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Libya PM Targeted, Russia-Belarus Drills, Gazpacho Tactics

Students of Kolkata's Aliah University protesting against the Hijab ban enforced in a few colleges in the Southern state of Karnataka in India.

Students of Kolkata's Aliah University protesting against the Hijab ban enforced in a few colleges in the Southern state of Karnataka in India.

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin

👋 Bonjou!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Libya’s prime minister survives an assassination attempt, Belarus and Russia start joint military drills and a Republican congresswoman spills her gazpacho. Fasten your seatbelts, we’re also looking at the world of private jet travel, a means of transportation that soared during the pandemic.

[*Haitian Creole]


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Russia military drills with Belarus: Belarus and Russia started ten days of joint military drills on Thursday, as tensions remain high over the Kremlin’s buildup of forces along Ukraine’s borders. Moscow has said the aim of the exercises is to “practice suppressing and repelling external aggression.” Around 3,000 Russian troops are believed to be in Belarus, which according to NATO marks the biggest Russian deployment to the ex-Soviet territory since the Cold War. On a visit to NATO’s headquarters, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the Ukraine crisis has entered its “most dangerous moment” as the threat of a war looms.

COVID update: The U.S. plans to begin the distribution of COVID-19 shots for children under the age of 5, as early as Feb. 21, according to the U.S. Centers for DIsease Control and Prevention. Paris banned a French “Freedom Convoy” of hundreds of motorists protesting against COVID-19 restrictions from entering the capital city. Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Jonhson outlined plans to lift all domestic COVID-19 restrictions in England within weeks, including the legal requirement to self-isolate.

Libyan Prime Minister survives assassination attempt: Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah survived an assassination attempt in Tripoli, after gunmen fired on his car as we was returning home early Thursday. The attack came amid intense rival factions over control of the government.

Church sex abuse panel in Portugal reports first 200+ cases: A lay committee investigating historic child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church announced it had received allegations from 214 people throughout its first month of work.

Olympics drug controversy: The 15-year-old Russian superstar figure skater Kamila Valieva has turned up for training as usual Thursday morning at the Winter Olympics, despite having tested positive for a banned substance. The International Olympic Committee had announced that the medal ceremony for the figure skating event had been suspended. Meanwhile, Austrian Johannes Strolz bounced back from being dropped from his team to winning the gold medal in the men's Alpine combined event on Thursday, following in his father’s footsteps.

Space storm destroys 40 of Space X’s Starlink satellites: Elon Musk's company SpaceX confirmed that a solar storm had destroyed most of the Starlink satellites it launched last Friday, with 40 of its 49 satellites expected to fall back to earth.

Pro Trump representative confuses the Gestapo with gazpacho soup: Controversial Republican U.S. congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene triggered a wave of viral jokes on Wednesday as she accused Democratic leaders of “gazpacho” tactics on Capitol Hill. She apparently confused Hitler’s secret police with the popular Spanish cold tomato soup …


Canadian daily Ottawa Citizen devotes its front page to the “Freedom Convoy” protests that have paralyzed Ottawa’s city center for more than a week. What started as demonstrations against mandatory vaccinations for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border has grown into broader dissent against the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The leader is demanding an end to the protests, which have forced some factories to shut down due to the blockade of Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge on the border.


마늘 소녀들

The South Korean curling team known as the “Garlic Girls” (마늘 소녀들, maneul sonyeodeul), a nod to the iconic produce of their region, starts competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics today in a round-robin match against Canada. The team had gained fame with its first Olympic gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, before prompting debates about the mistreatment of athletes in South Korea, when its members denounced their coaches’ harsh training and abuse nine months later.


How the pandemic spread private jet travel beyond the super-rich and powerful

Once the reserve of the super-rich and famous, private jet travel soared during the pandemic. Amid border closures and travel restrictions, private charter flights are sometimes the only option to get people — and their pets!? — home.

