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In The News

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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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

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 …

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

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.

💬  LEXICON

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.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

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

📣 VERBATIM

“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.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$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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food / travel

Pasta v. Fascists: How Italy's Staple Dish Became A Symbol Of Resistance

Pasta may not be considered controversial today, but it played an important role during Italy's fascist years, particularly in one family's celebration of community and liberation.

Photo of the Cervi family, whose seven children were shot by the Fascists on December 28, 1943, at the Reggio Emilia shooting range.

@comunisti_alla_ribalta via Instagram
Jacopo Fontaneto

ROME — Eighty years ago — on July 25, 1943 — the vote of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, leading to Benito Mussolini's arrest, set off widespread celebrations. In Campegine, a small village in the Emilian province, the Cervi family celebrated in their own way: they brought 380 kilograms of pasta in milk cans to the town square and offered it to all the inhabitants of the village.

The pasta was strictly plain: macaroni dressed with butter and cheese, seen as more of a "festive dish" in that period of deprivation. As soon as the Cervi brothers learned about the arrest of Mussolini, they procured flour, borrowed butter and cheese from the dairy, and prepared kilos and kilos of pasta. They then loaded it onto a cart to distribute it to their fellow villagers. Pastasciutta (dry pasta) specifically regards dishes with noodles that are plated "dry", not in broth. That would disqualify soup, risotto, ravioli...

Even though pastasciutta is the most stereotypical type of pasta today, it had a complicated relationship with the government during Italy's fascist years.


Over 400 people gathered around a pasta dinner.

Over 400 people gathered around a pasta dinner in a gesture of solidarity and unity in memory of the Cervi family.

@ema_bell via Instagram

Mussolini's last meal

The choice of pasta as a symbol of anti-fascist celebration has a double meaning: the first is the fact that the fascist government opposed pasta and other dishes, forcefully imposing its influence on the culinary culture of the people. An important boost to this came from Tommaso Marinetti's "Manifesto of Futurist Cuisine," where the first point was titled "Against Pasta."

Marinetti targeted a food that, according to the Futurists themselves, would be the cause of weakness, pessimism, nostalgic inactivity, and neutrality typical of the Italian people. Marinetti went so far as to theorize the necessary "abolition of absurd Italian gastronomic religion of dry pasta," discouraging its consumption, for instance, in favor of rice or soups, asserting that "the abolition of dry pasta will free Italy from costly foreign wheat and promote the Italian rice industry."

Mussolini had a meal consisting of plain pasta as his last meal.

And the second meaning? Well, ironically, Mussolini — who suffered from stomach issues and for whom food held little importance — had a meal consisting of plain pasta as his last meal on Lake Como, on April 27, 1945. Mussolini had already been captured by partisans and taken to the Guardia di Finanza barracks in Germasino where he was reunited with his lover, Claretta Petacci. The soldiers from the Guardia di Finanza arranged for the couple's last supper, having it prepared by the owners of the local inn, Giovanni Chiaroni and Teresa Mazzucchi. The menu included plain pasta with a little butter and roast kid (young goat). There was no wine, only flat and carbonated water.

Banner for the pastas ciutta antifascista 2023 marked " we are ready".

Banner for the pastasciutta antifascista 2023 marked " we are ready".

@circololenci via Instagram.

The Cervi brothers, and keeping their memory alive

The family of the seven Cervi brothers (Gelindo, Antenore, Aldo, Ferdinando, Agostino, Ovidio, and Ettore) were openly anti-fascist, Catholic, and democratic. After their iconic celebration of Mussolini's arrest with their anti-fascist pasta, they enlisted into the Italian Resistance, but their time of service only lasted a few months. They were tragically captured, tortured, and then executed. Their killing occurred as an act of reprisal: on December 27, the partisans killed the municipal secretary of Bagnolo in Piano, Davide Onfiani, and the following day, the Cervi brothers and their companion, Quarto Camurri, were mowed down by the machine guns of the Black Brigades at the shooting range in Reggio Emilia as an act of revenge.

There is even a "network of anti-fascist pasta events".

Over the decades, the tradition of keeping alive the free distribution of pasta in memory of the Cervi brothers has been maintained. There is even a "network of anti-fascist pasta events" in addition to the "Historical Anti-Fascist Pasta of Casa Cervi," which is held every year at the Alcide Cervi Institute in Gattatico (Reggio Emilia). This commemoration is openly dedicated to sharing, coming together, and promoting the values of anti-fascism, freedom, justice, and democracy of the Cervi family.

The Institute has three rules for an event to be considered an "official anti-fascist pasta event": the pasta must be offered for free, keeping with the origin of the celebration (other beverages and menu items can be offered for a fee); the event must align with the values of anti-fascism, freedom, inclusion, equality, and justice; and during the event, the significance of the anti-fascist pasta and the teachings of the Cervi family must be remembered through words, videos, images, texts, or other means.

Last year, there were over two hundred "anti-fascist pasta events" throughout Italy, demonstrating the continued importance and relevance of this tradition in preserving the memory and values of the Cervi brothers.

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