Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCIENCE MAGAZINE)

 

An 72-meter ice core drilled in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes,  storms, and human pollution.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’

Ask medieval historian Michael McCormick what year was the worst to be alive, and he’s got an answer: “536.” Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 million to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record “a failure of bread from the years 536–539.” Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse, McCormick says.

Historians have long known that the middle of the sixth century was a dark hour in what used to be called the Dark Ages, but the source of the mysterious clouds has long been a puzzle. Now, an ultraprecise analysis of ice from a Swiss glacier by a team led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono has fingered a culprit. At a workshop at Harvard this week, the team reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. The repeated blows, followed by plague, plunged Europe into economic stagnation that lasted until 640, when another signal in the ice—a spike in airborne lead—marks a resurgence of silver mining, as the team reports in Antiquity this week.

To Kyle Harper, provost and a medieval and Roman historian at The University of Oklahoma in Norman, the detailed log of natural disasters and human pollution frozen into the ice “give us a new kind of record for understanding the concatenation of human and natural causes that led to the fall of the Roman Empire—and the earliest stirrings of this new medieval economy.”

Slivers from a Swiss ice core held chemical clues to natural and human made events.

NICOLE SPAULDING/CCI FROM C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL., ANTIQUITY 10.15184, 4, 2018

Ever since tree ring studies in the 1990s suggested the summers around the year 540 were unusually cold, researchers have hunted for the cause. Three years ago polar ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica yielded a clue. When a volcano erupts, it spews sulfur, bismuth, and other substances high into the atmosphere, where they form an aerosol veil that reflects the sun’s light back into space, cooling the planet. By matching the ice record of these chemical traces with tree ring records of climate, a team led by Michael Sigl, now of the University of Bern, found that nearly every unusually cold summer over the past 2500 years was preceded by a volcanic eruption. A massive eruption—perhaps in North America, the team suggested—stood out in late 535 or early 536; another followed in 540. Sigl’s team concluded that the double blow explained the prolonged dark and cold.

Mayewski and his interdisciplinary team decided to look for the same eruptions in an ice core drilled in 2013 in the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps. The 72-meter-long core entombs more than 2000 years of fallout from volcanoes, Saharan dust storms, and human activities smack in the center of Europe. The team deciphered this record using a new ultra–high-resolution method, in which a laser carves 120-micron slivers of ice, representing just a few days or weeks of snowfall, along the length of the core. Each of the samples—some 50,000 from each meter of the core—is analyzed for about a dozen elements. The approach enabled the team to pinpoint storms, volcanic eruptions, and lead pollution down to the month or even less, going back 2000 years, says UM volcanologist Andrei Kurbatov.

Darkest hours and then a dawn

A high-resolution ice core record combined with historical texts chronicles the impact of natural disasters on European society.

530530550640650660540540550560570580590600610620630640650660536Icelandic volcano erupts, dimming the sun for 18months, records say. Summer temperatures drop by1.5°C to 2.5°C.536–545 Coldest decade on record in 2000 years. Crops fail in Ireland, Scandinavia, Mesopotamia, and China.540–541 Second volcanic eruption. Summer temperatures drop again by 1.4°C–2.7°C in Europe.541–543 The “Justinian” bubonic plague spreads through the Mediterranean, killing 35%–55% of the population and speeding the collapse of the eastern Roman Empire.640 After declining in the mid-500s, a surge in atmospheric lead signals an increase in silver mining because of economic recovery.660A second lead peak reflects silver mining, probably at Melle, France, tied to a switch from gold to silver for coins and the beginnings of the medieval economy.
(GRAPHIC) A. CUADRA/SCIENCE; (DATA) C. P. LOVELUCK ET AL.ANTIQUITY 2018; M. SIGL ET AL., NATURE 2015; M. MCCORMICK

In ice from the spring of 536, UM graduate student Laura Hartman found two microscopic particles of volcanic glass. By bombarding the shards with x-rays to determine their chemical fingerprint, she and Kurbatov found that they closely matched glass particles found earlier in lakes and peat bogs in Europe and in a Greenland ice core. Those particles in turn resembled volcanic rocks from Iceland. The chemical similarities convince geoscientist David Lowe of The University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, who says the particles in the Swiss ice core likely came from the same Icelandic volcano. But Sigl says more evidence is needed to convince him that the eruption was in Iceland rather than North America.