✈️ During the pandemic, a surprisingly wide demographic have turned to private jets not because it was a luxury they could afford, but out of desperation, trying to reach a destination in the face of border closures and widespread flight cancellations. Last year, private jet hours were close to 50% higher than in 2020, according to the Global Business Aviation Outlook. While some of the increase can be attributed to more travel in 2021 because of COVID-19 vaccination, it still amounts to 5% more hours than before the pandemic.

🐶 More than just saving time through skipping security lines and long waits at airports, flying private jets also lets the super wealthy, and those desperate enough to break the bank, sidestep other regulations. As part of its zero-COVID policy, Hong Kong has severely limited flights. High cargo rates for animals and flight cancellations are making it very hard for pet owners to leave the island taking their furry friends along. Those desperate enough are spending upwards of $25,665 to privately charter themselves and their pets. Many are pooling their resources to share in the cost.

🧳 In Morocco, private jets were the only way for many to enter the North African kingdom after it suspended all air travel from Nov. 29 until Feb. 7 due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Close to 6,000 Moroccans were stuck abroad. In this case, many weren’t looking for a luxurious travel experience but were just desperate to return to their home country. Traveling in groups was one way to decrease the expense, to as low as $1,400 per passenger for a flight from Europe, but for some this still means relying on family support or finding other ways to raise money.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


“I didn't kill anyone, and I didn't hurt anyone. Not even a scratch.”

— Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the ISIS cell that targeted Paris in the 2015 attacks, has denied killing or hurting anybody during the trial of the attacks that left 130 people dead. Adbeslam said he supported the Islamic State of Iraq but chose at the last minute not to detonate his explosives, though prosecutors believe his suicide belt malfunctioned. The French-Moroccan is the only defendant, among 20, to be directly accused of murder and hostage taking.


$4.3 million

The Enigma, a 555.55 carat black gem believed to be the world's largest cut diamond, has sold for $4.3 million in an online auction. The gem, known as a “carbonado,” is an extremely rare billion-year-old black diamond which contain osbonite, a mineral found only in meteors — meaning it could originate from space.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Garlic curling and gazpacho on the menu? Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!


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Not Your Grandma's Nonna: How Older Women In Italy Are Reclaiming Their Age

Women in Italy are living longer than ever. But severe economic and social inequality and loneliness mean that they urgently need a new model for community living – one that replaces the "one person, one house, one caregiver" narrative we have grown accustomed to.

Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones.

Barbara Leda Kenny

ROMENina Ercolani is the oldest person in Italy. She is 112 years old. According to newspaper interviews, she enjoys eating sweets and yogurt. Mrs. Nina is not alone: over the past three years, there has been an exponential growth in the number of centenarians in Italy. With over 20,000 people who've surpassed the age of 100, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

Life expectancy at the national level is already high. Experts say it can be even higher for those who cultivate their own gardens, live away from major sources of pollution, and preferably in small towns near the sea. Years of sunsets and tomatoes with a view of the sea – it used to be a romantic fantasy but is now becoming increasingly plausible.

Centenarians occupy the forefront of a transformation taking place in a country where living a long life means being among the oldest of the old. Italy is the second oldest country in the world, and it ranks first in the number of people over eighty. In simple terms, this means that Italy is home to many elderly people and few young ones: those over 65 make up almost one in four, while children (under 14) account for just over one in 10. The elderly population will continue to grow in the coming years, as the baby boomer generation, born between 1961 and 1976, is the country's largest age group.

But there is one important data set to consider when discussing our demographics: in general, women make up a slight majority of the population, but from the age of sixty onwards, the gap progressively widens. Every single Italian over 110 years old is a woman.

Never been better

The way people live after 60 has changed over time in relation to shifts in demographics. The current average age of the Italian population is 46.2 years, and life expectancy for women is almost 85 years, with these parameters steadily increasing. There are also social changes, such as a significant rise in the retirement age or the age at which people become parents and grandparents.

