More than two dozen people between the ages of 13-17 from the cities of Espoo, Kouvola and Oulu talked to researchers from about their attitudes towards tobacco.
The findings of the survey, which was carried out by the Cancer Society of Finland and the Finnish Youth Research Society, indicated that a shift in attitude about smoking has taken place for teenagers in Finland.
Smoking is increasingly no longer considered tough or cool by most of the youths they spoke to, but actually dumb, according to the researchers.
Mikko Piispa, one of the study's researchers, said that health issues are important to the youths, saying the trend marks a shift from that of previous generations of younger people in Finland.
Youths who identified themselves as smokers said that if one of their peers decided to quit smoking it wouldn't mean the end of their friendship.
Respondents also told researchers that they did not think smoking tobacco made people cooler or better-liked by their peers.
According to physician Eeva Ollila from the Cancer Society, adults also play an important role in forming youths' attitudes towards smoking.
Snus, vaping viewed differently
While cigarettes are increasingly getting the cold shoulder from younger people in Finland, many think that other tobacco products like the smokeless tobacco product snus and e-cigarettes are safer.
Story continues after photo
Overall, the teens told researchers they do not think snus is as dangerous as smoking. In particular, male respondents said they think using snus is a good idea because it does not impair performance in sports.
They associated the use of smokeless tobacco with ice hockey players, a group which is known for its use of snus.
The teenage boys also said that another benefit of snus is that it is easier to hide from, for example, teachers in school.
One aspect that appears to be quelling the popularity of snus is the negative attitudes which girls said they have about the smokeless tobacco, the researchers said.
The sale of snus is banned in Finland and health authorities have said the oral tobacco is a carcinogen. But since it remains legal in neighbouring Sweden and easily imported, snus is still quite popular in Finland, across all age groups.
The National Bureau of Investigation says it has uncovered a drug trafficking ring operating in eastern and northern Finland. According to lead NBI investigator Jukka Nurmenniemi, the suspects involved in the illicit trade are all Finnish men with an average age of over 30. The men all hail from near Oulu, northern Finland, eastern Finland and northern Karelia.
"This kind of drug organisation has actors on various levels. Most of them also have a background of prior drug offences," Nurmenniemi said.
The NBI got a whiff of the operation by way of an independent investigation it was running. The police confiscated two lots of drugs from the group containing liquid amphetamines as well as distilled amphetamine that would have yielded some a total of roughly 35 kilograms of the substance.
The street value of that quantity of contraband would have reached roughly 1.5 million euros. That makes it one of the largest amphetamine hauls officials have made in Finland. The liquid amphetamine would have been used to prepare the drug used in the street trade.
"Recently there has been a visible phenomenon in Europe in which liquid amphetamine from the Netherlands or Belgium has been smuggled into a destination and only then is it distilled into amphetamine that is ready for use. Smuggling the base is no less risky than the street-ready drug because amphetamine base is also classified as a narcotic,” Nurmenniemi explained, adding that the substance was likely brought in from Europe.
"I cannot say anything about the route at this stage," he noted.
First stash found in Oulu
The first batch of contraband was seized in the Oulu region in October 2016. It comprised liquid amphetamine that was to be used to prepare roughly seven kilograms of street goods.
In June 2017, police held three people in northern Karelia, who had been refining the drug in a secluded cottage. The amphetamine seized at the cottage would have been spliced with other substances to produce some 30 kilograms of product for the street trade. Police suspect that the group had been in operation for some time.
The preliminary investigation into the operation took 18 months and has also involved officers looking abroad to connect the dots. Police have completed their probe into the suspected aggravated drug offences and the case has will soon be sent forward for consideration of charges. Police initially detained six of ten people under suspicion, but now just four are being held.
The entire case also involves suspicions of financial crimes, with officers looking into suspected aggravated money laundering as well as initiating procedures for forfeiture of criminal proceeds, including confiscating the suspects’ assets. Consideration of charges for these offences will take place next year.
Nine flights have arrived late at Helsinki Airport due to snowfall elsewhere in Europe. A blizzard is set to hit Finland on Monday night, bringing poor road conditions throughout the country.
On Sunday hundreds of flights were cancelled in Western Europe due to a snowstorm that hit the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and other countries. There were still significant delays on Monday in many parts of Western Europe.
Annika Kåla, communications director at Finnish airport operator Finavia, told Yle that nine flights landed at Helsinki Airport behind schedule due to snow delays in other parts of Europe.
The airport is gearing up for snow expected to arrive in southern Finland around midnight.
"We're ready, and we're aware that there will be a lot of snow. Helsinki Airport's runway maintenance is at full readiness," said Kåla.
Roads becoming slippery overnight
Driving conditions may become extremely poor in the early hours of Tuesday throughout Finland, warns the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI). No significant precipitation is expected during the day on Monday, except a few flakes in the far north-west. However a powerful low-pressure system is expected to move in from the south-west, bringing snowfall overnight.
Southern and central Finland – which now mostly have bare ground or less than 10 cm of snow – could pick up more than 15 centimetres of new snow. There will be less accumulation further north. On Tuesday evening the precipitation will change partly to rain in southern Finland.
Snow in archipelago by afternoon
On Wednesday the low-pressure area is to move to northern Finland, bringing 5-10 cm of new snow. Most of the region now has between 25 and 50 cm on the ground, with deeper cover in the far north-west. Wednesday should be a mostly dry day in southern and central areas.
Driving conditions may already become poor on Monday in south-western Finland and parts of Lapland. Snowfall is expected to begin in the Åland Islands by late afternoon, and in the inner archipelago during the evening, hitting the south coast around midnight.
A three-vehicle crash on national road 8 in western Finland claimed the life of a 10-month-old infant and injured several other people around 7 am on Monday, according to local police.
The crash took place on national road 8, a couple of hundred metres south of the Monåvägen road intersection.
Police said a car containing two adults and the infant had been headed southbound and for unknown reasons swerved into the northbound lane. The car then struck an automobile driven by a man born in 1990, hitting the vehicle head-on, according to police.
The infant died at the scene of the accident, police said.
The baby was in a child car seat in the backseat of the vehicle, sitting next to its mother.
