Welcome to Friday, where the 2020 Olympic Games finally kick off, Xi Jinping makes a historic trip to Tibet, and there's some beef (or rather, chuletón) between Spain and the EU. We also take an exclusive look at how the so-called "salvage grocery stores' popping up around the world are finding commercially viable ways to combat food waste.
• COVID-delayed Olympics start today: The Tokyo Summer Olympics begin today, kicking off with an opening ceremony — but no spectators in attendance.
• U.S. sanctions Cuba: In the wake of large-scale anti-government protests in Cuba, the Biden Administration has announced it would sanction individuals "responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people." The sanctions targeted key government official Alvaro Lopez Miera and the Cuban special forces unit, the Boinas Negras, over claims of human rights abuses.
• COVID update: Indonesia has surpassed India and Brazil as the country with the highest count of new daily infections, with 49,500 new cases reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, New Zealand has suspended travel from Australia as the country grapples with the Delta variant despite lockdowns.
• 22 dead, several injured in Ecuador prison riots: Ecuador is declaring a state of emergency in its penitentiary system in light of the deadly riots that have left 22 dead and 57 wounded in two prisons. The riots, reportedly sparked by clashes between rival gangs, were also fuelled by severe prison overcrowding.
• Xi Jinping visits Tibet: For the first time in his presidency, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous region, once home to the now-exiled Dalai Lama. Though Xi has been to the region twice before, it is his first time as Chinese leader. Some have called the trip an effort from Xi to reinforce Chinese sovereignty over the area, as well as the disputed border with India.
• Macron switches phones: Emmanuel Macron has reportedly changed his phone and number after investigations showed the French president was among the many heads of state targeted by the Pegasus spyware.
• Google Doodle Olympic game: Today's Google "Doodle" celebrates the start of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with a full 8-bit game. Sayōnara, productivity.
British magazine The Economist reports on extreme floods and fires that have shaken Europe, Canada and China these past weeks, arguing that today there is "no safe place" from which to observe these scenes of destruction
Salvage grocery stores look to fight food waste, at a profit
Industrialized countries produce about $680 billion in food waste annually, and it's also becoming a significant problem in developing economies. But around the world, so-called salvage grocery stores are popping up to not only decrease the foodstuff we throw out but provide affordable products and other community support through social programs.
While many of these are individual local initiatives, Nous, an anti-waste company in France, is spreading its mission throughout the country. With 17 stores, Nous aims to address this issue at the source, given that 55% of food waste in France comes from producers (the rest is in stores and homes). Since opening its first shop in 2018 in Brittany, France's largest food-producing region, Nous has grown to 150 employees working with upwards of 700 suppliers.
As Le Monde reports, Nous buys goods at close-to-production cost and sells to consumers at a discounted rate: about 20-25% less than at a traditional store. But given the unpredictable nature of what food waste companies produce, it's often a gamble of what will line the shelves. Still, Nous boasts that every month in each store, 35 tons of products are saved from the trash. And it's a profitable enterprise, with two million euros in sales per month.
Other companies and projects around the world are finding commercially viable ways to reduce food waste. In Germany, SirPlus is Berlins' first salvage grocery store, selling products in person and online through subscription boxes. Since 2017, SurPlus, which works with 700 partners, has saved over 2,500 tons of food through its Tafel-First (Table-First) principle. SurPlus also has a social initiative, donating 20% of its products to nonprofit organizations.
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EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently proposed radical measures to make Europe a climate protection pioneer. Among the steps announced was a plan to diminish livestock farming — and therefore meat consumption — to reduce CO2 emissions. This is stirring up a heated debate in Spain, where more meat is eaten than in any other EU country. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated his opinion clearly: "For me, the perfect chuletón is unbeatable," Sanchez said, referring to the Spanish equivalent of a T-bone steak that typically comes from cattle in northern Spain
An Australian clothing company has been fined 5 million Australian dollars ($3.69 million) for marketing their activewear as "groundbreaking technology" that stops the spread of COVID-19 and all other pathogens. A federal court found the company had misled the public through "false and misleading representations."
Calls for people not to get vaccinated is a call for people to die.
— Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters after the government announced that a "Green Pass," given to people who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab, will be required to eat in indoor restaurants and access an array of services and leisure activities in Italy after Aug. 6. The certificate was introduced last month in the country but was only needed to travel within the EU and to visit care homes.