Belarus's teddy bear fury continues

AFP reports that Belarus has formally expelled all Swedish diplomats, giving Stockholm until August 30th to remove all diplomatic officials from Minsk. Swedish Ambassador to Belarus Stefan Eriksson was forced to leave Minsk first after "a decision was made not to renew his credentials."

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt attributed the eviction to his country's active stance on human rights, warning that Belarusian President Aleskandr Lukashenko's "fear of human rights is reaching new heights." Blidt doubled down an hour later, tweeting "We remain strongly committed to the freedom of Belarus and all its citizens. They deserve the freedoms and the rights of the rest of Europe."

The sudden timing has many speculating that it was the recent"Teddy Bear Drop" by Swedish activists that incited the expulsion. In an original act of protest, Swedish advertising agency Studio Total flew a small private plane over Belarusian airspace, dropping stuffed toy bears with messages of free speech. In an interview with FP's Elias Groll, pilots Hannah Frey and Thomas Mazetti elaborated upon their "campaign of laughter" to highlight the regime's political and security weaknesses.

Though Belarusian officials initially denied that the teddy bear drop had even happened, two high ranking generals were fired shortly afterward for "failing to ensure national security." Belarusian blogger Anton Surapin and entrepreneur Syarhey Basharymau were later arrested on charges of involvement in the "illegal intrusion" of airspace.

Packing should be easy for the Swedish embassy. The current round of evictions comes just months after Sweden withdrew officials from its embassy in February in protest against Lukashenka's authoritarian administration.  All 27 EU member states removed diplomatic envoys after new economic sanctions were imposed, with Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia not returning until late April. An emergency meeting of European Union ambassadors has been called for Friday to discuss the situation.



Rap video urges Singaporeans to get busy making babies

In the May/June issue of FP, I did a short round-up sexual politics around the world, including Singapore's years-long efforts to make its people make babies:

Under the watchful eye of leader Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's authoritarian capitalist government over the last several decades managed to turn social engineering into a science -- highly regulating everything from housing to littering. Despite their best efforts, though, the city-state's technocrats haven't had as much success in cracking the code of love.

In 1983, Lee declared that too few of his country's eligible women -- those with careers and university degrees -- were marrying and having children. This led to the creation the following year of the government's Social Development Network, an agency devoted to helping Singaporeans find Mr. or Mrs. Right.

The agency's website offers young singles advice on everything from hygiene to dating etiquette. ("Guys, girls notice everything!" it advises.) Through its Marriage Central Advisory Board, the agency holds events to train young adults in the art of romance, including a yearly series of "Real Love Works" workshops promoting marriage. Other state-sponsored events include dances, wine tastings, cooking courses, cruises, and romantic movie screenings.

Unfortunately,  the efforts haven't been that effective. Singapore still has one of the world's lowest birthrates. So in the lead-up to Singapore's national day on August 9, candymaker Mentos is helping the Social Development Network (SDU) out with the music video above, complete with rapping and a Rihannaesque hook. Sample lyrics:

It's national night and I want a baby, boo

I know you want it, so does the SDU

I ain't merlion baby, this is national duty

Let me SMS the details of our late night dooty... call [...]

Singapore's population, it needs some increasing

So forget waving flags, August 9th we be freaking 

Believe it or not, it gets more awkward than that.

Hat tip: Daily Dish