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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🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• 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.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
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.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
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.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
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.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
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.
🇨🇴 💬 IN OTHER NEWS
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
✍️ Newsletter by Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet
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Bogus Honey, Olive Oil Remix: How Fraudulent Foods Spread Around The World
What you have in your plate isn't always what you think it is. As food counterfeiting increases in the food industry and in our daily lives, some products are more likely to be "fake", and it's up to consumers to be careful.
All that glitters isn't gold – and all that looks yummy isn't necessarily the real deal.
Food fraud or food counterfeiting is a growing concern in the food industry. The practice of substituting or adulterating food products for cheaper, lower quality or even harmful ingredients not only deceives consumers but can pose serious health risks.
Here's an international look at some of the most widespread fake foods – from faux olive oil to counterfeit seafood and even fraudulent honey.
Honey fraud, from China to Turkey
As German daily Die Welt notes, honey is one of the most counterfeited foods in the world. And Germany would know, as the country’s local honey production covers just one third of its consumption, which means that the rest is imported – and often of poor quality.
Hence the rise of honey-like products made from glucose or other sugar syrups, containing added flavours, fillers, dyes and sugars — and possibly not even any bee honey at all. As bees disappear, the honey we consume is increasingly not real honey, writes French daily Le Monde.
An investigation by the European Commission has uncovered massive honey fraud, revealing that nearly half (46%) of the honey imported into Europe is fake – often made with rice, wheat or sugar beet syrup. Products from China (74%) and Turkey (93%) are particularly likely to be fake, but first place goes to British products: European Commission tests found that 100% of the samples of honey packaged or blended in the UK were found to be adulterated.
This is a well-documented phenomenon: previously, a 2015 European Commission study tested more than 2,000 honey samples and found that almost 32% were fraudulent or suspect, while a new report from the European Anti-Fraud Office shows an increase in honey adulteration in Europe.
“Made in Italy”?
“Neither Italian, nor virgin” – that’s how magazine Forbes describes the state of olive oil on grocery store shelves. Like honey, the olive oil market is rife with food fraud.
Extra virgin olive oil should mean that no product has been added during the production process – but is that always true? Forbes reports that around 80% of so-called Italian olive oil available in stores is actually not from Italy, nor made entirely out of olives. Instead, it’s often poor quality oil, a mixture of vegetable oils or oil from all over the world (often Turkey, Tunisia or Syria) – anywhere except Italy, but at the price of a 100% Italian extra virgin olive oil.
European Union countries produce around 67% of the world’s olive oil – mainly in Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain. Sunflower or rapeseed oil are often the adulterants of choice – but recent analyses of 11 brands of alleged fraudulent olive oil in the Extremadura and Andalucia regions of Spain showed that one brand contained lampante oil, a poor-quality olive oil that was historically used in oil-burning lamps and is unsuitable for human consumption.
A worker handles cheese wheels at a dairy
The truth about Parmesan
Genuine Parmesan cheese is a renowned Italian product, made to exacting standards in specific regions in Italy. But what’s sold as Parmesan cheese is often not from Italy and can often be better described as a cheese product, or cheese-adjacent – but they bear no resemblance to authentic cheese.
Manufacturers or traders often mix real Parmesan cheese with less expensive cheeses or bulk up their blends with cheap filler ingredients – including wood pulp and palm oil. In the U.S., research from the University of Missouri found that 29% of 52 samples of grated Parmesan cheeses were adulterated with palm oil, while reporting from Bloomberg found that some brands of “100% Grated Parmesan cheese” contained up to 8.8% cellulose, or wood pulp.
Canadian fish laundering
Fake fish is a rampant, illegal practice, and studies show that some fish are cheap, similar-looking species passed off as more expensive products, or sold as fresh when they’ve actually been frozen.
In 2022, the Guardian Seascape looked at 44 studies on seafood in markets and restaurants in more than 30 countries and reported that, of the 9,000 samples studied, 36% were falsely labeled or otherwise fraudulent.
The UK and Canada were the worst of countries surveyed, with 55% of fish products in those markets found to be mislabeled. The Guardian’s investigation also found endangered species passed off as other fish – and that some fish products were not fish at all, but pork.
The 2013 European horse meat scandal – where horse meat was found in products described as beef – kicked off an increased focus on food safety in the EU. But food fraud risks seem to be making a comeback in the UK since Brexit, The Guardian reports. Professor Chris Elliott, who chaired the 2013 horsemeat investigation, told the newspaper that the UK now lacks the resources put in place by the EU to fight food fraud.
A recent investigation by Farmers Weekly found “British” pork sold by one of the UK’s largest manufacturers was actually often from overseas – and sometimes rotten, and that the UK Food Standards Agency was investigating the alleged meat fraud.
A farmer handling olives
How to avoid fake foods?
Avoiding fake foods is all about being careful: purchase from reputable sources, read labels and packaging, check for proper seals and certifications and pay attention to pricing (cheap does not often rhyme with good quality). But even though these measures can reduce the risk of encountering fake foods, recent headlines show it’s always a possibility.
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