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Wednesday's papers: Air Force drops swastika, Kulmuni’s "headache", student masks

Finland's press reports on the Finnish Air Force's decision to stop using the controversial swastika symbol, without telling anyone.

Suomen Ilmavoimien esikunnan vanha joukko-osastotunnus, jossa on hakaristi, ja Ilmavoimien yleistunnus.
The former insignia of the Finnish Air Force Command on the left, with the general Air Force logo on the right.

Many papers on Wednesday morning report on the Finnish Air Force’s "quiet" dropping of the swastika symbol, which has been used on monuments, awards and decorations for almost a century.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, news of the change was tweeted on Tuesday by Teivo Teivainen, Professor of World Policy at the University of Helsinki, and later confirmed by the Air Force as having been made as far back as 1 January, 2017.

The Air Force, however, made no public statement about the change in the intervening three and a half years, despite plenty of public and media discussion on the issue.

Air Force Chief of Staff Jari Mikkonen told HS that the symbol often attracted negative and even "angry" attention abroad, which the force thought they would "get less of if we changed it," despite feeling pride in the tradition of using the controversial symbol.

"We are not ashamed of the swastika we use, it is not related to Nazi Germany," Mikkonen told the paper.

HS writes that the swastika symbol is thousands of years old and has been used in and by many different cultures, including in the Finno-Ugric culture both as a decoration and as a symbol of happiness.

Its modern-day associations, however, made it a "risky" choice to put on Air Force staff uniforms, according to Professor Teivainen.

"It might be a bit like giving a gun into an enemy's hand," Teivainen said.

"Not our headache"

Tabloid Iltalehti reports that former Finance Minister Katri Kulmuni, who resigned from her post in early June over a 50,000 euros coaching bill, has still not paid the money back to the two ministries -- despite promising to do so.

IL writes that Heidi Nummela of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, which was one of the two ministries to receive the original invoices, confirmed to the tabloid that they have not agreed anything as yet with the former minister -- or necessarily even heard from her.

"I am not aware that there was [any contact], but I do not necessarily have comprehensive information on all the operations within the ministry," Nummela said.

Over at the Ministry of Finance, which also received an invoice from consultancy firm Tekir for Kulmuni’s training, Finance Manager Jan Holmberg told IL that the ministry is carrying out an internal investigation and will make its own assessment in due course.

"We do not proactively act on the basis that a person declares that he or she is paying us for something. We do not send an invoice on the basis of a mere announcement," Holmberg said, adding that this is "not our headache".

The matter is also the subject of an ongoing preliminary investigation by police.

Compulsory masks for exam students

Tampere-based Aamulehti reports that Tampere University has told students they must wear face masks if they wish to sit exams in August.

Through its internal communication channel, the university informed students that this directive may change based on updated guidelines from the Finnish government. However, as Aamulehti points out, the government has not issued any recommendation on the compulsory use of masks.

The use of masks is instead intended to compensate for the inability to maintain a distance of two metres in the electronic exam room, according to Jukka Mäkinen, Director of the Education and Learning Service Centre at the University of Tampere.

"In electronic examination rooms, safety instructions, such as safety clearances, can be followed [using masks] without cutting the number of places in the examination rooms," Mäkinen explained to Aamulehti, adding that masks achieve the "same level of safety" as physical distancing, but at the same time the university can use the full capacity of the exam room.

In other universities with similar exam rooms, physical distancing is maintained by removing or not using a number of machines, according to Aamulehti, but Mäkinen says this would be "technically too difficult" at Tampere University.

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