Jul 03

FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank, spooked by soaring prices for food and fuel, raised interest rates Thursday, joining several other central banks in battling a global eruption of inflation.

The quarter-point hike, which the bank had signaled last month, had little initial effect on markets, with the euro treading water against the dollar and stocks staying relatively steady. Central banks in Sweden and Norway also raised rates this week, citing inflation. On Thursday, Indonesia raised its key interest rate for the third time this year, while India raised its key lending rate twice last month.

The Federal Reserve in the United States, where short-term interest rates are only half of those in Europe, has so far declined to join them.

The European Central Bank’s decision deepens a recent divergence in monetary policy across the Atlantic, ending a long period when it tended to follow the course set by the Fed.

But the sharp rise in inflation has put Europe’s bank into a policy bind because it has been accompanied, in recent days, by evidence that the economy here is deteriorating much like that of the United States.

Manufacturing activity in the 15 countries that use the euro shrank in June for the first time in three years, according to a survey of European purchasing managers. In Spain and Ireland, where a collapse in housing prices has magnified the problems, there is a real risk of recession.

Still, the European Central Bank, hewing to its inflation-fighting mandate, pressed on with the expected increase, moving the benchmark rate to 4.25 percent from 4 percent. Among other things, it is intended as a warning to unions not to use higher inflation as a lever to demand hefty wage increases.
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It was not clear, before an afternoon news conference chaired by the bank’s president, Jean-Claude Trichet, whether the rate increase would be a one-time gesture or the start of a cycle of tighter monetary policy.

Several economists said they doubted the bank could tighten much further, given the parlous economic situation.

“The ECB is hiking at a time when confidence is plummeting,” said Thomas Mayer, the chief European economist at Deutsche Bank. “The question is, ‘what do you do when asset prices fall at the same time that consumer prices rise?’ The central bankers seem to have reached the end of the line.”

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Jun 18

Sweeping new powers under which the Swedish security services can monitor private phone calls, e-mails and text messages are expected to come into force this week under legislation that has prompted outrage in the country.

Politicians, businesses, privacy campaigners and individual citizens have lined up to criticise the proposed law, which the Swedish Parliament will vote on tomorrow.

The Bill would grant the country’s intelligence agencies access to cross-border e-mails, phone calls, text messages and faxes, and empower them to monitor websites visited by Swedish citizens.

Since Scandinavia’s telephone network often routes local phone calls through exchanges in neighbouring countries, internet data and calls passing through Sweden on its way between two other countries would also fall within the jurisdiction of the new law.

Press freedom and individual privacy have traditionally been sacrosanct in Sweden, but fears about international crime and terrorism have prompted the country’s centre-right Government to extend the powers of the security services.

Previously, the state could apply for permission to monitor communications if illegal activity was suspected. Under the new law, government agents will be allowed to monitor messages by default.

Thousands of voters have contacted their MPs, urging them to vote against the proposals, but the law is expected to pass.

Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s leading quality newspaper, compared it with the powers of the Stasi secret police in the former East Germany, and Google said that it would stay out of Sweden if the law is passed.

“We have made it clear to the Swedish authorities that we will never place any Google servers in Sweden if this proposition becomes reality,” Peter Fleischer, a Google spokesman, said. “This proposal seems like something invented by Saudi Arabia and China. It has no place in a Western democracy.”

Journalists have also complained that the law would damage their ability to protect sources.

Tomorrow’s vote comes a month after The Times revealed plans to establish a database containing details of phone calls and e-mails in the UK. The information would be held for at least a year and the police and security services would be able to access it if given permission from the courts.

June 16, 2008
Marcus Oscarsson, Stockholm

Source: The Times

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Mar 06

RSOE Emergency and Disaster Information Service
Budapest, Hungary2008-03-04 19:22:55 – Climate Change – Sweden

GLIDE CODE: CC-20080304-15686-SWE
Date & Time: 2008-03-04 19:22:55 [UTC]
Area: Sweden, , Statewide,

Description:Icebreakers sit idle in ports. Insects crawl out of forest hideouts.
Daffodils sprout up from green lawns. Winter ended before it started in
Europe’s north, where record-high temperatures have people wondering
whether it’s a fluke or an ominous sign of a warming world. “It’s the
warmest winter ever” recorded
, said John Ekwall of the Swedish
Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. In December, January and
February, the average temperature in Stockholm was 36 degrees – the
highest on record since record-keeping began in 1756. Record winter
highs were set at 12 other locations across the country, according to
the national weather service, SMHI. Migratory birds have returned from
southern latitudes prematurely. In southern Sweden, they never left.
“The birds that have stayed are robins and chaffinches,” said biologist
Lars-Ake Janzon at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. “They stayed
because there hasn’t been any snow.”

The warm weather also has stirred life inside the vast forests of the
Nordic and Baltic countries, where insects such as ants and ticks
emerged early from winter shelter. For businesses, the mild weather has
been a mixed blessing. For winter sports enthusiasts, the green winter
has been a nightmare. Small ski resorts around Stockholm never opened,
and skating enthusiasts waited in vain for ice to form on the waterways
surrounding the Swedish capital. “There’s not one millimeter of ice,”
said Anders Tysk, organizer of the annual Vikingarannet ice-skating race
on Lake Malaren. After postponing the race several weekends, he had to
tell 500 registered participants on Monday there would be no race this
year. “It’s the first time we’ve canceled since we introduced flexible
dates in 2003,” he said.

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