone who has been denied a permit should return home.

“This makes me feel enormously frustrated. If you have been denied a visa you are supposed to leave the country.”

He added: “Terrorists want us to be afraid, want us to change our behaviour, want us to not live our lives normally, but that is what we’re going to do. Terrorists can never defeat Sweden, never.”

But terrorists can have a significant impact. Like cause a change of approach to immigration.

Sweden, a country of 10 million people, took in 244,000 asylum seekers in 2014 and 2015 – the highest per capita number in Europe.

There are more than 3,000 migrants reportedly living unlawfully in Stockholm alone and an estimated 12,000 migrants awaiting deportation from the country.

That’s a lot of asylum seekers and deportations to try to handle – the majority of whom don’t resort to terrorism. It can be difficult identifying and dealing with the risks.

Rioting in Sweden

There are reports of rioting in Sweden in an immigrant area in Stockholm.

The Telegraph: Swedish police investigate riot in predominantly immigrant Stockholm suburb

Swedish police on Tuesday were investigating a riot that broke out overnight in a predominantly immigrant suburb in Stockholm after officers arrested a suspect on drug charges.

The clashes started late Monday when a police car arrested a suspect and people started throwing stones at them in Rinkeby, north of Stockholm. Unidentified people, including some wearing masks, also set cars on fire and looted shops.

One officer was slightly injured when a rock hit his arm and one person was arrested for throwing rocks, police spokesman Lars Bystrom said Tuesday.

Police were investigating three cases of violent rioting, assaulting a police officer, two assaults, vandalism and aggravated thefts, he said.

“This kind of situation doesn’t happen that often but it is always regrettable when it happens,” Bystrom said.

He declined to give further details, saying the episode would be investigated.

No indication of who started the rioting and who became involved, nor of their ethnicity.

The incident comes after US president Donald Trump was widely ridiculed for comments suggesting some kind of attack had occurred in Sweden on Saturday night.

It may be that this sort of thing is common in Sweden.

If not, this is suspiciously coincidental to the Trump claims.  Is this some opportunist stirring?

More details and facts are needed before jumping to conclusions.

Trump on Swedish ‘incident’ and immigration problems

Claims of immigration related crime in Sweden isn’t new online, but it does appear to be new when the US president makes claims about it that seem to have no factual basis (about another country, Donald Trump seems to lack a factual basis to many things he talks about in the US).

Reuters: Trump comment about immigration ‘problems’ baffles Sweden

U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Sweden experienced an immigration-related security incident prompted a baffled response from the Scandinavian country on Sunday as diplomats asked for an explanation and citizens responded with amusement.

Trump cited Sweden as a country that had experienced problems with immigrants in remarks at a rally on Saturday.

“You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden,” Trump said. “Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

That appeared to confuse the Swedish government, which asked the U.S. State Department to explain what the new president meant.

“We are trying to get clarity,” Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson said.

Swedish news sources made no mention of a recent terrorism attack or other high-profile crime in the country.

“Nothing spectacular happened in Sweden on Friday,” wrote the Local, an English-language website in Sweden.

Fox News ran a report on Friday night about alleged migrant-related crime problems in the country.

Sweden’s crime rate has fallen since 2005, official statistics show, even as the country has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq.

Trump has apparently ‘clarified’ where he got his information – Fox News.

The Hill: Trump clarifies remarks on Sweden: I got it from Fox News story

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt also questioned Trump’s claims.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” he tweeted.

This would seem to be the Fox News item: What the US could learn from Sweden’s refugee crisis

Feb. 17, 2017 – 6:15 – Sweden has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees and rape and violence has since skyrocketed. A journalist took a close look at Sweden’s refugee crisis and at what ‘extreme vetting’ really means #Tucker

I think there is some debate about crime statistics in Sweden, especially in relation to immigration.

It also seems to be new that a US president bases commentary of foreign issues in Fox News coverage.

US ‘flawed democracy’

The Economist Intelligence Unit has finally acknowledged that the US has a flawed democracy.

Declining trust in government is denting democracy

AMERICA, which has long defined itself as a standard-bearer of democracy for the world, has become a “flawed democracy” according to the taxonomy used in the annual Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company. Although its score did not fall by much—from 8.05 in 2015 to 7.98 in 2016—it was enough for it to slip just below the 8.00 threshold for a “full democracy”.

