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Friday's papers: Arctic Council, Finland #1 nanny state, the dangers of ticks, and birds on the rails

Despite US pressure, the Arctic Council, now chaired by Finland, takes a tough position on climate change. An international think tank ranks Finland at the top of its Nanny State Index. Summer brings out the ticks, and yet another disease they carry has been identified. And, while the weather hasn't been bad enough to delay rail traffic, some birds have stepped in to do their bit.

Mies juo olutta pillillä tuopista terassilla.
Image: Yle

The Foreign Minister of Finland, Timo Soini says he's satisfied with the results this week's gathering of the Arctic Council held in Fairbanks, Alaska. Finland took over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council for the next two years from the United States, issuing notice in advance that it would emphasize action to fight climate change.

Ilta-Sanomat reports that tough negotiations on the text of a final statement from the gathering went right down to the wire because the United States wanted to eliminate any mention of the Paris climate agreement. In the end, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did sign the text that mentions the Paris accord and otherwise contains relatively tough language on climate change.

Describing the negotiations at the meeting, Foreign Minister Soini said, "We Finns did not lose faith, but it did try our patience."

Soini and Tillerson also had two bilateral meetings in Fairbanks. According to Soini, those discussions touched upon some issues not related Arctic affairs, including trade and defence. Soini related that he expressed the hope that the US will take a more active role in cooperation with Russia to end the conflict in Syria. On the issue of Ukraine, the two agreed that sanctions against Russia cannot be lifted before the Minsk agreement is implemented.

Nanny state #1

For the second time in a row, Finland has topped the league table of the worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape, reports Iltalehti.

Produced and published by the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER) the Nanny State Index compares paternalistic policies impacting the individual in three main categories: alcohol, nicotine and diet.

Iltalehti points out that on several occasions, the present government under Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has pledged to weed out Finland's jungle of rules and regulations. 

So far, at least in the eyes of outside observers, states Iltalehti, this pledge has not been honoured.

Among the reasons for Finland's top ranking are "high taxes on beer, wine and spirits, as well as a tax on sugary drinks and e-cigarette fluids. It has a state-controlled alcohol monopoly, a wide range of advertising bans and plans to be ‘tobacco-free’ by 2030."

The paper did note, however, that the report stated that Finland has become more liberal in the last twelve months, eliminating its tax on confectionery, chocolate and ice cream, and e-cigarettes were legalised in May 2016. There are also plans to relax some of its alcohol laws.

"Otherwise, it is business as usual in the EU’s top nanny state," states the EPICENTER report.

As a fresh example of the nanny mentality, Iltalehti mentions a restaurant in Helsinki that last week decided to ban customers from carrying their own beers to a terrace 1.5 metres from the bar.

Tick bites

If and when the weather warms, the tick population, and the number of tick bites will shoot up.

Not just annoying, ticks can also carry diseases that pose a danger to humans. In Finland these small arachnids are known to carry the pathogens that cause Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis.

Aamulehti reports today that researchers at the University of Turku have found a third disease that ticks here carry that may pose a risk. Some ticks collected and sent to researchers by the public have been found to carry the Borrelia miyamotoi  bacteria that can cause an infection with flu-like symptoms and affect the central nervous system.

It does, however, seem to be rare and so far there have been no reported cases of the disease in Finland. Vaccinations against tick-borne encephalitis are available. Otherwise, researchers told Aamulehti, the only defence is to try to avoid getting bitten.

Since 2015 the University of Turku has received over 20,000 specimens from the public and has created a unique data bank about ticks.

Birds on rails

Helsingin Sanomat carries reports of a number of traffic incidents and delays that occurred yesterday, a technical fault that temporarily halted the metro system and a tourist bus that broke down, bottling up one of the city centre's busiest streets.

It also reports a wandering swan that got in on the act.

Trains into Helsinki were rerouted and delayed Thursday afternoon when a swan settled down on the main line and refused to budge. Aptly enough, this was at a spot where the line passes through the "Linnunlaulu", that is "Bird Song" district of the city. Animal welfare workers were called in to remove it.

Timo Vanhanen of the operations centre of the state railways VR told Helsingin Sanomat that this is not the only recent case. Earlier this week trains were delayed after a mama duck and her brood decided to take up residence on the tracks in Järvenpää.

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