The Swedish serial killer who never was

Sture Bergwall resides in a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane three hours’ drive north of Stockholm. A high wire fence circles the building. CCTV cameras track the movements of the outside world. The narrow windows – some of them barred – are smudged with dirt and thick with double-glazed glass. In order to visit, you must enter through a succession of automatically locking doors and walk through an airport-style security gate. You must leave your mobile phone in a specially provided locker and hand over your passport in return for an ID tag and a panic alarm. Two members of staff, wearing plastic clogs that squeak across the linoleum, escort you through the corridors.

In the visitors’ room, Bergwall sits straight-backed on a small red chair, dim light glinting off rectangular-framed spectacles, his feet planted slightly apart in grey socks and Velcro-strapped sandals. He has been a patient in Säter hospital since 1991 and although he is 62, the flesh on his hands is still pink and unworn, the result, one imagines, of a lack of exposure to sunlight. His hair – what is left of it – is white…

Until relatively recently, Sture Bergwall was Sweden’s most notorious serial killer. He had confessed to more than 30 murders and been convicted of eight. He called himself Thomas Quick. Assuming this sinister alter ego, he claimed during a succession of therapy sessions at Säter over the years that he had maimed, raped and eaten the remains of his victims, the youngest of whom was a nine-year-old girl whose body has never been found.

But then, in 2001, he stopped co-operating with the police. He withdrew from public view and changed his name back to the one he was born with. In 2008, Hannes Råstam, one of Sweden’s most respected documentary-makers, became intrigued. He visited the former Thomas Quick, now known as Sture Bergwall, at Säter, trawled through the 50,000 pages of court documents, therapy notes and police interrogations and came to the startling conclusion that there was not a single shred of technical evidence for any of Bergwall’s convictions. There were no DNA traces, no murder weapons, no eyewitnesses – nothing apart from his confessions, many of which had been given when he was under the influence of narcotic-strength drugs. Confronted with Råstam’s discoveries, Bergwall admitted the unthinkable. He said he had fabricated the entire story.

The book recounting this extraordinary tale has just been posthumously published in Sweden – Råstam died aged 56 from cancer of the pancreas and the liver in January, the day after the manuscript was finished. In Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer, Råstam unpicks in painstaking detail the way in which the deeply troubled Quick was able to gain key information surrounding each case from psychiatrists, police officers and lawyers, before cobbling together the rambling and confused testimonies into a coherent narrative that could stand up in court.

RTFA. Fascinating stuff.

If you’re much of a cynic, if you’ve spent any reasonable portion of your life examining the lack of reason in most police-work, none of this will surprise you. But, it’s still a helluva read.

Unemployment falls in 41 states in September

Unemployment rates fell in 41 states and the District of Columbia last month, reflecting a sharp drop in the nation’s jobless rate just weeks before the presidential election…

Among key swing states in the presidential race, the jobless rate declined in nine, was unchanged in two and increased in one.

The national unemployment rate was 7.8% in September. That was down from 8.1% in August and 9% in September 2011.

The 12 presidential battleground states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Nevada and Iowa posted the largest declines, with the jobless rate falling to 11.8% from 12.1% in Nevada, and to 5.2% from 5.5% in Iowa…

Overall, Nevada continued to have the highest unemployment rate, at 11.8%, followed by Rhode Island, at 10.5%, and California’s 10.2%. North Dakota, which is benefiting from an oil boom, continued to have the lowest rate at 3%.

Among regions, unemployment was highest in the West last month and lowest in the Midwest.

None of which will be acknowledged by the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican.

Our right-wing ideologues are committed to the same policies that produced the Great Recession. Though many American voters have little or no comprehension of the enormity of this economic disaster – or what has been needed to climb back out from the bottom – Republicans can no more admit to the gradual success of the Obama administration at turning things round than their own responsibility for the disaster they caused.

BTW – unemployment in Santa Fe County where I live is now down to 4.8%. Though our Republican governor tried her best to follow the Republican Party-line by laying off 5000 government employees.

Republican declares there is no medical necessity requiring an abortion to save a woman’s life


Somebody hand me a snake!

The focus of a fierce suburban congressional battle turned from the economy to abortion literally overnight following Republican Rep. Joe Walsh’s controversial declaration that there’s no medical necessity to use the procedure to save a woman’s life.

“With modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance,” Walsh declared in comments to reporters after a televised debate Thursday night against Democrat Tammy Duckworth in the northwest suburban 8th District race…

The man’s an ignoranus. He cares nothing for a woman’s life.

…The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said 600 women die annually in the U.S. from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes. Comments like those from Walsh, the group said in a statement, were ample reason why politicians need to “get out of our exam rooms.”

“Walsh’s comments have no grounding in science and are completely inaccurate,” said Dr. Cassing Hammond, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine…

Dr. David Grimes took issue with anti-abortion politicians who view “women as some kind of Tupperware container that holds the fetus for nine months.”

