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Think That Gucci Bag Is Fake? There's An App For That

A handy bargaining tool.
A handy bargaining tool.
Carlo Lavalle

TURIN — How many times have you shopped at a market and found yourself admiring a bag or wallet, wondering whether it was really made by the famous brand displayed on its label?

Thanks to the camera on your smartphone and a forthcoming app, it soon will be possible to verify, in real time, whether a product is counterfeit. The idea came from Japanese IT company NEC Corp., whose system can compare user photos of bags and wallets with those on their cloud-based database.

Existing technology such as Italy's 3C System already allows consumers to scan barcodes before purchase to check the product's legitimacy. But not all products have readable barcodes, and not all are sold in stores. By contrast, NEC's technology — although still in testing phases and expected to be released in 2016 — is reportedly able to work on even tiny objects such as dice or bolts where it's more difficult to spot a serial number or barcode.

The project works with photos of original products saved on its database and compares them with photos taken by users. The precision level is impressively high: just one error in 1 million.

According to Toshihiko Hiroaki, senior manager at Central Research Laboratories, the innovation will offer businesses new opportunities in the biometric systems market. But it will mean hard times for counterfeiters, who in Italy alone generate about 6.5 billion euros ($8.1 billion) annually.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Wagner Group 2.0: Why Russia's Mercenary System Is Here To Stay

Many had predicted that the death last month of Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin meant the demise of the mercenary outfit. Yet signs in recent days say the private military outfit is active again in Ukraine, a reminder of the Kremlin's interest in continuing a private fighting formula that has worked all around the world.

Photograph of a Wagner soldier in the city of Artyomovsk, holding a rifle.

Ukraine, Donetsk Region - March 24, 2023: A Wagner Group soldier guards an area in the city of Artyomovsk (Bakhmut).

Cameron Manley


“Let’s not forget that there is no Wagner Group anymore,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had declared. “Such an organization, in our eyes, does not exist.”

The August 25 statement from came less than two days after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the infamous Russian mercenary outfit, as questions swirled about Wagner's fate after its crucial role in the war in Ukraine and other Russian military missions around the world.

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How could an independent military outfit survive after its charismatic founder's death? It seemed highly unlikely that President Vladimir Putin would allow the survival of a group after had launched a short-lived coup attempt in late June that most outside observers believe led to Prigozhin's private airplane being shot down by Russian forces on August 23.

"Wagner is over,” said the Kremlin critic and Russian political commentator Maksim Katz. “The group can’t keep going. There’s the possibility that they could continue in parts or with Defense Ministry contracts, but the group only worked with an unofficial agreement between Putin and Prigozhin.”

Yet barely a month later, and there are already multiple signs that the Wagner phoenix is rising from the ashes.

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