Meaty issue: German political party calls for €4.90 price cap on doner kebabs

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was famously confronted by a voter last year who demanded he “speak with Putin … I’m paying €8 for a doner.” (AFP/File)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was famously confronted by a voter last year who demanded he “speak with Putin … I’m paying €8 for a doner.” (AFP/File)
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Updated 07 May 2024

Meaty issue: German political party calls for €4.90 price cap on doner kebabs

Meaty issue: German political party calls for €4.90 price cap on doner kebabs
  • Die Linke appeals to government as price of national favorite hits €10 in some cities
  • Scheme would cost taxpayer about €4bn

LONDON: German political party Die Linke has urged the government to cap the price of a much loved food item — the doner kebab.

The party has proposed providing daily vouchers to households that would limit prices to €4.90 ($5.28) and €2.90 for young people under an initiative known as Donerpreisbremse.

The scheme is projected to cost the government about €4 billion.

Introduced after the Second World War by Turkish immigrants who adapted the dish to suit local tastes, the doner kebab is a national favorite in Germany, with an estimated 1.3 billion consumed annually. But their soaring price has become a hot-button political issue.

Die Linke said the cost of a doner kebab had reached €10 in some cities, from €4 just two years ago.

“For young people right now it is an issue as important as where they will move when they leave home,” said Hanna Steinmuller, a lawmaker with the Greens party.

“I know it’s not an everyday issue for many people here … but I think as voter representatives we are obliged to highlight these different perspectives.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was famously confronted by a voter last year who demanded he “speak with Putin … I’m paying €8 for a doner.”

With public pressure mounting, Scholz recently acknowledged on social media that “everywhere I go, mostly by young people, I get asked if there should be a price cap for doner kebabs.”

Despite the appeals, the chancellor rejected the proposal, citing the impracticality of price controls in a free market economy.

Despite its humble origins as a street food, the doner kebab has become an unexpected point of political focus.

Last month, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sparked controversy when on a visit to Turkiye he gifted 60 kg of kebab meat from Berlin to Istanbul in what some called a clumsy attempt to symbolize the strong cultural ties between the two nations.

Paris’s Moulin Rouge gets new sails in time for Olympics

Paris’s Moulin Rouge gets new sails in time for Olympics
Updated 24 June 2024

Paris’s Moulin Rouge gets new sails in time for Olympics

Paris’s Moulin Rouge gets new sails in time for Olympics
  • One of the most visited tourist attractions in the French capital, Moulin Rouge plans to install the four new temporary sails for a special ceremony on July 5

PARIS: Paris’s Moulin Rouge cabaret club, whose landmark windmill sails fell down in April, received new blades on Monday just 10 days before the Paris Olympic torch is due to pass the venue.
One of the most visited tourist attractions in the French capital, Moulin Rouge plans to install the four new temporary sails for a special ceremony on July 5.
The red aluminum and steel blades arrived by lorry early on Monday at the club, located in the touristy Pigalle district.
The first blade or sail was attached with the aid a crane under the gaze of curious and pleased locals.
Over the next four days, the three other sails will be winched up onto the terrace before being bolted into place and the electric cables linked up.
Moulin Rouge officials said it would take a further four days to remove the tarpaulin and scaffolding that has enveloped the windmill since the night of April 25.
The first three letters on the cabaret’s facade — M, O and U — also fell off. No-one was injured in the incident.
“Our little Moulin Rouge is back! We’re so happy,” exclaimed Raymonde Rogojarski, looking at the windmill on the way to take her eight-year-old daughter to school on Monday morning.
“It’s very moving to see the sails back so soon,” added Rogojarski.
She said she lived “just round the corner” from the club, which has put on risque nightime entertainment since it opened in 1889 and been immortalized by French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Mathieu Feltz, another local, got off his bike to take a picture of the first blade being bolted into place.
“I was stunned when the sails fell off,” he said.
“This morning, I came past here on the way to work. It’s interesting to see how they put the blade back up.”
The sails are only provisional and will not rotate but they enable the landmark to look the part in time for the Paris Olympics.
“The Olympic torch is due to pass the Moulin Rouge on July 15, so it’s very important for us to be ready by then,” said Virginie Clerico, the Moulin Rouge brand manager.
In late April, the management confirmed the incident was not a “malicious act.”
The birthplace of the can-can and the location for Baz Luhrmann’s film “Moulin Rouge,” the club has remained open to the public since April 25.
For the ceremony on July 5 to celebrate the arrival of the new sails, the venue has promised an outdoor “sound and light show, with a score of performers dancing the French can-can” on the street.

