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.
➡️ 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.
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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Severe weather and a lack of upkeep during pandemic shutdowns wreaked havoc on school facilities. Officials and parents are scrambling to rebuild.
SHEEMA, UGANDA — After nearly two years of repeated shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Benon Atwijuka was excited to return to his job as headmaster of Kyeihara Integrated Primary School in southwestern Uganda. But when he arrived, he realized that he had to do more than help his students catch up on the learning they had lost.
“During the long absence, animals roamed and grazed in the school compound and damaged buildings,” he says.
Parts of the buildings, which are made of mud, also eroded due to rain along with people playing football at the school’s pitch and repeatedly kicking balls against the walls, Atwijuka says. Some classrooms were so badly damaged that they were deemed unsafe. A number of teachers now hold classes in four white canvas tents donated by the United Nations Children’s Fund, known as UNICEF.
Schools in decay
Teachers and parents across Uganda are scrambling to reconstruct schools that were severely damaged by animals, humans and the elements when left unattended during long shutdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus. Schools closed in March 2020 and reopened partially in December 2020 but were closed again in June 2021 when cases began to rise. In some instances, entire schools have fallen apart, prompting the government to advise parents to transfer their children to nearby schools, says Dr. Dennis Mugimba, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Sports.The ministry has identified 51 schools across the country, including Kyeihara, that need immediate emergency repair or reconstruction, Mugimba says. “The government has already sent money to those schools for minor repairs.”
Each primary and secondary school received 4 million Ugandan shillings ($1,067) and 6 million shillings ($1,600), respectively, Mugimba says. Every school in the country has also received 1.5 million shillings ($400) to help with the implementation of COVID-19 standard operating procedures. The procurement process for construction of schools has already begun, Mugimba adds, and the process has been decentralized. Local governments that are more proactive have already received the money that the ministry allocated.
Filbert B. Baguma, the general secretary of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union, says that although the full extent of the damage is unknown, the union is in the process of assessing it and compiling a comprehensive list for the ministry. “We are trying to accurately capture the magnitude of the damage of the affected schools so that we can use the figures to advocate for them,” he says.
Some of the most damaged schools are those like Kyeihara that have mud walls. As rainwater repeatedly strikes the walls during storms, it soaks and softens the mud, making it disintegrate and erode away. Keeping the walls intact requires routine replacement of the mud when the rainy season ends. Because that maintenance wasn’t done during the coronavirus shutdowns, some of the walls collapsed, exposing the rafters that are supposed to bind the mud together.
Lower enrollment in schools
The situation has led to low enrollment in some schools. Rauben Kabachenga, the deputy headteacher at Karugorora Primary School in Sheema, says when parents saw how dilapidated school buildings were after the pandemic shutdowns, they heeded the government’s call and transferred their children elsewhere. Karugorora now has only 99 students, down from 153 before the pandemic. “We don’t have any [seventh grade] pupils.”
We are now trying to mobilize parents, telling them that it’s our responsibility to reconstruct the school.
Miria Tumuramye, a parent of three children at Karugorora, says that even though school buildings are in poor condition, she left her children there because she likes the quality of education, and the school is closer to home.
“I kept my children here because this school has some of the best teachers,” she says.
Julius Ngabirano, the chairman of the management committee at Kyeihara Integrated Primary, who also has two children in the school, says that while some parents there have withdrawn their children, others have come together to explore ways they can reconstruct the school because they don’t expect the government to be swift. Even before the pandemic, the school’s structures were not in good condition, he says, an indication that the government may take a while to meet its obligation of building schools.
“We are now trying to mobilize parents, telling them that it’s our responsibility to reconstruct the school,” Ngabirano says.
Students attend class in a makeshift tent in Sheema.
Help from organizations
Atwijuka, the headmaster, has also reached out to nongovernmental organizations for help. He says one of them, Building Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that advocates for community-based school construction, has promised to help Kyeihara build a seven-classroom block, a nursery school and seven toilet stands.
Joseph Bagambaki, the country director for Building Tomorrow, says the organization has worked with communities to construct 84 schools across the country. Building Tomorrow contributes construction materials and pays for labor, he says, but the schools belong to the community.
“The community must agree before we can start building a school,” Bagambaki says. “They donate the land, provide skilled labor and feed the people working on the site.”
The district approves the project, provides the schools with textbooks, desks and staff and manages the schools, he says.
Other parents aren’t waiting for the government to rebuild their schools. When parents at Karugorora Primary returned from the first shutdown in December 2020 to find buildings falling apart, they began raising money to reconstruct more permanent structures, says Jennifer Kebeyi, the chairperson of the school’s management committee, who also has a 7-year-old at the school.
“We rallied parents and community members to raise 80 million shillings [$21,290] and began construction of a three-classroom block,” Kebeyi says.
The tents at Kyeihara Integrated Primary, which offer a temporary solution, still don’t duplicate an indoor classroom. Inside one, a teacher stands next to a blackboard near the entrance as children huddle together on benches. He tries his best to keep the students attentive, but every sound from outside cuts through the tent’s thin canvas walls, clearly distracting the students. Occasionally, children playing outside shake the ropes that anchor the tent. Another child outside attempts to zip up the flaps of one of the windows. The screeching sound of the zipper distracts the classroom again. But Atwijuka, the headmaster, says he appreciates that children no longer have to study out in the open or under the dangerous conditions of the damaged classrooms.
“We are so grateful for the donations of these tents,” he says, “as we await construction of other classrooms.”
*Apophia Agiresaasi is a Global Press Journal reporter based in Kampala, Uganda.
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