Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sunday Globe Special: Swedish Utopia

Bernie Sanders would have you believe it.

"Sweden leads the way to a cashless future" by Liz Alderman New York Times  December 26, 2015

STOCKHOLM — Parishioners text tithes to their churches. Homeless street vendors carry mobile credit-card readers. Even the Abba Museum, despite being a shrine to the 1970s pop group that wrote “Money, Money, Money,” considers cash so last-century that it does not accept bills and coins.

Few places are tilting toward a cashless future as quickly as Sweden, which has become hooked on the convenience of paying by app and plastic.

This tech-forward country, home to the music streaming service Spotify and the maker of the Candy Crush mobile games, has been lured by the innovations that make digital payments easier. It is also a practical matter, as many of the country’s banks no longer accept or dispense cash.

At the Abba Museum, “we don’t want to be behind the times by taking cash while cash is dying out,” said Bjorn Ulvaeus, a former Abba member who has leveraged the band’s legacy into a sprawling business empire, including the museum.

Not everyone is cheering. Sweden’s embrace of electronic payments has alarmed consumer organizations and critics who warn of a rising threat to privacy and increased vulnerability to sophisticated Internet crimes. Last year, the number of electronic fraud cases surged to 140,000, more than double the amount a decade ago, according to Sweden’s Ministry of Justice.

Older adults and refugees in Sweden who use cash may be marginalized, critics say. And young people who use apps to pay for everything or take out loans via their mobile phones risk falling into debt.

“It might be trendy,” said Bjorn Eriksson, a former director of the Swedish police force and former Interpol president. “But there are all sorts of risks when a society starts to go cashless.”

But advocates like Ulvaeus cite personal safety as a reason that countries should go cash-free. He switched to using only card and electronic payments after his son’s Stockholm apartment was burglarized twice several years ago.

“There was such a feeling of insecurity,” said Ulvaeus, who carries no cash at all. “It made me think: What would happen if this was a cashless society, and the robbers couldn’t sell what they stole?”

Yeah, good thing there is no hacking problem out there.

Bills and coins now represent just 2 percent of Sweden’s economy, compared with 7.7 percent in the United States and 10 percent in the euro area. This year, only a fifth of all consumer payments in Sweden were made in cash, compared with an average of 75 percent in the rest of the world, according to Euromonitor International.

Cards are still king in Sweden — with nearly 2.4 billion credit and debit transactions in 2013, compared with 213 million 15 years earlier. But even plastic is facing competition, as a rising number of Swedes use apps for everyday commerce.

At over half of the branches of the country’s biggest banks, including SEB, Swedbank, Nordea Bank and others, no cash is kept on hand, nor are cash deposits accepted. They say they are saving a significant amount on security by removing the incentive for bank robberies.

Last year, Swedish bank vaults held around 3.6 billion krona in notes and coins, down from 8.7 billion in 2010, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Cash machines, which are controlled by a Swedish bank consortium, are being dismantled by the hundreds, especially in rural areas.

Eriksson, who now heads the Association of Swedish Private Security Companies, a lobbying group for firms providing security for cash transfers, accuses banks and credit card companies of trying to “price cash out of the market” to make way for cards and electronic payments, which generate fee income.

“I don’t think that’s something they should decide on their own,” he said. “Should they really be able to use their market force to turn Sweden into a cashless society?”

The government has not sought to stem the cashless tide. If anything, it has benefited from more efficient tax collection, because electronic transactions leave a trail; in countries like Greece and Italy, where cash is still heavily used, tax evasion remains a big problem.

Ah, greedy governments like it.

Leif Trogen, an official at the Swedish Bankers’ Association, acknowledged that banks were earning substantial fee income from the cashless revolution. But because it costs money for banks and businesses to conduct commerce in cash, reducing its use makes financial sense, Trogen said.

One begins to wonder if this whole world is set up for banks.

The shift has rippled through even the most unlikely corners of the Swedish economy.

Stefan Wikberg, 65, was homeless for four years after losing his job as an IT technician. He has a place to live now and sells magazines for Situation Stockholm, a charitable organization, and began using a mobile card reader to take payments, after noticing that almost no one carried cash.

“Now people can’t get away,” said Wikberg, who carries a sign saying he accepts Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. “When they say, ‘I don’t have change,’ I tell them they can pay with card or even by SMS,” he said, referring to text messages. His sales have grown by 30 percent since he adopted the card reader two years ago.

Despite the convenience, even some who stand to gain from a cashless society see drawbacks.

Like how will politicians be bribed and drug money laundered.