Either way, the winds and weather systems in 536 must have been just right to guide the eruption plume southeast across Europe and, later, into Asia, casting a chilly pall as the volcanic fog “rolled through,” Kurbatov says. The next step is to try to find more particles from this volcano in lakes in Europe and Iceland, in order to confirm its location in Iceland and tease out why it was so devastating.

A century later, after several more eruptions, the ice record signals better news: the lead spike in 640. Silver was smelted from lead ore, so the lead is a sign that the precious metal was in demand in an economy rebounding from the blow a century before, says archaeologist Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. A second lead peak, in 660, marks a major infusion of silver into the emergent medieval economy. It suggests gold had become scarce as trade increased, forcing a shift to silver as the monetary standard, Loveluck and his colleagues write in Antiquity. “It shows the rise of the merchant class for the first time,” he says.

Still later, the ice is a window into another dark period. Lead vanished from the air during the Black Death from 1349 to 1353, revealing an economy that had again ground to a halt. “We’ve entered a new era with this ability to integrate ultra–high-resolution environmental records with similarly high resolution historical records,” Loveluck says. “It’s a real game changer.”

Greenland: Truth, Knowledge, History Of The North Atlantic Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Greenland

Introduction Greenland, the world’s largest island, is about 81% ice-capped. Vikings reached the island in the 10th century from Iceland; Danish colonization began in the 18th century, and Greenland was made an integral part of Denmark in 1953. It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973, but withdrew in 1985 over a dispute centered on stringent fishing quotas. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament; the law went into effect the following year. Denmark continues to exercise control of Greenland’s foreign affairs in consultation with Greenland’s Home Rule Government.
History In prehistoric times, Greenland was home to a number of Paleo-Eskimo cultures. From AD 984 it was colonized by Norse settlers in two settlements on the west coast on the fjords near the very southwestern tip of the island. They thrived for a few centuries, but after nearly 500 years of habitation, disappeared sometime in the 15th century.[2]

Data from ice cores indicate that from AD 800 to 1300 the regions around the fjords of southern Greenland experienced a relatively mild climate similar to today. Trees and herbaceous plants grew there, and the climate initially allowed farming of livestock as in Norway.[2] These remote communities thrived on farming, hunting and trade with Norway. When the Norwegian kings converted their domains to Christianity, a bishop was installed in Greenland, subordinate to the archdiocese of Nidaros. The settlements seem to have coexisted relatively peacefully with the Inuit, who had migrated south from the Arctic islands of North America around 1200. In 1261, Greenland became part of the Kingdom of Norway.

Around the 14th and 15th centuries, the Scandinavian settlements vanished, likely due to famine and increasing conflicts with the Inuit.[3] The condition of human bones from this period indicates the Norse population was malnourished. Main reasons appeared to have been soil erosion due to destruction of the natural vegetation for farming, turf, and wood by the Norse, a decline in temperatures during the Little Ice Age, and armed conflicts with the Inuit.[2] It has been suggested that cultural practices, such as rejecting fish as a source of food and reliance solely on livestock ill-adapted to Greenland’s climate, caused by the mini-ice age, which resulted in recurring famines, with environmental degradation led to the abandonment of the colony.[2] Research (written before Diamond’s book) has made it clear however that fish were a major source of food for the Norse Greenlanders from the early 1300s on.

Denmark-Norway reasserted its latent claim to the colony in 1721. But ties with Norway were severed by the Treaty of Kiel of 1814, ceding Norway to the king of Sweden while Denmark retained all of her common overseas possessions: the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland, as well as Denmark-Norway’s small territories in India (Tranquebar), West Africa (Danish Gold Coast), and the West Indies (Danish Virgin Islands).

