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Wednesday’s papers: Everyday racism, pollen problems and feisty seagulls

A city councilman finds foreigners out of place in a rich neighbourhood, Finland sees a higher pollen count, and the city arms itself against seagulls.

kauppatori, lokki, merilokki, lintu, lokkisota
Gulls be gone, says the city. Image: Yle/Tuomas Keränen

Helsinki City Councilman Harry Bogomoloff is facing a storm of criticism following a racist post to a closed Facebook group earlier this week, reports free-sheet Metro. The deputy chairman of Helsinki City Council warned residents of Helsinki’s upscale Kulosaari neighbourhood of "three dark men of Balkan origin roaming in the area seemingly without good reason."

The social media firestorm has sparked discussion on 'everyday' racism in Finland, with Bogomoloff’s centre-right National Coalition Party’s condemnation of the post prompting a public apology from Bogomoloff.

A woman describing herself as a 'dark Balkan' was the first person to draw attention to the post, tweeting: "the next time I’m out with my Balkan friends on the street I’ll be sure to notify all blond Finns that we are just going for a walk." Later on, Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division tweeted that people are not only allowed—but encouraged—to meander in public parks and recreational areas "without any clear reason."

Bogomoloff is no stranger to controversy. In 2012 he said graduates from the University of Lapland were only qualified to shovel snow.

Allergy misery in store

Tampere regional paper Aamulehti reports that birch pollen levels are higher this spring than usual, bringing more misery to allergy sufferers.

One in five Finns is allergic to tree pollen, but the good news is that over-the-counter remedies are just as effective as prescription medicine to control symptoms.

Mafia seagulls

Seagulls’ descent on the capital is a sure sign of the start of summer, and this season the city is looking to outsmart the white-breasted nuisances amid a growing seagull insurgence. Helsinki is fighting back by expanding gull netting, raising the volume on audio deterrents, and adding more gull spiking to street lights and lamp posts. Seagulls are most brazen in early June when their young hatch, leading the resourceful birds to work together to find food, eating anything from cherries to french fries and ripping ice-cream cones out of unsuspecting hands.

Over the years, the city has piloted several creative—but ultimately useless—solutions to deter the gulls, from swaying dragons fashioned to look like birds of prey to UV-reflective bird gel designed to deter birds from an area. Some years student interns have been used as human scarecrows and private citizens have even planted rubber snakes in strategic spots, but all for naught.

"The seagulls are quick learners and understood that these props were nothing to be afraid of," says Tommi Tapana of the city’s technical service unit, adding that the birds draw on years of experience as they can live for up to 20 years.

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