“Sweden has always been at the forefront of technology, so it’s easy to embrace this,” said Jacob de Geer, a founder of iZettle, which makes a mobile-powered card reader.

“But Big Brother can watch exactly what you’re doing if you purchase things only electronically,” he said.

But for Ulvaeus, the music magnate, such concerns are overblown.

“Everything speaks in favor of a cashless society,” he said as he strolled past the Abba Museum to retrieve his car. “It’s a utopian thought, but we’re very close to it.”

He paused at a hot-dog stand for a snack. But when he was ready to pay, the card reader was broken.

“Sorry,” the vendor said. “You’ll have to use cash.”


Also seeReport exonerates stem cell pioneer

I'll bet they had planned it would never be a problem.

Swedish police, accused of coverup, look into reports of sex assault

We all know it was the migrants, right?

Related: Denmark tightens naturalization rules

"Most members of Denmark’s parliament support seizing refugees’ valuables" Washington Post  January 15, 2016

The Danish government has secured a parliamentary majority for a law that would allow police officers to confiscate valuables and cash from refugees. Despite support among political leaders, the bill has provoked international outrage and drawn criticism at home.

The proposal is expected to be passed as part of a larger immigration bill later this month. The Danish government has staunchly defended its proposal. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen echoed that sentiment and accused journalists of painting ‘‘an incorrect picture of Denmark.’’

The law is part of a set of bills that will make Denmark one of Europe’s toughest destinations for potential refugees....

I can't imagine why.


"Denmark’s new plan to deter migrants: Seize their valuables" by Jan M. Olsen Associated Press  January 16, 2016

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Hoping to diminish Denmark’s appeal to migrants, the country’s government plans to force asylum-seekers to hand over any valuables worth more than $1,500 to help cover their housing and food costs while their cases are being processed.

The center-right government’s proposal is expected to be approved by Parliament this month despite outrage from human rights activists who say it’s a cruel and degrading way to treat people who have fled war and misery.

While noting the rules would be no different from those that apply to Danes receiving welfare benefits, government officials are candid about the purpose: persuading migrants to go somewhere else.

‘‘Denmark must become significantly less attractive for asylum-seekers,’’ Immigration Minister Inger Stoejberg said Wednesday during the first of three readings of the bill in Parliament. She said fewer refugees would mean better opportunities to integrate immigrants who are already in Denmark.

Compared with its neighbors, the nation of 5.6 million people wedged between Germany and Sweden received a small part of Europe’s migrant flow last year. About 20,000 people applied for asylum in Denmark, while 1.1 million did so in Germany and 163,000 in Sweden.

Danish officials have said the welcoming attitudes in those countries could put pressure on their welfare systems and lead to social unrest.

Their hard line has not been lost on many of the thousands of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and others who see Denmark only as a transit point to reach other Nordic countries.

‘‘Will they take gold teeth, too?’’ said Rami Nayil, a 39-year-old Syrian who applied for asylum in Denmark after new border controls prevented him from reaching Sweden.

The proposal wouldn’t apply to dental fillings or valuables ‘‘with a sentimental value,’’ such as wedding and engagement rings. The government has not issued a list of the high-value items that could be seized but made it clear that smartphones would not be taken.

Denmark is not the only country taking such action. Switzerland requires asylum-seekers to hand over cash of more than $996. Lea Wertheimer, spokeswoman for the State Secretariat for Migration, said the money is used to cover refugees’ upkeep, and stressed similar rules require Swiss citizens to repay welfare benefits when they’re able.

The Danish plan is expected to pass because the opposition Social Democrats endorsed it after some amendments were made, including raising the value of items the asylum-seekers can keep from $440 to $1,500. That brings it in line with welfare rules for Danes, who must sell assets worth more than 10,000 kroner before they can receive social benefits.

William Spindler, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, criticized the plan, saying refugees entering Europe on rickety boats have often lost their homes, jobs, most of their belongings and sometimes family members.

‘‘It is hard to believe that Denmark is seriously considering taking away from them the few belongings that they have managed to take with them,’’ he said.

Michala C. Bendixen, of Refugees Welcome, a group counseling and supporting refugees, said any income from seizing valuables wouldn’t go very far in covering the $29,000 annual cost of an asylum-seeker in Denmark.

‘‘The real message here is to scare people away,’’ she said. 

It comes in the form of a ma$$ media mouthpiece called the newspaper.

The proposal is part of a raft of measures that also include extending the reunification time period after which family members outside could join a refugee in the country from one year to three years.

Jonas Christoffersen, head of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, said the latter could be a violation of international conventions. ‘‘Everyone has the right to a family life,’’ he said.