A police officer at the crash site, Frej Stenman, characterised the accident as very serious and said that all of the occupants of the two cars were transported to Vaasa Central Hospital. Police said the extent of their injuries is not yet known.
A third car travelling northbound was unable to stop before striking the car ahead of it, but the driver in the third vehicle was not injured, according to police.
Slippery conditions due to ice
Stenman said the collision took place on a stretch of road where overtaking is not permitted.
"We don't know why the car going south had crossed into the wrong lane, but it is very slippery on the road," Stenman said.
Road workers arrived later in the morning and salted the stretch of road where the accident took place.
Guidelines in Finland’s new education curriculum are recommending that schools phase out familiar numerical grades to assess student performance and adopt more qualitative approaches such as written and oral feedback.
The guidelines are just that – recommendations – so schools are free to continue to use numerical grading systems.
However in Finland municipalities have the final word on when numerical grades should be used. In most cases, students begin receiving grades in the fourth or fifth grade, and even later in some schools, including in Helsinki. Existing regulations require the use of the traditional grading system by the time students reach the eighth grade at the latest.
Call for earlier use of grades
The proposal to abandon numerical grades in favour of verbal assessments has its defenders and detractors. In some quarters, there has been a call for students to be graded even earlier in their school careers. Writer and teacher Arno Kotro is one such proponent.
"My suggestion is that we use numerical grades from perhaps the fourth grade and alongside that we could provide verbal feedback in clear language, especially about how to improve their performance. Verbal evaluations should always be given along the way, also," Kotro wrote in a Statistics Finland expert publication.
Kotro expressed surprise at some "advanced primary schools" in the Helsinki region in particular, which he said have completely turned away from giving numerical grades and were instead providing learners with "diverse verbal evaluations".
"It sounds good but in reality it is very vague. When you ask a parent how a child is doing in school, the answer is 'I don’t really know'," he declared.
Kotro said that he was overwhelmed by the bundle of written reports given to his fourth-grader.
"The first one was a traditional report, but the information value was nearly zero: all of the subjects simply had a 'pass'," he remarked
Education Agency still weighing situation
Currently there is a wide regional variation in when teachers begin grading students’ performance and more schools in the capital region than elsewhere are moving to adopt the new recommendations.
The National Agency for Education says that it has so far not made a decision about firming up the recommendation into a regulation. The organisation said that it is currently gathering data about schools’ practices and evaluating the curriculum.
"When we have completed our analysis and knowledge base, then we will have to look and see whether we need other measures," said Education Agency director Jorma Kauppinen.
However he said that he could not provide a timetable for the agency’s decision.
Last year, Finland's greenhouse gas emissions rose by six percent to nearly 60 million tons of carbon dioxide, according to revised figures released by Statistics Finland on Friday.
That is still lower than the peak year of 2003, when they soared to 88.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. They are also more than 12 million tons lower than in the baseline year of 1990.
The main reasons for the rise in the emissions were more coal consumption and a lower proportion of biofuels used in transport.
Emissions from the non-emissions trading sector were six percent higher than in 2015, exceeding the annual emission allocation set by the EU by 1.1 million tons of CO2. Meanwhile removals of land use, land-use change and forestry sector (LULUCF) dipped by six percent to 27 million tonnes of CO2. This sector is not covered by the EU's emissions trading scheme or reduction targets.
The figures are based on a report to be submitted to the European Commission in January.
Lower-emission plant opens in Naantali
In May the EU's Eurostat data base said that Finland increased its CO2 emissions more than any other EU country in 2016. While the EU's 27 member states overall managed to slightly reduce their emissions, Finland stuck out with emissions increase of more than eight percent.
That was mostly due to a rise in the use of coal power plants, with consumption shooting up by 31 percent to the same level as 2014. In 2015, consumption dropped by 30 percent.
The coal power plant with the highest emissions was one in Naantali owned by the Turku regional energy company. It pumped 1.4 million tons of carbon into the air. Further up the west coast, the Meri-Pori coal plant more than doubled its emission to 800,000 tons.
On Friday, Turku energy inaugurated a new power plant in Naantali, which it estimates will cut emissions by around 30 percent. Renewable energy in the form of wood chips will at first account for half of its fuel, with that figure to be raised to 60-70 next year.
The old Naantali coal plant was not the worst single polluter, though.
The SSAB steel plant in Raahe, also on the west coast, churned out 4.1 million tons of CO2 while Neste's oil refinery in Porvoo produced 2.9 million tons.
Besides SSAB, the largest CO2 emitter was the Helsingin Energia utility. It has scored much publicity with its solar energy projects and set a target of cutting its emissions by 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. Last year, though, the city utility's emissions climbed by 12 percent to 3.3 million tons.
Renewables hit new high
According to Eurostat's figures, Finland's energy consumption rose by four percent from 2015 to 2016. Electricity consumption also went up by four percent.
Renewable energy sources gained two percent, to hit a record high. They accounted for 34 percent of overall energy consumption and nearly 39 percent of end use. However fossil fuel consumption increased even faster, by seven percent.
At the Bonn climate conference last month, Finland was one of 19 countries signing a pledge to phase out coal by 2030, calling themselves the Powering Past Coal Alliance.
The tabloid Iltalehti leads off with President Sauli Niinistö’s train trip through Finland this weekend as he kicked off his re-election campaign. The incumbent’s whistle-stop tour left Helsinki on Friday, arriving in Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland, on Sunday, meeting and greeting crowds along the way and making appearances with sports stars, actors and fellow politicians. IL carries a picture of the president posing for a selfie photo with a young girl in Ylivieskä, "a Centre Party stronghold of 15,000 where Niinistö was received in a manner reminiscent of the personality cults in some more easterly people’s republics". Some opinion polls show Niinistö with support levels as high as 80 percent ahead of next month’s election.
TS: NATO still divisive, lighting strikes again
The south-western broadsheet Turun Sanomat delves into more substantive coverage of Niinistö’s rail odyssey, with his latest statement on possible Finnish NATO membership. The idea remains solidly unpopular among rank-and-file Finns. Niinistö dismisses the idea that the president and government would force the issue through without listening to the will of the people.
"And if Parliament was forced to decide this issue, Finland would be divided in two more deeply than it has been in a 100 years," the president said, alluding to the bloody 1918 civil war that followed Finnish independence.
