Sweden Opinion: The fakers’ little lies are eating our brains


Opinion: The fakers' little lies are eating our brains

File photo not related to the story. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB Scanpix

Information is one of the biggest weapons in modern warfare, and as fake news sites lose their power, real news organizations risk being hijacked by the spread of little lies. Journalists and audiences need to fight back.

The warning in a Cold War Swedish pamphlet is stark: “Be on your guard against fake radio broadcasts. Remember that even well known voices on the air can be imitated. Listen critically!” But today, at another moment of great international instability, it’s a message that risks being lost on both journalists and the public.

As I woke up on the last day of my holiday, I started getting messages from journalists at Al Jazeera and the BBC, asking me to confirm a report on The Local. According to them, we’d run an interview with FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, who had said Saudi Arabia and six other Middle Eastern countries were demanding Qatar be stripped of the World Cup.

The story was piffle. And despite appearances, it was not on The Local. Someone had cloned The Local, using a similar web address, and had published the story. Reuters and other international media had picked it up and re-reported it, citing The Local. The story didn’t sound outlandish and its apparent appearance in mainstream media gave it credibility.

We still don’t know who did it, though in a possibly related incident the Washington Post later reported that US officials were accusing the United Arab Emirates of a previous hack of Qatari media. In that incident, the hackers planted false quotes from the Emir of Qatar about Israel and Iran, causing a major crisis in the region. It’s maybe not a wild guess to say that the story (not) on The Local was intended to pour oil on the flames.

Fake news is nothing new. In the mid-eighties, the Soviet Union went to huge lengths to fabricate a story accusing the CIA of inventing the AIDS virus as a way of attacking Africa and its own black population. It was a sophisticated operation: fake research was produced by real East German scientists and the results spread via Soviet propaganda units to newspapers in countries such as India and Ghana. Gradually, the stories seeped into the mainstream.

The results were frighteningly long-lasting: in 2005, 16 percent of African Americans believed AIDS was created by the government to control the black population.

British journalist Peter Pomerantsev says we are seeing the ‘weaponization of information’, where countries or political groups use disinformation to harm each other. The recent epidemic of fake news has mostly been spread by hyper-partisan outlets or state propaganda sites, like Breitbart or RT (Russia Today).

But broad swathes of the public have already learned to distrust sites like these, and Facebook and Google have been embarrassed into taking steps to curb them. Now, genuine news sites are the new front in the information war.

The AIDS story is memorable because it was so outrageous and well-planned. But the really insidious fake stories are often also mundane and far less elaborate. A fake story from Milos Yiannopoulos that Sweden was banning Christmas lights on public roads fed into the myth that immigration was robbing Sweden of its culture. Mainstream British newspapers for years repeated the lie that the EU had banned bendy bananas – an idiotic myth, but one that fed the deepest prejudices of many voters. Even the President of the United States repeats half-remembered myths and distortions he heard on Fox News. The individual power of these stories is less important than the drip, drip effect a succession of similar fake stories has on how we perceive the world.

Fake news writers, whoever they work for, know that clicks are driven by stuff that confirms people’s deepest prejudices. If a story casts suspicion on minorities, slams the elites or spreads conspiracy theories about rival countries, we’re almost pre-programmed to believe it.

Fake news – propaganda – manipulates us to act against our own interests. It makes us think good politicians are crooked, out-of-touch or incompetent and encourages us to elect genuinely bad ones. It makes us think other countries threaten our way of life, and this causes political or even military conflict. We should all be scared about what the lies are doing to our politics, our societies and our brains: a collection of little lies lodged in our subconsciouses can do far more damage than the big, bold, disprovable lies.

When countries or political groups with huge resources decide to use real media to fight their wars, we are all incredibly vulnerable. Serious journalists need to check their sources more rigorously – if our readers can’t trust us, we lose our reason to exist. But journalists are fallible and easily imitated. The last line of defence is still what it was in Cold War Sweden: the scepticism of the crowd.

