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News In Brief: May Edition

News In Brief: May Edition

Published June 1, 2012

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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Keeping The Romance Alive

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In our third and final instalment of “Mexicans: They’re Everywhere,” we meet Libertad Venegas. Prior to her first visit to Iceland, the only thing she knew about the country was that it was home to a famous singer called Björk. For Libertad, that tiny speck of earth above Europe with the intimidating name was a land of total mystery. As fate would have it, Libertad wound up falling in love with an Icelander she met online. After a period of courtship, the two made plans to convene in person, and, as they say, the rest is history. “I was going

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The Endless Bubble Of Overblown Expectations

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In the spring of 2007, when the Icelandic financial bubble was reaching its peak, the Ministry of Industry held a press conference to announce it intended to undertake an environmental impact assessment of oil exploration off the coast of Northeast Iceland, near the Jan-Mayen ridge. The press was quick to see what this meant: Untold riches! “Oil exploration might begin next summer,” the headlines read, and many Icelanders, who had already started to believe the country was on its way to becoming a North Atlantic Switzerland could now fantasize about living in an Arctic Saudi Arabia. Although there was no

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No, No, No…

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On October 9, 2008, The Economist published an article called “Kreppanomics,” detailing Iceland’s then-recent financial meltdown. “One word on every tongue in Iceland these days is kreppa. Normally it means to be ‘in a pinch’ or ‘to get into a scrape’, but when it is applied to the economy, it becomes ‘financial crisis,’” the article began. “In time kreppa may become the word that conjures up the disastrous meltdown that is now taking place in the country’s economy.” Indeed, The Economist was right. This post-crash buzzword went on to appear in almost every single article and blog post about Iceland’s

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News In Brief: October

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 Anyone with a favourite pet knows how hard it is to be apart when travelling. One man who tried to  enter Iceland with three Madagascar hissing cockroaches can attest to this. Despite his professed love for  the creatures, customs authorities informed him that Icelandic law prohibits bringing pets to Iceland—  even pets as adorable as greasy, hissing, crawling cockroaches the size of your thumb. Speaking of pets, an Akureyri man recently found himself on the wrong end of the law for burying his beloved, deceased pet chihuahua, Prins, in his backyard. This is apparently illegal, as health authorities phoned him,

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A Guide To Reykjavík Bathrooms

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Something that always seems to be missing in reviews of restaurants, bars, cafés and whatnot, is the bathroom. And when you think about it, the flowery potpourri smell in the bathroom might make up for a semi-flat beer, and stumbling upon a clogged toilet could make you forget about all the great food you just got. What good is a good service if your experience is shadowed by a dirty bathroom? When writing these reviews, I went to some of Reykjavík’s most popular bars to check out their bathroom facilities: Did they have soap and toilet paper? Was the number

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The Milk Monopoly

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Allegedly, a dozen differently labelled sorts of Icelandic cheese all taste the same. People have been in doubt about how to express their frustration at this, but have since the start of the week found a focal point for their anger: that bureaucrat in the Ministry of Agriculture… what’s his name? We will get to that. The Icelandic milk market is a de facto monopoly, run in close cooperation between MS, the country’s dairy conglomerate, and state authorities. Retail prices of milk, as well as wholesale prices of raw milk, are, to this day, fixed by the Agricultural Pricing Committee.

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