Welcome to Thursday, where NATO allies accuse Russia of lying about withdrawing troops from Ukraine border, Airbus and Airbnb post record profits, and a soccer match sees a major national anthem woopsie. For French daily Les Echos, Johanne Courbatère de Gaudric looks at the surprising health benefits hiding in a bottle of perfume.
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• NATO says Russia lying about troop withdrawal: NATO allies called out Moscow for claiming it was moving troops back to their bases when instead it was actually augmenting its presence at the border with Ukraine. A senior White House official reported that some 7,000 extra Russian forces had arrived in recent days near the border. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned that Russia could drag out the Ukraine crisis for “months,” challenging the West's united security front. On the ground, meanwhile, Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels exchanged allegations that each had fired across the ceasefire line in eastern Ukraine.
• EU-AU summit 2022: The sixth European Union-African Union summit begins on Thursday in Brussels. Leaders from both continents will aim to recalibrate economic and strategic ties between European and African nations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent wave of coups d’état in Africa and the worsening effects of climate change.
• Israeli missiles strike Syria: Syrian state-controlled news agency SANA reported that Israel fired several missiles targeting the town of Zakieh, located on the outskirts of Damascus. This is the second Israeli aerial strike on Syria this month.
• Airbnb & Airbus lead travel sector rebound from pandemic: Short-term-stay booking platform Airbnb announced a $55 million profit for the fourth quarter, significantly outperforming pre-pandemic levels, and bouncing back from huge losses in 2021. Meanwhile European planemaker Airbus also reported record revenues for 2021 of $4.8 billion, its highest-ever profits, contrasting with its $1.3-billion loss in 2020.
• Australia's largest coal-run power plant to close in 2025: Australia's largest coal-fired power station has announced it will shut in 2025, seven years earlier than scheduled, as a developing renewable energy mix, particularly wind and solar power, has considerably reduced the profitability of the plant.
• Dozens killed in landslides near Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro: At least 94 people have died in mudslides and flash flooding in Petrópolis, in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro after hours of torrential rain.
• Anthem mixup at soccer tournament: The Tournoi de France, hosted by the French Football Federation, bringing together international female soccer teams, was off to an awkward start as the Finnish players were treated to the sound of the Albanian anthem by mistake.
Brazilian daily Extra devotes its front page to the “devastating” landslides and flash floods, which have killed at least 94 people in the city of Petrópolis, near Rio de Janeiro. The death toll could rise as rescue efforts are underway.
In a move to expand its influence in eastern Ukraine, Russia has issued passports and citizenship to 720,000 residents of rebel-held areas in the region thanks to a simplified procedure, as well as membership in the Kremlin’s ruling party and other perks. According to Donetsk’s migrant service, the number of residents applying for Russian passports has increased in the past few weeks, amid growing tensions with Ukraine.
What's that smell? The perfume industry's upcycling savoir faire
The circular economy is a hot trend, being embraced by everything from fashion to home decor. But one industry has been upcycling for decades. And the benefits and potentials go far beyond the environment. Soon, your perfume might help you fight stress and even wrinkles, writes Johanne Courbatère de Gaudric in French daily Les Echos.
♻️ Xavier Brochet, director of innovation for natural products at Firmenich, the world's largest fragrance business, explains that in perfumery, the implementation of upcycling dates back to the increasing industrialization of perfumery in the early 20th century, when the production of ingredients began to be rationalized to increase their yield and quality while optimizing costs. For instance, for essential oils from woods such as cedar, the distilleries moved directly to Texas or Virginia, to the same sites as the sawmills that process lumber for furniture or construction.
👃 The final key element in the success of upcycling is the potential that new raw materials bring to the ingredients palette available in perfumery. LMR laboratories based in Grasse, which specializes in natural ingredients and was founded by Monique Rémy, is exemplary in this respect. "One of the first products Monique launched in the late 1980s was a beeswax extract obtained by collecting beehive cells. It was followed by ingredients such as carrot essence, obtained thanks to the sorting differences of the seed companies," says Bertrand de Préville, general manager of LMR.
