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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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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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