Swedish government to bail out Volvo, Saab.
The Swedish government unveiled a 28 billion-krona ($3.5 billion) support package for Volvo Cars and Saab Automobile that aims to push development of fuel-efficient vehicles and ease the manufacturers’ access to funding. The plan provides Sweden’s carmakers with a 5 billion-krona rescue loan, additional funding of as much as 3 billion kronor for research and development as well as credit guarantees of 20 billion kronor, Finance Minister Anders Borg and Industry Minister Maud Olofsson announced Dec. 11. “We will exercise significant influence in regards to how the money is spent,” Borg said. “This is essentially a measure to secure jobs and production in Sweden.” The announcement came hours before a $14 billion package for the Big Three automakers — GM, Ford and Chrysler — died in the U.S. Senate. At the same time, Ford is exploring the sale of Volvo, and GM is considering options for Saab. The government ruled out taking stakes or becoming temporary owners of Volvo Cars and Saab, dismissing calls from the opposition and other politicians for direct involvement. The state can support Volvo and Saab by providing resources to research and development, Olofsson said.

Government unveils $2.8 billion stimulus package, slashes interest rates as recession deepens.
After sweeping into a power on a promise to shrink government and cut spending, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt reversed course Dec. 5, announcing a massive economic stimulus package to help prop up the sagging Swedish economy. The package is a three-year 22.9 billion kronor ($2.8 billion) economic package that includes job training, increased support to vocational schools, increased spending on infrastructure, and benefits for those facing long-or short-term unemployment. "Sweden has felt the global crisis," said Reinfeldt said at a news conference. "Sweden is a country that depends on exports, and that is difficult when so much depends on the situation in our export markets." As part of the jobs program, the government wants to help 58,700 people in 2009, 72,000 people in 2010 and 34,200 people in 2011 with jobs, training or other activities. The efforts will cost 8.3 billion kronor ($993.9 million) in 2009, 8.8 billion kronor ($1.05 billion) in 2010 and 5.8 billion kronor ($694.7 million) in 2011, it said. Reinfeldt is to present his plan to the Riksdag for approval in January. The announcement came a day after the Riksbank made an historic cut in its key interest rate, the repo rate. The central bank slashed its rate by 1.75 percentage points to a rate of 2.0 percent. It is the largest cut since the Riksbank adopted the repo rate as its key interest I 1994 and prompted speculation the rest of Europe would follow suit. The Riksbank said it expected rates to remain at that level over the coming year. There was an “unexpectedly rapid and clear deterioration in economic activity since October,” it said.

Automakers seek help in Sweden
The Big Three automakers aren’t just asking the U.S. Congress for help in dealing with the worst financial crisis in 60 years. Two of the three, GM and Ford, want Swedish help in bailing out Saab and Volvo. Ford wants to offload Volvo, by either selling the Swedish automaker or spinning it off into a separate company, while GM said it was conducting an "expedited and strategic review" of Saab. The government of Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt, however, isn’t ready to either buy the automakers or offer a massive loan. "I don't see it as the government's task to own automakers," Industry Minister Maud Olofsson said Dec. 3. "I think the taxpayers have to understand that it is a risky project to invest their money and buy either Volvo or Saab at a time when there are such great losses." The government was looking at other solutions to boost the Swedish car industry, for example by boosting funds for research and development, she said. For Saab, Olofsson outlined two options: either GM develops new models with broader appeal to the market, or a new owner comes in to boost the brand. She noted, however, that it might be hard to find a buyer given the industry's woes. "There aren't any lines forming of buyers who want to invest in the auto industry," Olofsson said. Still, Saab officials have said there are a number of companies interested in buying the brand. "There are many interested parties," Saab Automobiles Chief Executive Jan Åke Jonsson told Swedish radio, but didn't give details.

Marcus Samuelsson to the White House?
Rumor has it that Swedish celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is a likely candidate for the White House kitchen. Tim Ryan, director of the Culinary Institute, mentioned Samuelsson as a perfect chef for those special state visits, when President Obama will have to have a star chef and food that is, how shall we say it, a bit très spécial!

Where the stars go.
Ever wondered where the stars vacation? Reslust found out where some of Sweden’s stars go when it’s time to relax. Agnetha “ABBA” Fältskog, for instance, she likes Corsica. “It’s a three hour flight from Stockholm, it’s got great beaches, seafood, and local, fresh rosé wines. I’ve visited the charming little town Calvi where one of my favorite films ‘The Big Blue’ was shot. Calvi sits between L’Ile Rousse and Saint Florents and the car ride between these towns is breathtakingly beautiful.” Magnus Uggla, on the other hand, prefers Mallorca. “Don’t miss ‘La Boveda’ when you’re in Palma,” Uggla says. “It’s a cozy tapas restaurant in the old neighborhood. A wonderful place. Bacon with dates is one of my favorites. It’s hard to get a table at ‘La Boveda’ but it’s well worth the wait.”

