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December 05 2013

Iceland Grieves After Police Kill A Man for First Time

Police in Reykjavik, Iceland

Police in Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo by Christopher Porter on flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article and a radio report by Traci Tong for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on December 03, 2013 and is republished as part of a content sharing agreement.

It was an unprecedented headline in Iceland this week — a man shot to death by police.

“The nation was in shock. This does not happen in our country,” said Thora Arnorsdottir, news editor at RUV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

She was referring to a 59-year old man who was shot by police on Monday. The man, who started shooting at police when they entered his building, had a history of mental illness.

It's the first time someone has been killed by armed police in Iceland since it became an independent republic in 1944. Police don't even carry weapons, usually. Violent crime in Iceland is almost non-existent.

“The nation does not want its police force to carry weapons because it's dangerous, it's threatening,” Arnorsdottir says. “It's a part of the culture. Guns are used to go hunting as a sport, but you never see a gun.”

In fact, Iceland isn't anti-gun. In terms of per-capita gun ownership, Iceland ranks 15th in the world. Still, this incident was so rare that neighbors of the man shot were comparing the shooting to a scene from an American film.

The Icelandic police department said officers involved will go through grief counseling. And the police department has already apologized to the family of the man who died — though not necessarily because they did anything wrong.

“I think it's respectful,” Arnorsdottir says, “because no one wants to take another person's life. “

There are still a number of questions to be answered, including why police didn't first try to negotiate with man before entering his building.

“A part of the great thing of living in this country is that you can enter parliament and the only thing they ask you to do is to turn off your cellphone, so you don't disturb the parliamentarians while they're talking. We do not have armed guards following our prime minister or president. That's a part of the great thing of living in a peaceful society. We do not want to change that. ”

January 10 2013

Misconceptions about the Economic Situation in Iceland

BECAUSE I’M TIRED OF PEOPLE SPREADING UNTRUTHS

Baldur Bjarnason writes a blogpost on how the crisis in Iceland is actually unfolding on Studio Tendra. He details the cozy relationship between the Iceland government and the IMF, decrypts the banks going bankrupt and especially denounced the plight of a growing number of Icelandic citizens who are struggling under the weight of mortgage loans whose interest rates have skyrocketed with the collapse of the Icelandic krona. Why these myths are disseminated, he asks.  ”The only thing I know is that you are being lied to and that Icelanders are also very good at lying to themselves. Besides, if we were not, we would not be in this mess in the first place.”

October 16 2012

Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating Women's Genius

I want to challenge you. Yes, you, who are reading this article: mention five, just five names, of amazing women in science and technology you know, from five different countries in the world. The average person will likely fail to complete the challenge. Many will just mention some names they heard in recent news, like Marisa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo.

Ada Lovelace Day, celebrated every October 16, honors international women who are contributing with effort and little praise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths - women whose skills are urgently needed for the future of the world.

Here we highlight some of these extraordinary women from all over the world.

For example: Brazilian molecular biologist and geneticist Mayana Zatz is heading the University of São Paulo's (USP) Human Genome Research Centre; Mexican Environmental Engineer Blanca Jiménez Cisneros is the Director of the Division of Water Sciences and Secretary of the International Hydrological Program from UNESCO; Sijue Wu, from China, was awarded with the Morningside Medal, considered the most prestigious award for Chinese experts in Mathematics. Wu is also the first female recipient in the medal's history.

'Introduce a girl to engineering' by Argonne Library

‘Introduce a girl to engineering' by Argonne Library (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Leading the list of women scientists is Fabiola Gianotti who is directing the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland, considered the world's biggest scientific experiment. Gianotti is followed by Sunita Williams, an Astronaut who holds the record for the longest space flight by a woman.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Seberry is well know as The Grandmother of cryptography and computer security in Australia. She is a globally recognized cryptographer, mathematician, and computer scientist who took part in the discovery of the foundations of what is computer security today.

All the women listed above are at the peak of their consolidated careers. They are role models and examples who are inspiring many girls around the world. A new generation of scientists, computer experts, and researchers are taking the first steps to lead science and technology all over the world.

In Cuba Martha Zoe, a specialist in natural medicine in Cuba using native herbs growing in the island, discovered how ‘anamu' pills help those who are sick with terminal diseases.

In Tunisia, Sarrah Ben M'Barek is engaged in similar research, discovering innovative uses of plants. She also advocates to teach children how fascinating science can be with a creative approach.

Meanwhile, Esther Duflo, from France, founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, a network of professors from all over the world who use Randomized Evaluations to answering questions about poverty alleviation.

Computer Scientist from Princeton University, Nadia Heninger, scanned the entire Internet and found hundreds of thousands of instances of insecure Internet connections.

While Linet Kwamboka, from Kenya, is a computer expert leading the Open Data Initiative and the Open Government Partnership at the Kenya ICT Board.

Ana Domb, from Costa Rica-Chile, is a researcher studying distribution systems and thinking about the intersection of culture and technology.

Erinn Clark, a self taught computer expert, is one of the bright minds behind Tor Project, updating the Tor Project code and by doing so, allowing hundreds of users to communicate privately and securely. She combines her coding activities with public advocacy.

Berglind Ósk Bergsdóttir, for her part, is an amazing developer of mobile apps from Iceland.

Twelve years ago, Chiaki Hayashi founded LoftWork, which comprises more than 7,000 creators, including web and graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and fine artists and is allowing hundreds of digital creators to work together, share their portfolios and build projects they would have never created in isolation.

Debbie Sterling is an engineer and the founder of GoldieBlox, a toy and book series starring Goldie, a girl inventor who loves to build, seeking to attract girls to mechanics and engineering.

Naeema Zarif in Lebanon is leading a sharing revolution, promoting open digital models.

Architect Joumana Al-Jabri, meanwhile, is using her technical skills to foster human rights with a variety of technology projects, including Visualizing Palestine.

In Costa Rica, Giannina Segnini is leading a team of scientist and journalists working in the most ambitious data driven journalism iniatiative in the region.

