No cheating: Frenchwoman was world’s oldest person, researchers say

(AFP)
Updated 16 September 2019

No cheating: Frenchwoman was world’s oldest person, researchers say

  • Calment “remains the oldest human whose age is well-documented”

PARIS: Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died two decades ago aged 122, should retain the title of the oldest person on record, French researchers said Monday, rejecting claims of fraud.
Ageing specialists Jean-Marie Robine and Michel Allard, who declared Calment the longest-lived person in the 1990s, said their review of old and new data confirmed she “remains the oldest human whose age is well-documented.”
“Recently the claim that families Calment and Billot (her in-laws) organized a conspiracy concerning tax fraud based on identity fraud between mother and daughter gained international media attention,” Robine, Allard and two other researchers wrote in The Journals of Gerontology.
“Here, we reference the original components of the validation as well as additional documentation to address various claims of the conspiracy theory and provide evidence for why these claims are based on inaccurate facts,” they wrote.
Calment, who used to joke that God must have forgotten her, died in southern France in 1997, setting a longevity record that has been questioned.
Last December, Russian researchers Valery Novoselov and Nikolay Zak claimed in a report that Calment had actually died in 1934 and that her daughter Yvonne stole her identity to avoid paying inheritance tax.
According to their research, the woman who died in 1997 was Yvonne, not her mother, and at a young 99.
The Russian report was based on biographies, interviews and photos of Jeanne Calment, witness testimony, and public records of the city of Arles where she lived.
The new article insists Calment’s identity “has not been usurped,” according to a statement from the French research institute INSERM, where Robine works as research director.
The authors cross-checked the original data used to validate the centenarian’s identity with newly uncovered documents, to show “there was neither tax fraud nor falsification of Jeanne Calment’s identity” the article says.
The team also turned to mathematical modelling to counter arguments that her considerable age was impossible.
In every 10 million centenarians, one can reach the age of 123, they said, “a probability that is certainly small, but that is far from making Ms Calment a statistical impossibility.”
“All the documents uncovered contradict the Russian thesis,” Robine told AFP, as the team demanded a retraction from Zak and Novoselov.
Novoselov, however, insisted Monday that the original work verifying Calment’s identity and age “is full of flaws and mistakes,” while Zak said he found the new article “weak.”
Born on February 21, Calment became the biggest attraction of the southern French city of Arles since Vincent Van Gogh, who spent a year there in 1888.
She said she had met the artist when he came to her uncle’s store to buy paints, and remembered him as “ugly as sin” and having an “awful character.”
Calment used to talk of enjoying chocolate and port and would smoke an occasional cigarette before her health deteriorated.
INSERM said however that it could not “support any requests for exhumation” of Calment’s body, on which no autopsy was performed after her death.


Orange is the new grey for Bangladesh beards

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on January 24, 2019 shows men with henna-dyed beards in Dhaka on December 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

Orange is the new grey for Bangladesh beards

  • It is now virtually impossible to walk down a street in a Bangladesh city without seeing a colored beard

DHAKA, BANGLADESH: From shades of startling red to hues of vivid tangerine, brightly colored beards have become a fashion statement on the streets of Bangladesh capital Dhaka.
Facial hair of sunset tones is now the go-to look for older men wanting to take off the years, with an array of henna options available to the style-conscious.
“I have been using it on my hair for the last two months. I like it,” says Mahbubul Bashar, in his 50s, whose smile reflected his joy at his new look.
Abul Mia, a 60-year-old porter at a local vegetable market, agrees that the vibrant coloring can be transformative.
“I love it. My family says I look a lot younger and handsome,” he adds.
While henna has been used widely in the country for decades, it has reached new heights of popularity. It is now virtually impossible to walk down a street in a Bangladesh city without seeing a colored beard.
Orange hair — whether it’s beards, moustaches or on heads — is everywhere, thanks to the popularity of the colored dye produced by the flowering henna plant.
“Putting henna on has become a fashion choice in recent years for elder men,” confirms Didarul Dipu, head fashion journalist at Canvas magazine.
“The powder is easily found in neighborhood stores and easy to put on,” he adds.
But the quest for youth is not the only reason why more and more Dhaka barbers are adding beard and hair coloring to their services.
Top imams also increasingly use henna powder color in what experts say is a move to prove their Muslim credentials as some religious texts say the prophet Mohammed dyed his hair.
In Bangladesh most of the population of 168 million is Muslim.
“I heard from clerics that the prophet Mohammed used henna on his beard. I am just following,” says Dhaka resident Abu Taher.

Henna has long been a tradition at South Asian weddings. Brides and grooms use henna paste to trace intricate patterns on their hands for wedding parties.
It has also long been used in Muslim communities in Asia and the Middle East for beards.
Previously, aficionados created the dye by crushing henna leaves to form a paste. It was messy and time-consuming but modern henna powder is far more user-friendly.
Taher, who goes by one name, believes the dye has given his beard added vigour.
“Look at this growth. Isn’t it strong?” he exclaims pointing to his chin.
“The powder turns the grey hair red but does not change the remaining black hair,” he explains.
Some believe henna powder has health benefits and, as it is natural rather than created using man-made chemicals like some dyes, does not cause any medical issues.
The new trend has also boosted barbers’ fortunes — more men feel compelled to dye their hair and to do it more often at the salons.
“In the past we hardly would get any customers for this,” recalls Shuvo Das, who works at the Mahin Hairdressers in Dhaka’s Shaheenbagh neighborhood.
“But now there are clients who come every week to get their beard dyed,” he says.
“It takes about 40 minutes to make the beard reddish and shiny. It is also cheap. A pack cost only 15 taka (four US cents),” Das explains as he massages the dye mixture — imported from India — into a customer’s beard.
According to Dhaka University sociology professor Monirul Islam Khan, the growing number of henna beards “is a sign of increasing Muslim fervor in Bangladeshi society.”
But, he adds, even those who are not strict followers do it.
He explains: “They want to look younger. Even the women are getting fond of it as it makes their hair glitter.”