Bad news if you plan to live in a retirement home in Iceland: the nursing home Hrafnista was denied an alcohol licence, which means that the facility cannot sell even beer or wine to folks that are well over the drinking age limit. However, the legal decision seems to be based more on technicalities than any moral outrage. Hrafnista is by law defined as a residential institution rather than a service institution, which is the difference that prevents them from getting a liquor licence.
Icelandic conservatives, in particular those on the far right of the economic agenda, have created a kind of libertarian think-tank called the Research Centre for Innovation and Growth, or RNH for short. The centre’s aim is to “fight for market freedom and against government intervention.” The centre counts among its staff political science professor Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson, historian Þór Whitehead, Independence Party Managing Director Jónmundur Guðmarsson and, as the chair of the board, economist Ragnar Árnason. In addition, Friðbjörn Orri Ketilsson will be the webmaster for the group. Friðbjörn is also the webmaster for www.amx.is, a conservative website featuring mostly anonymously-written articles. It should also be noted that they have already reached out to the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, two well-known conservative lobbies, for financial support.
Speaking of the wealthy, it seems that despite tax hikes, Iceland’s wealthy are not fleeing in droves to lands where the wealthy are taxed less. Director of the Tax Office Skúli Eggert Þórðarson, pointed out that quite the contrary, the rich who are leaving Iceland are going to countries with comparable to or, in some cases, even higher capital gains tax rates than Iceland.
Remember the asylum seekers who stowed away on an Icelandair flight to Denmark last month? Well, Icelandair has decided that it is going to sue the refugees for damages incurred by delaying the flight for four hours. Advocacy group No Borders protested the decision, contending that Icelandair was just making life harder for people who already don’t have it easy, and that the two suspects neither damaged property nor assaulted anybody. Icelandair spokesperson Guðjón Arngrímsson said they would review Icelandair’s decision. No word yet on any developments there.
As long as we’re taking a trip down memory lane, remember Páll Scheving Ingvarsson, the head of the Merchants’ Holiday festival on the Westman Islands who said that rape crisis prevention groups cause more problems than they solve? The guy who told once such group, Stígamót, that if they wanted to take part in the festival they’d have to buy tickets like everyone else, despite the festival being a bit infamous for sexual assaults? The guy who caused a shitstorm of calls for his resignation? Yeah, he quit. That is, he isn’t going to go after the position next year. He said that the protests had “taken their toll,” and will now have to grudgingly go back to being just the managing director of a fish meal plant and a member of town council.
Good news for all you non-car-driving people living in the capital, the city wants to make Reykajvík a “dream city” for cyclists and pedestrians. This will include the creation of new bike and walking paths throughout the urban area. The project itself is going to cost about 2 billion ISK and expected to be completed in 2013. That’s not soon enough for anyone who’s actually tried to bicycle through a far more car-friendly downtown.
Cannabis rights activist Örvar Geir of cannabis law reform group RVK Homegrown began a number of public “smoke-ins” at some of Iceland’s government institutions, starting with the Reykjavík police headquarters. Several people joined him, and he was not arrested. Örvar quipped at the time, "From this I've concluded that it's legal to smoke weed in Iceland, or at least to do so in front of the police station." He has since smoked marijuana behind parliament, at the main building of state broadcasting company RÚV, and other places. The Icelandic media has been decidedly reticent about the smoke-ins, and the government has yet to respond.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that Grapevine advice columnist and author of ‘Zombie Iceland’ Nanna Árnadóttir has appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine. In a brief interview, she gives advice to aspiring writers, recounting some of the things she learned along the way. Among them is that writers don’t actually live and work like Carrie Bradshaw of Sex And The City. “Usually you are in your pyjamas sitting at a desk or in bed, with a couple of crumbs in your hair; that is, if you remember to eat at all,” she says. Hear that, aspiring writers? Something to look forward to.
Icelanders as a nation have never had very many great athletes, just as one would expect of a country of some three hundred thousand people. Sure, there have been a few Olympic medals, but never a gold. In the 2008 Olympics, Icelanders won one of their two silvers when the national handball team lost to France in the final.