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Parliament Responds to Protests

Published October 5, 2010

Members of both the ruling coalition and the opposition have had different responses to last night’s protests in front of parliament, but they do seem to agree on one thing – relieving household debt should be the first priority.
Some 8,000 people by some counts gathered in front of parliament last night in a largely peaceful demonstration, mostly protesting the government’s handling of Iceland’s domestic economic situation, as many households face mounting debts and foreclosures.
Adding to her previous statement to extend the “hand of agreement” to protesters, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir added at a press conference today that she is certain that the ruling coalition can reach an agreement with members of the opposition as to how to best deal with the debts Icelandic households are now facing. She also reiterated that that nation’s banks – which are now mostly completely privatized – need to do more to assist families struggling with loan payments.
Social Democrat MP Ólína Þorvarðardóttir, writing on her blog, has called upon people to recognize that there is no “magic solution” to the problems in this country, and that no matter how many revolutions there may be, or what party is in power, the task at hand will remain the same.
Many conservatives have been calling for new elections, with Independence Party MP Jón Gunnarsson going as far as to say there should be new elections this spring. The conservatives are currently polling at about 35%, making them the largest party in the country at the moment.
Other members of the opposition, such as Movement MP Þór Saari, have suggested instead a “national government”, i.e., a government comprised of all political parties – only he would like to see such a coalition exclude the conservatives. The Independence Party was driven from power in the wake of popular protests in 2009, and The Movement arose from the activist base of those protests.
The prime minister has ruled out a national government and new elections. However, both she and Minister of Finance Steingrímur J. Sigfússon have said that they intend to put the matter of relieving household debt at the top of the list of priorities for the fall session of parliament.
In related news, blogger and former editor of DV Jónas Kristjánsson wrote an article saying that people would be better off attacking the banks rather than parliament, his argument being that the popular protests of 2009 succeeded because they focused on the right individuals responsible for the situation. Today, it is, for the most part, the policy of largely private banks that is making things difficult for Icelandic families.



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Nói Síríusly Looking For Candy Tasters

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Icelandic candy manufacturer Nói Síríus is searching for volunteers for a “tasting panel” for the company’s product development department. The tasters chosen would be sent new candy prototypes and asked to mark them, to help Nói Síríus decide which products should make it into production. In the past few years 40-50 families have been sent these prototypes to try out but the company has now decided to expand the testing group and advertised the position on Facebook. Vísir reports that within 20 minutes 514 people had volunteered and at time of writing over 1.300 people had commented on the post,

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Scientists Can’t Agree On Bárðarbunga Eruption

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Scientist have been busy interpreting the newest data from Bárðarbunga but cannot seem to agree on what precisely the data indicates, reports Vísir. Kristín Vogfjörð, Director of Research at the Icelandic Met Office believes that based on her interpretations of the GPS data, the pressure is receding and the likelihood of eruption is minimising. Meanwhile, Ingi Þorleifur Bjarnason, a research scholar with the Insitute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland interprets the data differently, believing that the pressure is increasing and that the volcano is rising in preparation for eruption. Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, geophysicist and professor at the University of Iceland

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Wants To Raise Taxes On Tourism

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An MP for the Progressive Party wants to raise taxes on hospitality services and reinstate the VAT for businesses in the tourist industry. Karl Garðarsson, posting on his Facebook, expressed objections to a proposal from the Independence Party to raise taxes on food, while “there is no sign that tourism or associated parties will pay their share.” As RÚV points out, in the summer of 2013 the ruling coalition reversed a change to tax law made by the previous government, which raised the taxes on hotel stays from 7% to 14%. This decision prompted the idea of imposing entrance fees

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Anti-Piracy Group Declaring Bankruptcy Due To Embezzlement

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The board of anti-piracy group Smáís wants to declare bankruptcy, brought on by the former director having allegedly embezzled funds out of the company. RÚV reports that Smáís has recently filed bankruptcy papers with Reykjavík District Court. According to their filing, the main reason cited is that the former director of Smáís, Snæbjörn Steingrímsson, had been funneling money out of the company while at the same time falsifying the company’s financial reports. The embezzlement and false accounting allegedly went on for years, giving the board an inaccurate impression of the actual financial state of Smáís. Furthermore, taxes had not been

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State Broadcasting Archives Need Saving

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Iceland’s state broadcasting service, RÚV, needs help in archiving a wealth of audio and video material going back decades. RÚV reports that many of these archived recordings – some of them going back to 1935 – are in a bad state of disrepair. All told, there are some 10,000 albums, 30,000 reels of tape, 10,000 CDs and thousands of videos featuring interviews, plays, music, news and more. Many of these artefacts are in damaged and fragile condition. Hreinn Valdimarsson, a technician at RÚV, believes the state of the archives is due in large part to a lack of interest in

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Bárðarbunga Earthquake Visualization

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An Icelandic computer scientist has created a data visualization showing all of the Bárðarbunga earthquakes measuring over 1.5 on the Richter scale over the last 48 hours. The data used, he explained, is raw data collected from the Icelandic Met Office (it has not been verified by that office), and will help viewers see how the situation is progressing at the volcano. See the whole visualization in motion here.  

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