Closing of LA and NYC Consulates confirmed.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt made the announcement on July 23: ‘Sweden to close one embassy and four consulates’ — the embassy in Colombo and the Consulates of Kaliningrad, Canton and New York and Los Angeles. Hardly a surprise but shocking nevertheless. The decision, likely made long before the announcement in the middle of the summer, was presented as “a necessary part of balancing the Ministry for Foreign Affairs budget and adapting it to its allocated appropriations. The Foreign Service staff also will be reduced by 100 by 2010 and the agency's property costs will be lowered by 50 million kronor (about 6.3 million U.S. dollars), the statement said.” The closure of the Consulate General in Los Angeles is to be completed by December 31, 2009 while the closure of the Consulate General in New York is to be completed by January 31, 2010 at the latest. The Embassy in Washington will take over responsibility for the nine honorary consulates that currently report to the Consulate-General in Los Angeles. The Swedish Foreign Ministry intends to open an honorary Consulate General in New York to provide certain services to Swedish citizens. The Ministry is also working on finding a suitable way of organizing a future Consulate General in Los Angeles. The closing of the U.S. based consulates has been widely criticized by people representing Swedish industry and trade along with such strong US-Sweden supporters as long time diplomat and politician, former Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.N. and later to the U.S., Jan Eliasson, who said: “Personally, I think it’s incomprehensible to remove (the Consulate General of Sweden from) such an important gateway as New York. Modern diplomacy also involves media, culture and the financial world — all of which are represented in New York.” Olle Wästberg, Director-General of the Swedish Institute in Stockholm, Consul General in New York between 1999 and 2004 was even more adamant: "I think it’s ridiculous. The Consulate General of Sweden in New York has been active since 1834. That it is important to have a strong Swedish presence in New York is two-fold. The first reason is that most Swedish citizens in America live in New York. Now some 15,000 consular matters from New York and Los Angeles combined must be moved to the Swedish Embassy in Washington. And second, and this is serious, the image of Sweden will be affected. New York City represents the stage of the world, it’s just like Sinatra sings ‘If you can make it here….’ If you cannot make it here, then it’s going to be hard to make it anywhere else also. This (the plans to close the consulate) represents an old-fashioned way of looking at diplomacy. Today’s open world is about branding and networking, for which New York is necessary.” Nordstjernan’s online poll revealed that, out of 815 polled visitors to the website, 82% had used the services of either of the Consulate Generals in the USA.

Wallander nominated for two Emmys.
Well, not Wallander himself, but the films about him from the BBC. British actor Kenneth Branagh is nominated for Best Actor and the director, Philip Martin, is nominated for Best Director. Will Ystad’s most famous policeman get even more attention by winning two Emmys? Tune in on September 20 to find out for yourself. The competition is pretty stiff, though; the American comedy series “30 Rock” has gathered 22 nominations.

Irritating about milk.
The Swedes complain, we already knew that, but they (we) are also easily irritated. This time what makes them (us) irritated is bad milk habits. Mjölkfrämjandet supplies us with a most-irritating-milk-habits list: 1. When somebody leaves the milk outside. 2. When somebody opens a new carton of milk and there’s already one open. 3. When somebody drinks straight from the carton. 4. When somebody opens a new carton without checking the expiration date on the other cartons. 5. When the milk is gone. 6. When somebody opens the milk carton but not entirely. 7. When somebody at work steals the last drop of milk from the carton for his or her coffee. We would never do that, now would we?

