News In Brief: May Edition

A brief overview of some stories we published on our website since our last issue.
1.6.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
As the presidential race is weeks away from the home stretch, the two most viable candidates—incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and challenger Þóra Arnórsdóttir—have been within single-digit leads of one another for weeks now. This is in sharp contrast to how things were earlier this month, when Þóra’s lead seemed like all but a foregone conclusion. As it stands now, this may prove the closest presidential race in Icelandic history. Regardless of who people vote for, most Icelanders support the idea of term limits for whoever is president, with most preferring the office to be held by one person for no more than three four-year terms.

On a lighter note, it seems the idea of Iceland adopting the Canadian dollar as its official currency just won’t go away. Economist Heiðar Már Guðjónsson told conference attendees in Toronto that Iceland could easily start using the loonie by merely buying $300 million, shipping it over, and installing it in banks and ATMs around the country. Easy-peasy! The fact that Iceland is in accession talks with the European Union and would adopt the euro on admission is just a minor detail, right?

On the music front, the success of Icelandic band Of Monsters And Men seems to know no limits. Their album has topped the charts on Amazon and iTunes, and they’re due to appear on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno later in June. Closer to home, singer Páll Óskar isn’t yet ready to give up the fight to save NASA, having called upon the city of Reykjavík and Parliament to buy the building in order to keep it from being made into a hotel.

Speaking of Parliament, our legislative body has been pretty busy as well, recently submitting a bill to Parliament that would toughen child protection laws, making it a crime to even look at child pornography (as it is, it is merely illegal to make, own or distribute it). A proposal to put continuing EU talks up for referendum was also submitted, but MPs defeated it. Referendums were a hot topic, though, as Parliament did approve to send some of the clauses of the proposed constitution to a referendum, including separation of church and state, protection of natural resources, and reforming the voting system.

While Parliament is working on making laws, police are stepping up their efforts to enforce them. Well, the law on public urination anyway. For two weekends, police have organised a dragnet operation downtown, stopping and fining those caught marking their territory in the public domain. Weekend revellers are advised to use indoor toilets.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “there are no second acts in American lives.” Fortunately, former Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde isn’t American, as he has found a new job with a law firm. The firm in question, Opus, has hired him as a consultant in “international affairs,” and say that his experience will be a boon to the firm and its clients. Presumably he will not be consulted on when it’s a good time to consult others over looming financial crises.

The two Algerian refugees who gained national attention when they were arrested and jailed upon their arrival in Iceland, despite being 15 and 16 respectively, are now free but aren’t out of the woods yet. They have been asked to undergo an age verification test, which examines the development of their molars (which stop developing around the age of 18). While the results of these tests are not yet available, the refugees are appealing their case to the Supreme Court. Their lawyer Ragnar Aðalsteinsson argues that the asylum seekers should have special immunity from prosecution under international law.

It appears that Chinese entrepreneur Huang Nubo just can’t stay out of the news either. A new poll conducted by Stöð 2 and Fréttablaðið shows that 42% of Icelanders support letting Huang rent the plot of land in east Iceland, while 30.7% are against it, and 27.3% have no opinion either way. The news may come as some comfort to him, as he has faced a lot of resistance from the government.

Eurovision once again captivated the nation, as singers Jónsi (of Í Svörtum Fötum, not Sigur Rós) and Greta Salóme made it to the finals with their song “Never Forget.” The song seemed promising, as YouTube singers from around the world performed covers of the tune, even before Iceland won its way into the finals, but ultimately Sweden won the international song competition. Better luck next year, Iceland!

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