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Monday's papers: Presidential run-up, psychedelic care, Xmas insects

The week in print news starts with a take on President Sauli Niinistö's chances in next year's presidential elections, news that psychoactive substances may have a positive effect on mental health and a newcomer at this year's Christmas tables.

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Bugs may make it to Xmas plates. Image: Marjo Seppälä

Tampere region daily Aamulehti starts off the print news week by taking a look at the prospects of incumbent President Sauli Niinistö, who is set to take a new run at the presidency in January.

The paper interviews Markku Jokisipilä, leader of Turku University's parliamentary research centre, who says that Monday is an historic moment.

"This is the first indication of how well Niinistö has been able to rise above party politics," says Jokisipilä.

Niinistö's support figures for Niinistö have to reach at least 34,000 to win – the approximate number of National Coalition Party members. Upwards of that, potential voters are likely to be outside of candidate Niinistö's own stable, AL writes.

Jokisipilä lauds the efficacy of the supporter sign-up drive, which needs to gather at least 20,000 voting advocates in order to set up a constituency association, necessary for the presidential campaign.

If Niinistö breaks big in the run-up, other candidates will have to buckle down, Jokisipilä says.

"For instance, [Green Party candidate] Pekka Haavisto will have to consider who his audience is. There are many candidates on the so-called "red-green" ticket, and if those people lose votes criss-crossing each other's constituencies that could affect the running chances of all involved."

The AL-interviewed specialist suggests either gunning for the Finns Party's vocal anti-evolutionist Laura Huhtasaari, or running as the best bet against some other, smaller rival.

Psychedelics shown to help the mind

A new boom in research into psychedelic (literally "mind-showing") drugs has produced results that main Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat reports as being helpful to patients suffering from mental ailments such as depression.

Finnish researchers are increasingly applying for funding for further studies on substances that some native cultures have cultivated and used for millennia, HS writes. The current surge in interest in the therapeutic qualities of psychedelic compounds such as DMT (dimethyltryptamine, known as the "spirit molecule") has even been called an academic renaissance, with research activity now resembling levels seen in the 1950s and '60s.

HS writes that two researchers in the forefront of the new high point for psychedelic research, Jordi Riba and Robin Carhart-Harris, visited the University of Helsinki last week. Their focus is on ayahuasca, the hallowed brew prepared from a vine of the same name, in which DMT presents naturally. The drinkable broth has been used in ceremonies by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin for many hundreds of years.

Carhart-Harris succinctly describes the effects of psychoactive agents as "turbo-charged psychoanalysis" in the HS piece.

"Compared with a common antidepressant, the effects of ayahuasca on patients diagnosed with severe depression were almost instantaneous, and the positive effects of the treatment were reported to continue for weeks," Carhart-Harris' colleague Riba tells the paper.

Christmas crickets?

Finally, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat features a piece on a possible new addition to Christmas feasts. Edible insects such as crickets and mealworms may be entering the Finnish cuisine scene by the festive season.

IS writes that Finland will be reinterpreting the EU convention on novel foods so that growing and selling insects for consumption will be legally overseen in the country. Previously this was unlawful, and insects have had to be sold as "kitchen accessories" or similar.

"This changes everything," says Santtu Vekkeli, the founder of a new insect-based food company. "I believe that insects will be sold as food by the end of the year."

In other words, be ready for grasshoppers and bees to share the table with other Christmas classics if you sit down to a supper in Finland this holiday season.

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