Back to reality

The past two days have brought delightful but very different stories. Now attention is very firmly focused on efforts to help ease the devastation in Haiti. Local news is very trivial by comparison, but a number of distinctly Norwegian concerns provide some needed contrast.

Several of the stories or themes mentioned here recently have evolved. The weird case of the children’s TV protest became a hot political issue when the populist Progress Party took up the cause of angered toddler parents, who wanted state broadcaster NRK to return ‘In the Night Garden’ to its usual screening time so that their little ones could relax to its surreal scenes before falling asleep for the day.

Progress Party MP Ib Thomsen told Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt that while NRK must be allowed editorial freedom, when tens of thousands of license-paying viewers mounted such a concerted protest, their voices should be heard. Huitfeldt said that the public should be grateful that politicians didn’t decide programming, and left the decision to NRK, who stick by their decision. To ease the pain, the program is viewable earlier in the day and at any time online.

On a more serious note, Bergen has had to take emergency action to try and resolve the harmful pollution levels reached as weather conditions leave the city sealed in a sickly yellow mist.

Authorities have ruled that only cars with odd-numbered license plates will be allowed to drive in the city on odd-numbered days, and even-numbered cars on even days. To further discourage single vehicle traffic, free buses are being run and parking places reduced. Despite public urging and these more emphatic measures, pollution levels remain too high and cooperation too limited.

An indication of civic helplessness is illustrated by the media discussion about whether there is any legal way to enforce the traffic reduction tactics – it may all boil down to whether or not motorists listen to pleas, as there seems to be no legal framework to coerce them to cooperate.

I spotted a very strange moose-themed traffic item. A group in Sør-Odal in Hedmark County charged with taking care of dead or mortally wounded wildlife have announced that they will be using moose blood to keep motorists alert. NRK reported that after 18 calls to deal with moose-car collisions already this year, the group would be leaving – and spreading – moose blood from accidents in snow to give drivers something to think about.

And after being named the best place in the world to live and visit, it is fitting that authorities here have carried out an extensive study to find out what residents actually think of living in Norway. No shock here – they love it.

One in four said they thought Norway was just about a perfect place to live and fully 94 percent said they were satisfied with Norway as home. About 90 percent said they would advise friends and acquaintances to move here.

One thing stood out as a target of complaint though, and that was also predictable – transport, with the country’s creaking train system being even more unpopular than its roads and highways.

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