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food / travel

The Absolute 100% Pure Truth Behind The Lies Of Horsegate

Horsemeat in our pure processed delights! Are we innocent victims or willing suckers of the consumer marketing machine?

Time to update Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans"?
Time to update Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans"?
Sandrine Blanchard

PARIS - The label reads: "100% pure beef"

We now know that was pure fiction.

One should always be extra wary of tautologies when it comes to marketing. Why would a brand feel the need to add "pure" to something that’s already "100%"? Well, firstly to reassure its diligent customers – and also to convince them that somehow there is "purity" baked into their ready-made, microwavable lasagna. What a scam!

What is "pure" is the madness, this improbable journey across Europe just to put scraps of meat in the middle of pseudo béchamel, ersatz tomato sauce and gooey dough -- leaving consumers with something so obscure that the taste of horsemeat, although very different from that of beef, was completely lost. Out of sight, out of mind: you never had a chance.

If consumers weren't being scammed, this horsegate scandal would almost be something to laugh about. How naive of shoppers to keep believing what it says on the label. How surprising of them to jump at the idea of a tax on palm oil, until they find out it will jack up the price of their beloved Nutella, which their favorite chocolate spread never dared mention was filled with "100% palm oil." How quaint of we hyper-informed modern consumers to think our kids get as much calcium when they eat a Kinder chocolate bar as when they drink a glass of milk.

In France, the list of "pure beef" frozen products suspected of containing horsemeat is endless: lasagna, moussaka, hachis parmentier minced meat from upscale frozen-food outlet Picard, but also products in supermarket chains Auchan, Carrefour, Cora, Grand Jury, Système U, Monoprix. Just imagine all the packages destined to be destroyed even if they are still technically proper for consumption: What a waste.

And to think that horsemeat is actually something good. When I was a kid, my mother would cook us horse steaks once a week. "It’s good for you," she told us. Who knows, maybe beef-horse lasagna will prove more nourishing than "pure beef" ones?

Grocery shopping has become something of a martial art: you have to avoid being misled by dishonest labels, inspect the list of ingredients, spot false claims. Parisian hipsters promoting community-supported agriculture used to be mocked. Now, even the most capitalistic thinkers are singing the praises of local farming that brings producers closer to consumers -- which may give people a better clue about what they’re actually eating.

Yesterday, I saw a new spot for the Japanese brand of Shiseido beauty products that made me chuckle. Its "Bio-Performance" face cream promises that "in a month, your skin will look seven years younger." Thanks to the effects of horse muscle, surely? Findus has a lot of nerve – but it’s not the only one.

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AI And War: Inside The Pentagon's $1.8 Billion Bet On Artificial Intelligence

Putting the latest AI breakthroughs at the service of national security raises major practical and ethical questions for the Pentagon.

Photo of a drone on the tarmac during a military exercise near Vícenice, in the Czech Republic

Drone on the tarmac during a military exercise near Vícenice, in the Czech Republic

Sarah Scoles

Number 4 Hamilton Place is a be-columned building in central London, home to the Royal Aeronautical Society and four floors of event space. In May, the early 20th-century Edwardian townhouse hosted a decidedly more modern meeting: Defense officials, contractors, and academics from around the world gathered to discuss the future of military air and space technology.

Things soon went awry. At that conference, Tucker Hamilton, chief of AI test and operations for the United States Air Force, seemed to describe a disturbing simulation in which an AI-enabled drone had been tasked with taking down missile sites. But when a human operator started interfering with that objective, he said, the drone killed its operator, and cut the communications system.

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