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31. August 2004  
Armed robbers were on leave from jail

Captured!Politicians were red-faced and pointing fingers Tuesday after the identities of armed robbers caught in the midst of another major heist became known. All have long criminal records and several were out on prison leave under Norway's liberal criminal justice system.

A rising crime rate in Norway is raising questions about a system that doles out relatively mild jail terms and then lets convicts out on leave after serving a third of their sentence.

Lars Harnes of the motorcycle gang Bandidos, for example, was serving time for torture, sexual assault and a string of earlier robberies when he was granted prison leave last week, reports newspaper Aftenposten. He used the leave to take part in the armed robbery of money couriers at the Aker Brygge waterfront complex in Oslo early Monday.

With him were two other convicts, Daniel de Linde and Petter Tharaldsen. De Linde, 25, is a right-wing extremist with string of convictions for assault, shootings, smuggling and robbery. He was out on prison leave when he allegedly took part in the armed robbery of money couriers for Nordea Bank in Oslo's Grunerlkka district in April 2003.

Tharaldsen, meanwhile, was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2001 for an attempted bank robbery and later was arrested for a money courier robbery in December 2002. That case is due to come up in court in October.

Justice Minister Odd Einar Drum, who earlier has been criticized for being mild on crime, called Tuesday for a report on why Harnes was granted prison leave. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday that he wanted to be sure the rules were followed.

He stressed that liberal rules for prison leave were recently tightened, adding that the government wants "to differentiate between those (convicts) who behave well and those who abuse the trust they're granted."

Bondevik 'disappointed'

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who shook hands with Harnes at an anti-violence conference in 1999, said it was "disappointing" that someone who expressed a desire to give up a life of crime "is again involved in serious crime."

Bondevik called a recent wave of violent robberies "upsetting," and claimed his government would "strengthen its fight against violence and crime."

One key problem over which the politicians have little control, however, is what Norwegians call "rettspraksis," or court precedence. Few judges in Norway hand out the maximum jail sentences allowed under the law, while a lack of prison space allows convicts to go free while waiting for their terms to begin.

Via Aftenposten News in English. Photo: Heiko Junge / SCANPIX


24. August 2004  
Tourists recover after horses ran amok

BriksdalsbreenA group of British tourists were recovering Tuesday after a traumatic visit to Norway's famed Briksdal Glacier. Horses pulling the carriages they were riding in from the glacier suddenly ran amok, overturning the carriages and throwing their passengers out of them.

The incident led to a dramatic rescue effort in the relatively remote mountain valley leading up to the glacier. Ambulances had to drive up dirt roads to the site of the accident and helicopters were called in to airlift the most seriously injured to local hospitals.

Doctors said Tuesday that injuries weren't as serious as first feared. A total of 16 tourists were treated, with seven admitted to hospitals in lesund and Frde after suffering fractures and bruising.

Most of the tourists were retirees, with some of those with broken bones in their 70s.

A British couple aged 52 and two women aged 78 and 73 were listed in fair condition at the hospital in lesund. Two women and a man in their 70s were under observation at the hospital in Frde, but their injuries were not listed as serious. Another eight were sent to a hospital in Nordfjordeid for treatment.

Their group of 51 had split up into 17 of the horse-drawn carriages that have carried tourists up to the Briksdal Glacier for years. The horses are all led by trained guides, but some of the normally docile animals bolted and started running off the road.

It's not the first time such accidents have occurred at Briksdal. A Japanese tourist was killed in a similar incident about five years ago.

Via Aftenposten News in English. Photo: Willy Haraldsen / SCANPIX

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22. August 2004  
Munch's masterpieces stolen

skrikand children.jpgSeveral armed thieves entered the Munch Museum in Oslo on Sunday and took the world-famous masterpieces "Skrik" and "Madonna" by force. Police are currently combing the capital for the criminals.

"I can confirm that the paintings "Skrik" (Scream) and "Madonna" have been stolen from the Munch Museum by two armed criminals, darkly dressed. The two were seen running down Tyengata from the museum to a waiting car that had its motor running," head of crime operations at Oslo police, Kjell Pedersen told Aftenposten's web edition.
"There were many witnesses to the robbery. Several of the witnesses are naturally reacted strongly to what they have seen. One woman has been driven to emergency in shock. We have mobilized all available resources, on the ground and in the air," Pedersen said.

