January was just chock full of fun and surprises, news-wise. Well, more surprises than fun, but you take what you can get. One of the more refreshing surprises came shortly after Björk announced her new album, ‘Vulnicura’, would be coming out this March. However, this album was somehow leaked onto the interwebs well ahead of schedule. Not one to be deterred, she went and released the album ahead of schedule anyway, to the joy of her fans and what we hope was the bitter disappointment of the leaker.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in midwinter Iceland, as hard as that may be to believe. A good example of this fact was embodied in Independence Party MP Ásmundur Friðriksson, who demonstrated his ability to couch ugly accusations as Just Asking Questions when, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, he very innocently asked if maybe we should investigate all 1,500 of Iceland’s Muslims to see if any of them have attended terrorist training camps. If Ásmundur expected that pretty much everyone else in his party would vocally condemn his remarks, he got what he expected.
On the left end of the political spectrum, former Minister of Commerce and Social Democrat MP Björgvin G. Sigurðsson was found to have “borrowed” a few hundred thousand krónur while serving as the head of Ásahreppur municipality. This money was misappropriated from a municipality credit card, and spent mostly on personal items. He has since admitted to having a drinking problem and subsequently checked into rehab. The funds are reported to have been repaid.
In brighter news, if you’re an immigrant hopeful in Iceland and the Directorate of Immigration has rejected your plea, you can now file an appeal to the Immigration Appeals Board, which has just gone into operation. Immigrants and asylum seekers alike can now have the recourse that international law says immigrants and asylum seekers should already have, and make their case heard to an independent body that does not answer to the Ministry of the Interior—unlike the Directorate of Immigration, which does.
Former Reykjavík mayor (and current writer-in-residence at Rice University in Texas) Jón Gnarr has finally found a solution to having his name legally changed to the one he has been known by for decades—get it changed in America. The procedure, which costs $100, will accomplish what Iceland’s Naming Committee has repeatedly refused to do. The best part is that he’ll be able to hang onto his “new” name upon returning to Iceland, too. In your FACE, Naming Committee!
The town of Kópavogur found one interesting way around the gender-wage gap. When a female municipal employee filed a complaint that she was receiving a lower salary than a male co-worker doing the same job, the town responded… by lowering the man’s salary. Minister of Social Affairs Eygló Harðardóttir was quick to point out that this isn’t exactly the way you’re supposed to correct the gender wage gap, while Kópavogur mayor Ármann Kr. Ólafsson retorted that the minister just doesn’t get the town’s pay system. Guess they’ll have to agree to disagree!
Good news for Iceland’s pagans: the first major Ásatrú temple since the Viking Age is about to rise in Reykjavík. The temple will be situated on Öskjuhlíð—the hill upon which Perlan rests—and will be dome-shaped, measuring four metres in diameter. This will most certainly be a boon to the 2,400 Icelanders who adhere to the faith, as they’ve waited for about a decade to get this far. This event will surely pave the way for the construction of an Orthodox Christian church and a mosque, both of which have also been at least a decade in the works.
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