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October 10, 2008

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Martti Ahtisaari, Finnish top diplomat

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Martti Ahtisaari, Finnish top diplomat

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Martti Ahtisaari served as president of Finland for six years.

The Nobel Peace Committee announced that Martti Ahtisaari, former president and Finnish diplomat, has received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2008.

Norway’s Nobel committee praised Martti Ahtisaari for his efforts to help secure peace in a number of conflict torn countries during his lengthy career as a United Nations diplomat, Finnish president and later, peace activist with his organization, the Crisis Management Initiative.

Over the past 20 years, the Nobel statement said, Ahtisaari has played a prominent role in resolving serious and long-lasting conflicts in Namibia, Indonesia, Kosovo and Iraq – among other areas.

In an interview on Norwegian television, Ahtisaari cited peace talks in 1989-1990 in the southwestern African nation of Namibia as his greatest achievement. Those talks helped pave the way for Namibia’s independence from South Africa.

Ahtisaari began his career as a school teacher before joining Finland’s foreign ministry. He served as a United Nations undersecretary and secretary of state for the Finnish foreign ministry before being elected president of Finland in 1994.

Ahtisaari founded the Crisis Management Initiative in 2000. The Helsinki-based non-profit organization provides solutions for ending conflicts around the world.

Former United States Vice-President Al Gore won last year’s Nobel peace prize along with the U.N. panel on climate change for their work on raising attention to the threat of global warming.

Prior to the announcement Chinese human rights activists were high on the lists of speculations about the prospective receivers. Norwegian lawyer, author and activist, Fredrik Heffermehl published a book criticising the interpretation of the will of Nobel, just a few days prior to October 10. His interpretation is that human rights activists do not fall within the scope of the prize. Even peace mediators fall on the very edge, if the intentions of Alfred Nobel are to be taken seriously. Heffermehl points to former United States senator Sam Nunn as a long-term and 2008 nominee to the Nobel Peace Prize, that has worked much more clearly in line with the will of Nobel. Sam Nunn is an activist for disarmament of Soviets arsenals left in Russia.

Some commentators of the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, criticise the Committee, for not daring to stand up to the Chinese. The Danish peace researcher Øberg, however criticises the choice of Ahtisaari, the recipient of the prize for 2008, because of his role in the Balkans, claiming that the work of Ahtisaari added to hostilities there, instead of reducing them. Furthermore Øberg, says the Nobel Peace Committee is not comprised of experts in the relevant field, unlike the committees for the scientific prizes.

Related news

  • “Nobel Peace Prize misused says Norwegian lawyer and activist” — Wikinews, October 9, 2008

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January 1, 2008

Finnish actor Markku Peltola dies at 51

Finnish actor Markku Peltola dies at 51 – Wikinews, the free news source

Finnish actor Markku Peltola dies at 51

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Finnish actor Markku Peltola has died. He was 51.

Peltola was most well known for starring in the 2002 Aki Kaurismäki-directed film The Man Without a Past, which won a Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

He also had supporting roles in Drifting Clouds (1996) and Juha (1999), both directed by Kaurismaki. In total he had played over 30 roles in film and television.

The Helsinki-born Peltola, son of a taxi driver, was also a guitarist in a band and a director. In 1996 he co-founded Telakka, a theatre-themed restaurant, in his hometown of Tampere. In October 2007 he directed a play there called Activist.

His most recent film roles were a small role on the 2006 film Jade Warrior and the Estonian movie I Was Here, which will premiere in that country in September this year.

Peltola died in his Tampere home yesterday. According to local media, he had suffered poor health for some time.



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October 20, 2007

Saudi Arabia plans to open embassy in Finland

Saudi Arabia plans to open embassy in Finland

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

It has been announced that Saudi Arabia is planning to open an official embassy in Finland, to signify continuing improvement in relations between the two countries.

Teemu Tanner, director general of Africa and the Middle East at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said to reporters concerning Finnish President Tarja Halonen’s first visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, “One indication of this visit is that you (Saudi Arabia) are planning to open an embassy here in Helsinki,” adding that “We regard this as extremely important for relations,” and that it is only a matter of time before the facility is made available.

