News In Brief: Late June Edition

29.6.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
We’re now in mid-June and things are going famously. Tom Cruise arrived to take part in the filming of the movie ‘Oblivion,’ which will be shot in the north of the country, near Mývatn. Upon his arrival, he spent the first few days at Hilton Hótel in Reykjavík, to much fanfare. He plans to celebrate his 50th birthday in Akureyri, which should be fun for all involved. Morgan Freeman will also be coming to Iceland for the filming of ‘Oblivion,’ but this hasn’t been covered with the same detail and tenacity as Tom’s arrival.

With presidential elections coming up on June 30 (the day after we publish), it seems the odds favour incumbent president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who leads his closest challenger, Þóra Arnórsdóttir, by about 10% in recent polls. So confident is gambling website Betsson of his win that they are only giving 1.18 to 1 odds on Ólafur being re-elected. Odds on Þóra, by the by, are paying out 3.6 to 1.

It seems as though there’s a light at the end of the tunnel where Icesave is concerned, too. Landsbanki—or rather, the resolution committee handling the funds of the former Landsbanki—made another payment to the UK and Holland, so that half our debt has now been paid off. It sure feels great to be out from under that much money. There’s only about another 500 billion ISK left to pay off. Good times.

They might be kicking up their heels at Landsbanki, but the Icelandic government is for the first time finding itself being accused of torturing an asylum seeker. Mohammad Askarpour, the refugee in question, is currently hospitalised in Iceland, but his lawyer, Katrín Oddsdóttir, claims that he was denied medical and psychological attention, despite telling authorities that he was suffering from a severe sinus infection, depression, and suicidal thoughts. The suit against the state, Katrín admitted, is intended to get the state’s attention with regard to Mohammad’s condition. Hopefully it’ll work.

Speaking of being taken to court, the Datacell v. Valitor trial has begun. In 2010, when credit card companies were blocking donations to Wikileaks, the Icelandic company Datacell offered its services as a proxy though which donations could be made to the site. However, Valitor, which oversees Visa and MasterCard in Iceland, blocked cardholders from donating to Datacell. This precipitated the lawsuit. Datacell says Valitor is guilty of a breach of contract, contending that Datacell never told them they were acting as a proxy for Wikileaks. Datacell denies. The truth of the matter? Well, we’ll probably never know, but it’s definitely going to be a historic trial.

Trial fever spread to the Supreme Court, too, as a man plans on taking his ex-husband to court to gain custody of a cat. Reykjavík District already ruled that the cat in question, Ita, belongs to the ex in question; they live together, and the cat is legally registered to the ex. Although the court’s ruling was final, and the plaintiff, Juan Carlos, was ordered to pay his ex 200,000 ISK in legal fees, Juan isn’t stopping there. He’s started a fund to raise money to pay the court order and to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court. And you thought you loved your cat.

In lighter news, Iceland’s first female bishop officially took over this month. Rev. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir was ordained by former bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson at Hallgrímkirkja, before an audience including many bishops from abroad, Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Agnes said that the main mission of the church should be to increase membership—said possibly in response to church members leaving in droves over the past two years due to a sex scandal involving the previous bishop and his predecessor, Ólafur Skúlason.

And speaking of the church, some priests do seem a little worried that separation of church and state could be right around the corner, or is already in the works. Article 19 of the new constitutional draft, which gives parliament the right to put the church’s fate up for public referendum, was among the subjects at a recent clerical meeting. While theologian Hjalti Hugason said he could see how Article 19 would open the door for such a separation, Rev. Gunnlaugur Stefánsson believes the ball is already rolling in that direction.  



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