Norway occupied and claimed parts of (then uninhabited) East Greenland also called Erik the Red’s Land in July 1931, claiming that it constituted Terra nullius. Norway and Denmark agreed to settle the matter at the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1933, where Norway lost.

During World War II, Greenland’s connection to Denmark was severed on April 9, 1940 when Denmark was occupied by Germany. Greenland was able to buy goods from the United States and Canada, by selling cryolite from the mine in Ivigtût. During the war the system of government changed. Governor Eske Brun ruled the island via a 1925 law that allowed governors to take control under extreme circumstances. The other governor, Aksel Svane, was transferred to the US to lead the commission to supply Greenland. The Sirius Patrol, guarding the northeastern shores of Greenland using dog sleds, detected and destroyed several German weather stations, giving Denmark a better position in the postwar turmoil.

Greenland had been a protected and very isolated society until 1940. The Danish government, which governed its colony Greenland, had been convinced that the society would face exploitation from the outside world or even extinction if the country was opened up. But during World War II, Greenland developed a sense of self-reliance through its self-government and independent communication with the outside world.

However, a commission in 1946 (with the highest Greenlandic council Landsrådet as participant) recommended patience and no radical reformation of the system. Two years later the first step towards changing the governing was initiated when a grand commission was founded. In 1950 the report (G-50) was presented. Greenland was to be a modern welfare society with Denmark as the sponsor and example. In 1953, Greenland was made an equal part of the Danish Kingdom. Home rule was granted in 1979.

Geography Location: Northern North America, island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada
Geographic coordinates: 72 00 N, 40 00 W
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total: 2,166,086 sq km
land: 2,166,086 sq km (410,449 sq km ice-free, 1,755,637 sq km ice-covered) (2000 est.)
Area – comparative: slightly more than three times the size of Texas
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 44,087 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
Climate: arctic to subarctic; cool summers, cold winters
Terrain: flat to gradually sloping icecap covers all but a narrow, mountainous, barren, rocky coast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Gunnbjorn 3,700 m
Natural resources: coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, molybdenum, diamonds, gold, platinum, niobium, tantalite, uranium, fish, seals, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: continuous permafrost over northern two-thirds of the island
Environment – current issues: protection of the arctic environment; preservation of the Inuit traditional way of life, including whaling and seal hunting
Geography – note: dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast, but close to one-quarter of the population lives in the capital, Nuuk; world’s second largest ice cap
People Population: 56,344 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 24% (male 6,926/female 6,597)
15-64 years: 69.1% (male 20,901/female 18,012)
65 years and over: 6.9% (male 1,873/female 2,035) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 34.1 years
male: 35.4 years
female: 32.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.03% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 16.01 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 7.93 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -8.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.16 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
total population: 1.115 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 14.98 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 16.32 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.61 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.23 years
male: 66.65 years
female: 73.9 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.4 children born/woman

Iceland: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Frozen, Volcanic Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Iceland

Introduction Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world’s oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island’s population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
History Age of settlement

The first people thought to have inhabited Iceland were Irish monks or hermits who came in the eighth century, but left with the arrival of Norsemen, who systematically settled Iceland in the period circa AD 870-930. The first known permanent Norse settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, who built his homestead in Reykjavík in 874. Ingólfur was followed by many other emigrant settlers, largely Norsemen and their Irish slaves. By 930, most arable land had been claimed and the Althing, a legislative and judiciary parliament, was founded as the political hub of the Icelandic Commonwealth. Christianity was adopted in 1000. The Commonwealth lasted until 1262, when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.

Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era

The internal struggles and civil strife of the Sturlung Era led to the signing of the Old Covenant, which brought Iceland under the Norwegian crown. Possession of Iceland passed to Denmark-Norway in the late 14th century when the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark were united in the Kalmar Union. In the ensuing centuries, Iceland became one of the poorest countries in Europe. Infertile soil, volcanic eruptions, and an unforgiving climate made for harsh life in a society whose subsistence depended almost entirely on agriculture. The Black Death swept Iceland in 1402–1404 and 1494–1495, each time killing approximately half the population.

Around the middle of the 16th century, King Christian III of Denmark began to impose Lutheranism on all his subjects. The last Catholic bishop in Iceland was beheaded in 1550, and the country subsequently became fully Lutheran. Lutheranism has since remained the dominant religion. In the 1600’s and 1700’s, Denmark imposed harsh trade restrictions on Iceland, while pirates from England, Spain and Algeria raided its coasts. A great smallpox epidemic in the 18th century killed around one-third of the population.[14][15] In 1783 the Laki volcano erupted, with devastating effects. The years following the eruption, known as the Mist Hardships (Icelandic: Móðuharðindin), saw the death of over half of all livestock in the country, with ensuing famine in which around a quarter of the population died.

Independence and recent history

In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland remained a Danish dependency. A new independence movement arose under the leadership of Jón Sigurðsson, inspired by the romantic and nationalist ideologies of mainland Europe. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland home rule, which was expanded in 1904. The Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on December 1, 1918, recognized Iceland as a fully sovereign state under the Danish king. During the last quarter of the 19th century many Icelanders emigrated to North America, largely Canada, in search of better living conditions.

During World War II, the German occupation of Denmark on April 9, 1940 severed communications between Iceland and Denmark. At that point Iceland’s parliament declared that the Icelandic government should exercise the authority that hitherto had been that of the King and take control over issues previously handled by Denmark on behalf of Iceland (principally foreign affairs). A month later, British military forces occupied Iceland, violating Icelandic neutrality. Allied occupation of Iceland lasted throughout the war.

In 1941, responsibility for the occupation was taken over by the United States Army. On December 31, 1943 the Act of Union agreement expired by its terms after 25 years. Beginning on May 20, 1944, four days of voting were conducted in a plebiscite on whether the union with Denmark should be terminated and whether a republic should be established.[16] The vote was 97% in favor of ending the union and 95% in favor of the new republican constitution. Iceland formally became an independent republic on June 17, 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as the first President. The occupation force left in 1946. Iceland became a member of NATO on March 30, 1949, amid domestic controversy and riots and on May 5, 1951, a defense agreement was signed with the United States — American troops returned and stayed as part of the defense agreement throughout the Cold War and until autumn 2006.

The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialization of the fishing industry and the rebuilding, Marshall aid and Keynesian government management of the economies of Europe, all of which promoted trade. The 1970’s were marked by the Cod Wars – several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland’s extension of its fishing limits. The economy was greatly diversified and liberalized following Iceland’s joining of the European Economic Area in 1992.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
Geographic coordinates: 65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references: Arctic Region
Area: total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 4,970 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Climate: temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
Terrain: mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, ice-fields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)
Natural resources: fish, hydro-power, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use: arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 170 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.17 cu km/yr (34%/66%/0%)
per capita: 567 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards: earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment – current issues: water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Trans-boundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe
People Population: 301,931 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 21.4% (male 32,759/female 31,845)
15-64 years: 66.8% (male 102,161/female 99,411)
65 years and over: 11.8% (male 16,162/female 19,593) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 34.5 years
male: 34 years
female: 35 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.824% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 13.57 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.77 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.43 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.029 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.028 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.825 male(s)/female
total population: 1.002 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 3.27 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.41 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.12 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 80.43 years
male: 78.33 years
female: 82.62 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.91 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 220 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 100 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic
Ethnic groups: homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%
Religions: Lutheran Church of Iceland 85.5%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.1%, Roman Catholic Church 2%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 1.5%, other Christian 2.7%, other or unspecified 3.8%, unaffiliated 2.4% (2004)
Languages: Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99%

Iceland’s president asks opposition Left-Greens to form coalition

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER)

 

Iceland’s president asks opposition Left-Greens to form coalition

President takes unusual step of asking leader of second largest party to form coalition following Saturday’s snap general election

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, leader of the Left-Greens
 Katrín Jakobsdóttir, leader of the Left-Greens. Photograph: Birgir Thor Hardarson/EPA

Iceland’s president has asked the leader of the Left-Green Movement, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, to form a new government, although it came second in Saturday’s snap general election.

