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Tue, 15 Oct 2019
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Stock Down

Is it time for Sweden to brace for an economic downturn?

Ylva Hedén Westerdahl
© Anders Wiklund/TT
Ylva Hedén Westerdahl.
With growth faltering nationally, and the prospect of hard Brexit and a global trade war on the horizon, is it time for Sweden to start getting ready for an economic downturn?

Ylva Hedén Westerdahl, head of forecasting at the National Institute of Economic Research, said Swedes should not think today's good times will continue forever. While external shocks like Brexit or a trade war will only hit exporters directly, indirectly they could push down house prices, destabilize financial institutions, make salary growth stagnate and cause rising unemployment. "When house prices fall, then house-owners start to feel poorer and so they cut their consumption and start to save more," she told the TT news agency.

Another big worry for the property market is whether the large numbers of newly built houses shortly to come onto the market will be sold. "The question is how they are going to be sold," Westerdahl said. "Overproduction means that housing investments and prices could fall even more." But banks are not as exposed to mortgages as they were in the run up to the 2007 and 2008 financial crisis.

Arrow Up

Saudi Arabia parts with another medieval law: Saudi women and foreign couples now allowed to rent hotel rooms

saudi hotel
© REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Newly fitted bedroom of Al Koot Heritage Hotel is seen during the inauguration ceremony of Al Koot Heritage Hotel in Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, July 8, 2018. Picture taken July 8, 2018.
Breaking with its behind-the-times relationship laws, Saudi Arabia has decided to let foreign men and women share hotel rooms, as part of a campaign to make the kingdom more appealing to holidaymakers.

Before the new reforms, foreign men and women had to prove they were related if they wanted to shack up together in the kingdom. The new policy will also apply to Saudi women, who were previously prohibited from renting hotel rooms by themselves.

Saudi nationals will still be required to show family ID or proof of relationship when checking into hotels, but such documentation will not be required for foreign tourists, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage confirmed on Friday. The agency added that all women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone.

The kingdom announced last week that it would begin accepting tourists from 49 countries as part of an initiative to diversify its energy-focused economy. Female visitors will not be required to cover themselves head-to-toe, but have been instructed to dress modestly. Alcohol is still strictly prohibited.

Riyadh hopes the relaxed rules will attract up to 100 million tourists annually by 2030. The deeply conservative country has been slowly parting ways with its more extreme laws. Last year, it ended its uniquely backward ban on women driving.

Comment: Saudi Arabia may still be a 's***hole', but at least it's slowly entering the 21st century!


Eye 1

Trump issues entry ban on new migrants who can't afford health insurance


Comment: Given that Americans are expected to be responsible for their own health insurance, it's logical that the newly-arrived are too.


Trump and wall
© Reuters / Tom Brenner
The White House has issued a proclamation demanding that migrants prove they can afford to pay for healthcare in the United States before they are allowed to enter the country, kicking off fierce debate among netizens.

Issued late on Friday, the new directive says immigrants must prove their ability to purchase health insurance within 30 days of entering the country, arguing the uninsured are passing on costs to US taxpayers and over-burdening the healthcare system.

An alien will financially burden the United States healthcare system unless the alien will be covered by approved health insurance... within 30 days of the alien's entry into the United States, or unless the alien possesses the financial resources to pay for reasonably foreseeable medical costs.

"Healthcare providers and taxpayers bear substantial costs in paying for medical expenses incurred by people who lack health insurance," the document reads, adding the problems are worsened "by admitting thousands of aliens who have not demonstrated any ability to pay for their healthcare costs."

Oscar

Nobel Peace Prize for Greta? Bad idea, say two-thirds of Germans

Greta Thunberg cartoon
© AFP / Jonathan NACKSTRAND
An activist holds up placard depicting the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg during "Fridays for future" demonstration, a worldwide climate strike against governmental inaction towards climate breakdown and environmental pollution in Stockholm on September 27, 2019.
Greta Thunberg's nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize has been lauded by mainstream media outlets and public figures in Europe, but not everyone is as enthusiastic. Only 15% of Germans welcome the idea, a new poll found.

66 percent of German citizens responded with a clear 'no' to the prospect of Thunberg being given the prestigious award, according to a YouGov survey on climate change and the environment. Only 15 percent supported the nomination and 19 percent were undecided.

Comment: Greta definitely doesn't deserve this kind of honor, and it's good to see that the majority of Germans agree.



USA

The Supreme Court will decide whether encouraging illegal immigration is protected speech

migrants illegals border
© Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
The Supreme Court will decide whether a federal law that makes it a crime to "encourage or induce" someone to enter the country illegally violates the First Amendment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law is unconstitutional in December 2018. The justices added the case to the docket for their forthcoming term Friday.

