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News In Brief: November

Published November 12, 2012

The month of October began on a peaceful note with the LENNONONO Awards given in Reykjavík. These awards, which recognise efforts made for the cause of world peace, were this year presented to late peace activist Rachel Corrie, author John Perkins, noted anti-theist Christopher Hitchens, Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot, and pop singer Lady Gaga. While some wondered how Hitchens—who was a prominent cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq—ended up receiving a peace award, the event was by all accounts joyously celebrated and it was followed by the lighting of Ono’s “Peace Tower” on the island of Viðey.
A bit of an environmental scare took hold when hay near an aluminium smelter in northeast Iceland was found to have high levels of fluoride. Farmers were immediately informed of the potential contamination and advised not to feed the hay to their animals until it was deemed safe. After a thorough examination, it was determined that levels of fluoride in the hay were far below what are considered dangerous levels, and the farmers were given the green light to give the fluoridated hay to their horse and sheep—all of whom are now reported to have beautiful smiles.
Speaking of animals that were almost poisoned, a dog show in Kópavogur was temporarily cancelled when pieces of liver sausage were found scattered around the area. Tests done at the University of Iceland revealed that the pieces did indeed contain high levels of rat poison. For the time being, there are no known suspects or motives, but police are still investigating.
Were you thinking of visiting Álftanes next year? Too bad! It won’t exist anymore. Earlier this month, residents of Álftanes and Garðabær voted in a referendum in favour of merging their communities, which will take effect next year. The new town is to be named, imaginatively enough, “Garðabær.” One resident of the old Garðabær complained that the referendum information packets were one-sidedly in favour of the merger between the relatively wealthy Garðabær and the debt-ridden Álftanes, but hey, all water under the bridge now!
In other news, Icelanders voted yes to a new constitution earlier this month in an advisory referendum made up of six questions. About 49% of eligible voters took part, with two-thirds of them voting in favour of parliament accepting the draft that the Constitutional Council has written. They also voted in favour of nationalising natural resources that hadn’t already been privatised, creating a “one person = one vote” rule, and keeping a clause about a national church in the new constitution. Media sources the world over subsequently reported the constitution had been written by the nation as a whole via Facebook and Twitter.
Finally the most widely read story this month—thanks in part to Pee-Wee-Herman for sharing it—was the story of police breaking up a cat party in Suðurnes. Neighbours of an abandoned house noticed cats coming in and out of an open window of the house and, naturally, they called the police. When the police showed up, they found no people in the house but they did find “two to three cats” snuggling on the couch. The cats were summarily evicted and the house was shut tight by the police thereafter. Whoever said cats have it easy clearly has never tried to be one in Suðurnes.



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More Labour Unions Criticise Prime Minister

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Another labour union group has criticised the proposed 2015 budget, while Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson doubts unions will make good on their threat to walk out over it. In a new statement from the Húsavík Labour Union Office (Framsýn) entitled “The heart of the government doesn’t beat with working people”, the labour union group harshly criticises the proposed 2015 budget. “It is obvious that the government has no interest in working with the labour movement in creating a society based on equality,” the statement reads in part. “The labour movement is duty bound and will respond very clearly in

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Interior Minister Assistant On Trial

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One of the Minister of the Interior’s assistants is currently on trial for his part in the leak of a memo about asylum seeker Tony Omos. Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, a former assistant to Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, was charged with breach of confidentiality and relieved of his position last August. He is now on trial in Reykjavík District Court, and the matter is already proving contentious. Vísir points out that even while no longer employed at the Ministry and currently standing trial, Gísli Freyr is still receiving a full salary. “This kind of comes out of nowhere,

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Asylum Seekers To Get Health Coverage

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A new bill from the Minister of Health would provide health insurance coverage to Iceland’s asylum seekers. Currently, only those asylum seekers who were expressly invited to Iceland by the government have had immediate health coverage. RÚV reports that this may soon change. This Tuesday, Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson will submit a bill to parliament that, if passed into law, would provide health insurance to all asylum seekers, whether they were invited or arrived of their own accord. This coverage would go into effect immediately upon an asylum seeker being registered as such. Under the present system, asylum

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Icelandic Weather Report For 2050

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Birta Líf Kristinsdóttir, a meteorologist with the Icelandic Met Office has posted a video of what a weather report might look like in Iceland in July 2050, reports RÚV. The video has been made in conjunction with the UN Climate Change Summit in New York next week. By 2050, Birta Líf predicts that Iceland will be much greener with summer temperatures reaching between 20-30 degrees celsius. She also goes over the ramifications of the warmer climate and how it might effect the acidification of the sea. Check out her video below, the first half is in Icelandic (subtitled) but stick

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Cardboard Cutout Stolen, Hijinks Ensue

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A stolen cardboard cutout of actor and comedian Pétur Jóhann Sigfússon has been taken on a Facebook adventure, reports DV. The cutout of Pétur, who best known internationally for co-writing and starring in Næturvaktin alongside Jón Gnarr, was stolen from Hagkaup supermarket in Reykjanesbær. Since then cardboard Pétur – or Pappír Pési (Paper Pete) as the cutout is referred to in the media – has been to the tanning salon, worked at a kiosk in Grindavík, and checked out a farm. Paper Pete’s extensive adventures over the past few days have been documented on a Facebook page though the police say

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Pet Cockroaches Seized By Customs

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Icelandic Customs Officers recently seized 3 Madagascar cockroaches in a plastic container, reports RÚV. A foreign traveller brought them over and was stopped at the airport on his way into the country and informed the Customs Officers that they were his pets. His fiancé had convinced him to take them along so that he would not be bored while staying in Iceland. Importing living animals into Iceland is illegal, so the gentleman’s pet roaches were confiscated by the authorities.

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