Kate Doyle, in the United States, is the director of the Evidence Project at the National Security Archive, and uses data science to uncover human rights abuses and hold criminals accountable of the most horrific crimes.

Models to follow, lives to inspire us, and names we must not forget to tackle stereotypes pushing women away from science. While some names mentioned above belong to very bright and famous senior experts, one must not forget the amazing women leading and forming communities such Mitchell Baker leading Mozilla, Cathy Casserly as CEO of Creative Commons, Kat Walsh as the Board Chair of Wikimedia, and all Global Voices Online female authors and editors, who make up a majority of our community. We should also remember those groups of women who are the custodians and guardians of traditional knowledge in all cultures.

Women have been at all times the keepers of culture, the depositories of knowledge and the seeds for the future. Lets honor all of them today.

January 07 2012

Eurozone Crisis: 2011 Citizen Media Responses

This page is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

The year 2011 will be remembered for the European debt crisis and its impact on the global economy, but also for its hard consequences on everyday life. The crisis began in 2007 and is without precedent in post-war economic history. Europe is living its darkest economic days since the 1930s.

Due to the growing importance of the topic and due to the diffusion of social media platforms, in recent months there has been a proliferation of “economic blogging” (and tweeting). Opinion, thoughts and reactions abound online trying to make sense of what future awaits the Eurozone.

Considering VAT increases, along with salary, pension and benefit cuts, some basic goods are becoming less affordable. Indian blogger Deepankar Basu wrote on the indian economic website Sanhati:

These [austerity] measures reduce expenditure and increase taxes in order to reduce government deficits. Cutbacks in government spending and increases in taxes, at this particular moment, however, amount to the worst possible policy stance, reducing aggregate demand even further, and pushing the economies deeper into recession.

Sovereign debts, junk ratings: protests take to the street

Camp site at Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Julio Albarrán, republished under a CC License.

Camp site at Puerta del Sol, Madrid, Spain. Photo by Julio Albarrán, republished under a CC License.

The crisis is perceived to have started within three countries - Ireland, Greece and Portugal - but quickly spread to Spain and Italy.

Since the international rating agencies gave their assessments (ratings) for each national solvency (the ability to pay public debt) it seemed they “held the wand” over the Eurozone’s future. This power over the fate of each state provoked strong debates all over Europe, with many questioning the legitimacy of their analysis.

In Portugal, for example, there was a strong commotion and reaction when the independent American financial analysis firm Moody's called Portuguese debt “junk debt”.

But the core of the protests occurred in May. It all started in Spain with the 15M movement, mainly coordinated by the youth organization Democracia Real Ya [es], which was extremely active online and organized massive demonstrations against corruption, unemployment, and a political structure allegedly favouring a two-party system.

The acampadas born in Plaza del Sol in Madrid quickly “infected” other Spanish cities, such as Barcelona, Sevilla and Malaga. In a few weeks other movements became active in other European Countries and globally, later the Occupy Wall Street movement.

  "#campmap for "#worldrevolution" - More than  600 demonstrations and camp outs were ignited in solidarity with Spanish protesters by the end of May, 2011.

"#campmap for "#worldrevolution" - More than 600 demonstrations and camp outs were ignited in solidarity with Spanish protesters by the end of May, 2011.

 

Some, including mainstream media [es], soon made connections between the the so-called Spanish Revolution and the Arab Spring.

Como si se tratara de la plaza Tahrir, en Egipto, escenario de las protestas populares[es]. El caldo de cultivo del derrocamiento de Hosni Mubarak. Esto es distinto pero puede ser el embrión de algo. Quién sabe.

As if we were in Tahrir square, in Egypt, the scenario for popular uprisings, and the path towards overthrowing Mubarak. This is different, but it may be the seed of something. Who knows.

Solidarity to the Spanish movement came soon from Greece, which has been the first European Union country to taste the sting of IMF/ECB austerity since 2010. Particularly in Greece the anti-austerity protests have been strongest. In June there were peaceful protests and gatherings at Syntagma (Constitution) Square, and when protesters planned to surround the House of the Parliament the day for which the vote for the Mid-Term Austerity Programme had been scheduled, there were violent clashes with the police.

Protests and demonstrations continued over the summer especially in Spain and Greece. But only the big reforms and the austerity plans widely adopted in “PIIGS” countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) late in the autumn marked a turning point of the European debt crisis.

“Blood and Tears”: the austerity recipe

The pressure of the financial markets and recommendations coming from European Commission urged some governments to adopt  so-called austerity measures aimed at eliminating unsustainable budget deficits. Recipes seem to have some common traits across countries: cuts on social spending and social services, additional taxes, VAT increases and salary cuts with citizens paying for the crisis.

In Spain the intense social debate over the economic recovery plan led to new protest in September when the #reformazo (#bigreform) was announced. Spain, and later Italy, decided to introduce constitutional changes to limit public spending (budgetary stability). In turn, there were protests throughout the country organized by the assemblies of Puerta del Sol and by the entire 15M movement against what Real Democracy Now! has called the Financial Coup D'État.

Runner statue mocked up as a rioter. Photo courtesy of the Athens indignants' multimedia team, licensed as CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Runner statue mocked up as a rioter. Photo courtesy of the Athens indignants' multimedia team, licensed as CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

In Greece in October there was an unprecedented protest during the ‘Ochi Day‘ (No Day) Parade since Greeks were angry for the relentless and ineffective austerity measures, culminating in the “haircut” deal negotiated by banks and European politicians, which many fear signifies the beginning of a new foreign “occupation” of the country.

The impact of the austerity recipes have been particularly severe in Greece where suicides and criminality are mounting, and where social and health assistance is becoming more and more expensive. The reportedly high cost (that can reach 1000 euros) for childbirth in public hospitals is only one example of adverse social impacts of the current crisis.

But there are also chronicles of the victims of the explosive cocktail of the housing bubble, the financial crisis, and high unemployment rates. Thousands of families are now without homes. A large campaign started in Spain against housing speculation, to stop evictions and relocate families to unused buildings.

Mobilizing on the streets and the Internet

Apart from economic issues and their implications for the people of European countries, democratic participation and citizenship rights occupy the public debate. The massive participation in protests and demonstrations against austerity measures - both online and in the streets - was something new on the European political scene.

