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Looking Back

Looking Back

Published January 11, 2008

Dog Cheats Death, Photographer Escapes Angry Mob
The most peculiar news story of 2007 is the adventurous tale of Lúkas the Chinese Crested dog wonder who was reported to have met his fate last June in a most gruesome manner.

The dog was reported missing mid-May, and repeated search missions failed. Mid-June, media reports suggested that Lúkas might have been stuffed in a gym bag, which was subsequently used as a ball-alternative in a game of football between a group of young men during a drunken weekend in Akureyri. A young photographer was named in relation to the heinous act. Soon his mobile phone, e-mail and blog-site were flooded with hundreds of messages – in addition to various blog posts and chat room messages – promising him a fate worse than the dog’s, while dog lovers performed candlelight memorial services around the country.

Two weeks later, Lúkas was found alive near Akureyri. He was in good health, despite having lived in the wild for nearly two months. The young photographer has filed criminal charges against more than 100 people for threats of bodily harm – the highest number ever filed at once in Iceland.

Hotel Ousts Pornography Convention, Shuts Down In-house Porn Channel
Over one hundred producers of internet pornography and other industry insiders were scheduled to gather in Iceland for a week-long annual convention in Reykjavík in March 2007. The convention, called Snowgathering, is one of the largest meetand- greet sessions of the calendar for internet porn-merchants.

The scheduled convention was promptly cancelled after a collective outcry – from city officials including the Mayor, Members of Parliament, and various women’s rights groups – forced the Icelandic Farmers Association, owners of Hotel Saga, to cancel the group’s booking with the Hotel.

A statement from Freeones.com, the event’s organisers, expressed dismay at this treatment, stating, “It seems that being connected in any way to pornography has become a new Icelandic law for declaring you a persona non grata in their country. A country that seems to care more about adult women taking their clothes off – by their own choice, without any pressure or threat – than about the extinction of living creatures like whales!”

In the wake of Hotel Saga’s decision to cancel the pornographers’ convention, a decision was made to shut down the hotel’s in-house pay-perview porn channel.

Iceland Calls Trooper Home
In September last year, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, decided to call home the single Icelandic trooper stationed in Iraq. The lone trooper was a member of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU) and served as a media representative in Bagdad.

John Craddock, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe for NATO and the US European Command expressed his disappointment with Gísladóttir’s decision, stating that Iceland was an important NATO member. Gísladóttir said the decision coincided with the government’s declaration that it regretted the war in Iraq, and the decision to support the invasion. She also stated that in the future, Iceland would support development programs in Iraq, like educational programs for Iraqi refugees, rather than war efforts.

Despite voicing her displeasure with the war in Iraq, ICRU members are still serving in Afghanistan.

Art Student Jailed in Canada for Artistic Bomb Threat
A young Icelandic art student, Þórarinn Ingi Jónsson, was arrested in Toronto in November for placing a sculpture that resembled a bomb outside the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). The Museum was vacated and the Canadian Foundation for AIDS research was forced to cancel a fundraising gala scheduled at the museum that night.

Jónsson, a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design, turned himself in to police authorities stating that he intended the sculpture, called ‘This is Not a Bomb,’ to be part of video installation project for college and that he had no idea the museum was hosting an AIDS benefit that night. He was released a day later after surrendering his passport, undear the conditions that he stay away from both the Royal Ontario Museum and explosives.

He still faces charges of causing mischief and being a public nuisance. Speaking with the Toronto Star newspaper, Toronto police Detective Leslie Dunkley said Jónsson could face up to four years in prison if convicted. “It’s a very serious offence,” said Dunkley, noting that the bomb threat kept about two dozen police busy and shut down nearby streets. “We take it seriously and we don’t want to encourage it.”

Jónsson was suspended from the Ontario College of Art and Design and two faculty members were suspended with pay, pending an internal investigation. Speaking with vísir.is, Jónsson said he was proud of the work, and pointed out that the Canadian public had never spent as much time talking about art.

Icelandic Teen Calls President Bush
One Saturday night in early December, Vífill Atlason, a 16-year-old student from Akranes, placed a call to one George W. Bush, President of the U.S.A. Using a secret phone number, Atlason reached the President’s secretary and introduced himself as Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, and requested a meeting with President Bush.

As it turned out, President Bush was not available at the time, but the secretary promised him a call-back from the President the following Monday. Instead of hearing from Bush, Atlason was visited by the police who took him to the station for questioning.

“I got this number from a friend of mine years ago, and it is a direct number for what is called the ‘security room’ in the White House,” Atlason told vísir.is. Speaking with ABC News, White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore insisted that Atlason did not dial a private number but instead dialled 202-456-1414, the main switchboard for the West Wing. That was not the case. The student gave ABC News the number, which verified that it is indeed an extension of the White House switchboard and goes to a security command post office in the building next door to the White House.

Atlason said he just wanted to chat with the President and invite him to Iceland. “I just wanted to talk to him about life and existence over a good hamburger,” he told vísir.is. He added that his parents did not punish him for his prank.

Iceland’s Very Own Royal Blackmailer
In November, news broke that Ian Strachan, aka Paul Aðalsteinsson, had been arrested in London for attempting to extort money from a member of the British Royal Family. According to the Sunday Times, two men contacted a member of the royal staff and demanded £50,000, threatening to go public with video recordings involving sex and drugs if their demand was not met.

The men said they had evidence that a member of the Royal Family had supplied an aide with an envelope containing cocaine and that they had a video tape showing the aide performing oral sex on the royal. A detective posing as a member of the royal staff arranged a meeting at the Hilton hotel on London’s Park Lane on 11 September, where parts of the video were shown. Scotland Yard detectives, secretly filming the meeting from an adjacent room, then arrested the two suspects.

Aðalsteinsson/Strachan, whose father is Icelandic, has lived in Aberdeen for most of his life, but Icelandic media has been quick to establish him as the latest in a row of notable Icelanders abroad, although some confusion has raged over his actual ties to Iceland. Aðalsteinsson/Strachan lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano – who defended Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein among others – maintains that Aðalsteinsson/Strachan has an Icelandic passport and dual citizenship, while Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that he is not an Icelandic citizen and has never held an Icelandic passport. If convicted, Strachan/Aðalsteinsson could serve his time in Iceland, where he could be released after serving a third of his sentence.



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