Some Liberal Party members have quit the party in protest against its tough line on migrants and others have warned that Denmark’s reputation is taking a pounding.

Still, many Danes approve of the new rules.

‘‘I think many come here for the large benefits, so this is a way for them to pay at the entrance,’’ said Susanne Petersen, a 46-year-old bank clerk. ‘‘They do cost society some money.’’ 

But to say so is racist. 

Mike Rivero also brought up a great point. After years of Muslims are bad Jewish war propaganda and the scare that they can't find the terrorists returning, now they flip and wonder why the world doesn't want to take in the migrants from their wars.

Denmark already tightened its immigration laws in 2002 and adopted new restrictions last year, reducing benefits for asylum-seekers, shortening temporary residence permits and stepping up efforts to deport those whose applications are rejected.

To make sure the message reached large numbers of people who had fled from Syria to neighboring countries, the government posted advertisements in Lebanese newspapers with information about the Danish restrictions.

Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen last month floated the idea of revising the 1951 U.N. convention on refugees, if Europe’s migrant crisis continues this year. He offered no specific proposals. 

Related: Dumb Idea Floated in Davos

Asylum-seekers gathered at Copenhagen’s downtown train station were aware of the new proposals. Syrian Hamid al-Arbil said he was disappointed at how Denmark and other European countries treat people fleeing war.

‘‘We are desperate but they close their doors,’’ he said.

I say you go on over to Obama's place or whatever government pukes are pushing this on you in Denmark and see if they will put you up?


Where is the next stopNorway?


"Danish law requires asylum seekers to hand over valuables" New York Times   January 26, 2016

LONDON — The move underscored an anti-immigration backlash that has prompted several European countries to seek ways to discourage migrants from entering.

The law passed by a sizable majority as Europe confronts its greatest movement of refugees since World War II.

Meaning it's World War III even if the pre$$ isn't calling it that.

Mirroring debates elsewhere in Europe, the debate in Denmark has been deeply influenced by a far-right populist party, the Danish People’s Party, which has been appealing to voters by warning against the perils of too much immigration.

The greater threat to the New World Order than the false leftists, but the right is blinded by Islamophobia.

Denmark’s prime minister has warned that the 1951 United Nations treaty governing the rights of refugees might need updating.

After Sweden imposed identity checks for travelers coming from Denmark, Denmark did the same along its border with Germany. Hungary had already built a razor-wire fence along its border with Croatia.

Opponents of the Danish measure say it will be divisive, harm the country’s reputation for tolerance and generosity, and potentially fan xenophobia.

“You are contributing to the separation that war creates,” Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, a member of Parliament from the Red-Green Alliance, a leftist party, was quoted as saying by Politiken, a leading Danish newspaper. The U.N. refugee agency has criticized the measure, saying it would undermine refugees’ dignity and set a bad example

Amazing how the war-mongers in governments that enabled and allowed all the wars based on lies that led to the refugee crisis while warning you for years about untraceable and untraceable terrorists coming back to carry out attacks (and they have done so if you believe in Paris, San Bernardino, and all the rest of the crisis drill false flag psyops being foisted on us these days) have turned the tables regarding the forced migration of so many. 

Hey, it's an upside-down, inside-out, backwards world in which we live these days. 

The bill’s proponents said the government was merely asking refugees to abide by the same requirements that Danish citizens face, namely that they use their own resources before being eligible for welfare benefits. 

And how are citizens who are seeing their safety nets shredded over there supposed to feel about the incurred costs of immigrants?

They also pointed to precedents in Europe. Asylum seekers in Switzerland, for example, must declare their assets upon arrival and hand over those exceeding 1,000 Swiss francs ($981), Reuters has reported, citing the Swiss broadcaster SRF.

According to Dutch news reports, the government over the past four years has collected about $759,000 from asylum seekers to help pay for their lodging. The income has mostly come from working refugees, according to the website Dutch News. The policy has been in place since 2008, the report said. 

That is part of why they are being driven out of their homelands.

In Denmark, Per Bang Thomsen, a journalist at DR, the Danish broadcaster, said the debate over the bill — and the criticism accompanying it — had unsettled Danes’ perception of themselves. “We see ourselves as a fair and open fairy-tale nation, and we treasure that image,” he said.

Nonetheless, Thomsen said, there is widespread support for the measure. “Danes don’t see themselves as racists,” he said. “They’re just skeptical of immigration and afraid of what will happen with the thousands of refugees that are coming to Denmark.”


UPDATESending them back is easier said than done