Turning to local Turku news, TS reports on a freak thunderstorm that grounded a Wizz Air flight to Gdansk for more than 10 hours on Sunday. Passengers reported a loud bang and flash shortly before the plane landed around noon.
The airport director said the return flight was delayed as the plane was inspected for possible damage. The Hungarian low-cost carrier did not make any announcement to passengers on the plane, and declined to respond to the paper's requests for comment.
Lightning is rare in the northern winter, but may occur during heavy snow or sleet when the temperature is around the freezing point, the paper notes. There were other reports of lightning in south-west Finland on Sunday, including morning thunder in the coastal town Masku.
KL: Bitcoin like Santa?
The business daily Kauppalehti quotes a top Bank of Finland official as comparing the cryptocurrency Bitcoin to Father Christmas. Päivi Heikkinen, head of the cash department at the central bank, tells the paper that when it comes to virtual currencies, she "no longer believes in Santa Claus, and others should not believe everything that they come across". She points out that Bitcoin is still rarely used for actual business transactions, and that "since Bitcoin is not a mass payment instrument, the development of its value and all the activities around it seem to be primarily speculative investment.”
In a separate article, KL warns of the massive energy usage demanded by the computer servers behind Bitcoin. "If the virtual currency's popularity keeps growing at the current pace, it would require a doubling of the world's electricity output within a few years," the paper writes, citing a US study. It predicts that if the trading and production of Bitcoin keeps going as it is, the network would consume as much electricity by 2020 as the whole planet uses this year. However Jukka Manner, a professor of networking technology at Aalto University, points out that "the world would run out of computers before the Bitcoin network's electricity consumption rises to that kind of level." Bitcoin is hardly a green technology, though, as this year it has already has burned through 32 terawatt hours of power, equivalent to consumption by more than 150 of the world's countries.
The most important gift that many Finnish families buy this holiday season might just be for a young person they don't even know. The Joulupuu gift collection campaign helped collect over 54,000 gifts for needy children last year, and this year the Central Park Junior Chamber-run charity expects to do even better, as interest in their campaign is picking up speed.
The charity has placed Christmas tree collection spots in several locations throughout the metropolitan area. Instead of decorations, the trees have paper slips on the branches. The slips contain the details of someone under 18 who would otherwise perhaps go without presents this holiday: they read 'Girl 2-4 doll' or 'Boy 8-10 Lego'. Interested parties can take a slip, buy the appropriate gift, affix the slip to it, and return it to the collection spot.
Joulupuu started its campaign to help out the over 10,000 underage residents of the Helsinki area that are currently receiving child protection services in some form or another. This includes children in shelters, foster families and those in families suffering from substance abuse or financial difficulties.
"I think that people take part gladly, because they can give a gift that they have really thought about and chosen carefully. The presents are also something that the children have really wished for or need," says Joulupuu's project manager Iina Pullkinen.
Traditional charities still going strong
The increasing support for the Joulupuu charity shows that more and more of Finland's residents are choosing to purchase physical gifts in lieu of contributing cash donations. But even charities that collect money at Christmas are reporting surges.
The Salvation Army has collected money for Finnish charity with its Christmas kettle campaign since 1906.
"Even though there are now more charity campaigns than ever, the traditional Christmas kettle campaign has stayed strong. Last year we collected 830,000 euros. This year we expect to bring in over a million euros," says Finland's Salvation Army's representative Anne Fredriksson.
Salvation Army donations are distributed to the needy in the same area where they are collected. Among other things, the funds helped over 12,000 families in Finland last year to buy food for the holidays.
Over half a million Finns donate money to charity organizations regularly, but on the country level, Finland ranks far below the per capita giving rates in the UK and Germany, for example. In these countries, there is a much longer tradition of charitable donations, especially during the holidays.
The effects of US President Donald Trump's recent decision to name Jerusalem as Israel's capital are being felt around the world – even in the Nordics. Three people have been arrested after an arson attack on a synagogue in the Swedish city of Gothenburg Saturday evening, causing the Jewish community in Helsinki to step up its security.
"Yes, we are extremely concerned. It's a shame that this foreign policy situation has spread to the Jewish communities of the Nordic countries. It's nothing to be happy about," says the current head of the Helsinki Jewish community, Yaron Nadbornik.
Figures from 2015 indicate that there are some 1,500 Jews in the Helsinki area, 1,100 of whom are community members. An additional 200 or so reside in the southwest city of Turku.
Violence and protests in Sweden
Swedish news sources report witnesses saying that about ten people threw bottles with flammable liquid in them towards the Gothenburg synagogue Saturday night. A youth event was taking place in the building at the time of the attack, but fortunately, no one was injured and the building did not catch on fire.
Protests sparked by Trump's announcement also took place in the Swedish cities of Malmö and Stockholm over the weekend, as Palestinians declared a "Day of Rage" on Saturday in response to the news. An Israeli flag was set on fire during the demonstration in Stockholm, and there have been reports of anti-Semitic chanting during the demonstration in Malmö.
Helsinki's Nadbornik says he is certain that the Gothenburg arson attack is linked to Trump's policy shift.
"As soon as something concerning Israel happens, the Jewish communities in the Nordics increase security measures," he says.
No violence in Finland
The Helsinki synagogues have fortunately been spared from any attacks, but Nadbornik says the Jewish communities in Finland still feel more vulnerable.
"Gothenburg had never been attacked before either, but they still had guards in place and were prepared – and with good reason," he says.
The Helsinki Police say they are working with the Jewish community in Helsinki to ensure the safety of the Helsinki synagogue, which is located in the Kamppi district in the city centre. Law enforcement authorities would not reveal any more details about what kind of cooperation is taking place, however.
Finnish police say they have not noted any unrest in Finland after Trump's announcement.
Already on their toes
Helsinki's Jewish community has actually operated under a heightened level of security for some time. A shooting incident that left one young Jewish person dead in front of a Copenhagen synagogue on 15 February 2015 had consequences across the Nordics. Attacks took place in other parts of the city as well, and three people in all were killed.
Nadbornik indicates his wish for the Finnish state to assist the Jewish communities in Finland with the significant costs of their expanded security.
"The Nordics have been living under this threat for several years now, and each of the countries has given the Jewish communities financial support – except Finland," he says.
