Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir has dismissed a Left-Green proposal that she resign as “unbelievably inappropriate”. Her criticisms that the proposal contains falsehoods, however, appear to contradict the facts. Last weekend, the Left-Green Party held a party convention wherein a number of proposals were bundled into a general platform. Amongst these proposals is that Hanna Birna resign, in part because “the Minister did not speak truthfully to parliament and the Minister directly intervened in the investigation [of her ministry].” Speaking on radio station Bylgjan, Hanna Birna was dismissive of the proposal, telling listeners: “I find [the proposal] unbelievable inappropriate, apart from how the contents of the proposal are untrue.” Where the proposal’s contentions are concerned, it is a fact that, on June 18, she told parliament: “I do not know these investigations [of the Ministry]. I do not know about them, and it would be unnatural if I knew about any part of this investigation.” This directly contradicts what Parliamentary Ombudsman Tryggvi Gunnarsson’s third letter states about her activities in the Ministry at that time. As was brought to light in the letter, Hanna Birna had, on many occasions before and after June 18, “questioned the scope of the investigations [of her ministry], how far we were going, that we were taking the computer of her assistant, getting information about phone records, and many other things,” former Commissioner of the Capital Area Police Stefán Eiríksson told him, adding that Hanna Birna told him directly, “We will of course let you have everything. You will have access to all of it, but aren’t you going too far in all this?” Stefán also expressed surprise at just how much Hanna Birna knew about investigations of her Ministry, saying that she had “specific comments about specific elements of the investigation” that compelled Stefán to “gather information just to answer her questions.” Hanna Birna also told Bylgjan listeners that she might consider resigning “after the dust has settled”, calling the attention she has received about the matter “an ugly political game”.
A representative of management who contended that Icelanders do not need to work fewer hours has been corrected by the director of the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (ALDA). As reported, Þorsteinn Víglundsson, the director of Business Iceland (SA), recently dismissed a bill that was recently submitted to parliament on the subject of the definition of “full time work”. The bill proposes that the definition be changed from 40 hours per week to 35. Þorsteinn, in an interview with Stöð 2, told reporters that the concerns raised in the bill were unrealistic, saying that Icelanders work on average about 37 hours per week as it is. He further maintained that, when days off and vacations are accounted for, Icelanders work fewer hours than most European people. This has been met with some harsh criticism from Guðmundur D. Haraldsson, the director of ALDA. In a blog post he wrote for DV, Guðmundur points to actual data which contradicts Þorsteinn’s claims. Guðmundur argues that, according to OECD data, Icelanders actually work seven more hours per week than the Dutch; six more hours per week than the Norwegians, Danes and Germans; and five more hours per week than the French. Furthermore, Iceland has lower productivity than Denmark, Spain, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Norway – all of which have shorter work weeks. The bill on shortening the work week has yet to be given a final vote.
The Icelandic Penal Code was recently revamped to remove some of its more out-dated word choices, and replace them with more modern equivalents. RÚV reports that amongst these proposed changes is to remove the word “idiot” and replace it with the phrase “individual with a developmental disorder”. The out-dated “idiot” is currently used in Article 222 of the Icelandic Penal Code, which states, “Anyone who, intentionally or unwittingly, gives dangerous objects or substances to a child younger than 15 years old, a mentally ill person, an idiot or an intoxicated person will be fined or jailed”. Other changes in word choice also pertained to people with disabilities. For example, “deaf-mute” will be replaced with “a person with combined vision and hearing impairment”. Even the word used for a person with disabilities, “fatlaður” (roughly translated as “cripple”), will be replaced with the phrase “a person with a disability”. These changes were brought about in order to comply with the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, of which Iceland is a signatory. Participation in this convention includes, amongst other things, updating the language used to described people with disabilities.
