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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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Two Days Of Criminal Activity

Two Days Of Criminal Activity

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People thought we were nuts at the time, when in reality we were suffering from good old Icelandic gung-ho enthusiasm. This year, we ought to know better. Three of us—Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and I—got together last year to organise a small crime fiction festival in Reykjavík. After all, how hard could it be? We had all been to a few of these, and it didn’t look like it could be all that much of a headache. It had seemed odd to us that Iceland didn’t have its own crime fiction festival. After all, there are plenty of them elsewhere.

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A New Wave Of Protests

A New Wave Of Protests

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Tension has been rising in Iceland of late. An estimated 4,500 people attended a general protest against the government on November 4, almost completely filling Austurvöllur by Alþingi. This marks it as one of the biggest demonstrations this year. The event was initially inspired by a Facebook rant from singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur, wherein he bemoaned the current coalition government’s favouritism of the rich and powerful. Instigator Svavar Knútur began the demonstration by addressing the crowd. In his speech—which has been widely shared across social media since the event—he likened the rally to the first of three warnings his father used to

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Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

Arrest, Injury, Aftermath

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Standing by the door of a two-storey building in the Höfði industrial district and not finding a doorbell, I call Chaplas Menke, who says he’ll come down to let me in. My interview subject made local headlines this September, after being reportedly brutalised by the police. Since then, the story has gone quiet. A short while later, he invites me to his abode. He is of average height, dark-skinned, with sunken eyes and a svelte frame. He has a thick accent and speaks hesitatingly, picking his words carefully. I ask him how he’s doing, and he modestly says okay as

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News In Brief: November

News In Brief: November

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Icelanders have once again grown fed up with their elected representatives, staging a massive protest demonstration in front of Alþingi last Monday. Thousands stood at Austurvöllur, Reykjavík’s hip spot for protest meetings, to denounce a veritable cornucopia of bad policy decisions (police estimated 4,500 attendees at the protest, while some attendees estimated that they were in fact closer to 7,000). This particular time around, the political party actually leading the country–in this case, the Progressives–have most recently polled at just under 9%. Remember, folks: the last time a ruling coalition stepped down, it was because one party didn’t want to

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Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

Who’s Afraid Of November 9?

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After DV revealed that the police had just acquired some 150 submachine guns from Norway, Chief Superintendent Jón Bjartmarz—who refused to answer any of the newspaper’s questions—explained on RÚV’s Kastljós that they have possessed machine guns “ever since after the Gúttó-fight.” “The Gúttó-fight” was a violent clash between police and workers, who were protesting announced wage reductions, back in 1932. The reference is as significant as they get. An Icelandic State Police authority, as opposed to a municipal one, was established in the aftermath of that fight, to ensure that authorities would henceforth have the upper hand against demonstrators. This

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Pippa’s Wish

Pippa’s Wish

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A particularly heart-warming story made the rounds recently when a crowdfunding campaign called “Pippa’s Wish” hit its required target, after a month online. The GoFundMe campaign was started by family friend Tamara Antonelli Comerford to take Pippa—a disabled seven-year-old Sigur Rós fan from Missouri, who suffered a stroke at birth that left her with Cerebral Palsy, among other medical conditions—on the family holiday of a lifetime. During an extended convalescence after an operation to reshape her pelvis and straighten her legs, Pippa was in severe pain, but responded with fascination to the soothing beauty of Sigur Rós’ tour documentary ‘Heima’,

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