The Garden Past the Monsters

Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir

Rain and birdsong, friends’ voices chatting and laughing, woodwinds, breathy strings, muted piano, the strumming of an acoustic guitar. That’s the gentle and dreamy world that greets the listener on the opening of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s first solo album How to Start a Garden. Over this inviting soundscape, her voice enters: Signing off and I can […]

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Emmsjé Gauti Releases 2023 National Festival Song

National Festival

Icelandic musician Emmsjé Gauti was recruited to compose the official song for this year’s National Festival, held annually in the Westman Islands. The song, Þúsund hjörtu, was released today, alongside the song’s music video.

“Everyone sets out to do something different”

“Sometimes there are just things that work, and in those cases, you shouldn’t mess with them too much, but rather – make them more of your own,” musician Gauti Þeyr Másson, better known as Emmsjé Gauti, told Vísir in an interview today surrounding the release of a music video to Þúsund hjörtu (A Thousand Hearts), the official song of this year’s National Festival (i.e. Þjóðhátíð).

“I think everyone who gets entrusted with this project sets out wanting to do something different, but there are certain formulas in place,” Gauti continued, adding that the process had been a lot of fun. “We managed to compose a National Festival song that’s in our style.”

The song and lyrics were written by Emmsjé Gauti and producer Þormóður Eiríksson. Jón Ragnar Jónsson is credited as the song’s co-author. The three choirs featured in the song are the Men’s Choir of the Westman Islands, the Women’s Choir of the Westman Islands, and Fjallabræður.

The annual National Festival, first held in 1874 to commemorate the 1,000-year anniversary of Iceland’s settlement, draws over 10,000 attendees every summer.

Opioid Crisis: Over 1,730 Doses of Naloxone Distributed

A procedural change to the delivery of naloxone, a medication used to reverse or reduce the effects of opioids, has greatly increased its distribution; over 1,730 doses of naloxone nasal spray have been distributed to companies and organisations assisting individuals struggling with opioid addiction since the new procedure was implemented last year.

“Life-saving” medicine

As noted in a press release on the government’s website, a life-saving nasal spray containing naloxone is now more accessible nationwide as a first response to opioid overdoses. The revised delivery arrangement allows individuals to obtain the medicine at no cost. Opioid-containing substances, such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl, oxycodone, buprenorphine, and morphine, are examples of drugs where naloxone can be administered.

As noted by the press release, naloxone previously required a prescription directly from a doctor to the patient. Following a modification to the procedure last year, doctors have been allowed to prescribe the drug to companies or organisations assisting individuals struggling with opioid addiction and/or their relatives.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Health has covered all costs of the drug through a tender by the National University Hospital (Landspítali), responsible for inventory and distribution. Various entities, including health institutions, police departments, homeless shelters, the Icelandic Red Cross, and Reykjavík City’s Welfare Division, have benefitted from this arrangement. “Over 1,730 doses of naloxone nasal spray have been distributed to these parties since the new procedure was implemented.”

The press release further notes that to combat the growing problem of opioid overuse, the government recently announced that it had approved Minister of Health Willum Þórs Þórsson’s proposals, including an increased budget for expanded distribution of naloxone nasal spray.

“Following successful examples from other countries, the Ministry of Health aims to replicate their success in reducing opioid overdose deaths. Emergency responders and service providers assisting individuals with opioid addiction are encouraged to keep emergency doses of naloxone on hand for immediate treatment while emphasising the importance of seeking medical care afterwards for further treatment.”

In Focus: Police Powers

police iceland

Regularly ranked as one of the most peaceful places in the world, Reykjavík visitors were greeted by rather unusual sights this May. Police officers armed with submachine guns prowled the streets, helicopters hovered overhead, and surveillance cameras kept their silent watch over downtown. Though security measures had been heightened for the Council of Europe Summit […]

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EFTA Surveillance Authority to Investigate Whaling in Iceland

whale Iceland hvalur

The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) – which monitors compliance with European Economic Area rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – intends to investigate whaling off the coast of Iceland. The case has been expedited. The Iceland Nature Conservation Association has also demanded that the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) revoke the operating licence of the whaling company Hvalur and has reported the company to the police, RÚV reports.

Claim that operations are not up to standards

As noted by RÚV, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) awarded the whaling company Hvalur an indefinite operating licence in 2021 related to the processing, cutting, freezing, and storage of whale products. The licence is dependent on the company fulfilling the legal requirements for its activities. The Iceland Nature Conservation Association is now calling for the licence to be revoked.

Katrín Oddsdóttir, attorney for the Iceland Nature Conservation Association, told RÚV that the call for revocation was predicated on the association’s belief that Hvalur had not followed laws and regulations during its processing of whale products. “We have been calling for reports from various sources, and it turns out that things are not up to standards in many regards, in terms of the hunting and processing of whale products, for example.”

Pollution prevention lacking

RÚV notes that a report from the Health Inspectorate of West Iceland published last year found that pollution prevention at Hvalur’s processing plant was inadequate. A spring near the company’s plant was unprotected, and the report stated that the water could easily be polluted. The report also notes that oil pollution prevention in the processing area was not up to standards.