Finland maintains a neutral and independent body of experts for settling consumer complaints, free of charge. Chairman Pauli Ståhlberg says the Consumer Disputes Board is increasingly busy these days.
"People have access to a lot of information on the internet these days, and then there's the free Consumer Advisory Service that screens many of the potential disputes. And yet the number of complaints that reach us continues to grow," he says.
Ståhlberg says he believes that the increase can be attributed to better public knowledge of customer rights and the improved economy.
"The more money people have, the more they spend it, so there's a greater potential for problems," he says.
EU figures show that one out of every five European consumers faces a problem with a product or a service purchased. When the trader is not able to solve the problem, the consumer has two possibilities for seeking redress. The case can either be brought to court, or the parties can seek to solve the issue without an expensive judicial process.
1,000 complaints about flight delays each year
Most of the disputes that reach the Consumer Disputes Board in Finland have to do with travel plans gone awry. Airline delays have been the top complaint for years already, followed by disputes involving car purchases, and transactions associated with housing, such as construction, remodelling and real estate deals.
"In the last few years the number of cases linked to flight delays has exploded. We now handle over a thousand each year. An increase in the incidence of cases connected to car sales seems to show that more people are buying cars now, too," Ståhlberg says.
The Consumer Disputes Board concentrates on mediating disputes between consumers and traders. Disagreements between private individuals are usually not considered, unless the transaction concerns a transfer of real estate.
Authorities should have tougher alternatives
Niina Konu, head of the Consumer Advisory Services unit of Helsinki's Local Register Office, says Finland's consumer rights authorities should have more rigorous methods at their disposal.
"In a way, the consumer authorities are toothless. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority can bring the case to the Market Court, but it is a very slow process. The Consumer Disputes Board can only make recommendations. If a party to the dispute doesn't want to comply, they are just blacklisted," she says.
A continually updated list of traders that have been blacklisted in Finland can be found in the Kuluttaja (Consumer) online and print publication.
Finland's consumers have contacted the Consumer Advisory Services in the first half of 2017 approximately 35,000 times. The total for 2016 was just short of 78,000. Calls and emails reported sales of vehicles, parking, animals, payday loans, housing, household appliances and electronics.
Most of the disputes are solved by the Consumer Advisory Services, but if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case is referred to the Consumer Disputes Board.
Chairman Pauli Ståhlberg says the clear majority of cases the board reaches a decision on are resolved in line with their recommendations.
"An admirable number comply with our decision. If we for example recommend that traders compensate the consumers with a certain sum, they do so in 80 percent of the cases. The 20 percent who don't comply are often business owners that simply don't have the money anymore," he says.
No money for emotional distress
Niina Konu says people's understanding of their rights as consumers varies.
"Many of the people that call the advisory services are well aware of their rights and ask very detailed questions. Others aren't as knowledgeable and their demands can be way out of proportion. There's no compensation for emotional distress," she says.
She says many consumers are also under the false impression that retail transactions can always be cancelled, with a refund.
"Several businesses grant it (a cancellation right) as an added benefit. But if you buy an item from a store, it is in principle a binding transaction unless the shop has granted the customer this additional right. This comes as a surprise to many consumers. They imagine they can cancel everything and return things without incurring any cost," she says.
A children's Independence Day event celebrating Finland's 100 years of independence - featuring alpacas of all things - made headlines after it was forced to give ground to a nationalist march and relocate to a football stadium. New evidence has now surfaced that one of the organisers, Aleksi Pahkala, intentionally planned for the children's event to take place at Helsinki's Töölö market square in the hope that it would, in fact, force the annual procession of the far-right 612 group to relocate or be diverted.
A screenshot of a message Pahkala posted on November 18 to a closed Facebook group has been made public.
"Personally, I have been thinking that diverting all of the attention away from the 612 and "towards freedom" (lol) demonstrations would be the best way to ignore all of the far-right business entirely. To attract the media's and everybody else's attention to something else," the post read.
"The police could steer both demonstrations somewhere completely different from where they were meant to go," Pahkala posted.
In the closed Facebook group, Pahkala also asked for help in generating ideas for a children's event, but asked that the group's members not discuss the plans publically.
"By chance, it appears that [the event] will actually take place at the same time as the 612 march, but this is no counter-demonstration – we want to bring some fun to the children of the Töölö district and alpacas for people to hug," he says.
Fellow group member was the whistleblower
A former member of the leftist group that organised the children's event, producer and deejay Heikki Eskola is the man behind the screenshot going public. He told Yle he decided to share the screenshots online after an outpouring of public sympathy for the event's forced relocation made him feel as if the reaction was generated under false pretences.
"Everyone everywhere was talking about the alpaca business, and I knew that it was founded on a lie. It became a symbol of victory, even though that's not at all what it was," he said.
Eskola says that Pahkala had asked him to remove the screenshots from his blog after they were published, but he says he refused. After the revelations, Eskola also left the closed Facebook group where Pahkala's messages had been originally posted.
"[Going public] was a hard decision to make because I knew that it would create a lot of trouble for Aleksi. But I still feel as if I made the right decision," Eskola said.
Pahkala sticks to his guns
On Saturday December 9, Pahkala posted on Facebook that he stands behind comments he made to Yle when he said that he had not planned his event as a counter-demonstration. Yle reporters were unable to reach him for further comment.
This new turn of events was first reported by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, and the tabloids Ilta-Sanomat and Iltalehti.
EDIT - An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Aleksi Pahkala had told Yle that it never crossed his mind that the children's event would clash with the torchlit procession. In fact those comments were made by another organiser of the event.
Finnish Finance Minister Petteri Orpo appeared on Yle's morning talk show on Saturday with a positive message: he says Finland's economic situation is looking up – even more, in fact, than his ministry had earlier predicted – and this means the state hasn't had to take on as much debt as it had anticipated.
Orpo says unemployment figures were worse one year ago, when this year's budget was being negotiated, than they are today.
"Now the indicators look different. In the autumn it was still estimated that the  debt forecast would be 4.5 billion euros. But we currently find ourselves in a situation in which the State Treasury has issued a three-billion-euro estimate for the sum required," the minister told the public broadcaster.
