A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Holuhraun, still spewing lava. Bárðarbunga, still sinking.

US Considering Sanctions Against Iceland Over Whaling

Published July 21, 2011

The US government is considering imposing sanctions on Iceland for the practice of hunting endangered fin whales. Ministers within the Icelandic government – and even within the same party – have mixed reactions.
The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration intends to cite Iceland as an example when announcing a law that gives the US the right to impose sanctions on any country that flouts international animal conservation laws. After the announcement, which is set to happen Wednesday, the US president then has 60 days to decide on sanctions. Sanctions against Iceland would likely involve ceasing to import any Icelandic fish products, at least from companies connected to whaling.
Minister of Agriculture Jón Bjarnason told Vísir he is not concerned with a possible sanction, considering it “out of the question” that the US would do such a thing. He also takes issue with the US pointing out that Iceland is hunting an endangered species, saying that there are 20,000 fin whales in the North Atlantic, of which Iceland is hunting less than 200.
However, Árni Þór Sigurðsson – chairman of the foreign affairs committee and, like Jón, a member of the Leftist-Green party – believes the practice of whaling should stop, writing on his Facebook, “Icelanders (or should we say ‘An Icelander’?) hunting whales is more damaging for the business and political interests of Iceland than stopping [whale hunting].”
Árni’s use of the singular when talking about whale hunting is not meant entirely in jest. It has recently come to light that Iceland’s whaling “industry” is more or less the business venture of a single man, Kristján Loftsson.
With disagreements within the government over whaling, and possible sanctions looming, it is still not clear what official response the Icelandic government will take.



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News In Brief: Late September

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 Fortunately for us, the Holurhraun eruption (discussed here and here) has not produced airplane-choking ash clouds nor led to devastating glacial flooding. There have, however, been continuous plumes  of sulphur dioxide wafting through mostly North and East Iceland from the site of the Holuhraun  eruption, giving police another reason to cordon off a large swath of Iceland from public access. Not that  this hasn’t stopped a few idiots from blithely driving into an eruption site anyway. New forms of natural  selection ahoy! Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson is exploring the legalisation of drugs, going so far as to  agree

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Arca To Co-Produce New Björk Album

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The follow-up to Björk’s 2011 album ‘Biophilia’ will be co-produced by Brooklyn based Venezuelan artist Arca, reports Pitchfork Media. Arca has previously collaborated with Kanye West on his album Yeezus and FKA Twigs on EP2. Björk’s last album Biophilia has far surpassed the boundaries of a simple studio album and by embracing new technology has found its way into Nordic school curriculums and been the inspiration for a film which recently premiered at Manchester International Festival.

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Thousand Litres Of Icelandic Christmas Beer Lost

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A thousand litres of the Christmas beer, Þvörusleikir (named after Icelandic Yule Lad “Spoon Licker”), was poured down the drain at Borg Brugghús in recent days, reports Nútíminn. Árni Long, Borg Brugghús (Borg Brewery’s) master brewer told Nútíminn that he would not distribute a beer he was even a little unsatisfied with. “This is obviously a tragedy for beer enthusiasts like us,” said Árni. “But at the same time it’s something you must learn to tolerate as master brewer for an innovative brewery. These 1.000 litres of Christmas beer simply did not measure up to the standards we set for [our

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UN Women’s Conference To Include Women After All

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Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, has said women will be included in the UN Conference on women after all, but it remains unclear exactly how they will be included, reports Newsweek. As reported yesterday, Gunnar Bragi announced in a speech at the UN General Assembly that Iceland in cooperation with Suriname was planning to host a “Male Only” UN conference inviting male leaders worldwide to discuss violence against women and other women’s issues. The news was met with a barrage of criticism with people wondering why Iceland, a global leader in gender equality, would purposely exclude women from a

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Surgeons May Strike

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After failed attempts at negotiations with State authorities, surgeons at the national university hospital Landspítalinn will vote, later this week, on a potential strike. The strike action would commence in two weeks and postpone 150 operations each week. 5,000 people currently await operation, according to RÚV. In case of a strike, surgeons would still do emergency operations. Minister of Healthcare, Kristján Þór Júlíusson, has said that he supports the surgeons’ demands and will discuss the matter with Minister of Finance, Bjarni Benediktsson.

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Minister Proposes Privatization To Finance New Hospital

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Healthcare Minister Kristján Þór Júlíusson has proposed that the State sell some assets to finance the construction of new hospital building. In a radio interview broadcast by RÚV Wednesday morning, he stated: “We should proceed by transferring assets that belong to Icelanders in common to another form of ownership, in order to be able to reconstruct our national hospital, as everyone agrees we must do.” As journalist Jóhann Hauksson already pointed out, in pre-2008 Icelandic, ‘transferring assets to another form of ownership’ would have been simply called privatization. The Minister evaluates State assets at a total neat 1,000 billion ISK,

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