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Volvo reveals plans to go all electric… and it’s going to happen sooner than you think


Volvo reveals plans to go all electric... and it's going to happen sooner than you think

Volvo chief executive Håkan Samuelsson. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

All new Volvo cars will be equipped with an electric motor from 2019, making it the first of the world’s traditional car makers to pull the plug on cars powered only by a combustion engine.

“This is about the customer,” said Volvo Cars president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson in a statement. “People increasingly demand electrified cars, and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs. You can now pick and choose whichever electrified Volvo you wish.”

Volvo said it would launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021, as well as petrol and diesel plug-in hybrids and so-called “mild-hybrid cars”, cars with a small petrol engine and large battery.

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” said Samuelsson. “Volvo Cars has stated that it plans to have sold a total of one million electrified cars by 2025. When we said it we meant it. This is how we are going to do it.”

Volvo Car Group is owned by Chinese Geely Holding. It is headquartered in Torslanda, Gothenburg, and has a factory there as well as in Ghent, Belgium, and Chengdu, China.

European car makers have been racing to develop electric vehicles.

German car giant Volkswagen is championing electric models in a bid to clean its tarnished reputation, after it admitted in September to installing emissions cheating software in 11 million diesel-powered cars worldwide.

Higher-end manufacturers like BMW and Daimler, which owns Mercedes, are also jostling for a share of the electric vehicle market, but face a challenge from newcomers like Tesla, which has had a head start in autonomous driving as well as electric power.\

The Local

45 Sadness


He is my president, the 45th president of the United States of America.  Like many Americans I  hoped for the best and told myself I would to give him a chance.

That was January 20th

As of the February 19, I am mortified, embarrassed and sad.

Doing a reality check I asked myself, am I a sore loser, am I angry?

Disappointed yes, its one of many disappointments I’ve experienced when the best man lost.    When 43( George W) won I was dissapointed. There weren’t statements or questions in his character that led me to believe he might damage the country.

In less than 30 days, 45 has manage to damage our image. He has managed to bring the stability of the United States into question.   He has insulted our allies and caused most of us to be on constant alert. What will he do or say today?

Despite all the alternative facts, I’m not in shock.  President 45 and Candidate Trump are the same person.   I’ve never been at odds with his supporters, in fact I understand why they supported him.  While his candidacy has  awakened a racist element ,I don’t subscribe to the notion that all of his supporters are racists.  However since the election, some of my Indian, Mexican and Iranian friends have been attacked, some physically.  The citizenship of anyone with an accent is now questioned.

I find it difficult to respond, whenever one of my international friends ask why-how was he elected?  I lay of lot of the blame on my candidate, Hillary Clinton, and the other candidates,Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bernie Sanders, Lindsey Graham, Martin O’Malley,Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush.     Not one of these candidates stepped forward the day or the after he made that racist statement about Mexicans.   No one said this isn’t acceptable, he is wrong and doesn’t represent my  America!  Jeb Bush who’s wife is Mexican, their  children have relatives in Mexico was uncomfortably silent.   We have seen the careers of sportscasters and other notable individuals end, after making racists comments.  One wonders how successful he would have been if one or more of the candidates immediately spoke out against him.

The root of my sadness comes from the news.  Rarely a day passes without a  an international misstep by 45 or someone in his administration which is later blamed on the evil media. It also comes from Social Media.

There is an upside…..

People are awake!  There are daily demonstrations all over the country.   The Women’s march gave me hope.  I participated in the Muslim demonstration at Sacramento International.   One demonstration I wont participate in is “45 isnt my President”  With so many demonstrations I worry that they will eventually lose their impact.

To counter my sadness, I limit the time I spend of social media and watching the news. With so many people in shock, one thing is missing is humor. SNL has been a god send for me, through the writers I can exhale.

I’m gonna be okay, so will the rest of us.   Please don’t recommend therapy or snappy happy pills. I promise I wont throw myself in traffic or eat a case of Lil Debbie treats.  Its not that serious. I am an an optimist, today is today, and in time it will get better.

I wish more people would refer to him as 45.  The narcissist loves hearing his name and 45 would make him crazy, or are we too late.?