Robyn honors Nobel Prize Winner.
Swedish singer Robyn will perform at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo. Diana Ross, Il Divo, and Jason Mraz are some other artists, so she’s in good company. The star of the evening is of course the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself, Finnish politician Martti Ahtisaari, and hosting the evening are actors Scarlett Johansson and Michael Caine.

A different advent calendar.
No, it’s not too late for an advent calendar! Make your own, if you can’t find one you like. An advent calendar brightens up the dark December days. Surprise your loved one with pretty little boxes in lieu of the traditional square calendar with 24 doors. You need different sized paper boxes, patterned paper, glue, white cardboard, decoupage lacquer, and felt pens. Put a little special something inside all the boxes, a pretty button, an exquisite piece of chocolate, a pretty ring… Dress the boxes, and cover with decoupage lacquer. Cut out round or square shapes from the white cardboard, write 1 to 24 on the shapes and glue them to the boxes.

Parents in Sweden face fines for 'nameless' children.
Swedish authorities are cracking down on parents who take too long to name their newborn children. For the past several months, officials from the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) have been sending letters to parents of children in the agency’s registry who lack a first name. In the letters, the agency informs the indecisive parents that they face fines as high as 10,000 SEK ($1,200) if they don’t notify the agency of their child’s name promptly. “It’s every child’s right to have a name,” says the Tax Agency’s Thomas Norgren. According to Swedish law, parents are to have their child’s first name registered with the agency by the time the child is three months old. But some parents wait until after their children are registered for daycare, which usually takes place around a child’s first birthday. Norgren explains that, while the law isn’t new, he and his colleagues only recently turned their attention to the issue upon realizing just how many Swedish children in their registry lacked a first name. “We decided that this is our job, after all,” he said. “That’s what the law says; that it’s important for every child to have a name.”

All American Cowgirl Chicks steal Stockholm show.
There was quite a lot of naked flesh to be had at the Stockholm Horse Show this year, as the All American Cowgirl Chicks stole the show. The fancy dress(age) event at the Stockholm Horse Show has grabbed the headlines in recent years for a particular brand of bareback riding featuring professional riders clad in little more than their lingerie. This year's opening night festivities offered no such titillating distractions for the male minority in attendance at Stockholm's Globen. The world's largest indoor equestrian event (in spectator terms) got off to a rousing start with partner country - the USA - offering up the highlight of the evening in the form of the All American Cowgirl Chicks. The Chicks originate from Weatherford, Texas and served to underline that equestrianism is a woman's domain and they made no excuses for it. The Chicks daring rodeo show displayed a full range of horseback acrobatics complete with flag-waving pomp, ten-gallon hats galore and glittering costumes.

“Immigrants should sign Swedish contract.”
That’s a proposal from the Moderates. By signing the contract you testify that you are familiar with Swedish laws, rules, and values. If the contract is not met then your benefits as an immigrant should be reviewed. “It is important that when people from different cultures congregate in the same country, that we are very clear over how things are done in Sweden,” said Moderate party secretary Per Schlingmann. “The purpose is to ensure that we pass on core Swedish values about equality and so on.” There will be no requirement to sign the contract in order to claim asylum. The exact form of the contract and who shall be obliged to sign it is as yet uncertain, but Schlingmann says that those arriving from other EU countries to work perhaps do not need to sign the papers.

Sweden taking in record numbers of immigrants.
Sweden reaches record levels; growing numbers are choosing to live in communities featuring universities rather than in cities traditionally known for their large immigrant populations. According to recent figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB), Sweden’s population increased by nearly 60,000 residents in the first nine months of 2008, with immigration accounting for more than 70 percent of the increase. Altogether, just over 78,200 immigrants came into Sweden between January and September of this year, while nearly 34,900 foreign-born residents left the country. T he net immigration of more than 43,000 represents the highest net immigration ever recorded in Sweden, reports the Sydsvenskan newspaper. Several regions, including Blekinge and Småland in the south, Västmanland in the west, Dalarna and Gävleborg in central Sweden, as well as Västernorrland and Västerbotten in the north would have registered negative population growth for the first three quarters of 2008 were it not for the additional residents gained through immigration. Without immigration, 54 out of Sweden’s 290 municipalities would have lost population.