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Monday's papers: MP absences, athletes drinking, biathlon bronze, Norovirus hunt

The week in print news begins with a comparison of how often Finnish MPs attend sessions and committee meetings, professional sports predisposing people to alcoholism and the intricacies of battling a virus epidemic.

Alexander Stubb
NCP MP AWOL: Stubb had the most absences in Parliament last year. Image: Petteri Paalasmaa / AOP

Ilta-Sanomat starts off its newsweek with a look at Finnish MPs and their track records when it comes to attending parliamentary sessions and other meetings. The most frequent absentee last year was the NCP's Alexander Stubb with 28 missed sessions in all, the paper writes. The figures in the article do not include sick days, family leave or business trips.

Stubb's absences began last autumn when he stepped down as Finance Minister. During the autumn term he missed nearly half of a total of 59 sessions. Another ten MPs can boast Stubb-like non-attendance levels – for instance, Greens MP Ville Niinistö also skipped practically every other parliamentary session.

When it came to committee meetings, the most absences were clocked by the Centre Party's Timo Korhonen (away 89 percent of the time) and the NCP's Juhana Vartiainen (78 percent).

Finns Party MP Olli Immonen, known for his affiliation with neo-Nazi organisations, was away from sessions 24 times. When asked why, he told IS: "I have my reasons. No comment."

Alcohol and sports

Meanwhile a Helsingin Sanomat article goes into the drinking habits of professional athletes. According to a recent Canadian study, playing professional sports can predispose people to substance abuse. In fact, HS quotes, sports itself is "like a drug".

"Long-term physical strain releases endorphins, which alcohol and drugs also do," says researcher Titta Kontro.

The article suggests that many athletes start drinking at an early age in order to form a bond with their team-mates, and downhill spirals become increasingly likely after severe losses or being cut from the team. Part of it might be the competitive nature of professional team sports.

"Athletes have to be the best at everything, whether it's playing the game or shooting heroin," researcher Abie De Grace says blithely in the HS piece.

In more positive news, Finnish biathlon star Kaisa Mäkäräinen dominates domestic headlines following her biathlon bronze medal win in Hochfilzen, Austria. She skied and fired her way to third place from seventh in a last-round spurt, placing her behind Laura Dahlmeier from Germany and Susan Dunklee from the US.

"This medal definitely tastes good! There's always something special about a medal you win after a last-minute sprint," Mäkäräinen told Turun Sanomat.

Virus hunter

Back in HS, a different kind of hero is given centre stage. Veterinary hygienist Katri Jalava's job is to figure out the starting point of disease epidemics.

Jalava works for the city of Tampere as a food administrator. Together with her team she does her utmost to keep the city free of illness when duty calls. In December her detective work tracked down some bad Christmas party ice, while her most recent case of sick high school students traced the origins of the bug to an off plate of cheese sandwiches.

Jalava has experience with Norovirus. Her team likes to quip about how a single carrier could potentially infect the entire planet, if the contagion were effectively distributed. Norovirus is no joke, however.

"Norovirus causes violent diarrhoea, but deaths are very rare," she says. "The virus is more an economic pest in the long run, because spates of disease keep people from working."

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