Many, such as in Portugal, have pointed out there was an alternative to the top-down measures imposed by EC, IMF and ECB so that the Iceland’s practice of direct democracy became a model. Since Iceland refused an international bailout, many argued that there could be a different solution for the current crisis than ten years of severe budget restrictions to bail out bondholders.

But there was also another issue that emerged in recent months, since there have been crucial changes of government in three European countries. While in Spain the change was due to early elections, the new prime ministers in Greece and in Italy were chosen by the head of state, without any popular approval.

The resignation of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy was particularly important not only for the country, but for the whole European Union, since the country needed to calm financial markets in order to keep interest rates on sovereign debt under control. After the “Party for Berlusconi's resignation” soon Italians and Europeans involved in the crisis had to face the ugly reality they have to live with.

As Europe’s financial woes intensify, austerity reigns, the crisis deepens and economists are forecasting an (unprecedented?) recession, maybe 2011 will be remembered as a “lost year” of the European economic history.

This page is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

August 27 2011

Harpa concert hall

Reykjavik's dazzling new concert hall basks in the reflective glory of Olafur Eliasson's inspired design

There are three reasons to be sceptical about the Harpa concert hall. One is that it is promoted as a "unique" artist-architect collaboration, when such collaborations are quite commonplace and often involve an alliance between architects with too little confidence in their ability to design buildings and an artist with too much. Then it is called "crystalline", a word usually applied by hack practices to glass boxes with a few wonky angles.

And it is in Iceland, the country that went so spectacularly bust that the British government mobilised anti-terrorism laws to freeze its assets. What business have they, three years after leading the world into the abyss, to be opening a $150m (£90m) building, with four halls for music and conferences, the largest of which has 1,800 seats, in a country of 300,000 people, and in a city the size of Ipswich?

The facade of Harpa is the work of an artist, the Icelandic-Danish Olafur Eliasson, who gets more attention and a higher billing than the hall's architects, the 52-year-old practice Henning Larsen Architects. They wear sober suits; Eliasson's leather waistcoat and silver-framed shades suggest creative leadership. His job is to provide that service that would once have been performed by Corinthian columns and statues of buxom nudes: to endow the house of culture with meaning and importance. He has come up with a tilted cliff face made of multiple hexagonal glass tubes, with coloured and mirrored panes inserted here and there. Inside, the hexagons continue, forming a faceted and mirrored ceiling to the foyer.

It is indeed crystalline and, according to the official explanations, inspired by Iceland's volcanic geology. It glitters. It is a bit disco. It has something of Brezhnev-era Soviet architecture, but with bling. It is clearly a work of Iceland's recent past, of the years of magic money rather than of a new austerity. In a town where the standard building type is a two-storey house clad in corrugated steel, it stands out. Only the city's Lutheran parish church, an all-white gothic-deco space rocket, can compete.

Yet something about it arrests scepticism and prevents its dismissal as a banker's bauble. This is partly to do with light, which in Iceland runs from endless translucent days in summer to the brief crawl of the sun above the horizon in winter, with many shades of black, blue and grey in between. Eliasson's crystals filter, reflect and fragment light. They catch it, play with it, animate it and make it mobile. Sunshine lights up the foyers with a refulgence that is almost nuclear. In dim light the building gleams. The hexagonal tubes have glass at the back as well as the front, which gives depth. It means that light inhabits the facade rather than just bouncing off it.

It also changes in response to the movements of the viewer. Eliasson is best known in Britain for his Weather Project of 2003, in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, in which two million visitors came to lie on the floor and contemplate an artificial sun alongside their own reflections in a reflective ceiling. At Harpa, as with the Weather Project, the idea is that people are participants as well as spectators.

"I am interested in the way things look different from one angle or another," says Eliasson, and if a building responds to the movement of people, they become "co-producers". It "becomes generous. If I move and it changes, I feel that the building and the site respect me." If several people are doing this at once, as at the Weather Project, "there is a feeling of community – people feel connected – successful public space supports the idea of connectivity".

That he, an artist, has to be brought in to provide these things suggests a failure by the architects, and he agrees that "the brutality of clients has created more compromises, which some architects have failed to navigate. With art you never have a client who says things like: 'Can you change that colour into green?', because then they don't have a work of art any more." So artists can insist on what is important. He says, however, that "there is not a macho competition" between artists and architects, "but, without becoming the same, a merging and blurring".

Eliasson's words about "co-producers" might sound theoretical, but they describe what happens at Harpa. The big glass wall is active and interactive, made up of the movements of people inside and outside the building, who then take more notice of one another. It is this that sets Harpa, which is in fact a glass box with wonky angles, apart from many other examples of the genre.

Of course sound, not light, is the main business of a concert hall, and the world is littered with auditoria where acoustics have been sacrificed to spectacle. At Harpa the two are kept apart. If the facade is Eliasson's, the halls are the domain of acoustic consultants Artec, who have guided some of the most successful modern auditoria in the world, and at Harpa have produced a clarity of acoustic that has reportedly moved some performers to tears of joy.

Between Eliasson's light and Artec's sound comes the architecture of Henning Larsen Architects, and a core of dark concrete the colour of Iceland's lava fields, that acts as a foil for one and a container for the other. This stands inside the glass box, forming the inner walls, balconies and stairs of the foyer. It is an admirably self-effacing role that the architects have chosen, and a collaborative one: Eliasson's art was not simply attached to their frame, but created by artist and architect working together. The result is not a perfect integration of looking and hearing but a happy coexistence.

Harpa belongs to a new genre of building, the boomtime icons that arrived late at the party. Its conception was in 2004, in Iceland's age of financial hallucination, when consortia of banks, architects and others were invited to bid for the privilege of building the home, long wished-for in this music-loving country, of concerts and opera. The winning group was led by Landsbanki, which would be a leading player in Iceland's Gatsby moment.