Orpo, who is also chair of Finland's conservative National Coalition Party, warns that it is still unclear whether the state really will reduce this year's projected indebtedness by 1.5 billion euros. This is because the final figures will only become clear at the end of 2018.
Even so, he considers the preliminary signs to this effect to be promising.
"It looks as if the drop in the necessary debt load will be quite significant. Next year's budget has been built on the idea of taking on three billion euros more in debt, but I believe that by supporting economic growth and more jobs, we could stand a chance to lower this," Orpo said.
Austerity still the name of the game
Despite the signs of an economic upswing, the Finance Minister nevertheless says it is wisest to stick with his centre-right government's strict cost-saving economic policies for the time being. He says this way Finland could get back on its feet well enough to potentially stop the need to take on more debt all together.
He justifies his cautious approach on his ministry's financial predictions for the country.
"We are currently experiencing over three percent growth figures. While a healthy growth level is expected to continue, it will fall to around two percent or so in the next two years," Orpo predicts.
Orpo says that even this promising upturn isn't good news, if the state is still forced to increase its deficit in order to make ends meet.
"Each of us understands that if we are becoming more indebted even during economic upswings, the situation is not ideal," he said.
According to NationalDebtClocks.org, Finland's total national debt currently stands at 122.5 billion euros, equating to 22,400 euros per citizen.
For comparison's sake, Sweden's state debt is estimated at 189.3 billion euros, the UK's national debt has surpassed 2 trillion euros, and the US deficit has ballooned to the equivalent of over 17.4 trillion euros.
One exception: Early childhood education
During the Saturday interview, Orpo confirmed that he is willing to make some exceptions to his policy of tight purse strings. For example, he mentions that government has earmarked money to make half-day early childhood education more widely available to five-year-old children in Finland.
"We took the first step to reduce early education fees by 70 million euros. This would make it possible for close to 7,000 low-income families to partake in early education at no expense," he said.
"Those children who haven't been able to attend because of the cost are the ones that need it most," Orpo said, saying the funding is intended to help level the playing field for Finland's families.
A pilot boat capsized off the southeast coast of Finland Friday evening, triggering a large-scale rescue operation to find the two passengers who were on board. Finnpilot CEO Kari Kosonen later confirmed to Yle that the bodies of both individuals were found inside the overturned boat's interior by rescue teams.
"I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the relatives and co-workers of those who died in the accident, and thank everyone who participated in the search and rescue effort," Kosonen said.
At 5 pm Helsinki's Maritime Rescue Centre received notification of a capsized pilot boat south of the Porvoo lighthouse, off the southern coast of Finland. The Finnish Border Guard obtained information that two individuals had been on the boat.
Pilot boats shuttle harbour captains back and forth to incoming ships, so they can bring the vessels safely into port. It is a common operation at all of Finland's busy ports, and accidents of this nature are very rare, says Kosonen.
Large-scale rescue operation
After the call came in, Border Guard ships stationed in Suomenlinna and Porvoo were dispatched to the area, along with rescue helicopters from Helsinki and Turku, and the Border Guard's largest offshore patrol vessel Turva. Divers from the Central Uusimaa region's rescue department were also called to the scene, in addition to the Helsinki Rescue Department's Maritime Incident Response Group, which specialises in maritime accidents.
The Border Guard reported bad weather and heavy swells at sea during the rescue, which prevented the team from righting the boat. The boat eventually sank underwater, and a diving team later found two bodies inside the vessel.
The deceased had been on their way to pick up a harbour captain from an incoming ship. The reason the boat overturned is unknown, and Finland's Accident Investigation Board has started an inquiry. The Border Guard also announced late Friday night that the police have launched an investigation into the two fatalities.
"This is a day of mourning for everyone at Finnpilot. We will investigate the cause of this tragic accident together with the authorities, so we can guarantee the safety of our employees in the future," CEO Kosonen said.
President Sauli Niinistö formally began his re-election campaign on Friday afternoon in central Helsinki. He then left on a whistle-stop tour that will take him up to Finnish Lapland this weekend.
The incumbent, who is leading public-opinion polls by a wide margin, opted not to start active campaigning until after this week’s celebrations of Finland’s centenary. His campaign began less than six weeks before voting starts. The first advance votes are to be cast on 17 January.
”Other duties have kept me busy, but now it’s really nice to meet people. It gives me strength,” said Niinistö.
In his first speech on Narinkkatori square, the candidate emphasised societal cohesion and Finland’s role as a peace-builder. The Finnish presidency’s main responsibility is foreign policy, but he said that a deterioration of social unity was his greatest worry.
After speaking to a group of a few hundred people, Niinistö headed to the nearby Railway Station to board a train. It was due to make stops later on Friday in Riihimäki and Tampere. On Sunday the presidential train is to arrive in Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland, after stops in Oulu and elsewhere.
"Man of the people"
Among those attending the campaign kickoff were locals Erkki Wallenius and Päivi Laurila. The couple told Yle that Niinistö is “he’s just a good man, a man of the people,” adding that he is reliable and has handled his duties well during his first term, which began in early 2012.
Niinistö also questioned US President Donald Trump’s announcement this week that the US will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he described as Israel’s capital. Niinistö said it was difficult to see what was to be gained by the decision.
While surveys suggest that Niinistö is far more popular than any other candidate so far, some voters on Narinkkatori predicted that this week's surprise entry into the race by veteran MEP Paavo Väyrynen would enliven the campaign.
Finnish presidents are allowed a maximum of two six-year terms.
The Nordics' biggest bank Nordea is in the midst of employer-employee negotiations with an aim to cut 500 jobs at its facilities in Finland, the Nordea workers' union Nousu said on Friday. In October Nordea announced that it planned to cut at least 6,000 jobs globally, with an aim to bring down costs and increase competitiveness.
In a statement issued Friday Nordea announced that it plans to cut about 420 jobs and shift 50 other positions at the bank to Estonia and Poland. The changes are part of the bank's digitisation initiatives, the statement said.
Nordea's job cuts in Finland will chiefly affect employees working with private and business clients as well as those in support roles and in its Markets unit, according to Nousu, the union which represents Nordea employees.
Nousu said that the current round of job cuts is the first of four over the next four years. The total number of layoffs could be many times higher once they are all carried out, the union said.
