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Tuesday's papers: Manchester bombing, Finnish Red Cross staying in Afghanistan, growing state debt, speeding revisited

With few exceptions, the morning's papers lead with the suspected terrorist attack at a concert in Manchester, England, that left at least19 dead and scores injured. Other items included a look at how the government is, or is not dealing with the national debt, and how police are rethinking speeding fines.

Poliiseja partioimassa räjähdyksen jälkeen Manchester Arenan lähellä maanantai-iltana.
The scene outside the Manchester Arena soon after Monday night's explosion. Image: AOP

The bombing that took at least 19 lives and injured more than 50 people in Manchester, England, dominated news coverage Tuesday morning, with several outlets providing online readers continuous updates.

Helsingin Sanomat reports reaction by Finnish leaders. President Sauli Niinistö said that the Manchester attack reflects "ruthless inhumanity", expressed sympathy for the victims and their families, and stated that Finland sharply condemns all acts of terror. 

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä tweeted, "Shocked by the news from Manchester. Strongly condemn the horrible attack. Our thoughts go out to the victims, their families and friends."

Foreign Minister Timo Soini called it a "cowardly attack against innocent children and against us all".

Helsingin Sanomat also included an item reporting that while it had not been confirmed, there were no indications that any of the victims were Finnish citizens.

The paper does point out that many Finns visit or reside in the city which even has a Finnish school which provides Finnish-language education.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry tweeted a request for any Finns in the area to file a travel notice, to contact friends and family, and to follow any instructions issued by local police in Manchester.

FRC staying in Afghanistan

The Finnish Red Cross will not cut back on the number of workers it has in Afghanistan, according to the daily Turun Sanomat.

Increased concerns about the safety of Finnish aid workers have been voiced following the weekend kidnapping in Kabul of a Finnish woman working for an aid organization during an attack in which two other people were killed.

The director of international aid operations for the Finnish Red Cross, Kalle Löövi, told the Lännen Media group yesterday that right now there is nothing in the situation in Afghanistan that would require the Red Cross to withdrawal personnel.

He added that Red Cross and Red Crescent workers have the advantage that their organization is recognized as a neutral actor in the conflict.

Debt out of hand

The newsstand tabloid Iltalehti reports that the government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä is failing to reach its own target of bringing the "chronic deficit" in state finances under control.

At the start of its term, the Sipilä government committed to having a state deficit of no more than 0.5 percent of the GDP by 2019. The cabinet last reaffirmed that target in April.

Iltalehti terms this "official optimism" and points out that late last year, an evaluation of the 2017 budget proposal by an independent panel of experts stated that the government is slipping in efforts to shrink the deficit.

In April, the government estimated that the deficit in the state budget in 2019 will be 4.2 billion euros. At the same time it estimated the 2019 GDP at 231.7 billion. This will mean a 1.8 percent deficit, three times the government's announced target. At present it is 2.8 percent.

At the same time as it says it is planning to rein in the deficit, the government has also officially stated that public spending will continue to rise at a fast pace right up to 2030. Pension payments will level off as the last of the baby boomers retire, but healthcare will require more money, the Air Force's fighter fleet will be replaced and other public outlays will go up.

Speeding fines revisited

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat notes recent news reports that a revision in traffic laws will impose zero tolerance for speeding, meaning that driving even a single kilometre over the limit can bring a fine.

It reports that Transport and Communications Minister Anne Berner made a Facebook posting in which she claimed that news reports had distorted the issue, because even the present system makes all speeding an offense.

Chief Inspector Samppa Holopainen of the National Police Board told Savon Sanomat that upcoming changes are not as radical as the media has led the public to believe.

"If the sign says 80km/h, then the limit is 80km/h," he pointed out.

According to Holopainen, police can indeed impose fines for even one kilometre an hour over the limit, but they have been issued a policy directive - although he did not directly say what it is. Instead, he said that a margin is being programmed into traffic cameras, while police will use their own judgment on a case-by-case basis.

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