Beyond Nvidia: the search for AI’s next breakthrough

Beyond Nvidia: the search for AI’s next breakthrough
Updated 24 June 2024

Beyond Nvidia: the search for AI’s next breakthrough

Beyond Nvidia: the search for AI’s next breakthrough

TORONTO, Canada: For a few days, AI chip juggernaut Nvidia sat on the throne as the world’s biggest company, but behind the its staggering success are questions on whether new entrants can stake a claim to the artificial intelligence bonanza.
Nvidia, which makes the processors that are the only option to train generative AI’s large language models, is now Big Tech’s newest member and its stock market takeoff has lifted the whole sector.
Even tech’s second rung on Wall Street has ridden on Nvidia’s coattails with Oracle, Broadcom, HP and a spate of others seeing their stock valuations surge, despite sometimes shaky earnings.
Amid the champagne popping, startups seeking the attention of Silicon Valley venture capitalists are being asked to innovate — but without a clear indication of where the next chapter of AI will be written.
When it comes to generative AI, doubts persist on what exactly will be left for companies that are not existing model makers, a field dominated by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, Google and Anthropic.
Most agree that competing with them head-on could be a fool’s errand.
“I don’t think that there’s a great opportunity to start a foundational AI company at this point in time,” said Mike Myer, founder and CEO of tech firm Quiq, at the Collision technology conference in Toronto.
Some have tried to build applications that use or mimic the powers of the existing big models, but this is being slapped down by Silicon Valley’s biggest players.
“What I find disturbing is that people are not differentiating between those applications which are roadkill for the models as they progress in their capabilities, and those that are really adding value and will be here 10 years from now,” said venture capital veteran Vinod Khosla.
The tough-talking Khosla is one of OpenAI’s earliest investors.
“Grammarly won’t keep up,” Khosla predicted of the spelling and grammar checking app, and others similar to it.
He said these companies, which put only a “thin wrapper” around what the AI models can offer, are doomed.
One of the fields ripe for the taking is chip design, Khosla said, with AI demanding ever more specialized processors that provide highly specific powers.
“If you look across the chip history, we really have for the most part focused on more general chips,” Rebecca Parsons, CTO at tech consultancy Thoughtworks, told AFP.
Providing more specialized processing for the many demands of AI is an opportunity seized by Groq, a hot startup that has built chips for the deployment of AI as opposed to its training, or inference — the specialty of Nvidia’s world-dominating GPUs.
Groq CEO Jonathan Ross told AFP that Nvidia won’t be the best at everything, even if they are uncontested for generative AI training.
“Nvidia and (its CEO) Jensen Huang are like Michael Jordan... the greatest of all time in basketball. But inference is baseball, and we try and forget the time where Michael Jordan tried to play baseball and wasn’t very good at it,” he said.
Another opportunity will come from highly specialized AI that will provide expertise and know-how based on proprietary data which won’t be co-opted by voracious big tech.
“Open AI and Google aren’t going to build a structural engineer. They’re not going to build products like a primary care doctor or a mental health therapist,” said Khosla.
Profiting from highly specialized data is the basis of Cohere, another of Silicon Valley’s hottest startups that pitches specifically-made models to businesses that are skittish about AI veering out of their control.
“Enterprises are skeptical of technology, and they’re risk-averse, and so we need to win their trust and to prove to them that there’s a way to adopt this technology that’s reliable, trustworthy and secure,” Cohere CEO Aidan Gomez told AFP.
When he was just 20 and working at Google, Gomez co-authored the seminal paper “Attention Is All You Need,” which introduced Transformer, the architecture behind popular large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4.
The company has received funding from Nvidia and Salesforce Ventures and is valued in the billions of dollars.

’We are not trash’: Horrors suffered by Canada’s Indigenous women

’We are not trash’: Horrors suffered by Canada’s Indigenous women
Updated 24 June 2024

’We are not trash’: Horrors suffered by Canada’s Indigenous women

’We are not trash’: Horrors suffered by Canada’s Indigenous women
  • Indigenous women are wildly overrepresented among the victims of femicide in Canada

PRINCE RUPERT, Canada: A mountain of windswept garbage. Beneath it, bodies. For years, the remains discarded by a serial killer have languished in a landfill — the latest chapter in a long history of violence against Canada’s Indigenous women.
Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran were raped, killed, dismembered and thrown out with the trash in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Police believe their remains are buried deep inside the Prairie Green landfill.
The partial remains of another victim, Rebecca Contois, were found in two places — a garbage bin in the city and in a separate landfill. The body of a fourth, unidentified woman in her 20s — dubbed Buffalo Woman — is still missing.

Red ribbons symbolizing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are tied to a fence at the Prairie Green landfill, in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada, on April 29, 2024. (AFP)

Their murderer, Jeremy Skibicki, now 37 and linked to white supremacists, confessed in 2022 and has been tried. A verdict is expected next month.
But their relatives have been unable to lay them to rest, as the excavations to find their remains have not yet begun.
Indigenous women are disproportionately targeted by violence in Canada, and often poorly protected by authorities accused of paying little attention to their plight.
Instead, they are thrown “into the trash,” says Elle Harris, the 19-year-old daughter of Morgan Harris.