CityFella

Could Norway follow Sweden’s lead and introduce a third gender?


Could Norway follow Sweden’s lead and introduce a third gender?
The leader of Labor’s youth wing said that Norwegians should be able to identify themselves whoever they want in their passports and other official documents. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / SCANPIX
Norway’s Labour Party, the largest party in parliament, will consider backing the introduction of a third gender, broadcaster NRK reported.
Labour’s programme committee will debate the introduction of the third gender category so that Norwegians would no longer need to define themselves as male or female in their passports and other official documents.
Labour’s draft party programme for 2017-2021 states that the party “shall consider the introduction of a third gender category”.
Although the proposal is only under the early stages of consideration, Labour committee member Mani Hussaini suggested that Norway should follow the lead of neighbouring Sweden, which adopted the gender neutral pronoun ‘hen’ into official use in April 2015.
Hussaini, who is the leader of Labour’s youth wing AUF, said ‘hen’ could also be used in Norwegian as a gender-neutral alternative to ‘han’ (he) and ‘hun’.
“I believe that all people should be allowing to live out their identity and thus the law should adapt to reality rather than the other way around,” Hussaini said.
“I think that for example in the passport it could show that one is neither male nor female, but belongs to a third gender category, thus a ‘hen’,” he added.
The idea of a ‘hen’ is not entirely new to Norway. The social-liberal party Venstre proposed the introduction of a third gender in April 2016 but it failed to gain traction.
Likewise, Sweden’s adoption of ‘hen’ has not been without controversy. The pronoun sparked massive debate in 2012 when a publisher decided to use it in a children’s book. But others argued that ‘hen’ is not meant to replace gendered pronouns. Instead, it allows speakers to refer to a person without having to mention the gender if they don’t know it, if the person is transgender, or if the information is considered irrelevant.
Ultimately, the Swedish Academy agreed to include ‘hen’ in its official dictionary, Svenska Akademiens ordlista, in 2015.
The Local

Stockholm named one of world’s best gay cities


Stockholm named one of world's best gay cities

Stockholm is one of the world’s best cities for gay people, according to a new ranking.

LGBTQ travel site GayCities collected more than 23,000 votes from its members and named Stockholm as the winner in the Up-And-Coming category.

“Sweden has always been a the forefront of the LGBTQ rights movement, so we are proud to provide Stockholm with the Up-And-Coming award in the Best of GayCities2016,” Tim Winfred, director of marketing at Q Digital which is behind GayCities, told The Local.

The Swedish city was picked ahead of US hubs Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Richmond and Buffalo.

“As the only non-American location in the category, Stockholm received one-third of all fan votes and beat several other great cities,” added Winfred.

San Francisco took home the top crown as Best City of 2016, with Orlando in Florida winning City of the Year. The only other European cities featured were London and Berlin  which were tied in the Best Singles Scene category, and Madrid, named a Foodie Paradise.

A major gay rights group earlier this year praised Sweden for recent work to promote transgender rights, and for creating more information for and about the young LGBTQ community.

The Nordic country did then fall from fourth to twelfth place in its ranking, however ILGA-Europe explained that the drop was more a result of other nations improving their policies than life in Sweden getting worse for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people.

The Local

Gonorrhea could become incurable, Sweden warned


Gonorrhea could become incurable, Sweden warned

The number of gonorrhea infections reported in Sweden has increased yet again, at the same time as experts warn that a strain could become incurable

The Local

New statistics from Sweden’s Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) show that by November 2016 1,625 gonorrhea cases had been reported in the country last year, compared to 1,535 during the same time period the year before.

That’s despite safe sex campaigns, and Swedish doctors previously highlighting that the number of gonorrhea infections had more than double in the decade between 1995 and 2015.

“There are several factors which have contributed to the growth. One of them is that more cases are detected now because access to tests has increased since ordering them online was made possible,” Folkhälsomyndigheten’s Elin Jacobsson told The Local.

