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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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Dirty Holidaze

Dirty Holidaze

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December is by far the darkest and spookiest month. It is also the booziest, by far. The overwhelming joy one often associates with the annual Christmas frenzy increases the longing for a nightcap, the fright that correlates with mass expenditures in gifts and other holiday nonsense calls for some alcohol, and when you intend to bid farewell to the passing year you’ll want a bottle of liquor by your side. It seems there’s no avoiding dipping your toes (or your entire foot) into the tantalizing Jacuzzi of holiday vice. For this reason, behold: Grapevine’s guide to your Icelandic holiday binge

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So What’s This I Keep Hearing About Everything Being Terrible in Iceland?

So What’s This I Keep Hearing About Everything Being Terrible in Iceland?

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In Mid-November Unnar Steinn Sigtryggsson, an Icelander who goes by the username “askur,” made a comment on popular internet community Reddit. He recounted the major news events of the last few weeks in Iceland. However, unlike most bullet point lists of Icelandic news stories, this one went viral. Has the news in Iceland been unusually full of kittens licking baby turtles? More like political scandals, strikes, vermin infestations, protests, police behaving badly, and economic mismanagement. To an audience used to hearing stories about how wonderfully Iceland had dealt with the 2008 financial crisis, this was indeed newsworthy. Hold on a

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Pagan Christmas

Pagan Christmas

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The idea of throwing a big celebration in honour of the birth of Christ is a relatively recent idea. Nobody knows exactly when he was born; guesses range from 7 to 2 BC and the date is a mystery. His date of birth was once estimated to be January 6, in an attempt to beat a competing holiday (the celebration of the virgin birth of Aion, the Hellenistic deity of eternity). In the process they borrowed the symbolism of the stables. Christianity is in the business of mergers and acquisitions. The date was later changed to December 25, partly because

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The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

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Aðfangadagur (Ath-founga-dager) December 24, Aðfangadagur, is the day Icelanders celebrate Christmas (as opposed to December 25 in most countries). The first half of the day usually goes towards finishing off all of the last-minute preparations, making food, wrapping presents, bathing and putting on nice clothes. Children are often occupied by the television set, as most stations broadcast a non-stop programme of cartoons throughout the day. Six o’ clock marks the official start of Christmas in Iceland, marked by state radio broadcasting the traditional “ringing of the church bells.” This is when most households sit down to enjoy a pleasant holiday

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WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

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Anyone who’s followed American politics, or switched to Fox News over the holidays, knows that a full blown war is raging at this very moment: The War On Christmas. On the battlefield, the godless forces of Politically Correct liberals—who want to take Christ out of Christmas and thus destroy the very fabric of American culture—fight the patriotic and pious people over at Fox. Of course nobody residing the reality-based community has ever encountered this “War on Christmas.” It exists only in the fevered imagination of loudmouths like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, who use it to fill airtime, drum up

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Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

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When they stop stacking the Rjómi (heavy cream) neatly on the supermarket shelves, you know Christmas is just around the corner. The Rjómi hasn’t disappeared though. Entering the walk-in cooler (don’t forget your jacket!) you’ll see a huge container spilling over with cartons and cartons of Rjómi. Frankly, stacking it is a waste of time; soon you’ll notice the mountain getting smaller as every single person takes at least one, maybe two or maybe five. Our consumer needs are this predictable before, during and after Christmas, because almost every single Icelandic household has the exact same family traditions. This uniformity

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