Top attractions in Sweden.
All Travel Sweden (part of the European Travel & Tourism Board) has gathered the top attractions in Sweden. They are 1. Lapland. The largest intact wilderness in Europe, covering a quarter of the total area of Sweden yet with only 5 percent of the population. Lapland is probably best known as the home of Santa Claus. 2. Skokloster Slott Castle. A magnificent 17th century castle as well as one of the most fascinating Baroque museums in Europe, it is renowned for its unusual interiors as well as its vast collections of paintings, furniture, applied art, tapestries, arms and books. The castle also houses a restaurant, conference facilities and an automobile museum. 3. The Viking Town of Birka. Birka is situated on a lush island in Lake Mälaren, about 18 miles from Stockholm. It was a major port over 1,200 years ago. A new museum houses finds from extensive excavations around the site. Visit the museum and see how the Vikings lived. 4. The Hanseatic town of Visby. A former Viking site on the island of Gotland, Visby was the main center of the Hanseatic League of the Baltic from the 12th to the 14th centuries. Its 13th century ramparts and more than 200 warehouses and trading establishments from the same period make it the best preserved fortified commercial city in northern Europe. 5. Gripsholm Castle. Located in the small town of Mariefred on Lake Mälaren outside Stockholm, Gripsholm is a stunning Renaissance castle built in 1540. The castle contains exceptional Renaissance interiors as well as a theater and the world's oldest and largest portrait collections. 6. Sareks National Park. The enchanted landscape of Sareks National Park plays hosts to over 100 glaciers as well as mountains reaching over 2,000 meters. It should only be experienced with the help of a guide unless you’re an expert in outdoor survival. The best views are over the lake and delta of Laiture on the Rapa älv, near the eastern edge of the park. 7. Öland. Öland is a tiny island boasting many ruins, fortifications and nearly 400 windmills! The biggest Iron Age ring fort on the island, Gråborg — with a diameter of 200 meters — is an incredible sight. Nearby, Eketorp has been partly reconstructed as a museum to show what a fortified medieval village must have looked like. Equally impressive are the ruins of Borgholm Castle which was eventually burned and abandoned early in the 18th century. Also prominent are the lighthouses at the northern and southern tips of the island. Öland is a popular place to celebrate Midsummer. 8. Old Uppsala. Located just outside modern day Uppsala, Old Uppsala is regarded as the most important prehistoric monument in Sweden and the cradle of Swedish civilization. The three "Kungshögarna" or royal mounds, where dead kings were burned and buried, are situated on a ridge and can be seen from miles away. A fascinating site, there is plenty of interpretive material on site to guide you through the long and interesting history of the area. 9. The Kingdom of Crystal. Many of the world’s most famous glassworks can be found here, in southeastern Sweden's province of Småland. The Kingdom of Crystal came into existence when the first batch of glass was melted in 1742 at Kosta, now the oldest glasswork in Sweden which is still producing handmade glass. In the Glasshouse see the artists work in front of the furnaces. This trip is a must, especially if you are looking for bargains in crystal treasures. 10. Stockholm. The beautiful Venice of the North and the Swedish capitol, Stockholm is situated on 14 islands separated by wide bays, broad channels and narrow waterways. Surrounded by unspoiled countryside, the city is also peppered with lovely parks. In the heart of the capitol the contrast between old and new is striking: an ultra modern city center adjacent to the cobbled alleys and medieval buildings of Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Henschen receives European Prize for Literature.
Swedish Helena Henschen is one among twelve authors to receive the European Union’s newly established literature prize for her 2004 book “I skuggan av ett brott.” Among the other twelve countries' prize winners are Karen Gillice from Ireland, Emmanuelle Pagano from France and Carl Frode Tiller from Norway. The prize is part of the European Union’s cultural program, and Swedish author Henning Mankell will deliver the prizes at a ceremony in Brussels in September. Henschen’s book is about a tragedy in her own family, the so-called von Sydow murders that took place in 1932, when Fredrik von Sydow and his wife killed Hjalmar von Sydow (Fredrik's father) and two maids in their home in Stockholm. Fredrik later killed his wife and himself.

Rulltårta with strawberries.
In English it is called a Swiss roll, but in summertime it might as well be a Swedish roll, because you see it everywhere in Sweden. The rulltårta isn’t too difficult to make yourself, and with strawberries it’s a summer staple. Ingredients: 3 eggs, 6.5 oz sugar, 6.5 oz flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 0.5 teaspoon salt, 2 Tablespoons heavy cream. For the filling: 8 oz ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2.5 cups strawberries, 1 Tablespoon sugar. Preheat the oven to 475 F. Beat the eggs and sugar and add the flour mixed with baking powder and salt. Stir in the cream. Spread out the batter on a baking plate (be sure to use oven paper) but not all the way to the edges. Bake for five minutes. Turn it out on sugared oven paper and pull out the paper it was baked on. Mix the vanilla and ricotta and spread it out on the baked cake. Mash the strawberries and mix in the sugar and spread it out on top of the ricotta mixture. Roll up the rulltårtan and let it cool for an hour or so before serving.

Dance bands with a message.
We don’t often associate dansbandsmusik with songs with a strong message, but perhaps it’s time to rethink? Lazze Ohlyz is a dansband with a revolutionary message and Klas-Ingelaz is “the world’s only queer dansband.” Who knew they existed? “Those were the worst years of my life, the right wingers won, they were the favorites of the elite, and Timbro celebrates,” the singer in Allianz sings. The members of Allianz dress in black suits and red shirts, and like Klas-Ingelaz and Lazze Ohlyz they sing songs about suffering the politics of the conservatives, the right to strike, the evil of capitalism and about Mona Sahlin, but the music is the same as every other dansband: friendly and made for dancing. “Dansband is a perfect way to spread activism,” says Mania Lozinska from Klas-Ingelaz. To see people from AFA, Antifascistisk Action, do the foxtrot — who would have thought it possible? Perhaps it’s a reaction? Perhaps you do not have to be angry to deliver a message, perhaps going beyond punk is even more … punk? To combine politics with friendly music is not a new phenomenon in Sweden, just think Björn Afzelius whose songs “Juanita” and “Tusen bitar” were hits in just about every Swedish household. But Afzelius became viewed as something of a traitor among the left-wingers. “The dansbandsmusik is fairly easy to ridicule, but we’re not doing that,” says Mats Palats, guitarist and vocalist in Allianz. “The narrow frames of this type of music make for a treacherous sense of security which is fun to play with. The effect is that you laugh about it, which is part of the point. But there’s also a serious message in the songs, and that message survives the humor.” Songs like “Who cleans up at the maid’s house” and “Mona” is reaching thousands on Myspace. “It’s a surprising combination, dansband and politics, and as long as we’re not just being cynical but also add humor we’re accepted,” says Åsa Paljett from Allianz.