Another act set to strengthen diplomatic relations is the planned visit of a trade delegation headed by Saudi Minister of Trade and Commerce Hashim Yamani, which will arrive in Finland next month.

“Our relationship is no longer in relation to trade,” said Tanner. “More broadly, we will discuss regional and global issues. It is extremely important for us to know Saudi Arabia’s views on Iraq, Iran, but also issues such as Somalia… One objective of the visit is to convey notes on international questions, as we enter a very interesting phase in the Middle East peace process,” adding that the presidential visit is a relational “landmark” that will “crystallize” Finland’s image to Saudi Arabia.

Despite the comment that the international cooperation is no longer entirely a trade issue, he did point out Saudi Arabia’s important role in the Finnish economy as one of the five largest importers of Finnish products. Finland’s main exports to Saudi Arabia are mobile phones, paper, wood and machinery, while Saudi Arabia exports large quantities of raw materials for use in manufacturing plastics. The total volume if this trade is estimated to be worth over €840 million.

Other topics on the table for the two nations to discuss during Halonen’s visit include energy, the role of science, environmental issues and combating terrorism, as well as other global issues. Tanner has also suggested tourism may be a future area of attention, with a possibility of package holidays for Finnish tourists being organized to Saudi Arabia.

Finland and Saudi Arabia have been officially involved in diplomatic relations since 1969. Finland has maintained an embassy in Saudi Arabia since 1974.



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October 1, 2007

Finnish department store Stockmann bids for fashion chain Lindex

Finnish department store Stockmann bids for fashion chain Lindex

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Sweden-based Nordic fashion chain Lindex AB has been offered 7.9 billion kronor (€861 million; US$1.2 billion) in a takeover bid by Stockmann Oyj Abp, a Finnish department store chain based in Helsinki.

The board of Lindex is said to have recommended acceptance of the deal, which significantly outdid a 7 billion kronor (€763 million; US$1.08 billion) offer by rival KappAhl Holding AB, another clothing vendor, in August. The board had recommended shareholders reject that offer as too low.

Stockmann’s increase to 116 Kroner from KappAhl’s 102 Kroner per share was said by Lindex to be a reasonable price. KappAhl have withdrawn their offer as a result.

Lindex Chairman Conny Karlsson said “We believe that Stockmann actively can contribute with their experience and know-how in order to accelerate our expansion in Eastern and Central Europe.,” The chain is one of Europe’s biggest fashion chains, operating 350 stores in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.



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September 24, 2007

Thunderstone to support Sonata Arctica on Christmas tour of Finland

Thunderstone to support Sonata Arctica on Christmas tour of Finland

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Thunderstone performing at the Sauna Open Air Metal Festival in 2007

Thunderstone have joined up with Sonata Arctica as the latter’s support act for a four-gig mini tour across the days between Christmas and New Year. Both acts are power metal bands native to Finland, where the tour is being held.

The four dates and venues have been confirmed as follows:

  • December 27 – Teatria – Oulu, Finland
  • December 29 – Kaapelitehdas – Helsinki, Finland
  • December 30 – Metroauto Areena – Tampere, Finland
  • December 31 – Jäähalli – Mikkeli, Finland

Sonata Arctica performing

The gigs in Oulu and Mikkeli will feature Tuple Salminen of Tarot filling the role of lead vocals, while the Helsinki and Tampere concerts will feature original singer Pasi Rantanen, who is leaving the band, for the last time.

Lead guitarist Nino Laurenne made this statement regarding the adition of Thunderstone to Sonata Arctica’s tour: “It’s great to close one chapter of Thunderstone with these two Christmas gigs and show people that there is no animosity between us. We are looking forward to a bright future with the new members, whoever they turn out to be in the end.”

Sonata Arctica are starting the tour in Sweden, but will only be joined by Thunderstone on the four Finnish events. Meanwhile, Thunderstone are finalising preparations for a European tour co-headlining with Nocturnal Rites.



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May 12, 2007

Serbia wins Eurovision Song Contest 2007

Serbia wins Eurovision Song Contest 2007

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Serbian Marija Šerifović performs the winning song Molitva.
Image: Indrek Galetin.

