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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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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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