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Monday’s papers: Niinistö's train odyssey, winter lightning, Bitcoin burning

Finland's press starts the week with stories from the president's campaign kickoff to a freak thunderstorm and a comparison between Bitcoin and Santa Claus.

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Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are hardly sustainable at the current rate of growth, says Kauppalehti. Image: AOP

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.

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