When Landsbanki crashed many, perhaps most, Icelanders took the obvious view, which was that with people losing homes and jobs an expensive, oversized concert hall was not their priority. But its structure was four storeys out of the ground and, faced with the alternative of abandoning it as an instant ruin and all-too-eloquent symbol of failure, the government pressed on. They took over the project and "with the help of very clever financing", as one of those responsible for running the place puts it, they "made it light for the taxpayers". Now the official blurb declares Harpa "a symbol of Iceland's renewed dynamism".

It still looks misplaced, like a 64-inch TV inside a caravan, but the Harpa management say that the "size turns out to be just right. It fills out just about every event." They also say they like the fact that the bank is no longer calling the shots. It means they can make the place more popular and less corporate. It will take time to find out if Harpa can truly sustain itself, and no one there claims that if they were starting over again they would do it in the same way. But there might be times when a huge TV is a good investment in cheering up, and the same goes for Eliasson's amazing glass.


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June 16 2010

Lamb to the slaughter

Four years ago, I was doing a big project in Iceland. It meant travelling all round, and at one point I went to the small town of Höfn, in the southeast corner. It has 1,500 people, one bar, one hotel. It's like the end of the world – there's nothing there. It looked like the most difficult place on earth to take pictures. So I decided to spend a month there, to see what I could do, even though this was before the crunch and Iceland was frighteningly expensive.

In May 2007, I housed myself in Höfn's hotel. In that month, no one there made any attempt to even talk to me. No one bought me a drink, or invited me for a meal. I spent every single day on my own, except for the times when my wife Brynja, who's from Iceland herself, came for a visit. As we drove around one day, I noticed this extraordinary-looking farmer.

While Brynja was asking if he'd mind being photographed, she spotted a newborn lamb and offered the farmer £350 to spare its life. She christened it Steinunn, a common woman's name in Iceland. It struck me as the perfect way to shoot the farmer, so I brought out my lights. I shot in black-and-white on a Hasselblad. Looking at the sky, I think the rain was coming in. Iceland has extraordinary light quality: the cloud structure changes rapidly, the sunlight cascades through.

I didn't have anything planned. It just occurred to me to ask him to lie down. I'm always looking for the unusual. There's something spiritual about this picture: Christian iconography always seems to be hanging around in my work. "I want to make sure the lamb lives a complete life and won't be slaughtered," my wife told the farmer at one point. "You're not going to kill it and eat it."

CV

Born: Birmingham, 1948.

Studied: Photography at Manchester College of Art and Design, 1969-72.

Infuences: "I prefer fine arts (Caspar David Friedrich, Stanley Spencer) and music (Mark E Smith of the Fall).

High point: "The Guardian awarding me photographer of the decade in 1989!"


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April 22 2010

Eyjafjallajökull: Entlasten die Flugausfälle das Klima?

Von Anike Peters | Greenpeace Blog |- Entlasten die Flugausfälle durch den Vulkanausbruchs auf Island das Klima? Diese Frage wurde Green- peace in den letzten Tagen häufig gestellt. Und meine Antwort darauf lautet ganz klar: Ja!

Nach Berechnungen von Atmosfair haben sämtliche Flugbewegungen von, nach und in Europa jeden Tag eine klimaerwärmende Wirkung, die etwa der von einer Million Tonnen Kohlendioxid entspricht. Das ist etwa die gleiche Menge an CO2, wie 40 Kohlekraftwerke in der Größe des von Vattenfall geplanten Klimakillers Moorburg am Tag ausstoßen. Und das sind immense, nicht zu vernachlässigende Mengen!

Deshalb wundere ich mich auch über Pressemeldungen in denen es heißt, dass die durch die Flugausfälle entstandene Einsparung an Treibhausgasemissionen zu vernachlässigen sei. Jedes Flugzeug das nicht startet, verbraucht kein Kerosin und erspart dem Klima damit einen ganzen Batzen an CO2-Emissionen. Das ist gut fürs Klima.

Die Kalkulation von Dietrich Brockhagen von Atmosfair beruht auf Daten, die im Rahmen einer EU-Studie im Jahr 2007 erhoben wurden. Diese Studie besagt, dass der direkte CO2-Ausstoß des europäischen Flugverkehrs etwa 220 Millionen Tonnen pro Jahr beträgt (Stand 2005). Beim Fliegen ausgestoßenes Kohlendioxid hat aber eine viel klimaschädlichere Wirkung als wenn es am Boden freigesetzt wird.

Das liegt daran, dass die Treibhausgase vom Flugzeug in einer besonders sensiblen Schicht der Erdatmosphäre ausgestoßen werden. Um also die wirklich wirksame klimaschädliche Wirkung des europäischen Flugverkehrs zu ermitteln, muss noch mit dem so genannten Radiation Forcing Index (RFI) multipliziert werden.

Laut Weltklimarat hat der RFI für Flugemissionen im Mittel einen Wert von 2,7 . Doch die Konservative Berechnung von Atmosfair hat sich darauf beschränkt zu sagen, dass die jährliche Klimabelastung durch den europaweiten Flugverkehr bei deutlich über 365 Millionen Tonnen liegt, was rund eine Million pro Tag bedeutet. Einfach Wahnsinn, was so ein Vulkanausbruch für Auswirkungen haben kann!

Jetzt kann man natürlich sagen: Halt, auch ein Vulkanausbruch belastet das Klima. Das stimmt. Vulkanische Aktivitäten sind jährlich für 110-250 Millionen Tonnen CO2 verantwortlich. Das ist jedoch weniger als alleine der europäische Luftverkehr verursacht. Die Auswirkungen des menschlichen Lebens auf der Erde sind hundertmal höher.

Für viele Menschen in unserer Gesellschaft ist es ganz alltäglich zu einem Geschäftstermin von Berlin nach Bonn zu fliegen. Auch der Konsum von Produkten, die am anderen Ende der Welt produziert werden und dann mit dem Flugzeug zu uns transportiert werden, ist für viele von uns normal: Babymango aus Kolumbien, Rosen aus Kenia und Fisch aus Asien.

