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  • Politics

    WaPo gives conservative columnist George F. Will a platform for an absurd, over-the-top attack on Iceland

    By Magnús Sveinn Helgason

    Proud poet and local icon The oldest living man with Down Syndrome, 77 year old Auðunn Gestsson holding his book "Ljóðin mín", a collected volume of his poems. Auðunn is known to all Reykjavíkians, having worked for decades as a paper boy in downtown Reykjavík, standing on Lækjartorg square selling newspapers. Photo/GVA

    We, at Iceland Magazine, have a strict policy of not wading into the politics of other nations. We never take sides in the political conflicts of other nations and do not pass judgment on the social problems and political issues other nations are for the very simple reason that we cover only Icelandic stories. We want to keep within our field of expertise, which is Icelandic society and politics. 

    But when we encounter pure insults and malicious misinformation being spread about Iceland and Icelandic society we feel we are forced to comment, even if it might mean we are thus wading into political debates in other countries. So be it.

    Icelanders: A nation of genocidal maniacs? 

    George Will
    George Will The Washington Post columnist and frequent guest on Sunday morning talk-shows. 

    On Wednesday the Washington Post ran a column by one of its conservative writers, George F. Will, one of the most respected columnist and commentators in the US. In the column Will addresses a topic which is dear to him, the "moral confusions" of today. Will, a bow tie wearing Culture Warrior, is a master of channeling the voice of an indignant church lady through the body of a middle aged man, pontificating about the dangers of cultural and moral decline, the erosion of family values and good manners.

    There is a large audience for such material.

    It seems that the supply of topics to be outraged over is more limited, because in his latest column Will chooses to wag his finger at Iceland, which is, apparently, engaged in a genocide. Will's column opens up with the over-the-top sentence:

    "Iceland must be pleased that it is close to success in its program of genocide, but before congratulating that nation on its final solution to the Down syndrome problem, perhaps it might answer a question: What is this problem"

    Will then goes on to define genocide as "the deliberate, systematic attempt to erase a category of people", and then states that this is what Iceland is engaged in with regards to people with Down Syndrome, claiming that thanks to "heavy-handed genetic counseling" Iceland is close to 100% elimination of people with Down Syndrome.

    This all sounds terrifying. 

    Only problem? It is utter, and complete nonsense.

    An old misleading CBS report

    This is not the first time we see this absurd story being peddled in the US. Will's column is in fact based on a nearly year old erroneous story by CBS News about the "country where Down syndrome is disappearing." We fact checked the CBS story when it first ran.

    Read more: Fact Check: No, Iceland is NOT systematically eradicating Down syndrome

    At the heart of the matter is the question of abortion. We understand that the opinions on abortion differ between countries, and many Americans view abortion as murder. This is not the case in Iceland, where abortion is viewed as an important moral question only the woman can answer. Doctors or priests, let alone some opinionmongers in Washington DC have no business injecting themselves into the question. 

    Bör, children, playground, róló
    Children playing Icelanders understand that the foundation of any society are its children. Icelandic society takes care of its unborn, through pre-natal screening and healthcare for expectant mothers, as well as young children after they have been born. This includes subsidized public daycare, universal health insurance and first rate healthcare. Photo/GVA

    Women in Iceland have access to first class pre-natal healthcare, including screening for fetal abnormalities to limit the danger of complications during pregnancy. All information given to women and expectant mothers is purely medical, and in cases where abnormalities are detected women are offered counseling and help. There is absolutely NO pressure on women to abort or not to abort a fetus. Therefore there is no "systematic" attempt to eliminate Down Syndrome.

    Lets repeat that: Iceland is NOT engaged in a systematic eradication of Down Syndrome.

    We can agree or disagree over Icelanders' view on abortion as a moral question women should answer without outside meddling, but there is no room for disagreement on the issue of a systematic genocide of people with Down Syndrome in Iceland. is simply factually untrue that 100% of women choose to abort fetuses with Down Syndrome. A significant part of women decide not to have the pre-natal screening and choose to carry their pregnancies to term, whether or not the child will have Down Syndrome.

    Will asks us Icelanders to "think calmly about genocide" before getting "snippy about the description of [we] are doing". In response we at Iceland Magazine would like to ask Will to base his pontification and moral indignation on fact. 

    Getting your facts straight is always a good place to start. Especially when you are leveling serious accusations. Accusing an entire nation of being engaged in genocide goes beyond insult, it is malicious libel.

    A recurring theme

    Baptist Preacher, Nation of Bastards, Feminist Hell
    Preaching hellfire at a strip-mall church George Will is not the first opinionated American to offer absolutely fact-free criticism of Iceland. Photo/Screenshot from video.