"The provisions here are primarily directed at conduct, not speech," the government's petition to the high court reads. "To the extent they even reach speech, they do so only incidentally by prohibiting communications that foster unlawful activity by particular individuals, which have long been understood to be outside the scope of the First Amendment."

Robot

Fighting 'fake news' online: How soldiers in Latvia got fooled by bots

latvia soldiers
© Markos Tenys/ Shuttertsock
If many comments and links are being posted at the same time, this could mean that a bot is being used. If commentators systematically comment on very different topics such as elections in Brazil and Latvia's football league, this could also mean that posting these comments did not require just one person.
Translated by Daniel Eck

When NATO's Centre for Strategic Communication in Riga discovered how easy it was to dupe its soldiers online, it has started looking for ways of countering false information, which comes, in large part, from Russia. EURACTIV's media partner der Tagesspiegel reports.

The Latvian forest, not far from the Russian border. Thousands of soldiers from different NATO member states are training there to ensure continued military presence in Eastern Europe.

But during manoeuvres that spanned several days, some soldiers who were winding down with their mobile phones stumbled across a well-done website claiming to be designed by and for soldiers. On there, the men chatted about the army, the weather and life in general. A few of them also ordered T-shirts on the site, for which they agreed to give their home address for delivery.

On Tinder, a popular dating app, some even communicated with a woman, sending pictures of themselves in uniform. One evening, two soldiers even arranged to meet the virtual woman. They both left their post for her, a move which proved to be a mistake.

The website and the Tinder profile turned out to be a trap - a test carried out by a team of NATO experts on behalf of the Latvian army in the summer of 2018 to identify weaknesses in its own ranks. Soldiers were prompted to send their addresses, spread photos of a manoeuvre and even leave their posts, all with little effort.

Comment: See also:


People

Most Americans think social media has too much control over news, according to poll mainstream media quietly ignored

Social media companies
© Pixabay / kropekk_pl
Some 62 percent of Americans believe social media exerts too much control over what news people see, and most think online platforms treat some news outlets differently than others for the wrong reasons, a new poll shows.

Not only do social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter distort the mix of news that reaches their users, but their actions result in a worse mix, according to 55 percent of Americans responding to a Pew Research poll published this week. Just 15 percent believe the platforms' meddling results in a better mix.

Comment: See also:


Sheriff

Crumbling blue line: Overworked, demoralized French police stretched to breaking point

French police officers at the
© Reuters / Christian Hartmann
French police officers at the "March of Anger", Paris, France, October 2, 2019
Years of austerity and state of emergency have already taken their toll on French police, but the 'Yellow Vest' protests seem to have been the final straw. Now Les Flics have gone on strike amid an epidemic of officer suicides.

Picture a crowd of some 20,000 people, gathered in the streets of Paris, waving banners, lighting flares, singing La Marsellaise and blowing whistles. They boo as a group of protesters is led away by gendarmes in riot gear, presumably under arrest. Some of the demonstrators are crying.

Comment: First in a decade: Yellow Vests end French austerity plans, finally


Heart - Black

Freezing to death: Unheated homes killed over 16,000 people across UK last winter - watchdog

uk snow
© Getty Images / Richard Baker
FILE PHOTO
Staggering energy prices are taking a toll on those unable to pay their bills, a UK regulator has admitted, confirming that thousands of people may have died because of fuel poverty and lack of heating during winter.

The most vulnerable households spend more on their energy bills than wealthier ones, and "can therefore be at greater risk of fuel poverty," according to a comprehensive new study by the Office of Gas and Energy Markets (Ofgem) on Thursday.

Fuel poverty, a common UK term for customers who cannot afford to keep adequately warm at an affordable cost, "increases the risk that people [will] develop ill health," it acknowledged.

"Over winter 2017-18, we estimate that fuel poverty may have contributed to 5,500 excess winter deaths and that 16,500 excess winter deaths may have been linked to people living in cold homes."

Comment: Citizens are suffering thanks to government imposed austerity meanwhile privatization and political corruption are destroying any chance people have at affordable energy: Alastair Crooke: Germany stalls and Europe craters


Cow

Meat is back on the menu! Scientists who want to ban cows for the sake of the planet are predictably outraged

A man buys meat from a butcher shop in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state, Brazil October 1, 2019.
© REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli
A man buys meat from a butcher shop in Santo Andre, Sao Paulo state, Brazil October 1, 2019.
A new study has found slim to nonexistent evidence for apocalyptic warnings about red meat consumption causing cancer, and the scientific establishment hell-bent on turning humanity vegan for environment's sake is now outraged.

A team of 14 researchers from seven countries looked at over 130 articles and a dozen randomized trials, concluding that evidence linking the consumption of red and processed meat to cancer, heart disease, and mortality was of low quality and unreliable. Their findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a publication of the American College of Physicians, last week - to howls of protest from the scientific and nutritional establishment.