One of the employees at the Munch Museum caf told Aftenposten's Internet edition that she saw two men walking with the two paintings held between them.

One of the criminals reportedly threatened one of the museum staff with a revolver to the temple.

"We saw a man with a hood over his head run through the gallery," two young Czech tourists told Aftenposten's web edition. "Three of the museum's security guards were lying on the floor," Markita Ogojov said.

An 80-year-old woman visiting the museum saw two men with "revolvers" running through the building.

"Did I feel threatened? I am the calm type," the elderly lady laughed.

The robbers were masked, threatened staff with a pistol and escaped from the scene in an Audi A6.

Via Aftenposten News in English.

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17. August 2004  
Boris Yeltsin visits Norway

yeltsin.jpgFormer Russian president Boris Yeltsin has arrived on a private visit to Norway.

Although the visit is of a private nature, Yeltsin will on Monday have talks with Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, followed by a lunch.

Yeltsin has also been invited to meet King Harald in a private audience at the Royal Palace.

The former Russian leader will the leave for Troendelag, where he will try his had at salmon fishing, NRK reports.

On Sunday, Yeltsin visited the Norwegian/Russian exhibition at the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. The exhibition "Norway-Russia - neighbours over 1000 years" shows ewxamples of art, literature and documents from the long relations.

The first border treaty between the two nations was signed already in 1348.

Following the display in Norway, the exhibition will be moved to St. Petersburg

Via The Norway Post.


15. August 2004  
Photographs from Dublin

DublinI have finally managed to publish the photographs I took in Dublin and you'll find them in RetroPHOTOS.

(If you want to comment on any of the pictures, please e-mail your comments to me via RetroINFO and include the image-id. Just hover the arrow over the picture and you'll see something like "IMG_2651".)

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13. August 2004  
Treholt Olympic guest of honor

Arne TreholtFormer Greek foreign minister Georg Papandreu has invited Arne Treholt (photo) to the Athens Olympic Games as a guest of honor, newspaper VG reports. Treholt, a senior foreign ministry official and politician who was convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union and Iraq in 1985, was pardoned in 1992.

Treholt told VG that he would be present at the games as a foreign guest of import for the staging of the Olympics in Greece.

The controversy and coverage surrounding Treholt's trial for espionage is still widely considered the most traumatic post-war case in Norway and his sentence of 20 years was the harshest sentence of its kind in peacetime.

He was pardoned in 1992 and is now a businessman based in Cyprus.

Via Aftenposten News in English.


10. August 2004  
Bin Laden backer on his way to Oslo

hussain.jpgOne of Pakistan's most influential and religious politicians will travel to Oslo later this month to speak before local Muslims. His party has earlier hailed Osama bin Laden, and he's been denied entry to Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Islamic Cultural Center in Oslo's Grnland neighbourhood has invited Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of Pakistan's largest religious party, to Oslo. He's scheduled to speak at a religious gathering August 22 and before a Muslim students' organization from the University of Oslo two days later.

Ahmed has earlier make flattering comments about Osama bin Laden, and his party, Jamaat-e-Islami, also has hailed al-Qaeda members as heroes.

The party also has allegedly encouraged its members to shield al-Qaeda members who are fleeing US troops in Afghanistan. Because of this, both Belgium and the Netherlands blocked his entry as late as May of this year.

Officials at Oslo's Islamic Cultural Center claim Ahmed's ties to Osama bin Laden are inflated. "Who says he supports Osama bin Laden?" asked local imam Hafiz Mehboob ur-Rehman. "We don't think he's controversial. We don't support terrorism and stay on the right side of the law."

Mehboob ur-Rehman says Ahmed was invited as a party leader, but that he'll talk about "how we live in and out of Pakistan."

A party official said Ahmed doesn't need a visa to Norway because he is a member of parliament in Pakistan. The Norwegian embassy in Islamabad wouldn't comment on whether he has permission to enter Norway.

"We don't comment on who has applied for or received a visa," said an embassy official.

Via Aftenposten News in English.


9. August 2004  
Retrophotos

It's too hot in Oslo these days to sit inside and fiddle around with Retrophotos, so I'll wait until the weather changes to post my pictures from Dublin. In the meantime, you can preview the "beta releases" here and here.