One consequence of these transformations is the emergence of a group we could call "young elders." This demographic shift also brings about cultural changes. Today, many elderly women enter universities and the job market, and quite a few continue to lead active social lives, travel, attend theaters, cinemas, and cultural events, and go to the gym well past the age of sixty.

Many are also breaking through glass ceilings. Marta Cartabia became the first female president of the Constitutional Court, and Gabriella Loppolo became the first female police chief in Messina. At the age of 72, Vienna Cammarota became the first woman to embark on the Silk Road, a 22,000-kilometer journey on foot from Venice to China. She wrote on her website, "I want to uproot the prejudices about women and the idea that a woman alone and of my age cannot or should not undertake this kind of adventure."

Women who cross the threshold of 60 find themselves caught between two opposing forces. The first is born of the spaces they have already conquered: their personal achievements and the lifestyles they have built. The second pushes them back towards outdated notions of what it means to be an elderly woman. Despite social norms, or perhaps because they have already challenged many of them, today's elderly women are reinventing how they experience old age. In part, as often happens, businesses have understood this shift: advertisements targeting 'young elderly' women who go out to restaurants, swim, and laugh about their watertight dentures are on the rise. Yet, in the collective media, political, and cultural imagination, elderly women have a single connotation: that of nonne (grandmothers), or even better, nonne who cook.

In her recently republished book Non è un Paese per Vecchie (No Country for Old Women), Loredana Lipperini illustrates how elderly women in Italy are essentially removed from the public space or only accepted if they behave, dress, and groom themselves "properly." This idea is also reflected in the essay "In Our Prime: How Older Women Are Reinventing the Road Ahead" by the American author Susan J. Douglas: "Too many businessmen, politicians, and certainly the media still have blinders on when it comes to us women. Because it is assumed that elderly women are, for the most part, and even more so than young women, quiet, docile, and invisible."

Domenica Ercolani is currently the oldest known living person in Italy.

Gerontology Wiki

A land of disparities

For some, old age is the time to enjoy economic stability, leisure, and the company of loved ones, or to continue working and receiving recognition. However, for many others, old age means living through disastrous conditions.

The quality of one's life during old age depends greatly on their career during the active phase of life. Your pension determines whether you can have a comfortable home, pay for care services, or support your family. Women's lower participation in the labor market, career discontinuity, part-time work, and worse contractual and salary conditions create inequalities that have a lasting negative impact on their elderly years. Additionally, there is the burden of unpaid domestic and caregiving work, which falls disproportionately on women. Even when they do not participate in the labor market, women work more hours than men. As a result, they reach old age more worn out from work.

The large wage gap creates a population of elderly women living in poverty.

The 'gender pension gap' shows the disparity between pensions received by women and men. The INPS 2022 report highlights that even though women represent 52 percent of all pensioners, they receive only 44 percent of pension income. The average gross monthly income of men is 1,884 euros, 37 percent higher than the average 1,374 euros that women make. The majority of women fall into the category of low pension earners, creating a population of elderly women living in poverty.

The wage gap and the pension gap add to wealth disparity. It's a challenging estimate to make because in Italy, wealth, and poverty are measured on a household basis. However, in 2018, Giovanni D'Alessio conducted an experimental study for the Bank of Italy on the individual wealth of Italians, showing that the wealth gap between men and women is extremely high, and it grows wider as wealth increases (just like the wage gap). The individual net wealth of men is over 25 percent higher than that of women. This gap worsens to 35 percent when it comes to financial investments.

One of the consequences of these inequalities is that women live longer but reach old age in worse health conditions: LSTAT data indicate that women perform worse on all health indicators except for severe chronic diseases which are more common among men.