🧘 Composition laboratories, brands and all the major players in the industry agree that upcycling is at the heart of their current concerns. "Today's end customers expect more than just nice-smelling perfumes. They now want products that embrace the environmental cause and provide additional benefits related to well-being," says Bertrand de Préville. Each company has its own strategy for meeting these specifications. IFF is testing the cosmetic and aromachological benefits of its upcycled materials. For example, Oakwood (from oak) has relaxing properties and promotes memory.
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First, we had the Swedish activists’ campaign of “flygskam” or “flight shame” to discourage people from traveling in polluting airplanes in the face of the climate crisis. Now Austrian winter sport lovers must face: skischam or “skiing shame.” According to daily Die Presse, the campaign is spreading in Austria, where winter sports are extremely popular, highlighting the use of snow cannons and artificial snow to cover otherwise green-brown landscapes. Adding to the would-be shame is the fact that several coronavirus clusters originated in ski stations, including the popular Ischgl resort in 2020.
Colombia: “Feminist” candidate Ingrid Betancourt accused of blaming rape victims
When Ingrid Betancourt announced last month she was running for president of Colombia, the celebrated former hostage said a central focus of her candidacy would be women's issues. After a candidate debate on Tuesday night, those issues have arrived in the worst possible way.
Asked by university students what society could do to better protect women's safety, Betancourt said that women's issues "concern us all," but then added: "Many times we realize, especially in the poorest neighborhoods, that women let themselves get raped, let themselves get raped by people very close to the family or let themselves get followed by criminals, who follow their route, know where they are going to go and they are predators that are chasing them who are totally unprotected.”
After her statement, candidate Camilo Romero, part of the leftist coalition, Pacto Histórico drew attention to what Betancourt had said, saying women didn't "let themselves" be followed or raped.
Enrique Gómez Martínez, a right-wing candidate, brushed off the statement, arguing that it was a language mix-up: "Don't mistreat a woman who has spoken French for 20 years,” a reference to Betancourt's dual nationality with France and French education. In French "se faire violer" means "to be raped" and has no victim-blaming connotations, unlike the Spanish "se hace violar," that she used.
But perhaps the most damning part of Betancourt's comments is that she was referencing only poor women. The other top female presidential candidate Francia Márquez Mina tweeted that the comment "legitimizes class, sexist and patriarchal violence."
➡️ Read the full story on Worldcrunch.com
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The officers charged in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols were not your everyday uniformed patrol officers.
Rather, they were part of an elite squad: Memphis Police Department’s SCORPION team. A rather tortured acronym for “Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods,” SCORPION is a crime suppression unit – that is, officers detailed specifically to prevent, detect and interrupt violent crime by proactively using stops, frisks, searches and arrests. Such specialized units are common in forces across the U.S. and tend to rely on aggressive policing tactics.
As academics who study policing, and as former officers ourselves, we have long been aware of potential problems with such specialized units. Treating aggressive crime fighting as the highest priority in policing can cultivate a corrosive culture in which bad behavior is often tolerated, even encouraged – to the detriment of community relations. Changing that pattern requires wrestling with complexities of policing in modern society.
From prohibition to the war on drugs
Crime suppression units, sometimes called “violence reduction units” or “street crimes units,” have a long and often sordid history in the United States.
Such specialized units are usually set up to address specific issues, such as drug trafficking or gang crime. An early precedent to modern crime suppression units can be seen in the squads set up by the federal Bureau of Prohibition and their local counterparts during the 1920s. These squads were charged with enforcing newly passed alcohol laws but often lacked the training or numbers to support their mission. The predictable result was the unlawful killing of civilians and corruption. Indeed, the Wickersham Commission report, released in the early 1930s, shows how the power that goes with being part of a specialized unit can be corrosive. It noted that the “unfortunate public expressions [by police] approving killings and promiscuous shootings and lawless raids and seizures” can lead to the alienation of “thoughtful citizens, believers in law and order.”
