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Friday's papers: Racism regret, daycare plaudits, employment boost and pessimism's lethal effects

Friday's papers report on changing hearts in the Finns party, happy employment news, the value of daycare and the risks of pessimism.

Päiväkodin lounashetki.
Daycare might be the best place for small children, says a new study. Image: Yle

Immigration has been key to the rise of the Finns Party. It's a wedge issue that has helped increase the party's support, but there are some party members who aren't so hostile to new arrivals. Tiina Elovaara, a 29-year-old MP from Tampere, recently spoke out about the risk of the party being one-dimensional, criticising a 'lack of empathy' in the party's immigration debate.

On Friday it was the turn of Helsinki councillor Harri Lindell, who used to edit the party's newspaper and now feels the need to apologise for his previous stance on immigration. On Wednesday his speech to the council brought tears and applause, as he detailed how his previous views on immigration had been too harsh, and that his Christian background and contact with destitute migrants in Helsinki had helped change his mind.

On Thursday he told several media outlets that troubling ideologies now had a foothold in the party, which has its roots in rural populism.

"The mouth says one thing and the hands do another," Lindell told Iltalehti afterwards. "A right-wing Hallo-ahoism (the credo of outspoken MEP Jussi Halla-aho, who has been convicted of incitement to ethnic hatred) has risen in the party, which is a scary direction."

"Timo Soini has been a balancing power," continued Lindell. "If he doesn't continue as party chair, I'm afraid that the line will get even tougher than before."

His speech was lauded by other parties, but sharply criticised by his colleagues in the Finns Party group. Seppo Kanerva claimed that he was bitter about his sacking as editor of the party newspaper, and had been turned down as a candidate for next year's local elections. Lindell said the sacking was a long time ago, and that he hadn't sought selection as a candidate.

Big economic boosts

In recent days firmns have announced plans to create more than 2,000 new jobs in Finland through ramped up production at a car plant in Uusikaupunki and a planned biorefinery in Kemijärvi, eastern Lapland.

The Kemijärvi plant is covered widely in Friday's newspapers, and business daily Kauppalehti predictably has the most in-depth stories. The paper's story is headlined "wood pulp plant raises hope", as the paper visits the town to gauge opinion on the new Chinese investment. The paper lists the firms that have shut down factories in the town, bringing the population below 8,000 from nearly 13,000 in the 1980s.

Shopkeepers were hopeful of an uptick in spending power, pensioners hoped for more life in the town, and Chinese investors explained that the vast natural resources in Lapland (it's all forest, and contains more wood than in the 1990s thanks to reduced felling) ill find a place in the Chinese market.

KL also has an editorial linking the recent positive news and claiming that Finland is now threatened with a labour shortage. In Uusikaupunki there is also a housing problem: where will 1,500 new workers live in a town of 15,000? The paper forecasts immigration might help fill the void there, as Finns could be reluctant to move.

Daycare best for small kids?

Helsingin Sanomat has a story on new research that shows small children might be better off in nursery than at home with their parents. The Turku University study found that children who start daycare earlier tend to stay in education for longer, and are more likely to end up with a university degree.

Jani Erola, the professor behind the research, says that the study shows the value of high quality early years education. He did admit, however, that some of the results are explained by the inheritance of parents' education: many of those starting daycare earlier are the children of parents with enjoyable jobs, who are highly educated and expect their children to follow in their footsteps.

Even balancing for that effect, however, Erola says that early years education has a positive impact.

Pessimism kills

One other bit of Finnish research published on Thursday found a worldwide audience immediately. Researchers in Lahti found that a pessimistic attitude increases the risk of death from heart disease, after following 2,267 men and women between the ages of 52 and 76.

Participants were presented with a series of statements and asked to rate how much they agreed with them. The most pessimistic quarter of respondents were twice as likely as the least pessimistic quarter to die of heart disease in the next eleven years, even after controlling for diabetes, smoking and other factors.

The study was picked up by the New York Times, the Daily Mail and other media--and of course then the Finnish tabloids.

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