Serbia’s entry, Molitva (A Prayer), performed by 23-year-old Marija Šerifović, has won the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki, Finland, with a score of 268 points.

Second place was claimed by the Ukrainian drag queen Verka Serduchka, and third place went to the Russian entry of Serebro. Turkey took the fourth place with Shake It Up Shekerim. Greece with Sarbel’s Yassou Maria came 7th as the first Western-European country, while Ireland took only 5 points, finishing below France and the United Kingdom which shared the second-last place.

16 out of 24 finalists came from Eastern Europe, which caused many Western European countries to doubt the possibility that a country from Western Europe could ever win the final. Although France, the U.K., Spain and Germany are the big sponsors of the festival and are automatically selected for the final round, they all ended up at the bottom of the ranking. The fact that affiliated countries vote for each other (neighbourhood countries such as Scandinavian, Balkan or ex-Soviet countries) is also an annually returning matter discussed in the media.

A record 42 countries entered the 52nd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, but 18 didn’t make it through the selection rounds. Serbia competed as an independent country for the first time, separate from Montenegro or Bosnia-Herzegovina, and immediately won the competition. This year’s edition was the first to host new styles like jazz side by side with traditional ballads and rock. The winning song was also the first non-English song to win since the transsexual artist Dana International won for Israel in 1998.

The competition took place in Finland because last year the Finnish hard rock song ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ by Lordi won the competition. The song kicked off the final in Helsinki. Hosts were Jaana Pelkonen and Mikko Leppilampi

After the victory, many Serbs took to the streets with flags to celebrate the victory. Aleksandar Tijanic, director of RTS state television, was glad that Serbia made the news in a positive way: “I’m so glad it wasn’t some war song. Hosting this event in Belgrade next year will mean we have finally crossed into normality.” The country is still sometimes associated with the Yugoslav wars which led to the disintegration of Former Yugoslavia.

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November 2, 2006

Finnish parliamentary ombudsman faults infant formula study

Finnish parliamentary ombudsman faults infant formula study

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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Helsinki, Finland — The Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman has found that an infant formula study has been conducted on thousands of newborns in several hospitals without obtaining informed consent from the parents, who were not informed of the commercial funding for the study. Additionally, the study was found to have been started and carried out for six months without ethical committee approval, and suffered from other shortcomings.

Findings

Numerous shortcomings were found in a study which according to documents signed by WHO Director-General candidate Pekka Puska, head of the Finnish National Public Health Institute (NPHI) “complies with the law regarding medical research and good research practice. … informed consent fulfills the requirements of the law. … distribution of infant formula does not deviate from legal norms.”

The Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman Riitta-Leena Paunio disagreed with professor Puska. On October 25, the 60th anniversary of the filing of the indictment in Doctors’ Trial (of the Nuremberg Trials) which led to the framing of modern medical research ethics, she resolved a complaint filed by The Breastfeeding Support Association in Finland. According to the resolution, it was not possible for the parents to give informed consent as required by law due to many reasons.

The Ombudsman lists lack of disclosure of the study’s funding, lack of clear statement pointing the benefits of breastfeeding, lack of disclosure of the fact that the Principal Investigator working within NPHI is an inventor and benefactor in a patent on the research formula owned by the Finnish formula manufacturer Valio, as reasons for lack of capacity to give informed consent. The Ombudsman also points out that during discovery of the facts concerning the study, NPHI gave information which was simply not true. Documents given during discovery by NPHI were signed by Pekka Puska, the Finnish candidate for the post of WHO Director-General. NPHI also claimed in statements signed by professor Puska to have accepted public funding addressed only directly to it, while in actual fact NPHI accepted public funding addressed to Valio which Valio directed to NPHI.

Further omissions pointed out by the Ombudsman include lack of the naming of the one single person responsible for the safety of the study as required by Finnish law and omissions in giving information and asking for consent and ethical approval when changes to the study were made, and the omission of not asking for consent from both parents.

According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s resolution, both National Public Health Institute and the ethical committee failed in fulfilling their duties. The Ombudsman reminds that according to the Finnish Constitution, everyone has the right to life, personal liberty, integrity and security. No one shall be treated in a manner violating human dignity. Medical research has a connection to this basic right. The Ombudsman also cites the Declaration of Helsinki and international conventions on human rights in her decision. During the discovery phase of the complaint, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health stated that the Declaration of Helsinki, named after the Finnish capital, is not legally binding.