Of love and loneliness

Besides poverty and poor health, there's also a lack of love. According to LSTAT, only three out of 10 women over the age of 75 live in a couple relationship. For men, the equation is reversed. In other words, while it's quite reasonable for a man to expect to have company until his last day, it isn't so for a woman. Mara Gasbarrone, in an article oninGenere, emphasizes that loneliness significantly affects the quality of old age. The reason why many women live alone cannot be solely attributed to their greater longevity, Gasbarrone writes.

In Italian society, a union where the man is older is viewed favorably. It's the same culture that allows men to have an active romantic life for longer; in fact, after the age of 65, many more men marry than women, and as the groom's age increases, the age difference with the bride also increases. From the perspective of social sustainability, the opposite choice would make more sense: older women who are destined to live longer accompanied by younger men who are destined to live less.

And if in the past, the groom's older age was associated with greater economic stability, in 2022, the issue of stability no longer holds. For every couple that gets married, there's one that separates, and there's generally much more economic mobility than there once was. Only stereotypes remain.

In addition to stereotypes about relationships, there's the role of the traditional family as a privileged relational universe. The elderly almost always live very close to their children, but often without a strong network of friendships that would make new and different forms of cohabitation and companionship plausible. Most elderly people without a spouse live alone, and according to data reported by Gasbarrone, this increases the risk of dementia by 30 percent. In Italy, there are four and a half million women over 60 who live alone. They are mostly widowed but also single, divorced, or separated. They represent a significant part of the population – but generate hardly any discussion.

According to LSTAT, only three out of 10 women over the age of 75 live in a couple relationship.

Cristina Gottardi

Tomatoes and seaside views

The elderly women of today are the girls who participated in the feminist movement of the 70s. The presence of so many women who have transformed their lives through feminism and are now approaching old age could be a valuable resource. The same women who once spoke out against society could now break the silence on the living conditions of the elderly and the oppressive expectations posed on them. In Italy, they would have the numbers to lead a revolution.

In this worldview, it's essential to understand and support new forms of relationships and living arrangements. The Italian model – one person, one house, one caregiver – is unsustainable on many fronts and rife with the exploitation of caregivers. Among those women working in Italy with the most unfair contracts and lowest salaries, many are domestic workers and caregivers who have immigrated from Eastern European countries. In an analysis conducted before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, sociologist Francesca Alice Vianello observed that many of them are not young. In the Ukrainian community in Italy, 24 percent of women are over 60 years old, and only a tiny fraction receive a pension. The majority continue to work, primarily in domestic and caregiving roles.

We are therefore witnessing a general aging of a significant portion of the female foreign population living in Italy, accompanied by a parallel aging of the women employed as family caregivers. This is how we end up with young elderly women caring for older individuals.

The challenge, then, is to change the model and make possible reciprocity and mutual support. To rethink common services and shared housing. To nurture friendships that open up the possibility of cohabitation and cost-sharing. In Italy, particularly in the central-northern regions, the first experiments with senior cohousing have started, while Northern Europe already has established cohabitation experiences.

These are models in which individuals maintain their autonomy but share caregiving services and communal spaces. It's possible to sustain these arrangements with friends or by replacing dependence on the family of origin with interdependence among people who care for each other and have become a chosen family.

One could live in Sardinia with lifelong friends, cultivating tomatoes with a view of the sea.

Cohabitation doesn't necessarily require specific, codified places and spaces, but to make it happen, we need to change our concept of family and imagine a different form of welfare.

Undoubtedly, it would be wonderful to live in a house with an ocean view, like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin's characters in "Grace and Frankie." It's one of the rare TV series that depicts old age as a complex but vibrant time full of possibilities, including those of a romantic and erotic nature. However, one could also live in a house in Sardinia or Liguria (the two regions in Italy with the highest life expectancy) with lifelong friends, cultivating tomatoes with a view of the sea.

In France, women did just that when they built the La Maison Des Babayagas in 2012, a cohabitation project for women based on feminist, ecological, participatory, and solidarity principles, aimed at living "free and old." It's time to rethink what kind of lives we want after the age of 65, 75, or even beyond 100.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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