From Iceland — News In Brief: Late September Edition

News In Brief: Late September Edition

Published September 24, 2012

September began weirdly, as the media widely reported on a brutal attack of a six-year-old boy by a group of older boys, which allegedly left the victim hospitalised. The event was so unheard of in Iceland that it naturally gained a lot of traction. However, when police were contacted about the matter, they said that they had only learned about the attacks through the media—nobody had reported to the police that their son had been beaten and hospitalised. The matter got weirder when it came to light that the sole witness of the event was a football coach, who claimed to have stopped the attack and insisted that the parents involved didn’t want to go to the police. Right. Further digging revealed that there was no concrete evidence backing up that the attack ever happened in the first place, and police believe the matter was a hoax. What a strange way to get your name in the paper.
It also happened to be an unusually bad month to be a sheep in Iceland. Earlier in the month, several sheep died in a truck accident, ironically, on their way to the slaughterhouse. The other sheep probably thought they got off easy until they got to where they were going. Later on, many sheep in the north of Iceland found themselves stranded in foul weather and needed to be rescued from being buried alive in the snow. Again, the sheep were saved thanks to the concerted effort of the Rescue Squad and others. They were promptly shipped off to be slaughtered.
In fact, September saw some unseasonably bad weather for much of the country. The aforementioned snow and ice up north was accompanied by winds up to 25 metres per second. Power lines were downed across north Iceland, with Akureyri—the region’s largest town—losing electricity for several hours. Surrounding farms and villages found themselves without power for days afterwards.
Days later, Icelanders braced themselves for what seemed might turn into a Melancholia-level event, albeit not because a rogue planet was believed to be on its way to collide with the Earth, but because it seemed a tropical storm was headed to Iceland. The storm, Leslie, originated in the Caribbean and swung its way up the east coast of the US and Canada, before veering northeast. All estimates showed that Leslie would be at tropical storm strength by the time it reached Iceland. Fortunately, however, that day came and went with partially cloudy skies and mild winds, and so Iceland was spared destruction … for now.
Celebrity fever continued in Iceland, although Emma Watson’s visit didn’t seem to garner much media attention—until she returned home. Speaking as a guest on the Letterman show, she said she found it baffling that Icelanders would try to promote tours to go see how adorable whales and puffins are, only to follow that up by serving said animals to tourists for dinner. The remarks caused many to focus on Emma’s perceived snobbery, all the while ignoring David Letterman’s far more offensive remarks about most Icelanders being alcoholics. Maybe people are just used to Letterman being an ass, who knows?
In the tech world, it was reported that internet service providers Vodafone and Síminn—arguably Iceland’s two largest ISPs—were considering blocking access to porn and gambling sites for “computer safety” reasons, as these sites are sometimes rife with malware, with an option for customers to unblock their access after the fact. The story sparked outrage among many Icelanders, in particular those close to issues involving technology and freedom of speech. However, Vodafone spokesperson Hrannar Pétursson wrote to the Grapevine shortly after the story was printed and said that if the company went forward, the idea is that the “filter,” while put in place by default, would be completely on the user end and could be easily turned off.
Parliament opened, and this year a temporary security fence was erected around the front of the parliamentary building. This measure was likely put in place after last year’s parliamentary opening resulted in Left Green MP Árni Þór Sigurðsson getting decked in the head with an egg. However, there was little to fear, as very few protesters showed up for the opening events and the fence was taken down shortly thereafter.
They say that crime doesn’t pay, but whoever said that likely meant “any crime but insider trading.” Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Baldur Guðlaugsson—who was found guilty of insider trading and is currently serving a two-year prison sentence—now has at least two jobs while behind bars. He is one of the owners of Almenna bókafélagið (“the Public Book Society”), which will be working in close contact with the newly established libertarian “think tank” Research Centre for Innovation and Growth (RNH). And he has also more recently been hired by the law offices of Lex, where a lawyer spoke glowingly of Baldur’s experience and how it will contribute to the firm. What sort of “experience” an inside trader could bring that would be beneficial to a law office was not mentioned.

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