The aim of the study was to find out whether removal of bovine insulin from infant formula would reduce type 1 diabetes (IDDM) and find out mechanisms leading to IDDM, whose prevalence in Finland is more than in any other country in the world.

Complaint

The complaint, filed in April, 2004 by The Breastfeeding Support Association in Finland (founded 1997), asked the Ombudsman to find out the legality of an infant formula product development study with national health implications, funded by the Finnish infant formula manufacturer Valio and carried out by the National Public Health Institute of Finland.

The two major points in the complaint were to find out

1) whether the study fulfills informed consent requirements, when parents are not told enough about the benefits of breastfeeding nor the product development nature and commercial funding of the study

2) whether it is legal to distibute infant formula provided by an infant formula manufacture free of charge from the hospital with means which resemble the milk nurse practice of some infant formula companies.

The Breastfeeding Support Association based the first part of the complaint on the law concerning medical research. The second part was based on the part of International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes established in 1981 by the general assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) implemented in Finnish law and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (right to best possible health, advancement of breastfeeding).

The Breastfeeding Support Association pressed that they think the study’s aims (both the product development goals and the scientific goal of finding out whether dietary bovine insulin triggers the autoimmune reaction causing IDDM) are valid and important, but that research should be done according to laws, international conventions and ethical principles.

Reaction to the Ombudsman’s decision

While the part of the complaint concerning informed consent was successful, the Breastfeeding Support Association expressed disappointment that the part regarding formula distribution was not successful. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s resolution stated that the Finnish legislation placing restrictions on gratis infant formula distribution is not meant to apply to medical research, and the same holds for food safety legislation. The Breastfeeding Support Association is looking into whether international conventions require changes to legislation. The Breastfeeding Support Association has stated that many of the problems in the study could perhaps have been avoided if infant formula research would have at least the same checks and balances as drug research has. This would be prudent, since infant formula is the only nutrition for most infants in an important phase of their lives and thus it’s effects can be much greater than the effect of many drugs used only occasionally.

The Breastfeeding Support Association has been concerned with outside, partly commercial funding directing the research of NPHI. According to “Good Research Practic, Handbook” (2005), outside funding amounts to 40 percent of NPHI’s spending, and the policy is to get as much outside funding to carry out NPHI’s plan of action as possible. Research on breastmilk was planned in the study the complaint was filed on, but was not carried out because of lack of funding.

The director of National Public Health Institute of Finland is a candidate for the Director-General post of the World Health Organization (election to be held 6th-9th November, 2006), and considered to be among the three leading candidates by The Lancet.

Background

The Breastfeeding Support Association in Finland is a volunteer association, founded in 1997, whose work is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 24) and WHO breastfeeding promotion programs.

The Association is funded by membership fees, advertisements in the Imetysuutiset newsletter and fees on training of volunteers. RAY (Finland’s Slot Machine Association which funds health and social welfare projects) has awarded the association a grant for 2005/06 for the purpose of establishing a nationwide project, which includes the maintenance and advertising of the Breastfeeding Support Hotline.

The City of Helsinki has awarded the Association a small grant annually to support mothers in the Helsinki area. In the other municipalities in Finland some local groups have had opportunities to apply for grants from local social authorities.

The Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman exercises oversight to ensure that public authorities and officials observe the law and fulfil their du­ties in the discharge of their functions. In addition to authorities and officials, the scope of oversight includes also other parties performing public functions.

The Ombudsman’s office aims to ensure good administration and the observance of constitutional and human rights.

The National Public Health Institute of Finland, according to it’s website, promotes people’s possibilities to live healthy life and is responsible as an expert body under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, for providing various professionals and citizens the best available information for their choices.

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May 21, 2006

Finnish metal band win 51st Eurovision Song Contest

Finnish metal band win 51st Eurovision Song Contest

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Lordi, performing on stage

Lordi, described as “cartoon metalheads” wearing latex monster masks, beat runner-up Russian “heart throb” Dima Bilan to win this year’s 51st Eurovision song contest held in Athens, Greece. Bosnia’s Hari Mata Hariwas came third.

