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Thursday's papers: High winds and widespread power outages, impact of new budget plans

Morning papers report power cuts affecting tens of thousands of homes as the worst storm of the year hits the country.

Aallot lyövät rantaan Kokkolassa 17.9.
High winds are expected to continue through Thursday. Image: Ville Viitamäki / Yle

Nearly all of the nation's newspapers on Thursday headline a storm that hit western parts of the country overnight, bringing high winds and heavy rains.

The Helsinki tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported that winds had been measured over 30 metres per second in western coastal areas and described the the severe weather as "extremely dangerous".

According to the paper, as of 8am more than 62,000 households had lost electrical power.

Most power outages are being seen on the west coast, in Satakunta, Southern Ostrobothnia and Ostrobothnia, and also in Kainuu.

In both Vaasa and Central Ostrobothnia rescue services are on alert and extra personnel have been called in. The paper reports large numbers of downed trees and power line poles in the region.

The tabloid Iltalehti warns its readers of a common but dangerous storm-related electrical fault known as "loss of neutral".

Rather than causing a complete break in electrical current, storm damage to lines may cause large fluctuations in power flowing into homes and businesses.

This poses the risk of electric shock, and can damage electrical appliances through overheating.

Jarmo Ström, operations manager of the electricity company Caruna told the paper that there are a number of indications of loss of neutral, most notably the repeated dimming and brightening of lights and unusual operation of electrical appliances, such as refrigerators.

Ström says that if you suspect you have been hit by a loss of neutral, avoid touching the mains switch, especially if it is mounted in a metal housing, contact your power supply company straight away, and if the fault seems to possibly pose an immediate danger, you should contact the emergency centre directly.

Little budget impact on households

The Finnish government on Wednesday announced a draft budget for 2021 aimed at boosting employment, promoting climate targets and increasing spending to deal with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The Kuopio-based daily Savon Sanomat is among the papers that carries an STT Finnish News Agency look at how government plans will impact the average citizen's wallet.

The general verdict is "not very much".

The government plans no significant changes to taxation next year, but the employee’s wallet will lighten slightly. Taxation of earned income will remain more or less at this year's level with increases of taxes on wages and salaries going up by some 0.1–0.2 percentage points. There will be no changes to capital and corporate tax rates.

The budget came under the microscope in this week's All Points North podcast. You can listen to the full podcast via the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player.

Audio: Yle News

Taxes will be higher mainly on the excise side. For example, higher fuel taxes will increase heating costs for an ordinary oil-heated detached house by about 75 euros a year, according to calculations by the Taxpayers' Confederation.

Taxes on tobacco and alcoholic beverages will be increased by a targeted 50 million euros each under the government's plan. The price of a pack of tobacco will go up an estimated 45 cents, a small can of beer by 3 cents and a bottle of wine 20 cents.

As carrot, though, the government will ease taxation of work-related travel tickets, and as a new option, employer-funded bicycles will also be encouraged through tax exemptions. The tax value of fully electric vehicles used as company cars will also be reduced.

Reductions in daycare fees will bring some relief to low-income families with young children, as more and more families are to be moved to zero-fee classes or lower fees. Details on the exact allocation of payment reductions are still open.

A ban on Soldiers of Odin?

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat notes a growing debate in recent days over whether or not the anti-immigration street patrol movement Soldiers of Odin can be banned. Several MPs have publicly demanded a ban on the movement, but no official lawsuit or investigation into closing down the group is underway, according to the the National Police Board.

The Police Board has previously demanded the dissolution of the Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL). That group was ordered to be disbanded by a decision of the Turku Court of Appeal. However, the decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court, which has not yet ruled on the matter.

Soldiers of Odin is very much like the PVL, says Tommi Kotonen, a political science research at the University of Jyväskylä.

Soldiers of Odin has also collaborated with the PVL and later another far-right group called Towards Freedom. According to Kotonen, however, there are significant differences in the activities of the organisations.

"The PVL movement is clearly National Socialist in ideology. In the case of the Soldiers of Odin, it is more difficult to specify ideology," he told the paper.

Where the court has viewed the PVL as encouraging its supporters to engage in violent behaviour, acts of violence have not been part of the activities of the Soldiers of Odin in the same way.

"There have been a few acts of violence among the movement, but they are not clearly related to their activities, such as street patrols," Kotonen points out.

Last Friday, though, Tero Ala-Tuuhonen, a former active member of the movement, was arrested on suspicion of the attempted murder of Pekka Kataja, a Finns Party parliamentary assistant.

In comments to HS, Mika Ranta, Chairman of the Board of Soldiers of Odin denied encouraging violence and said the group has internal sanctions in place for criminal activities by members.

According to Kotonen, the activities of Soldiers of Odin have recently returned to their roots of white supremacy with Islamophobia as the core ideology .

Ranta told Helsingin Sanomat that the maximum number of members of the movement has been about five hundred, but he declined to comment on the current membership.

Kotonen estimates that the total number of members has shrunk by about half.

Warning to iPhone users

Ilta-Sanomat cautions iPhone users against installing Apple's new iOS 14 operating system just yet, especially if they are clients of Danske Bank and use the bank's personal identification app.

Danske Bank announced in a tweet that its ID app does not function on iOS 14, and advised users to stay with their latest stable version for the time being.

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