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No Evidence Of Wrongdoing In US Embassy Surveillance Case

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Published December 8, 2011

The state prosecutor’s office has concluded that the US embassy in Iceland broke no Icelandic laws when conducting a Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU) that aroused controversy last year.
Last November, the US embassy admitted engaging in SDUs in Iceland. An SDU is essentially extending security surveillance from beyond the building of the embassy itself and into the neighbourhood around it. A Norwegian blogger added to this explanation in more detail, saying in part “the SDU will be stationed outside the embassy, working in plain clothes and will do its best not to be noticed or seen as having anything to do with the embassy. The members will normally be recruited from police or military intelligence, and are usually very experienced in their chosen field. They will actively follow, photograph, videotape and monitor persons that they deem to be deserving of that treatment.”
Embassy spokesperson Laura Gritz emphasised though that SDUs are “neither secret nor spying. It is not used against a host country or its citizens. It is simply to watch for suspicious activity within the vicinity of the embassy and its employees.” US Ambassador to Iceland Luis E. Arreaga-Rodas reiterated this, explaining on the news show Kastljósið that the US has no reason to spy on Icelanders, as the US and Iceland are friends. He added that the SDU is just a security measure, designed to save lives, focused exclusively on suspicious activity.
Nonetheless, the Ministry of Justice refered the matter to the state prosecutor for review. Vísir now reports that the state prosecutor has found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the US embassy.
The state prosecutor said that there was furthermore nothing to indicate that embassy employees, or anyone the embassy hired, broke any Icelandic laws in conducting SDUs. As such, the office found no need to pursue the matter further, and the case has been dropped.



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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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