Sweden offers refuge to hunted journalist.
Iranian activist Parvin Ardalan, who has been sentenced to several jail terms for her activities in her native land, is to live in exile in Sweden for up to two years, authorities recently said. "She has accepted our offer and should be here by the end of the month," said Fredrik Elg, cultural attache for the Malmö city government. City authorities invited Ardalan, a journalist and women's rights activist, within the framework of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). She is to live at a secret address in the city for up to two years, he said. The activist, born in 1967, would also receive a grant to allow her to "freely carry out her profession," the city of Malmö said in a statement. Ardalan had left Iran and was "out travelling," Elg said, adding he did not know where she would stay before settling in Malmö. The Iranian government sentenced Ardalan to several jail terms in Iran on charges of seeking to harm national security. She became a household name in Sweden after she won the 2007 Olof Palme Prize for her work to promote women's rights in her home country.

Woman seeks right to die.
A 31-year-old Swedish woman who has spent the majority of her life on a respirator is demanding the right to die with dignity, a letter she dictated said. The letter sent to the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare seeks permission for doctors at Daderyd Hospital to turn off her respirator, the Swedish news agency TT reported March 18. "It is my express wish that the respirator be turned off after I have been put to sleep," the letter said. Born with a neurological illness, a respirator has kept the paralyzed woman alive since the age of six. "I cannot breathe by myself. Not a single breath," her letter says. "I am not able to move at all." The woman told hospital counselors she would gladly take her own life if she were able. There was no immediate word on whether the board would grant her request.

Parliament aims to establish veterans’ day.
The Swedish government on March 19 proposed establishing an official veterans’ day every May 29. Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors, in making the announcement, also said lawmakers planned to make sure veterans receive the care and support they need. "Despite the fact that Sweden has conducted military operations overseas for more that 60 years we have not had any coordinated policy for veteran soldiers," Tolgfors said in an OP-ED in Aftonbladet. Tolgfors said the Swedish Armed Forces would have an indefinite responsibility to care for former soldiers and announced the establishment of a new unit to meet veterans’ needs. The government also plans to remove a five-year limit on support for soldiers injured while on duty. The new measures are also to include a remembrance day for all Swedish veterans. “A policy for veteran soldiers is also about showing recognition for the efforts which have been made for Sweden and for peace," Tolgfors wrote.

Military seeks cutbacks.
The Swedish Armed Forces, Försvarsmakten, is looking to scale down its costs and facilities, calling for the closure of at least one air force base, the elimination of one troop regiment and a halving of training resources for home defense. The reductions would lead to 800 million kronor ($112 million) in savings, the military said. The Defense Ministry said it would invest any savings in its transition program as Sweden switches from conscription to an all-volunteer professional force. The country’s compulsory military service requirement ends in July. The military said it doesn’t believe the volunteer system would require the same training resources. Critics have assailed the plan, claiming any reductions in Sweden’s already small military would leave the country vulnerable to an attack. Parliament ordered a freeze on any closures after the general election in September. The U.S., in 2003, went through a similar round of cutbacks under BRAC, the Base Realignment And Closure Plan. Like the proposed cuts in Sweden, critics in Congress and elsewhere slammed the cutbacks, which eventually were not as deep as then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wanted.

Swedish Match branches out.
Richmond-based tobacco company Swedish Match International plans to join with a Central American-based cigar tobacco company in a new venture. Swedish Match AB, the local company's Sweden-based parent-company, announced March 19 it signed an agreement with Plasencia Group, one of the world's largest producers of premium cigar tobacco, to form a new tobacco growing and procurement operation named Caribbean Cigar Holdings. Swedish Match is acquiring a 20 percent interest in the venture, while Plasencia Group would control 80 percent and manage the operations. Swedish Match did not disclose its monetary investment. Plasencia Group, a family owned company founded by Nestor Plasencia, owns tobacco growing, processing and premium cigar production plants in Honduras and Nicaragua. Lennart Freeman, president of Swedish Match International, said the deal is mainly aimed at increasing Swedish Match's access to and expertise in leaf tobacco, especially fine leaf used in the company's premium cigars.