The downgrade was not a consequence of Donald Trump, states the report. Rather, it was caused by the same factors that led Mr Trump to the White House: a continued erosion of trust in government and elected officials, which the index measures using data from global surveys.

Trump’s presidency is a consequence of their flawed democracy, not a cause.

It joins France, Greece and Japan in the second-highest tier of the index.

democracyindex

USA was already near the flawed threshold before slipping under it:

  • 2006 – 8.22
  • 2008 – 8.22
  • 2010- 8.18
  • 2011 – 8.11
  • 2012 – 8.11
  • 2013 – 8.11
  • 2014 – 8.11
  • 2015 – 8.05
  • 2016 – 7.98

Top of the ‘full democracy scale’:

  • Norway – 9.93
  • Iceland – 9.50
  • Sweden – 9.39
  • New Zealand – 9.26
  • Canada and Ireland – 9.15
  • Australia has slipped a bit to 9.01

All democracies are flawed, but they are less flawed than the alternatives.

Sweden sees Russian threat

It has been reported that Sweden has become increasingly anxious about a possible threat of Russian attack.

This alongside rising tensions between the US and Russia over allegations of interference in the recent election could be cause for some concern.

The Telegraph: Swedish towns told to ‘make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict’ with Russia

Sweden’s towns and villages have been ordered to make preparations for a possible military attack in the latest sign of the country’s growing anxiety at its newly belligerent Russian neighbour.

The country’s Civil Contingency Agency (MSB) last week sent a letter to local authorities across the country asking them to maintain operations centres in underground bunkers, ensure that a system of emergency sirens is in place, and to be open to cooperating on war exercises with the Swedish Armed Forces.

“In a state of war,  civil defence for municipalities is no different from any of the other services they should provide,” the letter read, instructing local governments to “ensure their ability to maintain their functions during disturbed situations, and at the most extreme, in a war scenario.”

The dramatic call comes as Sweden returns to the Total Defence Strategy it maintained during the Cold War, reconstituting its old coastal anti-ship missile system, placing an armoured division on the exposed Baltic island of Gotland, and making plans to restart compulsory conscription as early as 2018.

“This strategy is not new. We used it during the Cold War and we are going to now strengthen coordination regarding civil defence,” Magnus Dyberg-Ek, who is leading the civil defence operation for MSB, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“What is new is that the security situation in our neighbourhood has worsened, and that we must therefore make preparations regarding the threat of war and conflict.”

This must be quite concerning for people in Sweden and Scandinavia.

“There is nothing to suggest that war is likely, but we have been given an order from the government to plan for it,” Svante Werger, the press officer for MSB, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

That sounds a bit contradictory.

In 2013, the Russian air force conducted a mock nuclear strike against Sweden during war games which saw a contingent of Russian aircraft approach Swedish airspace after crossing the Gulf of Finland.

This was one of several examples of dummy nuclear attacks against Nato and its allies in recent years, according to a Nato report.

During the election Trump suggested the US under his rule may not support NATO countries if they became involved in conflict.

Does Russia see an opportunities in expanding it’s influence with Donald Trump’s rise to power in the US? Maybe there is no threat to Sweden there could be a few countries in eastern Europe with increasing apprehension.

After the US election Time asked Can NATO Survive a Donald Trump Presidency?

Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Trump has suggested that the world’s most powerful military alliance should be run like an insurance scheme or a protection racket. In a typical remark on the issue this summer, he said allies that don’t “reasonably reimburse” the U.S. for the costs of defense should expect to be told, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

An emerging consensus in Europe has called Trump’s remarks the beginning of the end of the global order that has kept the West united since World War II. At best they mark the start of a bruising renegotiation of the transatlantic friendship. But it’s hard to tell which is closer to Trump’s true intention, because like so many of his policy positions, the statements he has made on NATO have come with plenty of caveats and room for retreat.

During the primary race this spring, he repeatedly called the alliance “obsolete.” But after winning the Republican nomination, he told the New York Times in July that he would like to preserve it, adding that only “fools and haters” would suggest Trump does not want to protect U.S. allies.

The ambiguity has left some room for optimism, at least among the defense experts who are willing to discount Trump’s apparent disdain for the idea of mutual defense. “I think this was politicking,” says Lord David Richards, the former head of the British Armed Forces. “I have every confidence that he will be as resolute on this issue as all U.S. presidents have since the formation of NATO,” he tells TIME.

I think that it’s too soon to have confidence in what Trump may or may not do.