At 2 pm on Friday a ban on working overtime was called across the finance industry in Finland.
The union's chief negotiator Paula Hopponen said that Nordea's customer service would not improve by closing local bank branches and shifting services to be carried out in Poland and Estonia.
Hopponen said that the digitalisation and other changes within the industry are being used as a pretext for overarching and premature job cuts.
Olli Sademies, a Finns Party politician elected to a reserve list in Helsinki at the 2013 local elections, has had his conviction for incitement against an ethnic group upheld at Helsinki Appeals Court.
Sademies had in 2015 written on Facebook that immigrants from Africa should be forcibly sterilised, among other offensive comments about immigrants. He was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to 50 day-fines, which are a defined proportion of a defendant's income.
He had claimed that the comments were a normal part of political debate and an effort to draw attention to crime prevention efforts, and appealed the verdict.
The appeals court rejected that argument, and noted that Sademies had posted his comments as a figure in municipal politics so they would have been taken seriously by a significant proportion of those who read them.
The three government parties have survived a vote of confidence in Parliament with support from a minority of MPs.
Friday’s vote in the 200-seat legislature was 99 against an opposition interpellation and 84 MPs backing it. Sixteen lawmakers were absent.
A day earlier, cabinet ministers defended their record against a challenge by the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, backed by the Greens and the Left Alliance.
They accused the government of failing to halt growing social inequality in Finland, but rather targeting the same groups of people with fee increases and budget cuts.
During debate on Thursday, ministers from Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s government argued that the cuts have been essential to boost the Finnish economy and reduce the state debt.
Since June, the government has held a narrow majority of 106 seats in Parliament. There are 49 MPs from Sipilä’s Centre Party, 38 from Finance Minister Petteri Orpo’s conservative National Coalition Party, and 19 from the Blue Reform group, which officially became a party in mid-November.
The latter splinter group took the place of the main Finns Party, which was ousted from government after electing a hardline immigration critic as its new chair. The rump Finns Party now has 17 seats in Parliament, while the SDP has 35.
The body of a girl born in 2001 was found in the town of Kerava early on Wednesday morning, according to local law enforcement.
Police said the victim's body showed signs of having suffered violent injury.
One man was apprehended by police on the same day in connection with the incident. Initially police considered a manslaughter charge against the man, but the charges were upgraded to murder, according to news service STT.
Vantaa District Court ordered the man, who was born in 1986, to be remanded in custody on suspicion of murder on Friday.
Police said they believe the violent act took place in an apartment building in the centre of Kerava.
Engagement with local communities is essential for proper management of Finland’s large predator populations, argues Sakari Mykrä, a project coordinator at Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland, part of the state forest agency . At the University of Turku on Friday, he defended his doctoral thesis on the development of wildlife classifications and attitudes.
Mykrä notes that ignoring the views of local communities can lead to residents taking matters into their own hands. This has taken the form of illegal shooting of wolves, wolverines and eagles, for instance.
“Ultimately, the locals have the opportunity, and according on their own world of experience, also the right to resolve what they see as unfair situation by taking illegal action,” Mykrä observes.
Tracking by DNA rather than collars
According to his dissertation, one way to advance co-existence with predators would be a ‘tolerance compensation’ to be paid to locals.
“If an individual citizen or group feels that things aren’t working, they start to think about how they could arrange things through their own means. The wolf population has gone up and down for this reason since the turn of the millennium, for instance,” Mykrä says.
Between 1998 and 2014, poachers killed at least 52 wolves that had been equipped with tracking collars by researchers, most of them so-called ‘alpha’ individuals or pack leaders.
Partly as a result of this, the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is considering a move away from such collars. Wolves can also be tracked through DNA analysis of their scat.
Less than 200 wolves in Finland
Last year Luke estimated that there were 200-235 wolves in Finland, but last spring dropped its estimate to between 150 and 180. The stock is strongest in south-west Finland and North Karelia, where wolves move back and forth across the nearby Russian border.
Around the turn of the millennium, there were only about 100 wolves, but the population recovered to more than 250 individuals by 2006.
While some conservations argue vehemently against any wolf hunting for population management, but other experts claim that such culling leads to less poaching.
Helsinki police will be investigated over their decision to move a children's event featuring alpacas and bunny rabbits away from a square where extreme nationalists were to start a torchlit march on Independence Day.
The National Police Board on Friday announced its intention to look at the decision in the light of complaint from Helsinki City councillor and chair of the Feminist Party, Katju Aro, among others.
That's normal procedure when complaints or suspicions are raised about police actions. Helsinki Police department will now be asked to provide an explanation of their actions and the rationale underpinning them.
Once all documents are submitted, the National Police Board will give a written decision on the complaint. The average processing time of similar complaints is six months.
The children's event was eventually hosted at a football stadium close to the square. The football club HJK Helsinki offered to open their ground to the alpacas and families when police urged organisers to move their event on safety grounds.
An earthquake measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale was reported just south of the western city of Oulu at about 12:30 am Friday, according to data from the US Geological Survey, which tracks earthquakes around the world.
The temblor's epicentre was recorded on the coastline of Liminganlahti Bay — about five kilometres east of the municipality of Lumijoki in Northern Ostrobothnia — at a depth of about 10 kilometres underground.
Rescue services and police received several calls about the night-time rumble, however no emergencies were reported and no units were sent out, according to local public safety officials.
Oulu's fire chief Marko Hottinen said he felt the ground tremble a couple of times within a few seconds. The rescue service department in downtown Oulu is located some 20 kilometres from the quake's epicentre.
Quake prompts tweets
Several local residents reacted to the bumps in the night on social media.
A Twitter user named Milka tweeted: "I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I heard what sounded like a snowplough going through the wall. The dog is still safely under the bed with toys."
Petteri Pyyni tweeted: "Yeah, that darn well was a real earthquake in Oulu an hour ago. As the whole apartment building was rocking, I thought the neighbour's bathtub had fallen downstairs."
Several earthquakes have shaken Finland in the past, according to the University of Helsinki's Department of Geosciences and Geography, but the temblor in Lumijoki was the country's most powerful quake since one that measured 3.0 in Kuusamo in the year 2000.