    Will's column is part of a growing canon of hyperbolic fantasy tales of Iceland and Icelandic society. A sub-genre of this literature are Hell and brimstone sermons about the "nation of bastards" and the "feminist hell" of Iceland, delivered by American observers who see in Iceland a convenient example of the excesses of liberal or leftist policies.

    Read more: US preacher releases an angry documentary about sins, evils of Icelanders, "a nation of bastards"

    In December a Arizona based pastor released a "Documentary" about the evils and sins of Icelanders, and the "feminist hell" of Iceland. What the good pastor, George Will and CBS News all have in common is that they are guilty of hyperbole and exaggeration to generate outrage which creates clicks and views. 

    Iceland takes care of its children 
    We in Iceland take care of our children. You only need to look at the fact that Iceland has the lowest infant mortality rate in Europe. Infant mortality in Iceland is only 1.9 per 1.000. Compare this to the US, where the infant mortality is three times higher, or 5.87. Iceland also takes care of mothers. Year after year Iceland is in the top rank of countries for mothers, according to the international NGO Save the Children. 

    Iceland also has strong family values: According to the OECD the ease of communication between Icelandic children and their parents is among the greatest in the world. Icelandic teens spend more time with their parents, and consume less drugs and alcohol than their peers in other developed nations, and Icelandic fathers come out on top of the list when it comes to ease of communication with both their sons and daughters. Earlier this week Icelandic men launched a campaign against toxic masculinity. 

    The foundation for a good and happy society (Icelanders enjoy the second highest quality of life among OECD countries and are the third happiest nation in the world) is equality: Women and men are considered equal (Iceland is the most gender equal country in the world, 9 years running), immigrants and foreign workers are welcome and Icelanders overwhelmingly view foreign visitors positively

    Icelandic society is open, welcoming and caring. Everyone is taken care of, also people with Down Syndrome. 

    In fact: The oldest person in the world with Down Syndrome is an Icelander, Auðunn Gestsson who recently celebrated his 77th birthday.


    We at Iceland Magazine would like to ask George F. Will to refrain from commenting on Icelandic society, a topic he obviously knows absolutely nothing about, and focus on coming up with sensible solutions to the problems of his own society. 

    He could perhaps begin by addressing a topic some commentators have described as a genocide: The recurring massacres of young children and teens in American schools.

  • Weather

    Hazardous winds on Ring Road in South and South East Iceland: Slow down

    By Staff

    Rjúkandi One of the waterfalls of the Eyjafjöll mountain range. On a stormy day Rjúkandi tends to run sideways, not down. Photo/Börkur Hrólfsson

    A Yellow Weather Alert is in effect for South and South East Iceland, effective for today and tomorrow morning. The Icelandic Meteorological Office is warning drivers to expect hazardous localized winds and powerful windgusts near steep mountains. 

    Slow down

    Weather alert 14 mar 2018
    Weather alert February 1. 2018 Drive carefully and stay safe! Photo/IMO

    The Icelandic Meteorological Office has issued a Yellow Weather alert effective until tomorrow (Thursday) noon for South Iceland and midnight for South East Iceland, warning of storm conditions and hazardous winds.

    The IMO is expecting easterly winds, 18-23 m/s  in the area east of Seljalandsfoss waterfall, along the Eyjafjöll mountain range to the village Vík. Localized winds in the area can be expected to exceed 30 m/s (67 mph). Travellers are urged to exercise caution.

    Travelers driving on the Ring Road between Vík and Höfn in South East Iceland should also show caution. Easterly and northeasterly winds 18-23 m/s (40-52 mph) near Öræfajökull glacier, and localized winds and windgusts exceeding 30 m/s (67 mph). Intermittent precipitation is also expected in the region and possibly limited visibility.

    Travellers should remember keep two things in mind:

    1) Expect powerful windgusts when driving near steep mountain sides. Individual gusts can easily reach hurricane force, causing drivers to lose control of their vehicles or blowing cars off the road. The Ring Road runs close to numerous steep mountains where such windgusts form.

    2) Driving conditions become progressively more difficult at higher altitudes. The Ring Road crosses several mountain passes and heaths where driving conditions can deteriorate rapidly.

    ICE-SAR travel alert
    ICE-SAR has also issued a travel alert, asking travellers to take care on the Ring Road between Reykjavík and the town of Borgarnes in West Iceland. 

    Hazardous wind gusts!Wind gusts over 30 m/s (70mph, 110km/h) expected from Seljalandsfoss to Vík and from Skaftafell to Jökulsárlón  until tomorrow, Thursday, at noon. SLOW DOWN when driving by mountains!


  • Politics

    Prime Minister of Iceland the face of UN Decade of Women campaign at NY Times Square

    By Staff

    #WeUniteWe Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland on NY Times Square. Photo/Forsætisráðuneytið

    Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the Prime Minister of Iceland is one of the faces of a UN Decade of Women campaign to achieve gender equality for all women and girls by the year 2030.