“Furthermore, the hygiene in the plant itself does not seem to be particularly admirable, according to a report from MAST,” Katrín added. Samples of whale meat taken by MAST showed higher-than-permissible levels of bacteria. “Which is naturally very serious, because, of course, this is about food safety … which is why we’ve also referred the matter to the EFTA Surveillance Authority.”

ESA reviewing the case

RÚV reports that the ESA announced today that it intended to investigate Hvalur’s whaling operations and that the case would be expedited. Katrín told RÚV that she hoped that a result would be reached before the start of the whaling season, which usually begins in the middle of June. “Of course, we hope that we will get help from the outside to point out the absurdity of whaling in the modern era.”

According to Katrín, “administrative enabling” in Iceland had thus far prevented Hvalur’s licence from being revoked: “There is a tendency within the administration to overlook deviations and things that obviously do not comply with regulations. When it comes to regulations regarding drinking water and pollution prevention, the issue is serious.” As noted by RÚV, representatives of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association filed a complaint against the company Hvalur to the Police in West Iceland yesterday.

Anti-whaling protest on Saturday

As noted on IR this week, Icelandic musician Björk will participate in an anti-whaling protest in Reykjavík on Saturday, June 3. The organisers of the event are urging the Icelandic government to put a stop to whaling immediately.

New Car Sales Rise Despite High Interest Rates, Inflation

driving in reykjavík

The sale of new cars rose during the month of May when compared to sales during the same month last year, RÚV reports. This increase is even more pronounced among individual buyers. A total of 695 new cars were purchased in May, compared to 511 last year: an increase of over 36%.

Up by nearly 15%

As noted in an article on the website of the Icelandic Federation for Motor Trades and Repairs (i.e. Bílgreinasmbandið, an association of employers in the sale of vehicles, products, and services) in early of May, sales of new vehicles in April increased by 16.1% compared to April of last year; a total of 1,629 new were registered compared to 1,403 last year. “Overall, after the first four months of the year, sales of newly registered vehicles have increased by 11%. This year, 5,129 new passenger cars have been sold compared to 4,621 new passenger cars last year,” the articles notes.

This trend has continued in May. Although high interest rates and inflation have a significant impact on those buying vehicles on credit, this is not yet reflected in the figures for car sales in the month of May, María Jóna Magnúsdóttir, Managing Director of the Icelandic Federation for Motor Trades and Repairs, stated in an interview with RÚV.

As noted by RÚV, sales of new cars rose in May, compared to the same month last year, increasing by over 36%. Electric cars account for the most significant part of the increase. “There is a considerable increase, especially among individual buyers. The main reason for that is that in May of last year, the supply of electric cars was small; electric vehicles form a large share of the vehicles sold to individuals this May. Last year there were about 278 electric vehicles sold to individuals, compared to about 500 in May of this year,” María Jóna observed.

Tesla may skew the statistics

Electric cars are by far the most popular type of vehicle, accounting for nearly 40% of all cars sold, with electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid cars being 75% of the total of new cars sold. RÚV notes that Toyotas are the most popular of new cars followed by Teslas. As Tesla often delivers more vehicles at once, compared to other manufacturers, this may serve to skew the statistics. “Tesla has become big in the individual market, and when they’re delivering such a number of vehicles at short intervals, it affects the market, which means that it’s good to review the figures over a longer period for more accurate data.”

Starting to have an impact

Car rentals purchase a significant number of vehicles at this time of year. Sales to individual buyers, however, are noteworthy – especially in light of the current conditions, i.e. high inflation and high interest rates. “If we examine the numbers over the whole year, new car sales to individuals are up by about 3.6%.”

When asked if the figures in May had begun to reflect higher interest rates and borrowing fees, María responded thusly: “No, maybe not at this exact moment, but, of course, it’s beginning to have an impact; when car loans are almost in the double digits, it begins to affect buyers who are financing with loans,” María Jóna observed.

In a recent interview on Bankrate, Sarah Foster, senior US economy reporter, explained the effect of inflation on auto loan rates, noting the goal of higher interest rates in layman’s terms: “Higher borrowing costs don’t just disincentivize spending but squeeze people out of being able to afford big-ticket items, causing the economy to slow … the hope is that eventually, those higher rates will crush demand so much that inflation eventually drops.”

Deep North Episode 28: A Matter of State

council of europe summit reykjavík

It’s a cold spring day in Reykjavík and winds buffet hopeful tourists in flip-flops. Above, the sky hangs low, an endless expanse of grey. Normal enough for May. Today, however, bulletproof, black limousines loiter in front of Harpa and reports of cyberattacks filter out of Alþingi. A helicopter belches shimmering-hot wakes of exhaust as it lists over Reykjavík rooftops. And on these rooftops, men on radios armed with binoculars and high-powered sniper rifles scan the city below.

For most Icelanders, these are sights only seen in the movies. This is the fourth-ever summit of the Council of Europe, and it’s likely the most important event hosted in the small island nation since the 1986 meeting of Reagan and Gorbachev.