ISK 5.8 Million to Brighten Peace Tower

Yoko Ono’s art installation on Reykjavík’s Viðey island has never shone brighter, Vísir reports. The column of light, known as the Imagine Peace Tower, received an upgrade this year in the form of new mirrors which make the work brighter and more beautiful than before, according to Sigurður Trausti Traustason of the Reykjavík Art Museum, which oversees the work.

The Imagine Peace Tower is an outdoor work of art conceived by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon. The white stone monument emits a tower of light, which extends upward at least 4,000 metres (13,100 feet) on a clear night.

The tower is illuminated in a special ceremony which takes place every year on October 9th, Lennon’s birthday. Nearly 1,800 people attended the ceremony last month, a record for the event. According to Sigurður, lighting the tower involves a bit more than just flipping a switch.

“Each year a group goes out to Viðey to align the tower. There are nine spotlights which form the tower and they need to be straight,” Sigurður explains. One staff member lights the first spotlight while four others evaluate whether or not it is pointing straight up.

“It’s easier said than done as the work stands on open ground and there’s nothing to compare against. It’s similar to a larger work in New York, where the twin towers once stood, and there they’ve got all these straight skyscrapers to measure against,” Sigurður states. He adds that the team often calls a friend on the mainland to judge whether the light is perfectly vertical.

“It happened once that we thought we had finished the job, but when we had gained some distance we saw that the beam was quite crooked. By then it was just too late so we had go out to the island the following day to fix the work.”

The new mirrors cost of ISK 5.8 million ($46,000/€42,000). That’s a fair price to pay, considering the Tower’s overall cost since its inauguration in 2007 has been just over ISK 40 million ($321,000/€290,000).

Harm Reduction Strategy Aims to Prevent Spread of HIV

A small group of individuals struggling with addiction has been receiving the medications Ritalin or Contalgin in exchange for taking HIV or Hepatitis C medication, Vísir reports. The initiative aims to decrease the spread of HIV And Hepatitis C among drug users. Staff of Reykjavík’s Welfare Department distribute the medications.

Ritalin is a prescription stimulant often used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, while contalgin contains a derivative of morphine. Már Kristjánsson, Head Physician of Infectious Diseases at the National Hospital, says there are currently five or six individuals partaking in such an arrangement.

“In order to make progress, we make a contract with these individuals. We look at their medical history, and if there is a medical reason to prescribe habit-forming medication then we make an agreement with them. Then we prescribe a strong painkiller or a stimulant in one pill in exchange for them taking HIV medication or medication for Hepatitis C,” explains Már, who adds that it is most often a family doctor that writes the prescription.

The project has been running for around one year and proved effective. Már would like to see it expanded. “We’ve managed to keep these individuals, which have no other resources, virus free.” He underlines that such arrangements are rarely necessary, however. “There are plenty of addicts who despite their drug use can take care of their own treatment, but there is a small group which is so far gone that they can’t come and are not trustworthy [when it comes to taking their] medication.”

Baldur Bergþórsson, substitute city councillor for the Centre Party, has been vocally opposed to the project, saying that it entails giving illegal drugs to addicts who are struggling the most. “They get strong prescription drugs that they crush. They then get equipment, syringes, needles, elastic to tie their arms, a cup to cook the material in, and then they get bathroom facilities on Lindargata which they can use as an injection site.”

Hrafnhildur Ólafsdóttir of the Municipal Service Centre for Vesturbær, Miðborg, and Hlíðar, agrees with Már that the project should be expanded. She underlines that the drug distribution is always carried out by nurses.

Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason says the project is not in his jurisdiction, but expressed his support for out of the box strategies that facilitate collaboration with difficult individuals. “These harm reduction solutions are precisely for facilitating co-operation with this group.”

Icelandic Journalists On Strike Today

Icelandic journalists are striking today for the first time in over 40 years, RÚV reports. Reporters for online media, photographers, and videographers at Icelandic National Broadcaster RÚV, Fréttablaðið, Morgunblaðið, and Sýnar, who are members of the Union of Icelandic Journalists (Blaðamannafélag Íslands), are on strike between 10.00am and 2.00pm today.

The Friday strike will be repeated on the next two Fridays, Nov. 15 and November 22, if an agreement is not reached, and will be extended for longer than four hours. A strike is also scheduled for November 28, from 10.00am to 10.00pm, which will include journalists who work on the print issues of Morgunblaðið and Fréttablaðið, as well as photographers and videographers.

Negotiations at standstill

Journalists’ Union members voted to strike last week. Ten months of negotiation failed to produce an agreement between the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (SA) and journalists, and no meeting are scheduled between the parties as of publication. Of 211 members, 131 voted, with over 83% in support of the strike.

Disagree on striking technicalities

In a flyer SA sent to media, the Confederation underlined that the strike only affects union members who do the particular tasks outlined in the strike invitation. Journalists who belong to other unions are expected to perform their duties as usual, and managers are permitted to do the work of their striking employees.

Union of Icelandic Journalists chairperson Hjálmar Jónsson described SA’s position as discouraging, saying the Confederation is attempting to prevent the legal strike. Hjálmar asserts that non-union members should also participate in the work stoppage, otherwise it would have little effect. The Union has requested legal aid in interpreting SA’s position.

Play Air to Fly to Six European Cities

When the operations of the budget airline Play get off the ground, its two Airbus planes will fly to six destinations in Europe: Alicante, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Paris, and Tenerife.

With reference to “confidential” documents from a presentation held by Íslensk verðbréf for investors last week, Kjarninn reported that the airline had already negotiated slots and service hours with airports in the cities and that it had also secured a deal on fuel with BP, with a fixed price for six months.

Play will be adding four more planes to its fleet in May of next year; two more planes, a year later; and in May of 2022, Play plans on operating a total of ten planes. More destinations will gradually be added (including four American cities next year).

Flights with Play will be sold as soon as the airline secures an operating license, which is expected to happen as soon as funding is completed. Play hopes to raise ISK 1.7 billion from private investors in Iceland. The airline has secured debt financing with the British investment fund Athene Capital to an amount of ISK 5.5 billion.

In an interview with Morgunblaðið yesterday, Play’s public relations officer María Margrét Jóhannsdóttir was not willing to confirm Kjarninn’s reports. María Margrét stated that the airline’s flight network would be introduced “very soon,” or as soon as it had been finalised: “We have not finalised anything; otherwise, we would have already made an announcement.”

As Iceland Review reported last Tuesday, Play – a new Icelandic airline – was founded from the bankruptcy of WOW air and will swap out WOW’s quintessential fuschia colour for red. According to Play’s CEO Arnar Már Magnússon, the colour red was chosen to represent passion as well as Icelandic nature. WOW Air was Iceland’s only budget airline.