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Monday's papers: Texas tragedy, defence minister goes solo, inappropriate teacher behaviour and lost packages

Monday's newspapers in Finland process news of another mass shooting in the US, and report on a harsh reaction from one MP to the defence minister's military exercise plans, a Kallio teacher accused of harassment, and Posti's growing numbers of lost packages.

Erkki Tuomioja
MP Erkki Tuomioja has harsh words for Defence Minister Niinistö this Monday. Image: Jani Saikko / Yle

The print papers in Finland first respond to the shocking news of yet another mass shooting in the US on Sunday. This time, a lone gunman took at least 26 lives and wounded another 20 when he opened fire on churchgoers in a Baptist chapel in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The police say the victims range from 5 to 72 years of age.

A paper out of Tampere, Aamulehti, reports that AFP has stated that the shooter was court-martialed from the Air Force in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child. He was given a bad-conduct discharge and confined for 12 months. AL says the suspect, who was also killed in the shooting, was born in 1991 and lived in San Antonio.

Finland's Prime Minister tweeted his condolences late Sunday night: "Our hearts and thoughts are with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas."

Defence Minister flies solo - again

Next is a story from Ilta-Sanomat on a heated reaction from a former foreign minister to Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö's Saturday announcement that his ministry is laying the groundwork for Finland to host large-scale joint military exercises. 

Social Democrat MP Erkki Tuomioja, who served as Finland's foreign minister for a cumulative 13 years, has accused Defence Minister Niinistö of going solo and circumventing the security policy principles of the Finnish Parliament.

"As far as I know, nothing like this has been considered in the government, or in the parliamentary foreign affairs or defence committees with the president. This is straight and simple the minister going solo, like he has so many times before," Tuomioja tells IS. 

Niinistö replied that organisation of military exercises is part of his mandate as defence minister, and that he plans to submit his plans to the president and the parliamentary committees once they have taken shape. 

The military exercises that Niinistö has envisioned would be exceptionally large, as they would involve troops from several countries' defence forces. Niinistö says he will be marketing the joint exercise opportunity to countries visiting Finland, starting today with the arrival of US Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

Tuomioja says Niinistö's war game plans and earlier talk about ending the demilitarisation of the Åland Islands indicate that the defence minister has little desire or ability to work within the government's chosen security policy parameters. He points out that neither of these initiatives had any grounding in written policy, or even discussions with the president or parliament.

"Finland has this thing called parliamentarianism. It could be that a man with just one percent of the public's backing can't understand that things should have broader support before they are brought forward," Tuomioja tells IS.

'Eccentric' teacher suspended on suspicion of inappropriate behaviour

The capital city paper Helsingin Sanomat focuses on a local story this Monday, as news of a teacher's suspension from the Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts makes waves. The news agency STT reports that the school's Theatre Arts teacher has been accused of engaging in improper behaviour and harassment of the students for years. The school's administration has sent the parents a Wilma message that says the teacher has been removed for the duration of an investigation into the claims.

"Due to the serious nature of the issue, we will be in contact with the police and the child protection services on Monday," the message said.

The Helsinki school is specialized in the performing arts and pupils there can study creative writing, staging, media, speech communication, theatre, dance and lighting and sound, in addition to their regular academic subjects and courses.

STT interviewed 18 former pupils and 2 teachers in the school. Not all of them had experienced the teacher's behaviour as harassment, but they all felt a "strange sexual vibe" when the Theatre Arts teacher was around. One interviewee said that when he heard that a teacher was under investigation at the school, he immediately knew which instructor it was. The Theatre Arts teacher denies that he harassed anyone.

Posti increasingly losing track

And Savon Sanomat, a newspaper out of the central Finland city of Kuopio, shines a light on postal carrier Posti's track record in losing packages.

Last year Posti reported losing 416 packages, when in 2012 the figure was 311. SS says that the increase in the volume of total packages doesn't correspond with the more dramatic rise in lost items. The Finnish postal carrier Posti processes over 8 million deliveries in a day. Last year, 34 million items were packages of some sort.

The paper highlights registered mail as an example. This service gives the sender proof of mailing via a mailing receipt and, upon request, electronic verification that an article was delivered or that a delivery attempt was made. Over 2,600 inquiries about undelivered registered mail were submitted to Posti in 2016, and investigation eventually determined that 1,480 of these deliveries had been lost.

This is a trend that is seen in other areas, too, as last year 652 regular letters were also lost in the mail.

Posti Group's chief risk and security officer Markku Rajamäki tells SS that over half of the 'unsolved' cases of lost letters and packages eventually find their way to their destinations.

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