Bad year for road kill.
Sweden has vast stretches of beautiful, unblemished natural landscape through forests, mountains and countryside, but there are some serious hazards. Game crashes on country roads increased by 10% last year, and six people lost their lives. With 33,789 reports, accidents with deer were most frequent. However, in the southernmost province of Skåne, a replanting of wild boars has resulted in soaring populations of the hunted and edible relatives of modern pigs. Last year in that province, 680 collisions between vehicles and wild boars outnumbered all other car conflicts with creatures that include bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx, moose, deer, otters and moufflon (a wild sort of domestic sheep). Crashes between rodents, squirrels, hedgehogs, snakes, frogs, cats, rabbits, hares, foxes, insects, crows and other birds (except eagles) are exempt from mandatory reporting to police and did not enter into the statistics. Wildlife accidents last year were most in Västra Götaland, with 7,266 crashes, and least on the island of Gotland, where deer alone figured in all 88 accidents. The national average calculated to nearly nine wild animal accidents per 1,000 cars.

Oscar to Swedish inventor.
An Academy Award, popular known as an “Oscar” from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Technical Achievement is being awarded to Björn Hedén for his design and mechanical engineering of a silent, two stage planetary friction drive lens motors. The series of devices for which Hedén is being honored with what news commentators call the “Nerd Oscar” consists of a device that, according to the Academy citation, “has had an immediate and significant impact on the motion picture industry” because it solves a number of problems with a single, integrated mechanism. Born in 1927 in Germany and graduated from the Stockholm Institute of Technology, Hedén designed Swedish military radar equipment at Ericsson and also, with Victor Hasselblad, invented the shutter mechanism of the mirror reflex in the legendary Hasselblad 500C camera. After founding Hedén Engineering in Mölndal, Sweden, in 1964, he invented a motor and steering unit that controlled zoom, focus and iris for a film camera of the acclaimed Swedish photographer, Albert Rudling. Hedén's equipment became popular among film photographers, and in 1971, he was nominated for a technical Oscar for his work. In 1990, NASA and ESA sent special Hedén motors on a successful space mission.

Ikea expects zero profits this year.
According to an estimate from Dagens Industi, the Swedish business daily, Ikea reportedly profited over SEK 50 billion (US$6.9 billion dollars) in 2009, but a company statement in February projected a ”plus minus zero” profit figure for the current year. Although official statistics are lacking because Ikea is a family company that is not obliged to divulge periodic earnings reports, a statement last September said its sales for two months from Sept. - Aug. increased 1.4% to US$30.1 billion. By last June, Ikea had slashed 5,000 jobs worldwide to counter the sagging global economy. The company's earnings in Russia fell below expectations in 2009, and Ikea dismissed two Swedish executives in Russia in relationship to bribery allegations. Ikea also has problems in France, where problems included a pay strike in mid February at 23 of the furniture giant's 26 stores.

Child cancer DNA breakthrough.
Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy and Karolinska Institutet have used novel technology to reveal the different genetic patterns of neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer. Announced last Monday, this discovery may lead to significant advances in the treatment of this malignant disease, which mainly affects small children. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study covered 165 children with neuroblastoma. Most had developed the disease before the age of five. The children have been monitored for over 20 years by research teams led Prof. Tommy Martinsson of Sahlgrenska Academy and Prof. Per Kogner of Karolinska Institutet. At times aggressive and difficult to cure, Neuroblastoma is a nerve cell cancer that has defects in certain chromosomes. After leukemia and brain tumors. it is the third most commonest form of cancer in children, and around 20 Swedish children are afflicted annually. Appearing during the development phase of the sympathetic nervous system, the disease may show no symptoms until the tumor grows and presses on other organs. Presently performed treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, high dose therapy combined with stem cell support and vitamin A. “We found that the children who develop this type of neuroblastoma are twice as old at the onset of the disease as children who develop other types of neuroblastoma. This type progresses more slowly and is more difficult to treat,” says Helena Carén, a researcher at the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Sahlgrenska Academy. Researchers have succeeded in analyzing the DNA of tumor cells and identifying chromosomal defects. This enabled identification of subgroups of the most aggressive neuroblastomas. Afterward, their tests aimed at identifying genetic weak points in order to develop improved treatment. “Treatment is based on the genetic profile of the patient, or in this case, of the tumor cells,” says Tommy Martinsson, professor of genetics at the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Sahlgrenska Academy. Per Kogner, professor of pediatric oncology at Karolinska Institutet, reiterates that their discovery will now allow a variety of tailormade treatments to be developed, and these may the lives of even more children. The study was carried out with support from the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Swedish Cancer Society.