Das Flugverbot hat nun viele Reisende zu einem Umstieg auf andere Verkehrsmittel wie die Bahn oder Busse gezwungen. Und vielleicht hat der eine oder andere Konsument hier in Hamburg jetzt Blumen und Gemüse aus dem Alten Land in Niedersachsen kaufen müssen, statt aus Afrika Eingeflogenes.

Vielleicht hat also der Vulkanausbruch nicht nur direkt dazu geführt, dass das Klima weniger geschädigt wurde, sondern auch indirekt ein bisschen “wachgerüttelt” und Bewusstsein für die Auswirkungen unseres täglichen Handelns geschaffen. Ich persönlich hoffe jedenfalls, dass dem ein oder anderen von uns durch die Flugausfälle die Absurdität mancher Alltäglichkeiten klar geworden ist und er/sie jetzt ein wenig klimabewusster handelt.

Quelle: – Greenpeace Blog – Dieser Beitrag steht unter einer CC-Lizenz. Bitte verlinke bei einer Nutzung immer auf den Originalartikel.

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April 18 2010

Russia: Volcanic Eruption Provokes Cooperation and Jokes

Two days passed since Mother Nature showed its power to mankind letting the Icelandic volcano with unpronounceable name “Eyjafjallajökull” fill the European aerospace with ashes. As the ash cloud went east, more and more airports were closing, which led to European-wide transport collapse. Russian bloggers - also affected by the natural disaster - reacted differently: made jokes, shared information, expresses annoyance, and offered to help each other.

The most active discussion took place in the Livejournal community ru_travel (about 30,000 readers). Moderators had to make a special tag “volcano” [RUS] to facilitate mass of eruption-connected postings. Bloggers were helping each other by giving consultations on passenger rights, airline practices, hotel deals and land transportation routes.

Individual bloggers offered help beyond just sharing information. Lacrizza offered [RUS] to take some people from the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow and provide them with temporary accommodation. Nata_vasilisa proposed the same in Krakow, Poland [RUS]:

Если у вас кто-то застрял в Кракове в связи с вулканом, и негде переждать облако - я могу приютить.

If someone is stuck in Krakow because of the volcano and doesn't have a place to wait till the cloud is over, I can shelter you.

Bets were also a part of the discussion. Lj-user asy suggested [RUS] to make bets on the date of the ending of the European flight ban. Below are the most original ones:

так как наш рейс на завтра с вероятностью 99,999% отменят, то сделаю ставку, что именно полное снятие ограничений будет в районе 3-4 мая. Правда к тому времени большинство а/к обанкротятся в виду возвратов денег за полеты :)

Because our flight tomorrow will be canceled with 99,999% probability, I'll make a bet that the flying ban will be fully removed somewhere around May 3 or 4. However, the most of the airlines will go bankrupt by that time:)

elena_w1:

У меня билеты в Париж на 9 мая. шансы к тому времени 50/50. но я вообще думаю что конец света наступает- так что….думаю что больше ничего летать не будет

I have tickets to Paris for May 9. I think the chances for this time will be 50/50. But in general I think it's the end of the world coming - so… I think there will be no planes flying at all.

Allevtinka sarcastically replied to it:

вот кстати да! прошлый раз этот вулкан пыхал 2 года подряд. (200 лет назад). Если к 2010+2=2012 :) как всё просто, однако!

By the way, yes! Last time this volcano was erupting for two years in a row (200 years ago). So 2010 + 2 = 2012 ;) so simple though!

ingushetiya_ru cited Qur'an referring to the Apocalypse:

Then watch for the Day when the sky will bring a visible smoke.

Yuri-yum suggested [RUS] that the eruption was rather a “Sodom” case rather then the Judgment Day. He was referring to the personality of Icelandic prime-minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, world's first gay leader [ENG].

The Apocalyptic topic was quite popular among bloggers. Some shared pictures of Vladimir Manyukhin [RUS] depicting Moscow after “nuclear winter:”

Apocalyptic red square, photo by vladimir manyukhin

Apocalyptic Red Square, photo by Vladimir Manyukhin

dmitrivrubel wrote [RUS]:

Летайте самолётами компании “Эйяфьятлайокудль”! Почему до сих пор не придумали шлягера, мультика, нет ни одного сувенира? Ведь какой замечательный персонаж - м-р Эйяфьятлайокудль. И его супруга Мирдальсйёкюдль, которая ещё не проснулась.

Fly with “Eyjafjallajökull” airlines! Why there's still no song, cartoon, no souvenir? Such a great meme - Mr.Eyjafjallajökull. And his wife Mirdal'sjekjudl', who is still asleep.

What Is It With Iceland?

Ash from an Icelandic volcano is causing big and costly disruptions in Europe but, so far, it's nothing compared to the problems caused by Iceland's bank meltdown in 2008.

» E-Mail This » Add to Del.icio.us

Reposted fromSigalonnews Sigalonnews viaSigalon02 Sigalon02
02mydafsoup-01

Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced [ˈɛɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥], translated as "island-mountains glacier") (About this sound listen ) is one of the smaller glaciers of Iceland. It is situated to the north of Skógar and to the west of the larger glacier Mýrdalsjökull.

The icecap of the glacier covers a volcano (1,666 metres or 5,466 ft in height) which has erupted relatively frequently since the Ice Age, at times bringing rhyolite to the surface.[1] The volcano erupted twice in 2010, on 20 March and 14 April. The April eruption caused massive disruption to air traffic across Northern Europe, with scientists claiming it was ten to twenty times more powerful than the March event. The most recent previous eruption was from 1821 to 1823, causing a fatal glacial lake outburst flood.[citation needed] A previous eruption was in 1612. The crater of the volcano has a diameter of 3–4 kilometres (1.9–2.5 mi) and the glacier covers an area of about 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi).

The south end of the mountain was once part of the island's Atlantic coastline. As the sea has since retreated some 5 kilometres (3.1 mi), the former coastline has left behind sheer cliffs with a multitude of beautiful waterfalls, of which the best known is Skógafoss. In strong winds, the water of the smaller falls can even be blown up the mountain.