The mandate deals a blow to the prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson of the Independence party – who called the election in September after less than a year in office as a scandal involving his father prompted a government ally to drop out of his ruling coalition.

“I have a formal mandate to try to form a government,” Jakobsdóttir told reporters after talks with the president, Guðni Jóhannesson.

Under the Icelandic system, the president – who holds a largely ceremonial role, usually tasks the leader of the biggest party with putting a government together.

The former journalist led her party to second place with 11 seats in Saturday’s vote. Benediktsson’s Independence party – which has dominated Icelandic politics for decades – won the most seats, but fell short of a parliamentary majority.

A Left-Green-led coalition would be possible if they joined forces with the Social Democrats, the Progressive party and the Pirate party. Together, they would hold 32 of parliament’s 63 seats.

If her talks to form a coalition are successful, then the Left-Green Movement and its partners would become the country’s second left-leaning government since its independence from Denmark in 1944.

The Left-Green election campaign was focused on inequality.

The Nordic island of 340,000 people, one of the countries hit hardest by the 2008 financial crisis, has seen an economic rebound spurred by a tourism boom. But a string of political scandals have hurt trust in government in recent years.

Jakobsdóttir has promised to make sure Iceland’s economic prosperity, triggered by booming tourism, leads to a boost in public spending on health and education.

Growing public distrust of the elite in recent years has spawned several anti-establishment parties, fragmenting the political landscape and making it increasingly difficult to form a stable government.

The Panama Papers, which revealed offshore tax havens, listed more than 600 Icelanders – in a country of just 346,750 people – including Benediktsson.

Jakobsdóttir is free of scandal and served as education minister for Iceland’s first left-leaning government, which took power after the nation’s devastating 2008 economic collapse.

“When we are in a situation of having such great distrust in politicians, she’s the person you would like to invite to your home and have coffee with,” said Egill Helgason, a political commentator for public broadcaster RUV.

Married with three sons, Jakobsdóttir graduated from the University of Icelandand later received a master’s degree in Icelandic literature after writing a thesis on the popular crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason.

Surveys suggest she garners most of her support from voters aged between 18-29, in particular women, and that she appeals to an electorate beyond the Left-Green Movement’s base.

“I think she would be a strong leader … because she has been a member of the parliament for a long time among corrupt people and still stayed true to herself,” said Sólkatla Ólafsdóttir, a 26-year-old supporter of the anti-establishment Pirates party.

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Can The People Of Iceland Take Their Country Back From The Political Mafia?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

ICELAND

Everything You Need to Know About Iceland’s Pirate Party

Iceland MP Birgitta Jonsdottir at Home
Giles Clarke—Getty ImagesBirgitta Jonsdottir, activist member of the Icelandic parliament representing the Pirate Party, stands in front of a sculpture at an Icelandic sculpture park on July 9, 2015

Will this insurgent party sail to victory in Oct. 29 elections?

Iceland’s Pirate Party is hoping to win the largest share of the vote in the country’s Oct. 29 general election, not even four years after the fringe political group formed.

Until this week the esoteric political party had led the polls in Iceland, though the latest opinion poll puts the group a single pointbehind the center-right Independence Party, which is currently a junior member in the country’s coalition government.