“Gonorrhea has lived in the shadow of chlamydia somewhat, which is the most common STD in Sweden, but since a few years back both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be detected by the same test.”

The number of people taking the combined test for chlamydia and gonorrhea in Sweden increased by 20 percent in 2015, leading to 390,000 testing themselves that year, up from 330,000 in 2014. Test numbers for 2016 are not yet available.

Folkhälsomyndigheten believes that awareness about the disease may still be too low, and also sees decreasing condom use in Sweden as a concern.

“The number of cases of gonorrhea reported was generally low for a long time, which means that awareness about the infection could be low. It’s very important that people who have unprotected sex are offered tests and discussions about condom use,” Jacobsson explained.

“Condom usage is too low in Sweden: it has dropped since the 80s and 90s when the fear of HIV was high. Chlamydia is not perceived as similarly serious, and as a result of that the incentive to use condoms isn’t as high. We also know that the number of sexual partners during a lifetime has increased and people don’t always make a rational risk assessment,” she added.

The most common way for gonorrhea to spread is through sex without a condom, though it can also spread through oral sex. The average age bracket of those infected in 2016 was 28-29, the majority of whom were men.

Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can lead to reduced fertility if not treated. And a real concern is that the current antibiotic treatments could stop working, leading to strains of gonorrhea becoming incurable.

“The increase is worrying because it could become incurable as multiresistant bacteria grows. For one kind of gonorrhea in particular there is currently only one kind of antibiotic which can cure it,” Jacobsson warned.

“People are actively looking for new antibiotics, but we could end up in a situation where the cure which exists stops working.”

In Sweden, gonorrhea and chlamydia are subject to the country’s law for communicable disease control (smittskyddslagen), which means anyone who suspects being infected is required to get a test.

Symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating and bloody or red and swollen eyes.

Swedish Nazi group hails Trump in largest demo yet


Swedish Nazi group hails Trump in largest demo yet

Swedish Nazis cross Stockholm’s Strömsbrön on their way to the parliament. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden’s neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) mounted the biggest march in its history on Saturday, with its leadership saying the election of Donald Trump in the US marked the start of a world revolution.

Five people were arrested and two were injured in Stockholm on Saturday as an estimated 600 far-right demonstrators marched from the central Kungsträdgården park to Mynttorget, the square where Sweden’s parliament is based in historic Gamla Stan.
“A number of people have been held. They were aggressive at one of our barriers,” Kjell Lindgren, a press spokesman for the Stockholm police said. He said that police had registered two cases of violent rioting, which carries a maximum four-year sentence. At least twenty others were detained for the duration of the march.
The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and press commentators had questioned the wisdom of authorizing Saturday’s rally, given the likelihood of violence.
According to a reporter from the anti-Nazi Expo magazine, Per Öberg, the Nazi group’s press chief, told the gathered crowd that Donald Trump’s election was a sign that a world revolution was beginning.
Also speaking was Vera Oredsson, a lifelong Nazi who was a member of the Hitler youth as a child growing up in Nazi Germany, and Fredrik Vejdeland, the group’s head of strategy.
According to Expo, Vejdeland expressed his support for a proposal to break up Bonnier, the media empire which owns the Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Sydsvenskan and Dagens Industri newspapers, and the the TV4 television network.
Bonnier is controlled by the Bonniers, one of Sweden’s richest Jewish families.
According to Expo, when Vejdeland began talking the crowd began to chant “Hang them, hang them”.
An AFP photographer said the Nazi marchers were easily outnumbered by the thousands of anti-fascists who came to protest their presence.
Swedish police said the counter demonstrators pelted the neo-Nazis with snowballs and bangers.
“A lot of loose objects, including snow, ice, bangers and fireworks of various kinds have been thrown,” Lindgren said. “I have not heard that anyone has been harmed, but it is possible that they have been.”
Police spokesman Lars Byström told TT news agency that a policeman was hit by a demonstrator, and a second individual was injured in circumstances that were unclear.
Roads were blocked and bus traffic affected in parts of central Stockholm as a result of the demonstration, which was set to continue until about 15.30.