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Swedish report Swedish report
by Euro Reporter
2012-02-03 09:11:25
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Sweden questions Nobel Peace Prize selection basis

Swedish authorities are looking into whether the Nobel Peace Prize has been going to the "wrong" type of people, like human rights campaigners and environmentalists, in violation of prize founder Alfred Nobel's will. The issue has dogged the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which gives the prize, since 2008 when an Oslo-based author began arguing that the prize had drifted from Nobel's intent to promote only disarmament and "peace congresses." "They are ignoring the will altogether," the author and peace activist, Fredrik Heffermehl, told Reuters. In his view the last qualified peace prize winners were the United Nations and its then-secretary general, Kofi Annan, in 2001. Heffermehl, a lawyer, has now won the ear of Stockholm County Administrative Board, whose duties extend to making sure the country's 7,300 registered foundations fulfil the wishes of their dead benefactors.

"Mr. Heffermehl has a couple of good arguments," Mikael Wiman, the board's attorney, told Reuters after he sent a letter this week to the Stockholm-based Nobel Foundation board seeking comment. While the annual prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics are given in Stockholm, Nobel specified that a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament should pick the peace prize winner. It is given in Oslo. Nobel, who invented dynamite, wrote in his 1895 will that the peace prize should go to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses." Geir Lundestad, the Norwegian committee's executive secretary, said "fraternity between nations" was broad enough to justify every winner in history. "We reject the idea that we have no respect for the will," Lundestad told Reuters. "There is more than one answer to how the will should be interpreted."

"We will send our statement on March 15 and I think that will be the end of it. We have done nothing wrong." Heffermehl said human rights campaigners like Liu Xiaobo, the jailed Chinese dissident who won in 2010, and advocates of the poor like Muhammad Yunus, who won in 2006 for popularizing micro-loans, were fine people but "wrong" for the prize. Nor did he approve of the three 2011 winners: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni democracy advocate Tawakkol Karman. "After last year you would think it's is a prize for democracy and women's rights," he said.


Swedish Supreme Court Rejects Pirate Bay Appeal

It's game over for the founders of The Pirate Bay, as the Supreme Court of Sweden declines to hear their appeal. Jail sentences and stiff fines now appear inevitable for Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm and Carl Lundström, the founders of The Pirate Bay who were convicted of violating copyright laws in Aril 2009. At the time, Per Samuelsson, a lawyer for Lundström, described the verdict as "outrageous" and immediately announced that it would be appealed, saying, "This is the first word, not the last. The last word will be ours." That prediction turned out to be somewhat less than accurate, however, as the final word actually came from the Supreme Court of Sweden and turned out to be nothing more than a rather anti-climactic "Pass, thanks." That dead-end at the Supreme Court means that the sentences handed down by a Swedish Appeals Court in late 2010, which reduced the prison sentences but dramatically increased the fines, will stand. The defendants can, and in at least one case will, take the appeal to the European Court of Justice, but that won't prevent the sentences from being carried out.

Samuelsson once again had harsh words for the decision and the court. "The verdict is absurd," he said. "I am disappointed that the court is so uninterested in dissecting and analyzing the legal twists and turns of one of the world's most high-profile legal cases of all time." It's possible that the four men may not actually go to jail, as it is apparently common in Sweden to knock a year off sentences in cases that are more than five years old, but that decision ultimately lies with the court. Sunde and Neij also no longer live in Sweden, adding another layer of potential complication. Whatever happens, Sunde remained defiant, accusing the courts and even the Swedish government of corruption while insisting that The Pirate Bay has consistently stood up for various worthy causes. "TPB has been one of the most important movements in Sweden for freedom of speech, working against corruption and censorship. All of the people involved in TPB at some time have been involved in everything from famous leaks projects to aiding people in the Arab spring," he wrote on his blog. "I'm not bragging - I'm saying this to make sure that people understand who's doing the right thing here. I haven't seen the entertainment industry help anyone but themselves."

"Even though the outcome is not favourable for my personal situation, the end goal that we fight for is so much more important than some people's personal struggles," he continued. "I'm just a pawn. But at least I'm a pawn on the morally right side. I'm proud as hell of what I've done and I would not change my involvement in any way. I actually think I could have done much more for the fight. And I will." Following the rejection of the appeal, The Pirate Bay operators changed the site's domain from .ORG to the Swedish .SE in order to prevent U.S. authorities from seizing it. The Pirate Bay website itself was not part of the trial or appeal process, and thus remains operational.


Sweden looks to replace textbooks with iPads

Sweden seems to have taken Nolan Bushnell’s words to heart. A school system in the country wants to modernize teaching with computer integration. A suburb of Stockholm, Sollentuna, is proposing that the public schools do away with textbooks by 2013. In their place, they want to give every student an iPad.  Maria Stockhaus, chair of Sollentuna’s children and education board, argues that schools in her municipality are in the “backwater” compared to the rest of the country according to The Local. “The schools will take a step into the now instead of staying in the old days. Computers are as natural in schools as paper and pens, yet the fact that only every other teacher in Sweden has a computer today is completely insane,” Stockhaus said.

There has been backlash at the idea though. Sweden’s education minister Jan Björklund insists that reading books and writing by hands are still relevant, even in the far out future of 2012. “Even in the future people will need to read and write. You can’t always have access to a computer in some places,” he told DN. “Books have an obvious place in school, and national exams are still written by hand. I predict that they will not follow through with their proposals.” Sollentuna has already issued computers to all teachers, and plans to give tablet PCs to every student from 2nd grade onward.  The schools receiving iPads are Helenelundsskolan, Sofielundsskolan and Runbacka. Say those names three times fast.

In a bold move, Stockhaus says that students won’t be given pen and paper until they are 8-years-old. This way, students will be accustomed to touch screen technology earlier in life. She argues that this will equip students for the future. The benefit of giving every child their own computer is more about levelling the playing field for families with different incomes. “We know that not every student has computer access at home. These students who come from homes with tighter finances have worse grades. An even greater wedge will occur if they do not get the same digital competence as the others,” Stockhaus said. She also claims that feedback is immediate on a computer, thus speeding up the learning process. Another school with a name I can’t pronounce (Tegelhagsskolan) introduced PC access to all students three years ago. Their students have consistently excelled in academics since.  The initial investment will cost $2.45 million in the start up phase. The cost will increase to $3 million in 2013. It will be partially paid for by the elimination of costly textbooks.

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