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Hans Rosling

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Hans Rosling died yesterday at the age of 68. He was the kind of person I want to be when I grow up. Go and watch his videos now!
Posted on - Categories: Research


Happy Beer Day!

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Today, 27 years ago beer was legalized again in Iceland, after several years of being the only alcoholic drink prohibited, due to a variety of circumstances.

Beer replaced spirits as the most popular drink in Iceland as soon as it was legalized and if you ever tried Icelandic Brennevín (also called Black Death, an Icelandic Schnapps) you can understand why.



Icelandic alcohol consumption has been mainly increasing in the past 27 years, a rather untypical development for a European country. There is currently a proposal being prepared by an MP of the Independence party to allow for alcohol to be sold in stores (atm the selling of alcohol is only allowed by the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland), despite there being overwhelming evidence that availability of alcohol in stores leads to an increase in total alcohol consumption and especially heavy episode drinking. Binge drinking is already a problem in Iceland, with 1/4th of all adults engaging in binge drinking once a month and 1/3rd of drinkers only.

Having said all that, I am a fan of Icelandic beer and look forward to being able to walk to the store and get a beer when I feel like it.


The past few months in Iceland...

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... went really quickly. Iceland turned from this:

to this:

I moved house and now have a landlord (lady actually) who is not an asshole. Sadly I lost my dutch flatmate on the way (I really should have indexed my boxes). She lives with her boyfriend now, but we have a weekly brunch and go swimming every Tuesday. It is really good to have some motivation to stay active in winter and I am practicing to be able to do front crawl without drowning. I'm getting there.
My new house is awesome, it has floor heating and a dishwasher,. The latter motivates me to make lots of vegan drinks or spreads with my food processor. At some point I might put recipes on this blog, especially of my milk substitutes (oat, rice or coconut), which I like a lot.
University is over for this winter and I'm happier than ever to have chosen the Public Health course. after getting all excited about epidemiology and statistics last spring this semester I got to write a paper about the Millennium Development Goals and the previous post was part of learning how to use social media for health campaigns.
Not that using social media for campaigns is completely new for me, as we had done this with the IWW. We had another workers rights information event with the public library and even got a new member and a pretty logo!

In other news, the first snow storm just happened and Anonymous shut down government and restaurant websites to oppose whaling.
Iceland made news in the past months with a grassroot movement aimed at convincing the government to accept more than the previously planned 50 refugees from Syria. Facebook pages were founded, protests organised and lots of people offered to take refugees into their homes or signed up with the red cross as a volunteer. While the movement was used as another promotion for the liberal paradise that Iceland presents itself abroad, the Directorate of Immigration kept invoking the Dublin regulation whenever they can and the government kept dragging their feet until they finally decided to up the number of refugees they are going to accept from 50 to 200, celebrating themselves as humanist, while every other Nordic country accepts proportionally a lot more.

The police quietly decided to have weapons in the car now, despite falling crime rates, showing some impeccable timing after the Paris attacks.

As every year the Ikea Christmas goat burned down. All I can say about this incident is that my flatmate was installing Christmas lights the day before at IKEA....




Call me immigrant.

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A few weeks ago someone started an Icelandic Pegida Facebook group. I was not surprised. There is an astonishing amount of Xenophobia in Iceland.

It is not usually not directed at me. I’m German. And as such I struggle to remember incidences where any Icelandic person openly opposed my presence in this country.
I have, however, experienced quite a few incidences of what we German call Fremdschämen (which auto corrects to Frenchwomen). An embarrassment caused by the embarrassing action of others. Sometimes this is due to (stubborn) ignorance about living in a multicultural society.
There was not a lot of understanding why this figure might be problematic. There was also a cocktail called apartheid, because the person naming it looked up the word "separation" in an Icelandic dictionary and everyone around them seemed also to be blissfully unaware of events outside of Iceland. Something like this is still considered funny, rather than embarrassing or offensive, kind of like the depiction of Asian people in the 1960s in USA. Most of the time my reaction these incidences is nothing more than a facepalm. After all, this is a country where children might edge curiously towards the black person in the hot pot trying to touch their skin, because they have never seen one before.

But then there are Icelandic people, who feel obliged to tell me, that they consider me ok, but are opposed to (too much) immigration from other “more foreign” countries, meaning people from countries who just aren't Aryan and rich enough. Expecting me to agree. I fucking don't!

This is why I have some issues with self-identifying as an expat. It is in many way a random classification, a lose stratification of migrants by higher or lower social status.

Migrants, apart from Nationality, are actually quite an homogeneous group. We are mostly young people, with some form of higher education, come from a higher income group in our home country, as travel, especially to Iceland is expensive and we are less risk adverse than the general population. Young, smart, rich and daring people in other words. We all come to seek opportunity (thank you UN report on migration).
Yes, I did come here, because the income I could receive here is higher than in my home country (I came in 2005), working conditions were and still are favourable as well and the Icelandic education system offers opportunities (I am doing my masters in public health in the university of Iceland, taking advantage of paid leave for study). Why else move? I have no Icelandic boyfriend or husband, nor could I ride a horse when I came here and I certainly did not come because of the weather.

The idea that I am more worthwhile to the Icelandic society, culturally ore economically based on my country of origin is deeply insulting to me. If someone sees me as less of a threat to the good old Icelandic way of life, because my skin is lighter, I encourage them to have a look at the categories "Politics" and "IWW" to your right. I am actively trying to change it, if at any point I can say that Iceland is different now because of me, I would list this as one of my proudest achievements. And I'd still call myself immigrant.

Awesome Iceland fact: shortly after the Icelandic Pegida Facebook group was established the group
"United Against Racism and Xenophobia in Iceland" was founded. It now has 3270 "likes", 1000 more than Pegida Iceland and 1% of the total population.


Chinese worker's strike update

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I got a reply from the Adidas Group concerning the situation in the Yue Yuen factory. It is a hilarious letter, some excerpts are below

We were closely monitoring the situation at the production site from the beginning. In order to minimise the impact on our operations, we reallocated some of the future orders originally allocated to Yue Yuen Dongguan to other suppliers. But we never intended to pull out of the Yue Yuen factory in Dongguan and we have no plans to do so.



And here is why we need an international labour movement, if companies can minimise the impact of a strike, what leverage do workers have to negotiate?

It is our understanding that the insurance contributions which YY had been providing, together with corresponding deductions from the workers, were in accordance with an agreement which they had reached with the Dongguan authorities and the local social insurance bureau.



Read corruption here. The letter fails to mention that the same local authorities used riot police against the protesting workers and incarcerated labour rights activists.

YY has now committed to achieve full compliance with the national requirements by May 1st 2014



Yay! The strike ended last week, additional to the contribution in the insurance funds, workers also got a pay raise and other benefits.

Some links:
https://www.chinalaborwatch.org/news/new-482.html
https://www.chinalaborwatch.org/news/new-484.html
https://www.chinalaborwatch.org/news/new-486.html


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