Pirate Party Member Steps Down Following Drunken Outburst

Snæbjörn Brynjarsson has decided to step down as alternate member of parliament for Iceland’s Pirate Party following an incident at a bar in downtown Reykjavík last weekend, where he verbally threatened Erna Ýr Öldudóttir, a news reporter and former chairwoman of the Pirate party’s executive council, Fréttablaðið reports.

Erna was reportedly having drinks with two friends at Kaffibarinn when Snæbjörn walked up to her and berated her for working for media mogul Björn Ingi Hrafnsson. According to Erna, Snæbjörn screamed that he hated her and threatened to beat her up. In an interview with Fréttablaðið, Erna says she felt extremely threatened and felt thankful for the two friends present, who stepped between her and Snæbjörn.

In a post on his Facebook site, Snæbjörn admits to having lost his temper when he spotted Erna at the bar and said things that are in his words “completely unacceptable”.

“I will accept full responsibility,” Snæbjörn said, further announcing his plans to step down as alternate member for the Pirate Party in parliament.

Just last week, Iceland Review reported how Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir and Björn Leví Gunnarsson, MPs for the Pirate Party, got in trouble when they protested the return of the Klaustur scandal MPs by silently standing on either side of the podium at parliament wearing hats denouncing violence against women.

Day of Icelandic Sign Language Celebrated

A forum on the Icelandic sign language will be held at Veröld – hús Vigdísar later today in celebration of the official Day of the Icelandic Sign Language, held annually on February 11, RÚV reports. In addition, television news coverage for kids and adults at Iceland’s National Broadcasting Service will be interpreted to sign language to honour the occasion.

The forum, Icelandic Sign Language: past, present, future, will be held at lecture room 023 at the University of Iceland’s Veröld at 16:30 PM today, the talks that have been prepared will fittingly be presented in Icelandic and in Icelandic sign language.

Last year’s celebration emphasized visibility of sign language in the media, with the National Broadcasting service, RÚV, dedicating its programming to the importance of maintaining the language.

Until 1910, Icelandic deaf children were sent to school in Denmark, making Danish sign language the de facto sign language of Iceland. Since then, however, the languages have diverged and now the Icelandic sign language is recognized as a separate entity. According to the Icelandic Association of the Deaf, however, the Icelandic sign language is not simply Icelandic interpreted into signs, but has its own internal structure and grammar.

The forum at Veröld – hús Vigdísar is open to everyone.

Pay Raises of State-Owned Bank’s CEO Draw Criticism

Halldór Benjamín

Halldór Benjamín, director of the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise, SA, is highly critical of the Landsbankinn bank council’s decision to raise the pay of its chief executive officer Lilja Björk Einarsdóttir twice in one year, Fréttablaðið reports. He accuses the council of being tone-deaf.

The CEO of Landsbankinn bank, Lilja Björk Einarsdóttir, received a pay raise of 1.2 million ISK in July 2017 and then another increase of 550 thousand ISK in early 2018, making her total salary 3.800.000 ISK a month.

The pay raise is now being questioned by union leaders and the public, after Már Guðmundsson, governor of the Central Bank of Iceland, warned against excessive pay raises in a recent video, saying they would inevitably lead to increased interest rates and unemployment in the country. Már’s remarks have caused debate and now Lilja Björk’s pay raises are being questioned.

“The news of her pay raises are bad,” Halldór says. “The fact that this is happening in a state-owned bank, going against the will of its owner makes it both an unwise and indefensible decision, in my opinion. This rate of pay raise does in no way represent norms in the job market. Luckily, this kind of behaviour is an exception amongst the largest companies in Iceland. That, however, doesn’t lessen its seriousness or the lack of judgement that is revealed by this decision.”

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister has also chimed in, calling the the pay raises “incomprehensible”.

“This doesn’t affect the leeway of companies in the open market, of course,” Halldór adds. “Most companies in Iceland are small or medium sized, and the economy is now slowing down. The economic upswing is over, and pay agreements must take that into consideration. We at SA have in recent years recommended that pay raises of CEOs are in harmony with other raises.”


Record Number of Bird Species This Winter

Kristinn Haukur Skarphéðinsson, animal ecologist for The Icelandic Institute of Natural History says that a record number of bird species have chosen to make Iceland their winter dwelling place, RÚV reports. Over 90 species have been reported by birdwatchers this winter, an increase Kristinn and colleagues relate to climate change. At the same time there is a noticeable decrease in numbers within known bird species, and some are on the endangered species list, including the Atlantic puffin.

The institute has been keeping a tally of winter birds in Iceland as a part of a special long-running project started in 1952. Recruiting amateur birdwatchers to help keep watch, the institute started the project as a bit of a hobby for Iceland’s bird watching community, but its success means it is now considered a valuable indicator of change in Iceland’s fauna.

Over 50 species of birds are considered winter regulars in Iceland, but according to Kristinn, new species have begun settling here, including some rare ones. “This years tally has revealed 90 species, which is a record high for Iceland,” Kristinn says.

Climate change can drastically change the behaviour of birds, for example there has been a noticeable increase in swans, Eurasian wigeons and greylag geese over the last few years. Furthermore, bird species that prefer colder climates have moved on. “The bird we relate to snow, the snow bunting, has been noticeably scarcer here in the past years,” Kristinn says. “They seem to be yielding to environmental changes that have happened over the last 10 to 20 years.”

Iceland’s increasingly mild winters affect many different species in myriad of ways. The rock ptarmigan, for example, whose plumage changes in winter from brown to white, becomes easy pray for gyrfalcons and human hunters alike when snow is sparse. In 2017, little to no snow fell, making the snow white rock ptarmigans stick out. “You could say it was like shooting fish in a barrel during the first few days of ptarmigan hunting season.”

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History has made a list of endangered species of birds, following guidelines by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Many known bird species feature on the list, including the Atlantic puffin, Eurasian curlew, the great skua and many others.