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Wednesday's papers: Political poll, deadly opioids, bunker shortage, strawberry market and humanising referees

Wednesday's newspapers have a mix of hard political polling news, a look at the lethal opioid newly arrived in Finland, speculation about Tampere's alleged shortage of nuclear bunkers, price comparison and taste tests of Finnish strawberries, and an attempt to humanise one of the least popular figures in football: the referee.

mansikoita mansikka rasioissa mansikkarasiat mansikkarasia
It's summer in Finland, and that means strawberries are in the news. Image: Katja Halinen / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat's lead story is the party support poll it publishes today, suggesting that the government parties have between them the support of less than 40 percent of voters. The catalyst for this is of course the implosion of the Finns Party following the election of nationalist hardliner Jussi Halla-aho as leader.

That precipitated the defection of half the Finns Party's parliamentary grouping, including the party's five ministers, and allowed the government to stay together without co-operating with Halla-aho. The only problem is that the new formation, 'New Alternative' (to be renamed as 'Blue Reform' if and when the party collects enough signatures to register officially) is polling at about 2.5 percent according to HS.

Despite that lack of support, the party has the same number of ministers as the National Coalition, which recorded 21 percent support in the HS poll. The Centre Party is also down, at 16.4 percent, with the Greens on 15.5 percent and the SDP on 19.6.

Halla-aho's Finns Party was backed by 6.3 percent of respondents, which is just over a third of the total recorded by the Finns Party in the last parliamentary election. Hesari suggests that the NCP at least might like to re-examine the number of ministerial posts each party holds if the current polling levels continue. The poll's margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points for the larger parties.

Killer carfentanil

Yesterday the Customs Board reported that it had seized carfentanil, a super-strength opioid that is extremely dangerous to humans. The drug is so strong that there is effectively no safe dose for humans--it was developed for veterinary purposes.

HS reports on Wednesday that the substance was found in the bodies of two people who died last year, although as several other substances were also present it was not recorded as the cause of death.

Finland is still considering whether to reclassify the substance as an illegal drug. At present it is treated legally as a medicinal product.

Tampere bunker scarcity

Finland's network of underground bunkers hit the headlines over the weekend, when the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the tunnels beneath Helsinki. The labyrinth is a big asset in national defence, reported the WSJ--and Tampere daily Aamulehti follows up on Wednesday with a look at the Pirkanmaa city's own network of bunkers.

Sadly for the local paper, "Finland's Manchester" does not have as extensive a network of underground facilities as Helsinki. Indeed there are no special bunkers for people who don't live in apartment blocks with their own dedicated shelters: just one of the Tampere emergency refuges is slated to be open to whoever turns up.

There are spaces (defined as 0.75 of a square metre in a shelter) for some 287,000 people, but just 1,800 of those are open to anyone. The rest are reserved for residents of apartment blocks.

The emergency services state that there's nothing to worry about, however, as they plan to evacuate people well ahead of any emergency situation.

Strawberry season

It's strawberry season in Finland, and that means the market squares are filled with stalls selling the sweet red fruit. Ilta-Sanomat has a double page spread including vital information such as the forecast for the season (it's good, thanks to the rainy summer) and the price of a punnet.

Those prices range from 4 euros up to 7 depending on where you buy, but the cheapest 5 kilo box in the IS comparison is to be found conveniently at the K Market in Postitalo, right by Helsinki Central Railway station.

The cost might seem high compared to the imported strawberries available outside the season, but Finns do buy domestic products when they can--and freeze them for the winter if at all possible.

To cap off their feature, IS asked foreign tourists for their opinions on Finnish strawberries, and got predictably polite answers.

"These are delicious," said Rodney from California. "These are better than the ones we get in the US."

Sleepless nights

Finnish football is not the best in Europe, but its referees are in a special category all of their own--and can make it to the very top. HS carries a profile of the number one Finnish football referee, Antti Munukka, outlining his views on refereeing, life in general and his future career.

Munukka says he can suffer sleepless nights after making a big mistake, but on the bright side that does help him enjoy it more when he has a good game. He's now semi-professional, making around 12,000 euros a year in match fees and working part time for the FA as a trainer of referees. That rankles a little, as Swedish referees at his level are full-time pros, but he admits it's better than before.

He has reffed matches on the European stage (including Italy v Malta), but is two classification rungs from the elite level. There's plenty of time left for him to reach the top, however, as there's no upper age limit. There is a fitness requirement, but Munukka says his fitness level is one of his strengths.

At 35 he thinks he has around 10 or 15 years of refereeing left, and has every chance of making it to the elite level which in this context means the World Cup or European Championships or the later stages of one of the European club competitions. He does not estimate whether he might do that before or after any other Finnish team.

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