Eyjafjallajökull - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Reposted fromSigalon02 Sigalon02

March 27 2010

Man of the north

On trips to Iceland in the 1870s, William Morris fell in love with its strange, ever-changing landscape and its traditions of craftsmanship. Fiona MacCarthy on how his travels inspired a new work by composer Ian McQueen

William Morris's textiles draw on easy English images: hedgerow flowers, thrushes, strawberries and daisies. But in his own mind he was a man of the north, drawn to harsh scenery and storms and confrontations. His rugged appearance was part of this self-image. "Beg pardon, Sir, were you ever captain of the Sea Swallow?" a passing fireman asked Morris as he rollicked along a street in Kensington, dressed in his blue seaman's jacket. He had an almost childlike openness to adventure and a yen for the heroic. When he travelled to Iceland, land of the sagas, in the 1870s he felt he had come home.

Morris's Icelandic journeys are a recurring theme in composer Ian McQueen's new work for chorus and orchestra. Earthly Paradise, a four-part sequence based on the sayings, songs and poems of William Morris, has its first performance by the BBC Chorus and Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis at the Barbican in London next month. McQueen is a man of the north, too, born and brought up in Scotland. Earlier operatic works such as Beggarman-Thief and Fortunato have drawn on Scandinavian poetry and folktale. McQueen feels a close affinity with Morris's ferocious defence of the environment and visionary politics of fellowship.

In July 1871 Morris and three companions, one of them the Icelandic scholar Eiríkr Magnússon, travelled by Danish mailboat from Edinburgh's Granton harbour to Reykjavík, a four-day journey. Unusually for him, Morris kept a diary of his travels and the early entries are alive with hopefulness; he is awed and excited by the wild new northern landscape which he describes in "Iceland First Seen", one of the poems featured in McQueen's new work. "Ah! What came we forth to see that our hearts are so hot with desire? ... / ... Why do we long to wend forth through the length and breadth of a land, / Dreadful with grinding of ice, and record of scarce hidden fire?"

Partly the journey was escapism. Morris's marriage was in disarray. The wife he had married 13 years before, the dark, statuesque Jane Burden, daughter of an Oxford stablehand, had virtually left him for his friend and brother artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Morris felt this as a double blow. In the weeks before his departure he had taken a house, Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire, in a joint tenancy with Rossetti. He had now left Janey and Rossetti in residence together. But the journey was not as grief-stricken as it might well have been. Morris was a designer and a craftsman. It was in his deeply practical, resilient nature to reconfigure and reconstruct. His discovery of Iceland, "most romantic of all deserts", was to give him a new stimulus that lasted all his life.

They took a criss-cross route from Reykjavík around the main sites of the Icelandic sagas, travelling on sturdy Icelandic ponies, hiring local guides. They first went westwards along the bottom coast, then struggled their way north-east across the wilderness to the fjords on the northern sea. They circled round the Snæfellsnes peninsular, returning via the mysterious and marvellous Geysir hot springs. In a sense this was familiar territory to Morris, attuned as he was to the sagas, epic stories of intrepid Icelandic warriors originally passed down orally and then, from the 13th century onwards, appearing in written form. Morris had learned Icelandic. With Magnússon he had by this time translated several of these sagas into English prose. He could not help seeing himself as the successor to these ancient heroes of unvanquishable spirit. Morris even began to look like the chieftain-poet Snorri Sturluson, his London friends complained.

But although he was steeped in Icelandic literature, the country in reality amazed him. Morris was by no means the first English traveller in Iceland which had been opening up to antiquarians and tourists in search of curiosities since the 18th century. But his journals of this journey, and another made in 1873 when he crossed the central wastelands of the island, are precious and unique because they are so simply and beautifully written with the informed sense of wonder of a deeply learned and sophisticated man. These journals were not meant for publication. They are more a long, informal letter, packed full with glowing detail, for his friend and confidante Georgiana Burne-Jones.

They show us how affected he was by the strange and ever-changing Nordic landscape. The man we almost automatically associate with willows and rivulets, English village churches, stone-built barns, was equally responsive to the craggy rock formations he came upon in Iceland, which he compared to great medieval ramparts; Hekla, the still-active volcano with its ominous red rim; the dismal black drama of the endless lava fields.

Morris travels around Iceland with a designer's eye, alert for triple rainbows, the "wonderful fiery and green sunsets", swirling rivers, clashing colours, cascading waterfalls. Riding near the seashore he is suddenly aware of "a huge waste of black sand all powdered over with tufts of sea-pink and bladder-campion at regular intervals, like a Persian carpet". These peculiar, barren vistas would stay in his mind forever. The moonscapes of his magic novels of the 1890s are Iceland yet again.

Iceland itself became a kind of yardstick against which Morris measured the follies and iniquities of Victorian Britain. The Icelanders lived hard lives, but they never lost their dignity or sense of true priorities. The important things survived. Morris admired the strong literary traditions, noting how oral storytelling continued through the generations, keeping families transfixed through the long winter nights. He responded to the practical simplicity of Icelandic farmers' houses. These single-storey turf-walled structures, their rounded roofs blanketed with grass and flowers, had a minimalist beauty that showed up the self-indulgence of the "ordinary style of bourgeois comfort" in which Morris, a financier's son, had been brought up.

By the time he came to Iceland, Morris had founded his decorating firm Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co with the idea of reforming Britain's debased taste in the design of household products. From his own experience, he was already painfully aware of the economic pressures towards short cuts and shoddiness, the negation of the basic human instinct to perfect one's skills. In Iceland's more rudimentary economy craftsmanship still flourished within a living tradition of folk art. Morris's delight in discovering a country where design was directed only at supplying basic human needs fuelled his future diatribes against the Victorian culture of excess. He was to say he had "never been in any rich men's houses which would not have looked better for having a bonfire made outside of it of nine-tenths of all it held".

As he travelled he became aware of how Icelandic society was held together almost in defiance of the elements. It was a society that took care of its own. Unquestioningly, the sick and frail would be looked after by their families at home. Morris would think back to the humanity of Iceland when his daughter Jenny developed epilepsy while still in her mid-teens. Such a condition made her virtually ostracised in middle-class England in the 19th century.

