A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Eruption Pollution Likely To Hit Whole Country
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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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Remember last issue when we complained that the Bárðarbunga volcano was a huge disappointment for not having the decency to erupt? Well, apparently the volcano gods read the Grapevine, because a huge fissure opened up in Holuhraun and began spewing forth some very photogenic magma. Icelanders were quick to ask the most important question: What are we going to name the new lava field when all is said and done? The jury’s still out on that one, but for now, this is proving to be the ideal volcanic situation: pretty lava, no airplane-choking ash clouds and no one hurt or

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The most prominent, truly devastating volcanic eruption in Icelanders’ public memory is arguably the late-18th century eruption in the volcanic ridge Lakí, followed by the Móðuharðindi, two years of all-over brutal hardships. The sky went dark, and the sun faded, while ashes destroyed pastures, and temperatures sank, leading to the death of an estimated 75% of the country’s livestock and a fifth of its human population. Then there was the late-19th century eruption, after which a fifth of the island’s populace moved to Canada. The ashes from the sudden 1973 eruption in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago destroyed 400 homes. One person

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