In more recent times, police agencies have used specialized units to respond to violent crime, often because of a surge in public demand for the police to “do something.” Investing in a more robust public safety infrastructure is expensive, politically fraught and, even if successful, could take decades to reap rewards. So instead of addressing social problems, such as poverty and lack of economic opportunity, elected officials turn to police leaders, who often reach for a familiar tool: aggressive enforcement tactics. Such an approach is intended to prevent, detect and interrupt crime, and to identify, apprehend and punish criminal offenders.
When cops "own" the city
That was exactly the pattern in Memphis, violent crime in 2020 and 2021 experienced a significant increase, with a per capita murder rate that put it among the most dangerous cities in the nation. These historic rises in homicides were in contrast to dramatically lower rates just a few years before.
In 2021, the city hired Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who bluntly described her vision: “being tough on tough people.”
As homicides soared, Memphis established the SCORPION team, assigning 40 officers to clean up the most crime-ridden parts of the city. Both Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Chief Davis celebrated the number of arrests that the SCORPION team’s officers made, along with the guns, cash and vehicles they seized.
Positions in specialized units come with prestige, flexibility and the lure of future promotions. In better times, membership is restricted to officers with more experience and training. But as the Memphis Police Department lost around 23% of its sworn personnel between 2013 and 2018, the department lowered overall minimum standards for officers, and inexperienced officers were appointed to SCORPION – including those now charged with murdering Tyre Nichols.
A still from a released video recording of Tyre Nichols's altercation with Police officers before he died.
Memphis police department / Wikipedia
Agents of crime
Memphis is far from alone. In 2007, the Baltimore Police Department set up the Gun Trace Task Force to address illegal guns and violent crime. And before that, in the 1990s, the Los Angeles Police Department established the Rampart CRASH, or Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums, unit, which focused on gangs and violent crime. In New Orleans, the city’s police department viewed its task force officers, known as “jump out boys,” as “enforcers and agents of crime control.”
Stepping over the line from aggressive enforcement to misconduct, abuse or even outright criminality.
Scandal connects these units. In each case – and in many more – officers stepped over the line from aggressive enforcement to misconduct, abuse or even outright criminality. Members of the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force were eventually convicted on charges including robbery, racketeering and extortion. Rampart CRASH unit officers robbed banks, stole narcotics and engaged in extrajudicial beatings of suspects.
The New Orleans Police Department was eventually placed under the oversight of a federal consent decree after the jump out boys developed a reputation as “dirty cops, the ones who are going to be brutal,” in the words of one sergeant.
These result were, for many, entirely foreseeable.
As eminent criminologist Herman Goldstein wrote in 1977, problems arise when “the police […] place a higher priority on maintaining order than on operating legally.” Recent scholars refer to “noble cause corruption,” but readers are probably more familiar with a synonymous phrase: “the ends justify the means.”
Even when well-intentioned, prioritizing aggressive police enforcement can be deeply destructive. Research has found that aggressive police units have significantly more use-of-force incidents and public complaints, while also having fewer complaints against them upheld. This suggests a culture in which some violations are tacitly approved so long as the unit is productive – that is, it makes arrests.
To a significant extent, this comes down to agency culture. A permissive culture, as researchers have long recognized, can both protect and corrupt the nature of policing. Every police department has a culture, but those best able to balance the missions of addressing violent crime and maintaining community support set about shaping and reinforcing their culture instead of leaving it to grow wild.
A source of violence
When aggressive police culture overwhelms the professional norms of constitutional policing, the public safety mission of policing breaks down. Chiefs are put into a difficult position – they must ensure that officers who use coercive authority in response to public demands for crime control also respect the legal limits of their authority.
They must prioritize legal and rightful policing above aggressive crime fighting.
The legitimacy of policing, we believe, depends on recognizing that while hyperaggressive tactics by young, often inexperienced officers in crime suppression units may contribute to short-term deterrence of some violent crime, those same tactics are very likely to leave a wake of public disgust and distrust behind. That can seriously undermine public safety efforts, including the investigation of violent crimes that rely heavily on community cooperation.
If the history of crime suppression units teaches us anything, it is that they must prioritize legal and rightful policing above aggressive crime fighting. To do otherwise is to risk becoming just another source of violence in already victimized communities.
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