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!

One-third of Swedish doctors support euthanasia.
One-third of doctors in Sweden would support changing the law to allow them to aid terminally ill patients to commit suicide. According to a survey, 35 percent of doctors support euthanasia, 40 percent oppose it and 25 percent are unsure, Svenska Dagbladet reported. The results were reported at the conference, “Global Health in a New World,” in Göteborg. The Karolinska Institute polled 1,200 doctors, finding the greatest support for euthanasia among older doctors and psychiatrists. “We had thought that opposition was stronger within the medical profession,” said Anna Lindblad, a researcher involved in the survey. The government appears to be split on the issue. The medical ethics council supports euthanasia, while Minister for Health and Social Affairs Goran Hagglund does not.

Balloon makes epic trip to northern Sweden.
A balloon from England landed in Sweden where a couple in Vilhelmina found it after the toy traveled 932 miles in slightly less than a year. The balloon came from the Old Clee Children’s Center in the English town of Grimsby, which opened Nov. 17, 2007, center director Jacqui Illingworth told Swedish media. The center released 100 balloons as part of its opening ceremony. Each balloon had an explanation of where it came from and the reason for its release in case anyone should find one, Illingworth said. The couple found the balloon Oct. 26. Illingworth said the balloon found in Sweden was the only one returned to Britain. “We were extremely surprised when we found out one of our balloons had been found,” Illingworth said.

Many doctors don’t speak Swedish. Doctors in Sweden from other European Union countries don’t speak Swedish well enough, according to patients and other healthcare personnel. More than half of Sweden’s county councils, which are responsible for running the country’s healthcare system, report problems with doctors who lack sufficient command of the Swedish language. According to a study by Sveriges Television, complaints about the Swedish language skills of doctors from other EU countries have come from both their Swedish colleagues and patients. When Reino Pönni visited a local clinic recently to have doctors examine a pain in his foot, he was sent home with a prescription for heavy sedatives because of miscommunication with the doctor. “This is bad. It shows that if you can’t master the language it can, in the worst case, endanger patient safety,” said Thomas Tegenfeldt of the authorization and patient safety division of the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), upon viewing the Sveriges Television report. Some claim that Socialstyrelsen is to blame for the prevalence of doctors with poor language skills in the Swedish healthcare system because doctors from other EU countries don’t need to take a language test in order to receive a license to practice in Sweden. However, officials at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) say the county councils are at fault for hiring doctors who can’t speak Swedish.

Swedish Vörtlimpa.
Don’t you just love the taste of vörtlimpa? Especially around Christmas time? Swedish vörtlimpa was originally made from the fermented brewer’s wort, produced in beer making. While there are many excellent recipes that still include stout beer as a key ingredient, it is also quite common to make variations flavored only with the combinations of orange rind, fennel, caraway, and anise seeds. Here’s a US-friendly recipe. Preparation time: 3 hours. Cooking time: 30 minutes. Ingredients: 1 3/4 cups orange juice, 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup dark molasses, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp caraway seeds, 1 tsp anise seeds, 1 pg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp), 1 Tbsp salt, 2 Tbsp freshly grated orange peel, 2 1/2 cups medium rye flour, 2 to 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, turning off immediately once heated. In a small saucepan, combine orange juice, butter, molasses, brown sugar, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, and anise seeds. Bring to a low boil; maintain low boil for 5 minutes. Remove from burner and cool until mixture is lukewarm. Once liquid spice mixture is warm - but not hot - to the touch, whisk in active dry yeast, salt, and grated orange peel. Place liquid in mixing bowl and gradually stir in 2 1/2 cups rye flour. Continue to add in 2 to 3 cups of all-purpose flour until dough is soft and pliable (it will be slightly sticky). Let dough rest for 20 minutes. Either by hand or with the dough hook of your mixer, knead dough lightly, for about 5 minutes, until dough is stiff and smooth. Place dough in bowl greased bowl with either oil or butter, flipping once to coat with grease. Cover bowl with clean towel, place in warmed oven, and let rise until double, about 1 hour. After dough is raised, punch down, divide into 2 halves, and shape into 2 round loaves. Place loaves on lightly floured baking pan or pizza paddle (if you use a bread stone in your oven). Cover with towel and let loaves rise on the counter until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. When loaves have raised, place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until they are dark, crusty, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Yield: 2 loaves (12 servings).

What do you know about our royal family?
Take Expressen’s Web test here. A) Which is Carl Gustaf’s favorite place to hang out with his friends? B) Where does Madeleine shop for clothes? C) Where in France is the royal family’s summerhouse? D) What’s Madeleine’s boyfriend’s name? E) How many languages does Silvia speak? F) In what sport is Carl Philip competing? G) What does Victoria’s boyfriend Daniel Westling do for a living? H) All three children like to have dinner at this place – where? I) What school did they all attend? (Key: A) Noppe B) Artilleri2 C) Saine-Maxime D) Jonas Bergström E) Seven F) Motor sports G) Owns three gyms H) Teatergrillen I) Smedslättsskolan

Swedish DNA tests confirm remains of Copernicus.
Strands of hair found in a book at Uppsala University have been used to confirm that a skeleton discovered in Poland is indeed that of 16th century astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus. According to general belief, Copernicus was buried at Frombork Cathedral in Poland, and in 2005 Polish archaeologists uncovered remains that appeared to match the description of the astronomer. According to records from the time, Copernicus died in 1543, aged 70. However, the identity of the skeleton could not be affirmed until conclusive DNA investigations had been carried out. According to Marie Allen, Associate Professor at the Genetics and Pathology department at Uppsala University, a few strands of hair were found in a book, which had belonged to Copernicus. “We tested pieces of bone and tooth from the site in Poland with the hair found at Uppsala. The pieces were tested twice, once in Sweden and once in Poland to ensure the accuracy of the results. The data collected confirmed that the skeleton found in 2005 is that of Copernicus,” said Allen. British Wallander. You know Wallander, Henning Mankell’s policeman in Ystad? Well, now Swedes will enjoy a British version of Wallander with Shakespearian Kenneth Branagh acting the main part. Swedish TV 4 has bought the rights to show the series made by BBC. The series was filmed in Skåne and the actors have Swedish names but speak English. Says Klara Scherman: “The series is very, very good but seeing the Brits play Swedes is a bit funny.” In England the series received excellent reviews.

Freddy can’t be Lucia.
Lucia in Swedish schools is like a beauty pageant, with students voting for – most of the time – the prettiest blonde in school. But at Södra skolan in Motala, the Lucia candidate with the most votes was… Freddy Karlberg in 9th grade. He received almost 50% of all votes. However, the school’s director Birgitta Wessman won’t let Freddy put on the Lucia crown. Instead the title went to a girl. “It has nothing to do with gender,” said the director. The school, she went on, has decided to have a traditional Lucia celebration, in which, one assumes, a male Lucia has no place. Freddy is disappointed. “Many were counting on me to win, and I thought it was fun to take this step. Last year there was a male Lucia candidate, too, but he didn’t win. I wanted to be the first one.”

Tomtar, tomtar, tomtar…
Tomtar or tomtenissar were believed to take care of a farmer’s home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep. The word tomte is derived from the place of his residence and area of influence, the house lot or tomt. Tomtar are essential when it comes to decorating our homes for Christmas. How many tomtar do you have in your house? And how do you like your tomte - big and fat or on the skinny side? Youthful and fresh or old and wise? Here are some of our favorites.