Not unique, but still rare
Kuusamo, which is about 200 kilometres northeast of Oulu, is another area in Finland known for seismic activity. The university's Institute of Seismology records between 15-30 earthquakes in Finland annually.
Seismologist Jari Kortström said that while Lumijoki's overnight earthquake was not unique it was still a rare occurrence.
The Bothnian Bay is a seismically active area but, according to Kortström, quakes usually take place under the sea or farther west in Sweden.
It is impossible to predict when or where an earthquake will take place, even through the examination of statistics, Kortström said.
But there are no catastrophic earthquakes expected in Finland in any case, he said.
"More powerful quakes are possible. An earthquake with a strength of 4.0 or more can cause structural damage to buildings," he said.
A group providing healthcare and other services to undocumented migrants has been granted a human rights award by the Finnish section of Amnesty International.
The Global Clinic runs services in Helsinki, Turku, Lahti, Tampere, Joensuu and Oulu, offering primarily medical assistance but also other advice and services to undocumented migrants who fall outside the remit of the Finnish healthcare system. Services are offered anonymously, free of charge and in confidence.
"Over the last few years governments across Europe have weakened asylum seekers' and undocumented migrants' position," said Amnesty Finland's Managing Director Frank Johansson. "Finland is no exception. Therefore operators like the Global Clinic have become even more important."
The annual Candle Award recognises human rights work conducted in Finland and has been granted each year since 2002.
It is usually awarded on 10 December, which was made International Human Rights Day in recognition of the United Nations General assembly adopting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights on that date in 1948.
On Friday Aamulehti publishes another poll showing Niinistö on 64 percent, a much lower level of support but still one that--if replicated in the election--would see him win re-election comfortably in the first round.
This is the first poll published since independent, insurgent candidate Paavo Väyrynen announced he had secured entry into the race with the support of 20,000 citizens, and the veteran former Centre Party leader polled two percent. The poll was conducted, however, before Väyrynen made that announcement, suggesting that he has an opportunity to do better than many expected.
The poll showed Green Pekka Haavisto on 12 percent, followed by Leftist Merja Kyllönen, Centre Party candidate Matti Vanhanen and Finns Party populist Laura Huhtasaari on three percent.
The poll also found that more than 60 percent of SDP and Centre Party supporters would back Niinistö, even though their own parties are fielding candidates in the race.
Text message mess
Finland's government surprised many residents of the country on its hundredth independence day with a congratulatory text message in Finnish and Swedish. It was a nice touch, thought the organisers of the centennial celebrations.
"What could be more Finnish than congratulations delivered by text message," asked Pekka Timonen of the centennial committee in a press release, referencing the Finnish origins of SMS communication.
Only some people didn't get their messages. As news of the mass texting spread and some noticed they hadn't been sent best wishes, it emerged that not every Finnish phone would get them. The reason, reports Helsingin Sanomat, is that some phones were turned off when the messages were sent, or didn't have reception. In addition, Telia had some technical difficulties and left some subscribers uncongratulated.
In all, half a million people missed out on their messages, making a bit of a mockery of the official 'together' theme of Finland's 100th birthday.
Winter Olympic facility fuss
The Winter Olympics are due to start in February, and the centrepiece of the Finnish team is--as ever--the men's ice hockey squad. Ilta-Sanomat reports the old favourite of sub-standard facilities at the venue in South Korea, this time focusing on the changing rooms.
The Gangneung arena is the home of the ice hockey tournament and it has one innovative feature: each of the twelve competing teams will have their own changing room for the duration of the tournament. The problem, reports IS, is that these facilities are just too small.
In particular, each changing room has just one toilet and four showers, which the Finnish ice hockey federation claims is woefully deficient for a 22-player squad plus backroom staff.
Nevertheless, the Finns are confident that everything will be in order by the time the tournament starts on 14 February. If not, team manager Jukka Lohva tells IS he has a tongue-in-cheek plan for organising a shower schedule.
"Maybe some kind of pecking order would emerge," said Lohva. "Captain first. Or the player of the match. Sure, we'll work these things out."
The nearby Lapland towns of Utsjoki and Kittilä also saw temperatures around -30 degrees on Thursday morning, but the day will be a bit milder on Friday. On Friday temperatures around Lapland hover around -10 degrees as a precipitation system moves northward from the south.
That precipitation, according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), will make the roads very slippery for motorists on Friday, particularly in southern and western areas.
Snow or sleet will create particularly hazardous driving conditions in the regions of Uusimaa, Kymenlaakso, central Finland and Ostrobothnia, FMI says.
The precipitation system will expand over the entire country on Thursday night into Friday, with slippery roads across much of the country.
The visit by Old Man Winter will be short lived, however, with temperatures expected to rise to around the freezing point — or above it — over the weekend.
Fennovoima expects to spend some 500 million euros on building its planned nuclear power plant in northern Finland even before the building permit has been granted, according to the company.
Fennovoima, which is in charge of building the 1200 megawatt plant in Pyhäjoki, said it expects the Finnish government to issue the permit in 2019. However, the company wants to complete as much of the infrastructure work as possible before then.
"I have not thought what will happen if the permit is not granted," said Fennovoima's construction director Jouni Sipiläinen.
"We will get it," he said.
At the moment, 200 people work at the site daily, doing excavation work and building temporary offices and accommodation units. The building work is expected to accelerate next year as the construction of office space begins.
Six-year delay in licence
The building permit itself will be granted by the Finnish government, but it cannot proceed without STUK's safety assessment.
"We are mostly interested in the bedrock in the area and whether it is suitable for the foundation of the plant," Tapani Virolainen from STUK said.
The construction of the Hanhikivi 1 plant has been delayed, in part, because the documentation required by Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) for the license has been incomplete.
The plant will be supplied by Russia's state-owned Rosatom, which holds a 34 percent stake in Fennovoima. Titan-2, also of Russia, is the main contractor for the Hanhikivi plant.
The remainder of Fennovoima is owned by Voimaosakeyhtiö SF, a grouping of industrial companies, such as Fortum and Outokumpu, as well as local energy utilities.
The plant is expected to be operational in 2024 and to supply approximately 10 percent of Finland's electricity demand.
Nordic banking group Danske Bank surveyed parents across Finland, asking whether they paid their kids allowances, and if they did, how much.