Not much green at Stockholm Furniture Fair.
There was a great deal of green buzz at the Stockholm Furniture Fair recently, but alas, there was not too many practical examples on climate adaptable products. Cecilia Nykvist, managing director of a small design company called Frank Form, believes the natural trend is still going strong. “And I think that’s a bit boring,” she adds. “What’s ecological here is just an illusion, a beige illusion. I like color and well thought-out design.” She points at a colorful Spanish lamp in recyclable plastic in her own booth. Tom Hedqvist, director of the prestigious Beckmans School of Design, agrees: “I miss something radical when it comes to the ecological question. I would like to see someone showing me, ‘this is how we used to do it; this is how we do it now!’ But I haven’t seen anything like that, and that worries me.” For him and for all students of design, this Furniture Fair (Möbelmässan) offers an opportunity to meet other students and more established colleagues. Over one hundred designers applied to participate in the fair’s “green house,” a space dedicated to young designers. From those applications, 36 were accepted, and according to the fair’s project director, Cecilia Nyberg, the quality is higher this year than in the past. Martin Vallin, a design student from Denmark, is realistic about the future: “Of course I hope my design will be produced, but I think I better take a part-time job on the side in the beginning, while I work on my own things,” he says before settling in a chair of his own design made of poplar and beech. The Swedish furniture industry has a turnover of about 22 billion SEK ($3,055,900,000). The industry has expanded greatly during the last decade and 65 percent of all Swedish furniture is for export. Stockholm Furniture Fair took place in Älvsjö and featured exhibitors from 27 countries. For more info, see www.stockholmfurniturefair.com

Man wins handshake case.
A court found Sweden's unemployment agency guilty of discrimination for expelling a Muslim man from a job training program because he refused to shake hands with a woman. The court ordered the Public Employment Service to pay 50,000 kronor ($6,700) in damages to an immigrant from Bosnia who lost his jobless benefits when the service kicked him out of the program. Citing his faith, the man refused to shake hands with a woman, a female CEO, when he was interviewing for an internship. The agency said his behavior was part of the reason he didn't get the position, and decided to exclude him from the program. The court ruled the service discriminated against the man because of his religion. It wasn't immediately clear whether the service would appeal the ruling. The decision has started a discussion in Sweden—Wasn't the act of not shaking the female boss's hand an act of discrimination in itself? What will the decision be when the roles are reversed, the boss of a company refuses to shake the hand of a potential employee? Is that then acceptable? What can be considered acceptable polite behavior and where do you draw the line for reverse discrimination...

The importance of religion in school.
Skolverket (the Swedish National Agency for Education) has developed new guidelines and lesson plans for all subjects taught in the 9-year compulsory school in Sweden. When it comes to religion, Skolverket’s plans have met a lot of criticism. Earlier texts about Christianity have been scratched, something that is upsetting to Stefan Gustavsson, chairman of Svenska Evangeliska Alliansen (an alliance between congregations, societies and organizations that are working together to create a network of evangelical Christians in Sweden). “This leads to students who lack a sense of history,” Gustavsson says. The text that the government has asked Skolverket to remove has to do with the importance of Christianity in Swedish society. Sveriges Radio Ekot (a radio program) announced that 700 letters of protest have been sent to Skolverket in response to the planned removal. Gustavsson explains, “It is of course important that the school gives a comprehensive education of all the religions of the world, but it is also necessary that the school includes the influence Christianity has had on Swedish society when it comes to legislation, culture and art. In order to understand Sweden and Europe, one has to understand Christianity.” Sweden’s Minister of Education, Jan Björklund, doesn’t want to comment until he has seen Skolverket’s final proposal, but he points out that Christianity will be of significance when it comes to the schools’ religious education. “The subject religion in school must give students an objective and balanced education about all the major religions in the world. At the same time it is important that there’s an emphasis on how Christianity has been fundamental in shaping our culture and history, something that has built our society,” Björklund says.

What do you think, Bishop Anders?
Anders Arborelius, the Roman Catholic bishop of Stockholm recently visited New York, and Nordstjernan took the opportunity to ask him what he thinks of the current state of religion—or lack thereof—in Sweden. You were born a Lutheran, why did you convert to Catholicism? “I came in touch with the Catholic Church as a child, partly thanks to the Birgitta Sisters. Then after a year and a half of prayers and education I came to the conclusion that the Catholic faith is the full truth as revealed by God.” What do you think of the fact that so many people are leaving the Swedish Church? “The Swedish Church is in a tragic situation with a disintegration both concerning faith and moral questions. The secularization of society that has been going on for quite some time is partly to blame, but also materialism and individualism, which in turn color things.” What about young people? Should the church try to reach them? “There will always be young people who find the way, but they must be brave and be able to think independently of others. They will also have to be able to withstand criticism and resistance. As for the Church, it too has to find new ways to reach the younger generation, through schools, through the Internet etc.” What do you think of the future when it comes to religion and Swedes? “I have to say, that in spite of the secularization, there’s a greater sense of openness and interest for religion, so I am hopeful.” Bishop Anders Arborelius was born of Swedish parents in Sorengo, Switzerland and grew up in Lund. He converted to Catholicism at the age of 20 and entered the Carmelites. He studied in Bruges and Rome, and was ordained a priest in 1979. When he succeeded Hubertus Brandenburg as Roman Catholic bishop of Stockholm (currently the only Roman Catholic diocese in Sweden, covering the entire country) in 1998, he became the first ethnically Swedish and second Scandinavian Catholic bishop in Sweden since the Reformation. Most Catholic bishops in Scandinavia in the last century have been German, Dutch or Danish.