    The other faces of the campaign include two UNDP UNDP Equator Prize Winners, Aoua Cherif Doumbia the  of the Mali Elephant Project and Kamal Shivling Kumbhar Swayan Shikshan India. The three now grace giant billboards over Times Square in New York, where the UN campaign is currently meeting. 

    Katrín's photo was taken as a part of photography project by Ralph Reutimann and Amber Nyström called "Women of Iceland". The book, which will be released in the summer of 2018 includes photos and interviews with Icelandic women pioneers, including Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the second female Prime Minister of Iceland and the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the first democratically elected female head of state.
    A decade of Women At Times Square in New York. Photo/Forsætisráðuneytið


  • Accidents, Search and Rescue

    Three people injured in Sunday's head-on collision no longer in critical condition

    By Staff

    Landspítalinn Too many foreign travelers have found themselves staying at the National University Hospital in Reykjavík. Photo/Fréttablaðið

    All three foreign travelers who were injured in a serious head-on collision in S.E. Iceland on Sunday are recovering. None of the three are considered to be in critical condition.Two American travelers, aged 32 and 27, whose car was struck by a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road were released from critical care yesterday afternoon.

    Read more: Sunday's accident: Taiwanese traveler drove on wrong side of road. Three still in critical condition

    The third traveler, a 35 year old Taiwanese national, is also making a good recovery. His condition is no longer considered critical, but Police have still been unable to interview him about the cause of the crash. The cause of the accident, which took place on the outskirts of the village Kirkjubæjarklaustur is unclear. The Taiwanese traveler appears to have either been driving on the wrong side of the road or to have swerved into the wrong lane, striking the car coming from the opposite direction head-on. 

    The accident took place around four in the afternoon on Sunday. Driving conditions were good at the time of the accident. The road was clear of any ice or snow, the sky was clear and visibility ideal.

    Read more: Yet another accident on Ring Road in SE Iceland: Two people airlifted to hospital after rollover

    A second accident took place on the Ring Road east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur yesterday afternoon shortly before four in the afternoon. Two people were airlifted to the hospital in Reykjavík after a rollover near the mountain Lómagnúpur.


  • Accidents, Search and Rescue

    Yet another accident on Ring Road in SE Iceland: Two people airlifted to hospital after rollover

    By Staff

    Lómagnúpur Many drivers are tempted to drive too fast on the Ring Road across the glacial outwash plains in South and South East Iceland. Photo/Hansueli Krapf, Wikimedia, Creative Commons

    Two people were airlifted to the National University Hospital in Reykjavík after a serious car accident on the Ring Road in S.E. Iceland. The accident took place east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. Both people were conscious when they were taken to the hospital. One suffered a head injury. 

    Read more: Number of foreign travelers involved in road accidents has doubled since 2011

    The accident took place shortly before four yesterday afternoon, near the mountain Lómagnúpur, one of the most striking mountains on the Ring Road between Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Skaftafell visitor center in the Vatnajökull National Park. The driver of the car appears to have lost control of the vehicle, which rolled over and landed on the side of the road. 

    Two people were in the car. The Police have not revealed the nationality or other details about the victims.

    Read more: Serious traffic accident caused Ring Road in S Iceland to be closed for five hours on Sunday

    A second serious car accident took place near Kirkjubæjarklaustur village on Sunday. The Ring Road was closed for five hours following that accident. 

  • Economy

    Number of construction cranes continues to go up: Still has not reached its pre-crash peak

    By Staff

    Construction cranes The number of construction cranes has increased steadily since 2010. Image/Iceland Magazine

    Based on the "Construction Crane Index" the Icelandic economy continued to expand in 2017. A total of 303 construction cranes were inspected by the Administration for Occupational Safety and Health last year, nearly a 10% increase over the year before. The number of construction cranes has not yet reached the 2017 pre-crash peak. In 2007 364 construction cranes were in operation in Iceland.

    Read more: Reykjavík City places curbs on new hotel construction: No more hotels downtown

    The number of construction cranes is often used as an indicator of the economic condition. The high number of construction cranes in Reykjavík during the Icelandic "Financial Miracle", which came to an end in the 2008 financial crash, was used as sure evidence the Icelandic economy was experiencing a bubble. 

    Judged by this metric the Icelandic economy is still in a relatively good position, as the number is almost 20% lower than at the pre-crash peak. In 2008 the number of construction cranes had dropped to 310. By 2009, when Iceland was deep in recession the number had dropped to 155, and continued to drop until 2010, when only 1113 construction cranes were in operation in Iceland, the lowest number since the 1990s.

    Since 2011 the number of construction cranes has increased steadily. 



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