Nearly 80 percent of parents in Finland said they regularly pay their 7-12 year-old children a weekly allowance. On average, parents paid them about 5 euros per week, according to the survey.
The majority of the parents, more than half, said they viewed their kids' allowances as a form of payment in exchange for completed work.
Eighty percent of Finnish allowances are doled out in cash, while 20 percent of parents said they preferred to pay their underage employees electronically.
The most common tasks children in Finnish homes are charged with carrying out include: cleaning of their own bedrooms and doing other household chores like tidying the house and taking out the trash.
Allowance a learning opportunity
Economist Nina Nordlund, who's writing a book about how kids spend their money, said that weekly allowances were one of the best tools that parents have to teach financial skills to children. She said it is a good idea to begin paying allowances as kids begin to develop their math skills, as they begin going to school.
Nordlund also suggested parents could encourage kids to divide their allowances into three parts; one for saving, another for pocket money and the third put towards charity.
"By paying allowances, parents can teach the child about skills like long-term savings, but also that consumption is about making choices. It's good to learn at an early age that there are financial limits in a world that's filled with opportunities," Nordlund said.
Three out of four kids in the 7-12 age group in Finland have their own bank accounts, the survey found, with 14 percent of those holding bank cards.
Approximately 1,000 parents of kids between the ages of 7-12 in Finland were queried for the survey. Dankse Bank also carried out similar surveys in Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
A majority of people polled by the daily Helsingin Sanomat say they would not change the name of the maternity kit handed out to expectant mothers by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution, Kela.
Some 64 percent of respondents said that they saw no need for a name change, while one in four said it was not entirely necessary. Most also said that they do not think that the current name discriminates against fathers.
Just eight percent said that they thought a name change essential or somewhat necessary. Respondents most in favour of a new title for the package were supporters of the Left Alliance, the Greens and under 40 years old.
In November, Kela asked members of the public to submit suggestions for new names. MPs have also considered a new moniker that would better take account of both parents and the entire family.
The survey was conducted on behalf of HS by pollster Kantar TNS and polled 1,119 respondents on mainland Finland between the ages of 15 and 74. The margin of error was 2.9 percentage points in either direction.
More than 8,000 viewers of the annual Independence Day presidential gala on Wednesday voted Minttu Räikkönen, wife of Finnish Formula 1 race driver Kimi Räikkönen the belle of the ball.
The former flight attendant dazzled in a head-turning off-the-shoulder deep green full-skirted satin gown with an open back.
Fashion critic and writer Mirva Saukkola said that she was not surprised by the viewers’ choice, describing Räikkönen’s ensemble as a coherent look.
"She was incredibly elegant. The gown was very well cut and suited her. It was also a good fit, and there weren’t too many bells and whistles. What also made the outfit strong was that she had also carefully thought out her hairstyle, makeup and jewellery," Saukkola added.
Maternity dress outshines others
With just over 6,000 votes, presidential spouse Jenni Haukio came in second in the best-dressed stakes. Saukkola said that she wasn’t surprised by this outcome either.
"Jenni Haukio has her own established style. She likes simple outfits that are very clean-cut. Everyone has their own maternity style. It has to take certain things into account and she did extremely well with that. She obviously didn’t want to emphasise the pregnancy so the front of the dress was rather simple. More attention was paid to the back of the gown," the fashionista noted.
"The live flowers she carried highlighted the themes of nature and the forests."
Viewers ranked Pauliina Hakala’s national costume in third place with nearly 4,000 votes. According to Saukkola, the theme appeared to be quite popular during the centennial gala.
"A beautiful ensemble, perfect for a young woman and a wonderful demonstration of respect for our national dress tradition. Hakala’s makeup and hair were very natural. Stronger makeup would not at all work with a traditional costume. It requires a certain attitude and bearing from the wearer. An excellent nod to our culture and cultural past," Saukkola commented.
Voters casting ballots via the Yle.fi app named skier Aino-Kaisa Saarinen’s gown the fourth-best of the evening, just ahead of MP Jaana Pelkonen.
Thursday's papers focus on last night's party at the President’s castle in Helsinki where the crème de la crème of Finland was invited to celebrate the country’s first 100 years as an independent nation.
Tabloid Iltasanomat says the internationally renowned singer Alma undoubtedly was one of the stars of the party. Alma Miettinen, the songwriter behind hits such as "Karma" and "Dye my hair," attended the party with her twin sister Anna, both donning black outfits, boots and Finnish lion pendants.
According to Iltasanomat many guests, including president Sauli Niinistö and Foreign Minister Timo Soini, posed in photographs with the yellow-haired star. "My grandfather was in the war, got injured and died in hospital. I respect him and the others who fought for Finland's independence," the 21-year-old said.
Alma also explained that she wears the lion pendant to make Finland proud – a country she considers multicultural.
In its coverage of Finland's most watched party, Helsingin Sanomat says the clothing of the guests this year reflected the special anniversary, with many dresses including long sleeves, sequins or "fabulous trains."
Story continues after photo
The palace had been decorated with 3,500 domestic flowers in blue and white, and the first lady Jenni Haukio had chosen the national flower, lily-in-the-valley, to decorate her hair and wrist. Haukio, who is scheduled to give birth in February, wore a simple emerald green dress designed by Heidi Karjalainen, who in September was selected as the Young Designer of the Year. More pricey jewellery was on show too, with dancer Aira Samulin, 90, wearing 250,000 euros worth of diamonds.
In contrast, tabloid Iltalehti lists the flops of the party dresses. Making an appearance on this unfortunate list was National Coalition Party MP Susanna Koski, whose choker was made of mink, a questionable choice for an event hosted by animal rights activist Jenni Haukio.
Meanwhile the paper somewhat cruelly says that Marketta Häkkinen, the wife of Formula 1 driver Mika Häkkinen, resembled the "Snow Queen" in her long white dress accompanied by a large, impractical handbag made of fur.
Story continues after photo
In other news, the independence day demonstrations remained largely peaceful despite three ideologically opposed groups gathering in the capital on Wednesday, Helsingin Sanomat says. Helsinki police said about 450 people joined the Neo-Nazi march while the "Helsinki without Nazis" protest attracted 1,000 marchers.
Altogether, 11 people were arrested including protesters and counter-protesters, the police said.