4. August 2004  
Sales numbers up after anti-smoking law

Heated statements that bars and restaurants would remain empty after the anti-smoking law was instituted have proved wrong. Several establishments reported increased turnover.

Of the 50 establishments in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim and Troms TV 2 contacted, 22 of them stated that their turnover increased in June and July of this year compared to last year. Only 14 reported a decrease.

Norway instituted the new anti-smoking law June 1 of this year, banning all smoking at bars, pubs and restaurants. The industry was afraid that the banning of smoking would mean a massive income loss, empty establishments and in the end, liquidations.

In Bergen, the hangouts Caf Clue, Engelen and Metro have had an increased turnover of between 10 and 20 percent so far this summer.

People who most often smoke, solve the problem by drinking more, said Jan Georg Syversen, manager at the company Sinco, to TV 2 Nyhetene. People rather take an extra trip to the bar than go outside to smoke.

The staff at Caf Sting in Stavanger stated that much of the sales increase is due to people who did not go out earlier because of the smoke, have established new habits.

Some people have allergies, others can't bare the smell. Now people can stop by at a caf or attend a concert without having their wardrobe smelling a week afterwards, said Marianne Nyhagen at Caf Sting.

Much of the sale of beer takes place outdoors in the summertime, but also several establishments that to not serve outdoors report increased turnover. However, the weather, at last in the southern part of Norway, has not been much for sitting outdoors.

Viat Nettavisen News in English.


3. August 2004  
Tourists (II)

The tourists visiting Bergen, Norway, ask about the strangest things, like where the Norwegian trolls live.

According to the local paper Bergensavisen (BA), an American showed up at the tourist information office in Bergen and asked for a map of where the Vikings lived. He was convinced that they were still around. The American stated that he heard that they lived in Fyllingsdalen.

Cily Samuelsen, 31, and Marianne Hgsnes, 27, at the tourist information office in Bergen stated that the questions never seize to amaze them.

This summer, several have stopped by and asked us where the trolls live, Hgsnes explained. That is rather easy to handle. We only send them to the Ivo Caprino Park at Lillehammer because there are several troll statues there.

The two women at the tourist information said a Japanese tourist stopped by the other day and asked if it was possible to take a day trip through the polar circle to the North Pole because his son really wanted to meet Santa Claus.

The women were rather flabbergasted when an American couple demanded their money back because they discovered that the midnight sun in Norway was the same as home in the States.

Via Nettavisen News in English.

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Tourists (I)

swimmer.jpgA lawyer from London has suddenly emerged as the new hero of one of Norway's most famous fjords. When he emerges from the chilly waters of the fjord, that is.

Lewis Gordon Pugh launched an unusual quest last month. The long-distance swimmer decided he wanted to be the first person to swim the entire length of the Sognefjord, a distance of exactly 204 kilometers (122 miles).

His mission initially was met by a rather large degree of Norwegian scepticism. Some viewed him as just another exhibitionist bent on publicity during an otherwise uneventful summer.

But then Pugh plunged into the chilly water at Skjolden in Luster Township on July 26 amidst a bit of local TV coverage. A week-and-a-half and around a hundred kilometres later, Pugh has stroked his way into the hearts of the natives along the fjord.

When he literally crawled his way towards the pier at Hermansverk Monday, hundreds of onlookers were on hand to greet him. Mayor Olav Lunden was there as well, to give him an official welcome.

Pugh also found himself being followed by around 20 boats. Best of all, the temperature in the water has risen as he swims towards open sea and away from the cold glacier streams that empty into the fjord.

"The only problem I've had is a sore shoulder," Pugh told newspaper Bergens Tidende, adding that a physical therapist has been able to help him with that.

He's also lost about four kilos (nearly nine pounds) of the extra weight he intentionally put on before setting out on the swim. The excess body fat aimed to keep him warm when the water temperature initially hovered around 6C.

Pugh hopes to set a new world record with his swim and National Geographic is following his progress. He's already swum across the English Channel and around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Via Aftenposten News in English. Photo: Terje Eggum/SCANPIX

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2. August 2004  
I'm back!

I'm back after 5 weeks of glorious holidays. It's good to be back at work again, but there will not be more vacationing until christmas! I will soon post my pictures from Scotland and Dublin in Retrophotos, but it will probably take a few more days. You can preview some of the pictures from Scotland here, here and here. I haven't made them available in Retrophotos yet, but soon....

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