From Iceland — News In Brief: Late May

News In Brief: Late May

Published May 28, 2013

News In Brief: Late May
Rex Beckett

The month of May swept in with bad weather and grizzly news, as whale hunting resumed and the first minke whale of the season was shot. International animal welfare groups expressed outrage over Iceland’s whaling practices and called for the EU and the United States to impose sanctions on the country.
More macabre news came in from the east as the first murder of the year was reported. A man in his fifties was found on his porch having been stabbed to death. Another resident of the man’s apartment building was taken into custody to try to explain why he had the victim’s blood all over his shirt.
But bloodshed was not the only unfortunate news. With no place else to go, five homeless people sought shelter at a Reykjavík prison. This poignant situation was made all the more absurd by the fact that several were turned away from staying at the city’s homeless shelter because they were not registered city residents. Because that would probably mean they had, you know, homes.
Non-Icelandic residents were also an issue of concern for the owners of Reykjahlíð in the M‡vatnssveit area, who are concerned that tourism is taking its toll on the region. The owners are proposing to begin charging fees for tourists to visit landmarks such as Dettifoss, Námafjall and Dimmuborgir to build infrastructure and maintain safety.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson geared up to defend the threat of possible EU sanctions due to Iceland’s mackerel fishing. He asserted to European fishing lobbyists that the EU imposing these sanctions would violate the terms of the EEA agreement. The sea was angry that day, my friends.
Speaking of rage, someone set fire to the Mormon Church in Gar›abær. One room was badly damaged but fire fighters stopped it from spreading. The next day, police arrested a man who was seen on CCTV footage at a nearby gas station filling up a gasoline canister found at the scene. He gave no motive and was reportedly unstable.
A little more stability came to children’s dentistry as a new insurance agreement went into effect to cover most of the costs of care. The agreement is being implemented in stages over the course of the year, starting with the most at-risk-for-cavities age group—15 to 17—what with all the nammi and Coke they consume.
Breast health was also a hot topic after CEO and co-founder of deCODE genetics Inc. Kári Stefánssson announced that his company has coded information about 2,400 Icelanders with the breast cancer gene, BRCA2, of which he said about half are women with an 80% likelihood of developing breast cancer. He would like to inform carriers in order for them to make an informed health decision, while public health authorities are resistant to allow this due to privacy concerns.
As the world celebrated May 17 as the anniversary of the declassification of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder, the International Gay & Lesbian Association published the Rainbow Europe Package report which ranked Iceland in tenth place for gay and trans rights. The scores were marked out of 100% of which Iceland received 56%, prompting the president of Samtökin ’78 to state that more work is needed here for recognising LGBTI issues and rights.
Sweden scored 66% on the same report and proudly displayed and supported gay rights at the annual Eurovision song contest, with not one but two same-sex wedding scenarios! Iceland’s contestant Eyþór Ingi made it into the finals with the mother-language power-ballad “Ég á líf” but it proved not to stand a chance next to Denmark’s pan-flute infused pop tune “Only Teardrops.”
Finally there were the American tourists who felt it would be a wise idea to have a picnic on the edge of an ice sheet. As luck would have it, the chunk of ice they were eating on then broke off and floated away. A rescue team was deployed and found them calmly sitting there as the ice floe drifted 10 metres from the shore, seemingly oblivious to the extreme danger they were in. They were safely rescued, but their picnic was ruined.

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