'O Dwellers on the Lovely Earth." This, the second text in Ian McQueen's new composition, comes from "The Earthly Paradise" itself, the long, narrative poem written by Morris in the 1860s, just before he went to Iceland. It was the work that brought him real fame. In this poem he develops one of his great themes: the ruination of the land. Morris had been watching with increasing horror the rampant industrialisation of Britain and the damage caused to the environment by uncontrolled factory production: poisoned air, polluted rivers, tracts of industrial waste. Iceland, by contrast, was purity itself, and his travels through the mountains braced him and inspired him for the years of environmental campaigning ahead.

Morris believed in the Nordic version of inevitable fate he called the "Weird". It was the Weird that had brought him to Iceland at the time of his life when he most needed to be there. He returned to England more able to accept the limitations of his marriage. His attitude to Janey was generous and stoic. He believed we are not one another's keepers. He endured her defection as best he could. Morris also came back with a new radical awareness. Reading the journals you can see the processes of revelation dawning. He came home politicised, convinced that "the most grinding poverty is a trifling evil compared with the inequality of classes".

Back in England Morris embarked on Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs, a four-part Icelandic epic in long, swinging, rhyming couplets. Morris's version of what he considered "the most glorious of stories" has the structural ambitiousness of a Victorian gothic cathedral on the grandest scale, and it helped enthuse the English reading public with the histrionic lives and loves of Sigmund and Signy, Sigurd, Brynbuild and Gudrun, the daughter of the Niblungs. The poem was published in 1876, the year of the first production in Bayreuth of Wagner's complete Ring. Morris disapproved strongly of an operatic staging of a subject he regarded as his sacred property. The idea of "a sandy haired German tenor tweedledeeing over the unspeakable woes of Sigurd" was more than he could bear.

Early in 1883 Morris crossed the "river of fire" and became a revolutionary socialist. Note the image of the river: the journey across water was always a potent metaphor for Morris, as we'll be reminded in McQueen's setting of those wonderful lines "The Doomed Ship". This final transformation of the cosseted son of the capitalist classes, whose family fortunes derived from copper mining in the valley of the Tamar, was described by EP Thompson, the historian of the English working classes, as "among the great conversions of the world". Morris joined the Democratic Federation, a small and, at the time, relatively unknown party committed to bringing about a total social revolution, creating a society without rich and poor, without masters and men; a new world in which art could flourish. Art for Morris was the test of a true civilisation.

By now Morris had come to the conclusion that books without political purpose were flatulent and lifeless. For a decade he became totally embroiled in the literature of conflict. Everything he wrote – poetry and stories, journalism, lectures – was dedicated to what he called "the Cause". Not everybody noticed. In many people's eyes Morris was still the author of the relatively innocuous "Earthly Paradise", and he was seriously considered for the post of Poet Laureate in 1892 after the death of Tennyson. As a revolutionary socialist he could not possibly accept.

News From Nowhere is the book in which Morris's visionary politics find their ultimate expression. It is a novel of an ideal post-revolution future set in 2012, a date which now seems curiously imminent. Though it reads with the directness of a children's story, it has deep, underlying subversiveness, a total upturning of accepted values. News From Nowhere became a kind of handbook for the romantic-intellectual English socialism that has only just ended with the death of Michael Foot. Towards the end of this dream novel comes a haymakers' feast – a community gathering in a flower-decked church with a crowd of handsome, happy, well-dressed men and women looking "like a bed of tulips in the sun". The truly democratic village scene described by Morris reminds one of Iceland, but with better weather. Ideals of community he formed on those journeys of the 1870s stayed with him all his life.

The poet Lavinia Greenlaw is now working on a book containing her own selection from Morris's Icelandic journals and "a longish essay about questions of travel". Ian McQueen thinks of his new composition as "an exploration of Morris's own psychological territory expressed in musical terms". Why this sudden surge of interest in Morris's ideas and writings as opposed to merely his wallpaper designs? It has something to do with his peculiar, irascible, enchanting personality, still vivid in our age of triviality and blandness. At a time of endless half-truths and moral shilly-shallying, Morris's eccentric integrity shines out. He was, for instance, committed to de-government and to the dismantling of a parliamentary system he regarded as inherently corrupting. Who can fail to love a writer who, in News From Nowhere, transforms the parliament building into a market for manure?

There is also the matter of beauty, the thing that in Morris's view made life worth living. No one except Ruskin has ever put the case for beauty with such vehemence and clarity. Beauty as a concept used to seem a little suspect, but there are signs that we are beginning to come round to it. McQueen certainly believes so. Beauty was what drew him to Morris in the first place. As he sees it, "this poet, designer and socialist has had an incalculable effect on our attitude to what constitutes a fulfilled and well-led life".

• Ian McQueen's Earthly Paradise has its first performance at the Barbican in London on 10 April 2010 and will be broadcast on 14 April on Radio 3. A new edition of Fiona MacCarthy's book, William Morris, will be published by Faber in July.


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


March 25 2010

Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating Women in Technology and Transparency Worldwide

Inspired by Ellen Miller's post on the Sunlight Foundation blog, which profiles the work of women who use technology to promote transparency in the United States, we decided to add to the list by profiling several women from around the world involved in the use of technology to make government more transparent and accountable. The following profiles were written and researched by Renata Avila, the lead of Creative Commons Guatemala, the Director of Primer Palabra, and our researcher for Spanish-language Latin America on the Technology for Transparency Network.

In Mexico, Irma Eréndida Sandoval heads up a laboratory to document corruption and research the best transparency policies. “Laboratorio de Documentación y Análisis de la Corrupción y la Transparencia” at UNAM, the Autonomous National Mexican University, is one of the most prestigious institutions in Latin America.

In Iceland, parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir is promoting the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a proposal to create a global safe haven for investigative journalism in Iceland that would improve freedom of expression and transparency worldwide by protecting watchdog groups and whistleblowers from libel censorship.

It is important not only approve good laws to promote transparency and openness but also protect a free country from becoming less transparent. An activist from Germany, Franziska Heine, initiated the most successful e-petition in German history, aimed to prevent a law which would give the German police the right to create and maintain censorship lists with websites to be blocked by German ISPs. It was signed more than 134,000 times. Franziska is part of the anti-censorship movement and is engaged in several activities and organizations which fight against surveillance, data mining, censorship and other threats to civil rights.