Perhaps more importantly, what Putin may do, taking advantage of Trump’s ambiguity and possible lack of resolve in helping allies in NATO.

If Russia made any more military moves in Europe it’s difficult to guess whether Trump would try to stay uninvolved, or play tough guy and risk escalation, or shock the world with strong, principled and careful standing up to any Russian aggression.

If Trump continues to push the notion that NATO is a commercial enterprise – reliant less on the mutual trust and commitment of its members than on the question of who is picking up the check – he could alienate his European partners so completely that they will have no alliance left to defend. “Everybody will be so frustrated and disappointed with the other side that they will not feel a desire to continue,” says Shapiro. “NATO will become a hollow shell, because nobody will be contributing.”

A lot of that frustration has already begun to show. Even Europe’s typically cautious and understated officials have begun warning that NATO could split down the middle. “It might be that [Trump’s] policy priorities will lead America far away from some of the European basic principles or interests,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top official for foreign and security policy, said in an interview televised last week.

International relations are complex and difficult enough in better times. Superpower uncertainty under Trump’s presidency may be opportunistically exploited, and history has proven, escalations can quickly get out of hand.

Especially perhaps when you have egos like Putin’s and Trump’s involved.

Back to Sweden versus Russia – war between them may seem unlikely in the modern world, but in the last Millennium there have been twelve major conflicts between Sweden and Russia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_between_Russia_and_Sweden

Open borders and child migrants

Missy has drawn attention to this from The Telegraph: Sweden was overwhelmed by influx of child migrants – we should heed their lesson

Sweden used to regard itself as an open, tolerant country – and it had a fine record of integrating newcomers. But now it is closing its borders, rejecting asylum applications and sending people home. Nothing has done the country’s self-image more harm than its handling of child refugees – a sad story full of warnings for Britain.

Sweden’s problem is one of scale. Back in 2004, it was taking in about 400 children a year; by 2011 it had risen to 2,600. But then came the Great Migration – an astonishing march of African and Middle East migrants across Europe, a mix of the aspirant poor and people fleeing war. Sweden received the highest number of asylum seekers compared to its national population. In 2015, some 163,000 people claimed refuge. More than a fifth, or 35,000, were children.

The strain on services was predictable: unaccompanied minors account for about half the asylum budget. Sweden had to find an extra 70,000 school places in a country that already had a shortage of teachers. At one local primary school, 90 per cent of children reportedly speak Arabic and nearly 20 per cent arrived in the country just two years before.

Worse: nothing prepared Swedes for the abuse of their asylum system by predators and criminals.

Sweden has had to face the grim possibility that not all its child asylum seekers are children.

But:

Even if some of these “youths” were bending the truth, who can blame them? In wartime, the line between childhood and adulthood blurs. Children grow up fast, giving them the haunted, haggard look that can make it hard to judge their age, while someone who has just turned 18 is really only an adult on paper. To send them back to an uncertain fate on a technicality seems cruel.

Children can be deported if there is a guardian waiting for them. A group of teachers recently wrote an open letter expressing horror at the idea that their pupils could be effectively sent home to fight in a war: “What is a government even worth if it is incapable of protecting children in its own country and giving them hope for the future?”

Sweden is an example of good intentions having decidedly mixed consequences. The peoples of the developing world are on the move – it is tempting, in the spirit of Christian charity, to open the door to them. But there are a lot of them. They are a mix of refugees and economic migrants. And some may even be criminal.

It makes far more sense to focus on ensuring stability and development in their home countries than encouraging relocation here – and if refugees are accepted in significant numbers then the voters are going to want to know that they are genuine refugees. If the idea gains currency that hospitality is being exploited or rules broken, the popular mood will swing the other way. Life for migrants in Sweden is increasingly, tragically, uncomfortable. Racist attacks are up. An immigrant’s chance of being unemployed is now twice as great as a native Swede.

Liberals beware: evidence is mounting that open borders are unpopular and will not stay open for long. An act of mass generosity is likely to be followed by an act of mass intolerance – as Sweden’s asylum seekers will tell you.

There’s lessons for New Zealand in this as well, although we are distant and relatively isolated from the bulk of mass migrations.

But it is a difficult and complex issue. There are many tragedies and victims associated with wars.

If Western nations are going to get involved directly in wars in foreign countries, if they are going to make money by providing arms, if they are going to use failing states in geopolitical game playing and feuding and power battles then should they also take some responsibility for the damage that is caused to children and people who are more than just collateral damage?