In a spectacular show, hosted by Maria Menounos and Sakis Rouvas, Lordi amassed 292 points after a public vote – 44 ahead of Russia. Greece’s singer Anna Vissi, who was one of the favourites to win, came 9th, followed by Ireland’s Brian Kennedy. From the start of the song contest as well as during the televoting, the Greek organisers presented viewers choreographies and dances inspired by Greek culture and music, both ancient and modern. In addition, the world famous Greek singer Nana Moushouri was presented by the hosts and gave the sign for the start of televoting.

Wielding spark-spewing instruments, the “Monster-themed” rock band beat 23 other competitors, scoring 292 points from telephone voters in 38 countries with its song “Hard Rock Hallelujah” in a performance that both shocked and amused viewers.

A spokesperson for Lordi said: “We won the contest, looking like this,” he said. “It just goes to show that Europe is not such a bad place.” The Finnish band thanked viewers for voting for their song, which featured the lead singer hoisting a double-headed-axe microphone stand above his head. The win has been dubbed as a “radical departure” from the catchy pop tunes, folk songs and emotional ballads normally associated with Eurovision.

Complete with distorted guitars, a catchy chorus and “mock-demonic imagery,” Lordi is reminiscent of 1970s American band Kiss – an inspiration acknowledged by lead singer Mr Lordi. “What this has shown is that there are different styles of music than just pop and rock,” Mr Lordi told news media after the surprise victory. “That should be the goal of Eurovision,” he said.

Mr. Lordi, whose real name is Tomi Putaansuu, hails from Lapland and says his band’s masked personas are just characters. “The guys behind the masks are not interesting – underneath, there’s just a boring, normal guy who walks the dogs, goes to the supermarket, watches DVDs and eats candies. You really don’t want to see him.” he said. But the characters “live on stage and they live in a fantasy world”, he said. “This element of mystery is one of the cornerstones of Lordi.”

The band has upset many Finns with their outrageous behaviour. “This is a victory for rock music… and also a victory for open-mindedness,” Mr Lordi said. “For the millionth time, we’re not Satanists or devil worshippers. This is entertainment. The masks are like our calling card and we’ll never perform without them. It would be like Santa Claus handing a child his gifts at Christmas time and then pulling off his beard…”

The 51st annual Eurovision was broadcast live across Europe, watched by an estimated 100 million viewers. Regarded by many as the “contest good taste forgot,” Eurovision is adored by fans of kitsch and camp everywhere.

Lordi join the likes of Abba, Bucks Fizz, Dana and Celine Dion on the elite list of Eurovision winners.

Because of Lordi’s first place finish, next year the 52nd Eurovision Song Contest will take place, for the first time, in Helsinki, Finland.

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May 6, 2006

Warehouse burns in Helsinki, Finland

Warehouse burns in Helsinki, Finland – Wikinews, the free news source

Warehouse burns in Helsinki, Finland

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Saturday, May 6, 2006

Photo by Petteri Sulonen

A former warehouse of VR Group, a Finnish railroad company in Helsinki, Finland, is currently on fire. Reports say smoke can be seen throughout the City Center.

The warehouse was scheduled to be demolished next Monday.

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March 6, 2006

Transit strike affects 100,000 in Helsinki

Filed under: Archived,Economy and business,Europe,Finland,Helsinki — admin @ 5:00 am

Transit strike affects 100,000 in Helsinki

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Monday, March 6, 2006

In Helsinki, the Finnish trade union for bus and truck drivers has gone on strike on Sunday evening, mainly over the use of part-time labor. The strike is estimated to affect 100,000 people in the capital area, crowding the remaining transit system on Monday morning. The strike is halting almost half of all bus traffic in and around Helsinki, especially hurting travellers commuting from outlying cities Espoo and Vantaa, where over 60% of bus traffic will be stopped.

The strike also affects 4,000 of Finland’s 55,000 delivery trucks, as well as waste management in many areas. The strike is not affecting trains, trams or the underground, but heavy crowding is to be expected. Authorities are also warning of traffic jams during rush-hours as people use personal cars instead of public transportation.

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