Silvia upset about Alzheimer’s rumors.
There were rumors circulating that Queen Silvia is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and that her condition is getting worse. Now the queen herself is denying the rumors. “I was surprised but more than that upset when I heard about it,” she said. Silvia lost her mother Alice to Alzheimer’s and has said about the disease: “Your heart bleeds and you cry inside.” It was a journalist at Svensk Damtidning who wrote in a blogg that Silvia, who is 66 years old, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. “I was surprised,” Silvia said, “but I want to make it clear that I am fine. I don’t know where this journalist got the information from.” Seeing her mother suffer, Silvia founded Silviahemmet in 1996, a non-profit organization focusing on educating professionals and on delivering day-care within the area of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. “Fifteen years ago, people did not know much about dementia, those who then worked with the patients had little knowledge only great hearts,” Silvia explained. For more info: www.silviahemmet.se

Stockholm’s best drinks.
Dagens Nyheter has done it – crowned the best drinks in Stockholm. We’ve picked a few. Try them on location in Stockholm, or mix them at home. From Vampire Lounge (Östgötagatan 41, Tunnelbana: Medborgarplatsen) comes the drink “Vampire’s Blood”. It consists of gin, blue curacao, melon liqueur, sour mix, orange juice and Sprite. Garnished with a lemon peel, this is a sweet-tasting drink with a hint of sourness. Says the bartender Makda Yacob: “This drink is created here, like most of our drinks. It’s a bit funny that it is called ‘Vampire’s Blood’, because most people expect it to be red, but it is instead bright green.” From the bar Marie Laveau (Hornsgatan 66, Tunnelbana: Mariatorget) comes New Orleans, for which you need: Maker’s Mark, Pernod, Orange bitter, Angostura bitter and sugar syrup. Says the bartender Jonathan Löwy: “Cajun and creole inspired drinks are our specialty.” And finally a classic, Manhattan, from Djuret (Lilla Nygatan 5, Tunnelbana: Gamla Stan). Djuret’s version has all of 20 centiliters, so it is taller than your regular Manhattan. Otherwise it consists of: Bourbon, Angostura bitters, and Martini Rosso and is garnished with a cherry. “We never use juices in our drinks, only pure alcohol,” says bartender Lars Ljungberg.

Joel Kinnaman on TV.
Joel Kinnaman, younger brother of actress Melinda Kinnaman, can soon be seen on American TV. If all goes well. “The Killing” is an American television pilot in which Kinnaman plays a police officer by the name of Steven Holder. It is based on the Danish TV-series “Brottet”. Hopefully “The Killing” will be picked up and given a good time slot. Says producer Kristen Campo: “Joel sent in an audition tape from Sweden and we all fell in love, we absolutely couldn’t take our eyes off of the screen!” Joel got his Swedish breakthrough in Daniel Espinosa’s “Snabba cash”, which premiered last January. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

Swede behind re-make of Conan.
More film news. Do you remember “Conan the Barbarian” and “Conan the Destroyer”, the enormously popular films from 1982 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger? Well, it’s time to welcome Conan back, and this time he is just an ounce Swedish. A new Conan-film is already in production and behind it is Swedish producer Fredrik Malmberg. “The old Conan films were made at the end of the disco-era and there’s a lot we can do today that couldn’t be done 25 years ago,” Malmberg, who is the director of Paradox Entertainment, says. Malmberg has dedicated the last 8 years to making sure a re-make of Conan will happen. Some 600 people are involved in the filming, which is taking place in Bulgaria (“a country very suitable for making pre-historic films,” Malmberg says). As a creative producer, Malmberg gets to pick script and actor and director. As a director he chose Marcus Nispel (director of “Friday the 13th” as well as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and the actors he picked include Stephen Lang (from “Avatar”) and Rachel Nichols (from “G.I. Joe”). Conan himself will be played by Jason Momoa, known from "Baywatch". There are rumors that Mickey Rourke will have a part in it too. Malmberg believes there’s a great interest in a new version of Conan. “Conan is one of the greatest icons in the sci-fi business.” The film is expected to be released during the summer of 2011.