A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Lava Field Bigger Than Lake Mývatn
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News In Brief: Early June Edition

News In Brief: Early June Edition

Published June 15, 2012

June began on an optimistic note as the Pig Farmers’ Society of Iceland announced that it was going to create two organic, free-range pig farms, a welcome change from an organisation that said last year that it would be prohibitively expensive to forego factory farming Iceland’s pigs. As an added bonus, the general public is welcome to visit these farms to pet the pigs. So if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to pet a pig, now’s your chance.
The idea of creating an undersea power cable exporting electricity from Iceland to the UK has also gained more traction, as British Energy Minister Charles Hendry visited Iceland to sign a willingness agreement supporting the plan. Former director of Norwegian power company Statnett, Odd Håkon Hoelsæter, told reporters that he thought the plan was realistic and could be good for Iceland in the long run.
On the election front, the presidential debates conducted by television station Stöð 2 caused a great deal of controversy. The station originally invited only sitting president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and his most viable opponent, Þóra Arnórsdóttir. Þóra then refused to participate unless the four other candidates were invited, and so the station extended the invite.   However, when the candidates got wind of the station’s intention to pair them together in separate debates, three of the presidential candidates, Andrea Ólafsdóttir, Hannes Bjarnason, and Ari Trausti Guðmundsson, refused to take part. Although Herdís Þorgeirsdóttir said she disagreed with the station’s set up, she decided to stay and so the three candidates stood behind two lecterns. It didn’t get any better from there, and media analyst Egill Helgason remarked that “there has hardly been a more embarrassing television show in Iceland.” Anyone familiar with Iceland’s television history will know that that is a fairly harsh condemnation.
In other extraordinary events, Venus moved across the Sun, and was visible from Iceland and other parts of the Earth where the sun still shines between 22:00 and 4:00. Some 1,500 Icelanders observed the event from Öskjuhlíð, home of Reykjavík landmark and revolving restaurant Perlan. This crossing happens roughly once every 243 years.
Back on Earth, Grapevine’s Byron Wilkes recorded a video of a security guard assaulting a man at the Hlemmur bus station, which sparked the attention of the rest of the Icelandic media. The guard, who has been fired, contended that the man in question had threatened his family with violence, but expressed regret for losing control of himself. The victim of the assault claims that he was attacked unprovoked, and plans to press charges against the guard.
There has been bad blood between these two guys ever since either a) a friend of the assault victim spat her dentures at the security guard and then stepped on them, or b) the security guard shook the assault victim’s friend so hard that her dentures fell out, upon which he stepped on them himself. Which of these stories is the case depends on whom you ask.
Ship horns sounded all day long from the Reykjavík harbour as fisheries, ship owners, fishermen and related parties protested a proposed increase in their fishing fees and other changes to the quota system. They claim that raising these taxes will force them to take the difference out of the pay checks of the fishermen they employ.         However, many have pointed out that the more important point is that the quota system itself needs to be changed (which is what the government is proposing, although not to the satisfaction of all parties involved) and that the fisheries could very well take a cut in profit without having to make up for it through the fishermen’s wages.
Speaking of fish, two former financiers were sentenced to four and a half years in prison for fraud. Byr Savings Bank Chairman Jón Þórsteinn Jónsson and the lender’s ex-CEO Ragnar Zophonías Guðjónsson allegedly lent money to Exeter, which in turn used the money to buy shares in Byr. The Supreme Court ruled that this was a case of blatant fraud, handing down a sentence that could be given to others in its wake. So far, no tycoons have been spotted trying to flee justice, but hey, you never know. The year’s only half over.  



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Holuhraun Continues To Erupt

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It’s been almost a month since the Holuhraun eruption started, and there doesn’t seem to be any indication of it stopping soon. Meanwhile, the Bárðarbunga caldera continues to subside, which means that it must still be feeding magma to the Holuhraun eruptive fissure. The surrounding area is still closed to the public (sorry!) due to high concentrations of poison gas and the continuing risk of flooding. In the last two weeks there has been quite a bit of air pollution (mostly sulphur dioxide, the one that smells like rotten eggs) due to gas emanating from the eruptive fissure. Daily forecasts

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Which Way 
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“This is what we call a ‘washing board,’” our guide Kormákur Hermannsson says, his voice barely intelligible as we jostle violently on the bumpy mountain road. Indeed it feels like we are driving over one. It’s been nine hours since we set off from Reykjavík to see the Holuhraun eruption in Iceland’s remote highlands, and we are shaking. To our right, the sun is a blinding red ball peeking out from behind the clouds. Mount Herðubreið looms over an orange haze that blankets the horizon. We are still a few hours away from the eruption, yet its presence is unmistakeable.

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One Man’s Miracle

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Möðrudalur, one of the most isolated farms in Iceland, lies under the icy nipple of Mt. Herðubreið in the northeastern part of the island.  In 1919, a man named Jón Stefánsson bought Möðrudalur from one of his brothers.  Jón was a saddler and harness maker by trade. He was also an accomplished musician. At night he’d sit at his organ, and the echo of Bach sonatas, which he’d play backwards note for note, would sweep over Möðrudalur’s lava and empty sands. Jón was, to put it mildly, an eccentric. He’d wake up at 4am and get the farm labourers working

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Mexicans: They’re Everywhere!

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When I began my search for Mexicans in Iceland, I was prepared to hear fantastic stories about cultural polarity. And that’s exactly what I got. From tiny Vopnafjörður we travel to the centre of it all, Reykjavík. This is the story of Rodrigo Aparicio, who found a second home in Iceland. What does “exotic” mean? For many, Mexico—with its countless ecosystems, dialects, blue shores, sandy beaches, archaeological sites and colonial cities—fits the bill perfectly. To Mexicans, “exotic” is perhaps the type of place where you’ll experience midnight sun and the Northern Lights, where folks aren’t coy about the human body,

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Höfði-San: Shrimp Salesman Built A Replica Of A Reykjavík Landmark

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Iceland became the focus of world attention when US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavík in October 1986 to discuss nuclear disarmament. The powerful couple met at Höfði, a small villa on Borgartún, the street where the ghosts of the fallen Icelandic banking system roam today. Many of the banks had headquarters and offices on this street, which lies only a kilometre or so away from the city centre. Before the international financial crisis obliterated the overweight Icelandic finance industry, the bankers wanted to build huge towers and other mega structures in the area, which

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Independence Is Not A Disaster:

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After decades of discussion on the political and economic details of a theoretically independent Scotland, the Scottish citizens finally face the vote that could bring this country into reality. The vote on the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, asking “Should Scotland be an independent country?” will take place this Thursday, September 18, 2014. “We have a shared interest” As part of the discourse on their potential independence, Scottish political leaders are looking to the Nordic countries as models in developing their social and economic policies. In addition to potentially modelling welfare and taxation on Nordic systems, other involvement ranges from applying

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