In short: Only the privileged few A large number of Icelandic books are available as audio books at the audio books library. Available, in this case, however, means available to those who need them rather than those who would merely enjoy them. The audio book library is publicly funded and to some extent exempt from copyright restrictions, to serve blind and dyslexic audiences. Last week saw a mild debate involving non-blind and non-dyslexic readers who would nonetheless like to be able to buy these audio editions; the manager of the library who explained how absolutely nonsensical and futile not to mention old and often repeated that suggestion is, and that if any attempt were made to offer audio books to the general public, the whole system would crumble, dissolve in copyright disputes and costs, and in the end the blind would lose all access to literature at all. You do not want that, do you? An author then declared his surprise at finding out that his books existed in an audio-book form, and perplexity at not having been notified at all, let alone asked permission. Somewhere on the sidelines one Kristján Hrannar Pálsson defied the whole arrangement by reading some of his favorite books in full on YouTube. He must have some pretty good connections, for at the moment there are no signs that he will be sued or charged for the effort. A tale of two sagas Novelist Hallgrímur Helgason and former Minister of Agriculture, esteemed Progressive party member, Guðni Ágústsson, debated the milk monopoly. Debated as in: Hallgrímur said that Guðni had revealed himself as a Don Corleone of Icelandic cows, and Guðni replied that Hallgrímur reminded him of a character from a medieval saga, a character who, according to my best memory of what Guðni wrote, sometimes just seemed to hate everything to do with his nationality, as an Icelander. In that article, actually, Guðni also definitely wrote the quote of the week: Wherever to Icelnders get together, there’s a mafia. Somehow he seemed to think this statement supported his argument if there was one. Forecast Then last week’s forecast proved right: the closure of the Islamic state’s website did become a matter of dispute, even if it seems at time that the honorable pirate members of Alþingi are the only ones on their side of the argument: that closing down media should perhaps better be based on clear principles and take place in accordance to some sort of protocol rather than haphazardly even when something just doesn’t feel right. Those at the other side of the argument apparently don’t feel they have to say much, and in pragmatic terms, they are probably right: few people will be eager to spend much time to debate which procedure to follow when eliminating the Islamic state’s mouthpieces. There was more, Alþingi is just starting this winter’s session, and because in some fundamental way nothing is happening, nothing at all, but we all have to do our jobs and parade
RÚV reports that Isnic closed the domain of militant group ISIS/Islamic State for business reasons, according to Jens Pétur Jensen, ISNIC’s manager. The decision was made following a staff meeting. Jens Pétur says that around half of ISNIC’s ten staff members were opposed to the decision, and would either have preferred the company wait for a legitimate order from State authorities or not close the site down at all. This was heard at a meeting of Alþingi’s Enviroment and Transportation Committee. Jens Pétur told members of Alþingi that the business reasons behind the decision were concerns about the reputation of the .is ending, which would be endangered if employed by the Islamic State. Private vs. public The closure of the Islamic State’s website marks the first time an Icelandic domain is pulled down due to its content. The lack of protocol has raised concerns about freedom of speech. Jens Pétur has already been quoted explaining that: “We take this decision [to shut them down] because we can choose who we give service to. We are a private company. And we have no intention to serve this organisation.” Various reasons cited According to Vísir’s more extensive report of the meeting, different partners of ISNIC cited different reasons for the closure. CEO Ingimundur Sigurpálsson seems to have spoken in unison with the manager, saying that ISNIC feared that the Islamic State was attempting to take over the .is ending. He also said that it was hard to take this decision, because of ISNIC’s general policy to ignore content. The company’s lawyer, Steindór Dan Jensen, however, referred to the company’s domain registration rules, which state that “the right holder is responsible that the usage of the domain is in accordance with current law and regulation.”
This morning, the collective rights management society STEF, demanded responses from ISPs Síminn, Tal and 365, as to whether the companies will block their users’ access to the sharing sites Piratebay and its now non-existing local counterpart, deildu.net. This was reported by RÚV. STEF has demanded a response before Wednesday, threatening legal action. As reported, earlier this month, the Reykjavík District court ruled in favor of STEF’s demands in the case of two other ISPs, which were ordered to block their customers’ access to the torrent sites. Within a day after the ruling, which specifies the URLs to be blocked, Deildu.net reopened its services at another URL, with the domain ending .pm, which belongs to the miniscule autonomic region Saint Pierre and Miquelon, to which the verdict does not apply.