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News In Brief: Late June Edition

News In Brief: Late June Edition

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Published June 29, 2012

We’re now in mid-June and things are going famously. Tom Cruise arrived to take part in the filming of the movie ‘Oblivion,’ which will be shot in the north of the country, near Mývatn. Upon his arrival, he spent the first few days at Hilton Hótel in Reykjavík, to much fanfare. He plans to celebrate his 50th birthday in Akureyri, which should be fun for all involved. Morgan Freeman will also be coming to Iceland for the filming of ‘Oblivion,’ but this hasn’t been covered with the same detail and tenacity as Tom’s arrival.
With presidential elections coming up on June 30 (the day after we publish), it seems the odds favour incumbent president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who leads his closest challenger, Þóra Arnórsdóttir, by about 10% in recent polls. So confident is gambling website Betsson of his win that they are only giving 1.18 to 1 odds on Ólafur being re-elected. Odds on Þóra, by the by, are paying out 3.6 to 1.
It seems as though there’s a light at the end of the tunnel where Icesave is concerned, too. Landsbanki—or rather, the resolution committee handling the funds of the former Landsbanki—made another payment to the UK and Holland, so that half our debt has now been paid off. It sure feels great to be out from under that much money. There’s only about another 500 billion ISK left to pay off. Good times.
They might be kicking up their heels at Landsbanki, but the Icelandic government is for the first time finding itself being accused of torturing an asylum seeker. Mohammad Askarpour, the refugee in question, is currently hospitalised in Iceland, but his lawyer, Katrín Oddsdóttir, claims that he was denied medical and psychological attention, despite telling authorities that he was suffering from a severe sinus infection, depression, and suicidal thoughts. The suit against the state, Katrín admitted, is intended to get the state’s attention with regard to Mohammad’s condition. Hopefully it’ll work.
Speaking of being taken to court, the Datacell v. Valitor trial has begun. In 2010, when credit card companies were blocking donations to Wikileaks, the Icelandic company Datacell offered its services as a proxy though which donations could be made to the site. However, Valitor, which oversees Visa and MasterCard in Iceland, blocked cardholders from donating to Datacell. This precipitated the lawsuit. Datacell says Valitor is guilty of a breach of contract, contending that Datacell never told them they were acting as a proxy for Wikileaks. Datacell denies. The truth of the matter? Well, we’ll probably never know, but it’s definitely going to be a historic trial.
Trial fever spread to the Supreme Court, too, as a man plans on taking his ex-husband to court to gain custody of a cat. Reykjavík District already ruled that the cat in question, Ita, belongs to the ex in question; they live together, and the cat is legally registered to the ex. Although the court’s ruling was final, and the plaintiff, Juan Carlos, was ordered to pay his ex 200,000 ISK in legal fees, Juan isn’t stopping there. He’s started a fund to raise money to pay the court order and to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court. And you thought you loved your cat.
In lighter news, Iceland’s first female bishop officially took over this month. Rev. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir was ordained by former bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson at Hallgrímkirkja, before an audience including many bishops from abroad, Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. Agnes said that the main mission of the church should be to increase membership—said possibly in response to church members leaving in droves over the past two years due to a sex scandal involving the previous bishop and his predecessor, Ólafur Skúlason.
And speaking of the church, some priests do seem a little worried that separation of church and state could be right around the corner, or is already in the works. Article 19 of the new constitutional draft, which gives parliament the right to put the church’s fate up for public referendum, was among the subjects at a recent clerical meeting. While theologian Hjalti Hugason said he could see how Article 19 would open the door for such a separation, Rev. Gunnlaugur Stefánsson believes the ball is already rolling in that direction.  



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Workers Unite!

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Earlier this month, a news story broke in the Icelandic media that a young Icelandic woman working at Lebowski Bar was fired after she asked to be paid minimum wage—effectively a pay rise over what she was getting. The story sparked shock and outrage amongst many. To others, it was merely par for the course. Restaurants, bars and clubs in Iceland are notorious for the use of what is known as jafnaðarkaup (“median pay”)—a form of wage offsetting. By most collective bargaining agreements in the service industry, a worker is supposed to receive a base hourly wage, plus an extra

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News In Brief Late August

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Unless you’ve been literally living in a cave for the past two weeks, chances are that you’ve heard of the possible eruption at Bárðarbunga peak. In the end (at the time of writing), this insufferable geological formation didn’t have the decency to erupt even a little bit, let alone disrupt air travel across the European continent. Instead, it rumbled, made some tremors, fooled scientists into thinking a small eruption was underway when there totally wasn’t, annoyed farmers affected by the evacuation of the area, spawned endless alarmist articles in the international press, and failed to destroy the Kárahnjúkar Dam. Worst.

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Schrödinger’s Volcano

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On August 16, the Western media spotlight fell on Iceland once again. As is usually the case when the outside world likes to acknowledge our existence, an eruption was involved. Or was there? That day it became known that there had been a slow and steady build-up of unusually strong seismic activity at Bárðarbunga, Vatnajökull Glacier’s highest peak. All signs indicated that a subglacial volcano was about to erupt. International headlines ranged from modest “Bardarbunga eruption sparks red travel alert,” to the slightly more worrying “Eruption May Cause Monumental Flood,” to the cataclysmic “Icelandic volcano could trigger Britain’s coldest winter

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Let The Gaymes Begin!

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A group of handsome young men gather in the historic city of Rome this week, in the hopes of winning the title of Mr Gay World, an annual beauty pageant for gay rights. The winner of the competition gets to travel all over the world as a global representative for the international gay community. Our very own Iceland has a hopeful delegate in this year’s running, the super charismatic Mr Troy Michael. “I love the gay scene in Iceland. It’s just so great and almost the whole country was at Gay Pride and everything. It’s so awesome,” says Troy. With Iceland’s gay-friendly laws

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Dyngjujökull Glacier Photo Gallery

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On August 21, photographer Axel Sigurðarson flew over Dyngjökull glacier in a two-seater airplane through Mýflug Air. He didn’t see any volcanic eruption, but snapped some gorgeous shots for us—check them out below. See more Eruption Iceland stories.

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“They Are A Gruesome Lot”

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It is thought that the first cats touched Icelandic soil in the tenth century, accompanied by human settlers. Those first Icelandic cats did not leave much of a mark on history. Though cats appear in Nordic mythology and Icelandic folklore, our furry friends are seldom mentioned in Icelandic historical chronicles, sagas or other ancient literature. A notable exception to this is ‘Vatnsdæla saga’ (‘The Saga Of The People Of Vatnsdalur’), a thirteenth century family chronicle about Ingimundur the Old, the first settler in Vatnsdalur valley in northern Iceland, and his offspring. In one chapter, Ingimundur’s two sons, Þorsteinn and Jökull,

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