But good laws and proactive citizens are not enough; tools are also important to enable women around the world to take action and promote transparency. Margarita Padilla, an IT engineer and the former director of the magazine Mundo Linux is making a difference. She creates and maintains systems with a social approach and also promotes openness with her website Sin Dominio.

Mercedes de Freitas from Venezuela is the Executive Director of Transparencia Venezuela, the local chapter of Transparency International and is former Ashoka Changemaker Fellow for her work in promoting civic participation to increase government accountability.

These are surely just a few examples of women around the world who are using technology to challenge corruption, improve the performance of institutions, and create better policy to engage citizens and hold public officials accountable. As a recent article by Alexandra Starr notes, both the fields of technology and government have long excluded women from participation despite their impressive track record for approaching both policy and technology with more realism and tact than their male counterparts.

Software companies and parliamentary buildings around the world are still mostly dominated by men, but this is changing quickly thanks to a new generation of women technologists, activists, and politicians. I would be remiss to not highlight the work of our female researchers and research reviewers who, it must be said, have proven themselves to be the hardest working members of our team on the Technology for Transparency Network.

Renata Avila, who wrote the profiles of all of the women above, is a lawyer, human rights activist, the country lead of Creative Commons Guatemala, and the director of Primer Palabra. She has worked with the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation, Harvard University, the Public Voice, and Women in International Security. Twitter: @avilarenata.

Sopheap Chak is a graduate student of peace studies at the International University of Japan. Meanwhile, she is also running the Cambodian Youth Network for Change, which mobilizes young activists around the country. She was previously advocacy officer of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) where she helped lead the “Black Box Campaign” to fight against police corruption in Cambodia. Twitter: @jusminesophia.

Rebekah Heacock is currently a master's candidate at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, where she studies the intersection of ICT and development and edits SIPA’s blog, The Morningside Post. She previously lived and worked in Uganda, where she co-developed and directed a series of conferences on post-conflict development for American and African college students. Twitter: @rebekahredux.

Manuella Maia Ribeiro is a recent graduate of Public Policy Management from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Since 2007 she has been researching how governments can promote transparency, accountability and participation through the use of information and communication technologies. Twitter: @manuellamr.

Namita Singh is a researcher and consultant focused on participatory media. She studied mass media and mass communication at Delhi University and has a Master of Arts in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. Namita will soon begin her Ph.D. research in the UK on the processes and impact of participatory video. Twitter: @namitasingh.

Carrie Yang is a a postgraduate student studying new media at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The focus of her research is on citizen journalism and new media product development. She studied English at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guangzhou, China. Twitter: @Carrie_Young.

Sylwia Presley is a blogger, photographer and activist who is passionate about social media marketing for the non-profit sector and social media for social change. She has organized numerous events including Barcamp Transparency UK last summer in Oxford, which she hopes will be replicated in other European countries this year. Twitter: @presleysylwia.

Aparna Ray is an independent qualitative research consultant by profession who is keenly interested in people, cultures, communities and social media/software. She writes both in English and Bangla, (the latter being her mother-tongue), and covers the Bangla blog world on Global Voices. Twitter: @aparnaray.

Laura Vidal is a Venezuelan studying Science Education in Paris, France. She blogs at Sacando la Lengua about languages, literature and interactions in society, and deeply believes in the uniqueness and importance of every culture, and in the study of them as a mirror to our own.

Do you know other women working in the fields of technology and transparency? Please link to their websites, blogs, and Twitter accounts in the comments section below!

Reposted bySigalon02 Sigalon02

March 24 2010

Ada Lovelace day: Celebrating women in science

The annual event aims to raise the profile of women in science and technology. Rebecca Thomson picks out some of the most important people


Reposted fromsigaloninspired sigaloninspired

February 21 2010

02mydafsoup-01

Proposal for a parliamentary resolution

for Iceland to strongly position itself legally with regard to the protection of freedoms of expression and information.

Parliament resolves to task the government with finding ways to strengthen freedoms of expression and information freedom in Iceland, as well as providing strong protections for sources and whistleblowers.

In this work, the international team of experts that assisted in the creation of this proposal should be utilized.

To this end,

  1. the legal environment should be explored such that the goals can be defined and changes to law or new law proposals can be prepared.
  2. the legal environments of other countries should be considered, with the view to assemble the best laws to make Iceland leading in freedoms of expression and information.
  3. the first Icelandic international prize should be established, The Icelandic Freedom of Expression Award.

With the goal of improving democracy, as firm grounding will be made for publishing, whilst improving Iceland's standing in the international community.


This parliamentary resolution proposal is written with the support of parliamentarians from all parties. Numerous respected specialists, both foreign and local, have consulted on the work and have promised continued support for the Icelandic government if this proposal is accepted.


A vision for Iceland

Freedom of expression, in particular, freedom of the press, guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy.

        - Corazón Aquino
            democratic President of the Philippines (1986-1992)

The nation is at a crossroad that call for legislative change. At such times we should not only address our past, but also adopt positive plans for our future.

The legislative initiative outlined here is intended to make Iceland an attractive environment for the registration and operation of international press organizations, new media start-ups, human rights groups and internet data centers. It promises to strengthen our democracy through the power of transparency and to promote the nation's international standing and economy. It also proposes to draw attention to these changes through the creation of Iceland's first internationally visible prize: the Icelandic Prize for Freedom of Expression.

The world's media is moving to the Internet, allowing publishing from any location. Whether a newspaper like The Guardian is published online out of Reykjavik or New York is indistinguisable to its readers. At the same time, there is a recognized crisis in quality journalism.

Where to publish is now decided by factors such as distance and communications capacity, server costs and legal environment. Iceland has the first two covered: it has fast undersea cables to some of the world's largest consumers of information, and its clean green power and cool temperatures are attractive to those running internet services.

[...]
— read more: Proposal for a parliamentary resolution
on The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative
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