Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So, what did Curiosity find in Mars?

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

There are a number of press reports suggesting that the NASA Mars probe Curiosity found something that will be recorded in the history books.  While speculation will no doubt range widely as to the nature of the find, I know that the Icelandic scientific community and the Icelandic public look forward to finding out what the discovery is.  We may find this out as early as Monday.  Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Powerhouse Alaska delegation visits Iceland

The Embassy had the pleasure of welcoming, briefing, and supporting a powerhouse delegation from Alaska composed of legislators, university researchers, government and business leaders who are visiting Iceland to explore building stronger business, government, cultural and educational alliances between Alaska and Iceland. The delegation was organized by the Institute of the North – a think tank dedicated to exploring, convening, and discussing the opportunities and challenges throughout the Arctic. It was evident from the beginning of their interactions that Iceland and Alaska share many of the same challenges and opportunities provided by the Arctic and that leaders from both have similar values and outlook. The delegation is meeting with Icelandic business leaders and senior government officials. This visit demonstrates the growing partnership between Iceland and the United States in Arctic matters and is also a concrete example of the many values and interests that we share.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Demonstrations in Reykjavik and U.S. engagement in the Gaza conflict

Many Icelanders came to the Embassy yesterday to express peacefully their views about the ongoing conflict in Gaza. They asked for the United States to intervene to stop the conflict and prevent the loss of life. The United States favors a lasting peace that includes the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel. We also recognize the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks on its population. Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton are indeed engaged and working with leaders in the region to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. In fact, Secretary Clinton is on her way to the region where she will visit Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Cairo to consult on the situation in the region. She will emphasize the United States' interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel's security and regional stability; that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza; and that can reopen the path to fulfill the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for peace and security.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fulbright scholars in Iceland – a rich mix of disciplines and personalities

We had over for coffee at the Residence a group of American scholars currently in Iceland under the Fulbright program. It was a wonderfully diverse group of scientists and scholars in the humanities doing fascinating work in Iceland. Gene Williams is doing research at Hólar University on the long term thermal acclimation of fish in the Icelandic Arctic; At the University of Iceland, Larissa Kyzer is conducting a study of modern Icelandic literature, Tenley Banik is studying the progression of rift openings in South Iceland, and James Leary is studying Nordic cultures and American roots music while engaging his students in modern folkloric research . Lindsay Huffhines at Reykjavik University is studying factors that predict parental support of sexually abused children. During a lively exchange, I could sense these scholars are very enthusiastic about being in Iceland and well on their way to making lifelong professional and personal friendships with their Icelandic hosts.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election Night in Iceland was thrilling

One of the biggest thrills for American diplomats is to be overseas on Presidential Election Day and to share election night with our hosts. Last night we were honored that so many of our Icelandic friends accepted our invitation to join us and wait for the election results.

We had well over 800 guests join us at an election night party at the Hilton that ended early this morning as results pointed to the re-election of our current President. While our democratic system is not perfect, it has served us well throughout our history and our citizens believe in it.

As for last night, it was inspiring for us to see so many young Icelanders join us and share in the revelry of watching democracy in action. The futures of both our nations rest on young people, their interest in our political processes, and their belief that they can make a difference. We saw that youthful dynamism in the United States and Iceland.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ever been to an unConference?

Our Embassy participated in Iceland’s first Innovation Unconference. It was a partnership between Landsbanki and the University of Iceland and Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council where entrepreneurs can meet investors and mentors to discuss new business ventures and how to drive further innovation in Iceland. The lead presenter was Joshua Kauffman who energized participants and helped to define the key challenges and opportunities facing Iceland’s innovators. I believe that there is a natural synergy between Icelandic ideas and American venture-capital funds and markets. This latest event is one more indication of the opportunities before us to promote entrepreneurship, innovation, and startups. It is a win-win for both the United States and Iceland.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Airwaves – A world of beautiful music in intimate settings

The Airwaves festival brings some of the world's most creative music talent to Reykjavik where they perform in mostly very intimate settings where one can almost touch the music.
The Embassy honored a group of young American and Icelandic composers and performers including the incomparable Nico Muhly, Paul Corley, Sam Amidon, Nadia Sirota, Puzzle Muteson, Daniel Bjarnasson, and Ben Frost   These artists came to Iceland through the Bedroom Community record label/collective which was established by Valgeir Sigurðsson, a very accomplished composer himself and purveyor of beautiful music.  Mary and I attended most of their performances, cementing our admiration of their music.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Supporting Iceland’s Search and Rescue Teams (Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg)

Iceland has a unique and highly effective Search and Rescue Team model. It is as grassroots-based as any organization can be. My guess is that 100% of the Icelandic population supports the many volunteers from all walks of life who receive rigorous training to become Search and Rescue team members. We have one Search and Rescue worker in our office and are glad to release him any time duty calls. Yesterday, I visited the “Bjorgunarsveitin Ársæll” unit in Reykjavik to purchase this year’s edition of the popular keychains that the Search and Rescue teams sell to raise funds for their organizations. I met with several volunteers, including supporters who were donating their labor to complete brand-new facilities for that group. May they raise a lot of money as this is a great cause.