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Monday's papers: Hate speech spike, vegan milk boom, Nordic heat bubble

This week begins with papers reporting on last year's hate crime stats, the rising popularity of plant-based milk and the weather phenomenon responsible for Finland's balmy temperatures.

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Oat can effectively be grown almost anywhere in the world, making it perfect for non-dairy milk drinks, according to Swedish company Oatly. Image: Malin Hulkki / Yle

Finland's dailies feature news this Monday on both social and natural phenomena, with regional paper Aamulehti running a piece on last year's hate crime statistics.

A record number of reports with the charge of incitement to ethnic or racial hatred were recorded after police founded a new task force to specifically target hate speech in 2017. That same unit has since been defunded despite a clear rise in offenses.

AL features a graph showing the record-breaking spike: the number of incitement reports stayed at an average of 40 instances per year in 2011-2016, but the next year the figure leaped to 197 cases.

No one has ever been formally charged with aggravated incitement to racial hatred in Finland, even while the non-aggravated form of the offense is one of the most commonly reported forms of hate crime in the country.

AL quotes state prosecutor Anu Mantila, who says that the more serious form of the incitement offense involves urging people to commit heinously violent acts such as genocide or aggressive disruption of the social order.

"It depends on how extensively the message has been propagated, how organised the offenses have been and to what extent the act of hatred has caused fear or panic," Mantila says.

Hate speech online very rarely leads to charges of aggravated incitement to ethnic or racial hatred, and hate speech itself lacks a coherent definition in Finnish law. Most often the penalty for hate speech comes in the form of a fine, AL writes.

Oat milk selling like hot cakes

Meanwhile consumer habits also make print news, with top circulation newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reporting on the rapidly rising popularity of plant-based milk drinks as an alternative to cow's milk. Oat milk is especially favoured in Finland, even though soy, rice and other options are more commonly preferred around the world.

As consumers call for more vegetarian and vegan options to be readily available, large dairy companies such as Valio, Juustoportti and Kaslink have also come out with their own plant-based ranges. Despite the rise in domestic products, the Swedish Oatly brand largely outshines the other alternatives.

HS reports that Oatly made a turnover of some 63.5 million euros last year, and CEO Toni Petersson says their target this year is 96 million euros.

"This is just the beginning," Petersson is quoted in the piece.

Oatly milks are oat-based, dairy-free, soy-free and claim to be vegan, though HS writes that some customers have raised the issue that the company uses animal bone meal and slaughter offal in the fertiliser for their organic products.

Petersson says his company has a message of sustainability and health to share with the world.

"Our main message is, let's fix [global warming]. It may be too late, but we have to try."

Heat wave to roll on for weeks

A specific type of high-pressure system currently affecting Finland and the Nordic countries in general has meteorologists saying that the current hot spell (sustained temperatures at or higher than 25 degrees Celsius) is unlikely to flag off for the next two weeks at least.

Joanna Rinne from weather company Foreca says in tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that the summer temperatures will not be budging for the foreseeable future, although pressure fronts affecting Europe as a whole will determine the exact weather patterns.

The phenomenon that is causing this somewhat unusual season of extended heat is known technically as a block or blocking anticyclone, which literally blocks or redirects masses of air into a type of pocket or bubble.

"It's a big blotch that forms and then sits in place for a long time," Rinne says in IS. "At the moment it's right on top of Fennoscandia."

The highest temperature so far this year was measured at 33.7 degrees Celsius in Vaasa last Wednesday. The highest temperature ever recorded in Finland is 37.2 degrees, in 2010.

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