The unfolding controversy stepped on Walsh’s key political message about slashing government. It also spurred critics to compare him with Republican Rep. Todd Akin, another staunch abortion foe who famously damaged his once front-running Missouri U.S. Senate campaign by proclaiming that a rape victim’s body would not allow her to become pregnant.

Duckworth, who supports abortion rights, also took aim at Walsh. “I am flabbergasted that he is that out of touch with science,” she said.

Duckworth is being polite. Like most of his peers, Walsh is as anti-science as he is anti-women. He doesn’t care in the least for informed analysis and opinions. His brain is stuck into 19th Century ideology.

No one really expects the Kool Aid Party to give up on a good thing. They’re raking in money and power that might challenge the take that right-wing fundamentalist sects suck from their followers. And it’s an opportunity for bottom feeders who never would have achieved power and position in, say, the Republican Party of Eisenhower or Bob Dole – or George Romney.

Bloomberg defines himself as organizing America’s political center

…Sitting in the elegant town house in Manhattan that is home to his private foundation two and a half weeks before Election Day, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has endorsed neither candidate, had sobering words for both.

For Mr. Romney: “I do think that Romney’s business experience would be valuable, but I don’t know that running Bain Capital gives you the experience to run the country.”

For Mr. Obama: “This business of ‘Well, they can afford it; they should pay their fair share?’ Who are you to say ‘Somebody else’s fair share?’ ”

For both: “Their economic plans are not real. I think that’s clear…”

Mostly, Mr. Bloomberg was stepping forward as the nation’s newest billionaire “super PAC” donor, with a vow to spend millions beyond this election year supporting candidates willing to do what he implied Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney were not: taking “leadership and standing up to do things that aren’t going to be popular…”

His new group, Independence USA PAC, which was officially unveiled last week, has pledged to spend up to $15 million in the next two weeks on state, federal and local candidates whose views align with Mr. Bloomberg’s in support of gun control, same-sex marriage and overhauling public schools.

From where I sit, I think the majority of Americans would agree with him. A bit close on same-sex marriage; but, that’s marching forward with greater understanding, every day. Americans have a view of civil rights grounded in equal opportunity – regardless of what preachers and pundits may say. Looking at actual plans for reviving our moribund education system, providing legitimate measured oversight of assault weapons – both are possible with courageous leadership.

Calling that “getting your feet wet,” he said he wanted to provide a financial bulwark for those who occupy his definition of the political center, as George Soros does for those on the left, and as Charles and David Koch do for those on the right.

In essence, though, Mr. Bloomberg is seeking to give the candidates a taste of the political freedom that he has enjoyed as a self-financed billionaire politician whose money helped him withstand the powerful opposition he faced because of his unpopular initiatives, including a smoking ban and an 18.5 percent raise in property taxes, to name just two.

The article goes into more depth than I need to post here. Read it, consider his position. I think it’s as encouraging as any alternative suggested in recent years. In particular his willingness to start as an issue-oriented PAC at the grassroots level. That alone puts him light years ahead of our Greens, hippies, Paulista libertarians and assorted ivory tower think tanks.

Coming from the workingclass activist Left, I appreciate unity around a common understanding of what moves this nation forward. The three issues he has chosen all support the greatest good for the whole population. That subversive quality called “democracy” by most threads through his definitions of action. Fiscal responsibility holds equal stature with raising understanding and social consciousness. My conservative kin – traditional American conservatives who left the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican after decades of service – I believe would agree, as well.

Toyota Prius is now the best-selling car in California

…Recent sales data shows that the world’s most popular hybrid is, in fact, the best-selling car in the state. Well, the best-selling vehicle line, at least, since the Prius now comes in four variants.

If you add up sales of the Prius Liftback (aka, the regular Prius), the C, V and Plug-In models, you get 46,380 units for the first three quarters of 2012, according to numbers from the California New Car Dealers Association and reported by Bloomberg. That’s enough to move the Prius from fourth place last year to first this year in the sales rankings in America’s most populous state. In fact, roughly a quarter of the Priuses that Toyota sold in the US were in California. Reports of $5 gallons of gas are relatively recent, but we have to assume that the state’s long-time high gas prices are playing a role in pushing the Prius to the pinnacle there. Nationwide, Bloomberg says, the Prius is in seventh place…

The Prius is already the best-selling car in Japan, and has been for years, even though the Honda Fit has been nipping at its heals. Worldwide, the Prius family was the third best-selling nameplate in the first quarter of 2012, behind the Toyota Corolla and the Ford Focus.

It helps when the firm responsible for a qualitative change in transportation – like the Prius – is more forward-looking, secure in their knowledge of technology, confident enough to last past early days of improvement and acceptance.

If this profitable project was governed by American politicians it would have been shutdown long ago as another “car whose time has not come”.