Storm pounds Sweden.
The first big winter storm of the year pounded Sweden Nov. 22-24 with heavy snow and hurricane-force winds of up to 90 mph. Heavy snow and slippery roads delayed drivers throughout the country while ice at Stockholm's airport caused dozens of diverted flights, authorities said. Meteorological agency SMHI clocked sustained winds of 68 mph on the Baltic Sea island of Orskar, about 12 miles off the country's central coast, and said harsh conditions would probably continue, the Swedish news agency TT reported. Ice covered the runway at Stockholm's Arlanda airport as maintenance crews struggled to keep it clear, with some flights diverted to nearby Bromma, Skavsta and Norrkoping airports. Other flights were delayed, TT said. Sweden's Road Administration said it deployed all of its plows, but could not prevent scores of motorists from getting stuck in the snow.

Sweden ratifies Lisbon Treaty.
Sweden became the 24th member of the 27-nation European Union to ratify the controversial Lisbon Treaty following a late-night debate Nov. 21. The Riksdag approved the treaty in a vote of 243 to 39, with 67 abstentions. Each EU member must ratify treaty, which is supposed to help reshape EU institutions to fit an enlarged bloc of 27. Irish voters rejected the treaty while and Czech and Polish ratification remains stalled. The Republic of Ireland's "No" vote in a referendum in June threw the whole ratification process into disarray. Governments in countries that have ratified the treaty insist it cannot be changed, so treaty supporters are considering whether some guarantees can be offered to placate Irish voters. Critics see the treaty as further evidence of a federalist, pro-integration agenda at work in the EU. They say the treaty is just a modified version of the EU constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Politicians want immigrants to be more Swedish.
The Moderate Party isn’t all that moderate when it comes to immigrants. Party members believe new immigrants should sign contracts certifying they are familiar with Swedish laws and customs. A Moderate Party working committee developed the proposed requirement, news agency TT reported Nov. 23. Immigrants who refuse to sign would not be eligible for government benefits. "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," the party secretary, Per Schlingmann, told Radio Ekot. "The purpose is ensure that we pass on core Swedish values about equality and so on." The committee has yet to decide which immigrants would have to sign the contract. It would likely grant exemptions to people moving to Sweden from other members of the European Union and for those seeking political asylum. Another proposal would deny benefits to new immigrants to encourage them to move to places where jobs are available. Note: The so-called Moderaterna, presently in government in Sweden is the conservative party.

Sweden to inoculate girls against cervical cancer.
The government plans to offer vaccines against cervical cancer to all primary school girls as part of the country's free vaccination program, the National Board of Health and Welfare said Nov. 24. "Starting on January 1, 2010, the school healthcare system must offer HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines to girls in the fifth and sixth grade (around 10-11 years old)," it wrote in a statement. HPV is a common virus spread through sexual contact. The vaccine prevents the most common types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. "In the long run, this means that around 100 women a year will be spared from dying of cervical cancer,” the board said. The new vaccination program would cost the Swedish state about 400 million kronor ($48.3 million dollars) a year.

Zlatan, George Clooney’s new neighbor.
Just imagine the introduction. “You’re Zlatan Ibrahimovic, right? I’m George Clooney, but call me George. Welcome to the neighborhood. Why don’t you come over for tea some day?” Or perhaps they prefer a glass of wine? After all, it’s in Italy. Zlatan and his family are moving into their dream house in the little town of Cernobbio, with a view over Lake Como to the tune of a 67,000 SEK (US$8,400) monthly rent. And if Zlatan doesn’t like how Clooney brews his tea (or selects his wine) then there’s always other neighbors to befriend, like Michael Schumacher (the German Formula One driver) or José Mourinho (manager for Zlatan’s Italian club Inter).

Report faults Sweden for discrimination.
Swedish minorities face widespread discrimination including a lack of education in their mother tongues, said Sweden's ombudsman against ethnic discrimination recently. "There are still discriminatory structures that affect minorities' possibilities to have their rights respected," the body, DO, said in a report. Many Jews, Roma, and Swedish-Finns, as well as Samis, an indigenous people spread across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, and Tornedalians, who are originally of Finnish descent, "lose their languages," the report said. Many never had a chance to learn their own language, it said, adding that some of the minority languages were threatened with extinction. Up until the 1970's, Sweden discriminated against many of its national minorities, including forced sterilizations and the barring of some minority languages from schools and workplaces.

Men read less.
According to Kulturrådet’s latest report about Swedes' reading habits, men read less than women. During 2006, 48% of all women read every week, compared to only 29% of all men. And older women read more than younger women. Officials read more than manual workers, and Stockholmers read more than people in the countryside.

Barbro – the World’s fastest knitter.
Or is it knitteress? Barbro Wilhelmsson, 57, from Hammarö recently took the Gold Medal in sock knitting. Practice makes perfect, Barbro knows that: She’s been knitting daily since her teenage years, and that’s what made her the winner in the Knitting Olympics (which had 233 participants from all over the world and ran on Internet in heats). “I knitted the first pair of socks in nine hours,” says Barbro, “the last pattern was a bit more complicated so that took me twelve hours to complete.” Nevertheless, the Swede won, and her tips for fast knitting are: “Make sure you’ve got the right yarn and good knitting needles.”

Best burger in town.
In Stockholm, that is, Dagens Nyheter picked the place that serves the best burger, and the winner is… Grill Ruby at Österlånggatan in Gamla Stan. The burger there is prepared according to your wishes (raw, medium, or well done) and the price depends on your accoutrements - do you want cheese and/or bacon? The fries there are perfect, too, DN says. Maybe a place to check out next time you’re in town.

Nicest muscles in the world.
What a week for Sweden! Not only do we have the fastest knitter in the world, we also have the woman with the nicest muscles! Can you believe it! Mona Johansson, 40, from Varberg just won the World Championship in Extreme Body in Germany. Mona and her husband run the gym Enjoy and both are into bodybuilding. “We’ve definitely crossed the line,” she says. “This is not a hobby anymore, it’s how we live. Most people think we live a boring life, there’s never any coffee or cookies in our house.” About her muscular body, Mona says: “There’s a lot of training behind this.” Mona gets up early in the morning and her day is full of cardio and strength sessions and small meals of chicken and fish and rice. For Christmas, however, she enjoys a ham sandwich and a glass of glögg.