The Pirate Party’s rise against the perceived corruption of Iceland’s political elite is the latest— and perhaps most colorful— in a string of anti-establishment insurgencies throughout globe, from the far left to the far right. Here’s a bit more about the group:

Anchors aweigh

The Pirate Party formed in 2012, in the wake of the collapse of Iceland’s hugely over leveraged banking industry following the 2008 financial crisis. The Party and its motley group of of anarchists, libertarians and internet activists is led by Birgitta Jonsdottir. The 49-year-old former Wikileaks activists, web programmer and “poetician” has been an MP for different parties since 2009, but decided to help start the party, which part of an international anti-copyright movement that originates in Sweden, because “I’m often crossing paths with nerds as I’m such a nerd myself” she told the Financial Times.

Jonsdottir thinks Iceland’s population of about 300,000 are sick of corruption and “nepotism.” She also likens the country to Sicily and claims it is controlled by a handful of “mafia-style families” and their friends. “That might explain why, when the banks were privatized in 2005, stern laws and promises of professionalism were tossed aside and the banks were handed over to bosses who pleased the ‘mafia’ families” she writes in the New Internationalist.

This anti-establishment message resonated with some Icelanders and the Pirates gained a seat in parliament in 2013. Support for the movement surged to 43% in an April poll after the Panama Papers revealed that former Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson held investments in offshore accounts— which led to some of the largest protests the country has ever seen.

Gunnlaugsson stepped down as leader, and his replacement called early elections. His party, the Progressives, is now wallowing at 8% in the polls.

An ‘aye on power

While slim on policies, the Pirates espouse a set of core values, which include direct democracy, pushing civil rights and more transparency from companies and the creation of informed decisions. The party wants to be the “Robin Hood” of politics by handing power back to Icelanders, and seeks to make the country a haven for hackers and whistle-blowers (including Edward Snowden). It also hopes to make cryptocurrency bitcoin legal tender.

The Pirates have also created a crowd sourced draft of the constitution, which includes provisos to create new rules for governance and to re-nationalize the natural-resource industries of the small country. Like other European populist parties, the Pirates want a referendum on Iceland’s relationship with the E.U., but promise to not conduct the nativist, anti-immigrant stance seen in U.K.’s iteration. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes that happened in Britain” Jonsdottir told the Washington Post. “You have to make sure that it is an informed campaign. People need to know what [membership] implies.”

Close quarters

But forming a stable government could present a challenge for the company of radicals. Jonsdottir has no intention to become prime minister and the party has ruled out working with the current center-right coalition, which includes Gunnlaugsson’s Progressive Party. Jonsdottir has conceded in the past that once in power the Pirates might have to temper their idealism.

It currently looks like Saturday’s vote may leave Iceland with a center-left coalition of the Pirates and three, or possibly four, other parties. Iceland has historically never had a coalition government consisting of more than two parties survive a full four-year term says the BBC.

If the Pirates do plunder a win, it will be one more example of an outsider turning into the champion of establishment-weary voters.

Russia’s President Putin’s Aggression In Europe Should Worry Every Russian Citizen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Putin’s aggression in Europe should worry the US

Russia: The biggest issue for the next US president?

Russia: The biggest issue for the next US president? 00:40

Story highlights

  • Richard Shirreff: European security is a matter of American security
  • Putin’s aim is clear: to re-establish Russia as one of the world’s great powers, he says

Gen. Sir Richard Shirreff is a senior British army officer and former deputy supreme allied commander Europe. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Since the formation of NATO in 1949 the defense of Europe and the free world has depended on the absolute certainty that whatever president is occupying the White House, the United States will come to the aid of a NATO member if attacked. Any doubt about the American commitment, and the credibility of NATO’s doctrine of collective defense, is holed below the waterline.

At a time when the West faces a greater threat from a resurgent Russia since the most dangerous crises of the Cold War, NATO, more than ever, needs to stand strong, united and credible.
Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Ukraine in 2014 may have already lit the fuse that could lead to the unthinkable: nuclear war with Russia in Europe.
Consider the words and actions of President Vladimir Putin, who has described the breakup of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geo-strategic tragedy of the 20th century.” In his speech on March 18, 2014, the day Crimea was admitted into the Russian Federation, Putin majored on the threat the West posed to Russia by its continued encirclement and warned about the possibility of push back: “If you compress the spring to its limit, it will snap back hard: something you should remember,” while claiming the right to protect the interests of Russian speakers everywhere, “even if it will worsen our relations with some states.”

Who are Putin's allies?

Who are Putin’s allies?01:40
Overnight, Putin became NATO’s strategic adversary, starting a dynamic that could lead to a clash with NATO over the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia (which have significant Russian-speaking minorities).
Two years on and the threat is even greater. Indeed, the ratchet of tension clicks tighter on an almost weekly basis: Even this week we wake up to news of Russia sailing warships near the British coast in “a show of force and a show of capabilities,” according to Peter Felstead, editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly.
Unprecedented levels of military activity on the borders and in the airspace of the Baltic states, Finland and Sweden have been matched by the rapid buildup of military forces in Russia’s Western Military District on the borders of NATO.
For example, in January, Russia announced the formation and deployment of three motor rifle divisions, about 60,000 troops, along the Russian frontier with the Baltic states. And the Russians have kept themselves busy with regular so-called snap exercises to test the readiness of their military, at least one of which was based on a scenario of invasion and occupation of the Baltic states.
Putin’s strategic aim is clear: to re-establish Russia’s status as one of the world’s great powers and to dominate the former republics of the Soviet Union — imperialist intentions that might have been acceptable to great powers in the 19th century but which are an affront in 2016. If the opportunity presents itself, he may well activate long-held plans to march into the Baltic states.

Russian relations with the West at new low

Russian relations with the West at new low 02:29
To paraphrase British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 comment on Czechoslovakia, why are events in these faraway countries of which we may know little important to Americans?
First, because if Russia puts one soldier across the borders of the Baltic states it means war with NATO.
Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have been members of NATO since 2004 and are therefore protected underArticle 5 of the Washington Treaty, the founding document of NATO, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all. A Russian attack on the Baltic states puts America at war with Russia — meaning nuclear war, because Russia integrates nuclear weapons into every aspect of its military doctrine.
And don’t think Russia would limit itself to the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. Any form of nuclear release by the Russians would almost certainly precipitate nuclear retaliation by the United States, and the dreadful reality of mutually assured destruction and the end of life as we know it would follow.
Indeed, Russia is at war with America already. Russian hacking of Democratic Party email servers and, if confirmed, WikiLeaks publicizing of Clinton campaign emails to discredit the Democrats and propel Donald Trump — arguably what Putin would classify as a “useful idiot” into the White House — is classic Maskirovka — deception, aimed at undermining the intelligence and integrity of the enemy in a way that remains below the threshold of conventional warfare. In the words of Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center, and a man with close connections to the Putin regime, the Kremlin has been at war since 2014.

The Iceland Summit that helped end the Cold War

The Iceland Summit that helped end the Cold War 00:59
But although the clock may be ticking close to midnight, it is not too late. Maintenance of the peace we have enjoyed in Western Europe for nearly 70 years depends on effective deterrence. The bar of risk must be raised too high for Russia to consider any opportunistic move into the Baltic states. This requires forward basing of a credible military capability in the Baltic states and eastern Poland (rather than the token presence agreed at the NATO Warsaw Summit in July).
NATO reserves able to move quickly and effectively to bolster defenses in the Baltics will send a powerful message. It also requires Canada and European members of NATO to recognize that military capabilities lost from cumulative disarmament over the past two decades must be regenerated. This means increasing defense spending, almost certainly above the 2% of gross domestic product agreed — but often not acted upon — by NATO members (less the United States, UK, Estonia and Greece).
2017 is 100th anniversary of the first occasion the United States intervened in one of Europe’s wars. The region’s security is a matter of American security, and it means continued and close engagement in Europe and a continuation of the strong leadership that America has given NATO from the start.
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