Aerial view of the Prairie Green landfill, where bodies of murdered women are reportedly buried, in Stony Mountain, Manitoba, Canada, on April 28, 2024. A mountain of windswept garbage. (AFP)

A member of the Long Plain nation, Elle is dressed in a traditional skirt, her hair twisted into a long braid.
She says her mother had a difficult life, spending years homeless after losing custody of her five children due to a drug addiction.
“My mom was taken just like that, just like nothing. And I wish I could see her one more time, to talk to her again,” she tells AFP.
Instead, she and her family are keeping vigil near the Prairie Green landfill, where they have set up teepees, a sacred fire, red dresses and a banner demanding empathy: “What if it was your daughter?“
For months — through the wind-blasted Winnipeg winter — they have taken turns staying in the makeshift camp, seeking, says Elle, “to prove that we are something, we are not trash, we can’t just be thrown into the garbage.”
It has also formed part of their campaign to pressure authorities to excavate the site, which has remained in use since Skibicki’s confession, with new truckloads of debris regularly arriving to be piled on top of what is already there.
The go-ahead for the digging was finally given at the end of 2023, shortly after Winnipeg elected Canada’s first Indigenous provincial leader, Wab Kinew.
But the searchers must sift through tons of garbage and construction rubble, and such an operation involves considerable risks due to the presence of toxic materials such as asbestos, according to independent experts.
Ultimately, it could take years and cost tens of millions of dollars.
Morgan Harris’ family has vowed to maintain their vigil until her remains are recovered.

Skibicki targeted Indigenous women he met in homeless shelters, prosecutors told his trial, which began in late April. A judge is expected to issue a verdict on July 11.
At the time of his arrest, the then-Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller said the case was part of “a legacy of a devastating history” of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous women “that has reverberations today.”
“No one can stand in front of you with confidence to say that this won’t happen again and I think that’s kind of shameful,” he said.
Indigenous women are wildly overrepresented among the victims of femicide in Canada.
They represent about one-fifth of all the women killed in gender-related homicides in the country — even though they are just five percent of the female population, according to official figures documenting an 11-year period up to 2021.
In that year in particular, the rate of gender-related homicide of Indigenous victims was more than triple that of such killings of girls and women overall, the report said.
“Canada is looked at as a country that upholds rights,” said Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, an activist who has championed Indigenous women for years.
But when “we’re being disposed of like garbage in landfills, that clearly says something is very wrong in this country.”
In 2019, a national commission went so far as to describe the thousands of murders and disappearances of First Nations women over the years as a “genocide.”
Isolated, marginalized, and heavily impacted by intergenerational trauma, they face disproportionate violence due to “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies, built on the presumption of superiority,” the commission concluded.
It is a conclusion shared by some of the families of Skibicki’s victims.
The young children of Marcedes Myran do not understand why she is in a landfill, admits their great-grandmother Donna Bartlett, who is raising them in her small, cluttered house in an outlying neighborhood of Winnipeg.
Marcedes was a kind, happy girl who loved to play jokes, the 66-year-old recalls.
She laments authorities’ reluctance to search the landfill.
“If (the women) were white, they would have done it right away,” she says.

Further west, in British Columbia, is a stretch of road hundreds of miles long known as the “Highway of Tears” — a stark monument, activists say, to the many ways Canada has failed Indigenous women.
Here, nature is spectacular — the snow-capped mountains, the immense trees, the meandering Skeena River, waterfalls and abundant wildlife such as foxes, bears and eagles.
But on the side of the highway is an incongruous sight: red dresses nailed to posts symbolizing vanished women, faded photos of young girls with dazzling smiles, messages promising rewards for any clues to where they have gone.
Since the 1960s, as many as 50 women — and a few men — have vanished along this 450-mile (725-kilometer) highway linking Prince Rupert, on the Pacific Coast near Alaska, to Prince George.
All are believed to have been young and Indigenous. Many vanished while hitchhiking or walking home along Highway 16. No community in the region was spared.
Tamara Chipman, who was a member of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, was heading to Prince Rupert to see friends when she was last seen hitchhiking on September 21, 2005. She was 22, the mother of a little boy.
Her aunt, Gladys Radek, described a feisty young woman who “loved fast boats and fishing and also life,” in a region marked by social disintegration and drugs.
In these isolated and impoverished communities, connected only by this single highway flanked by deep forests, without proper telephone networks or public transportation, many young people are forced to hitchhike to get around.
They often encounter temporary workers who have come for jobs at local mines: mainly well-paid, single men.
The case of Chipman, like the majority of disappearances on the route, has never been explained.

When Lana Derrick went missing in the area 25 years ago, “we had some challenges in the beginning getting support from the RCMP to take the case seriously,” says her cousin Wanda Good, referring to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
It is an observation made by many of the families — that efforts to find women stigmatized as drug addicts, prostitutes or alcoholics can be middling at best.
In several cases the families say they have organized the first searches themselves — both for their missing loved ones, and for any witnesses.
The head of the RCMP admitted to the national commission in 2018 that, for too many Indigenous families, “the RCMP was not the police service that it needed to be during this terrible time of your life.”
Studies show a deep-rooted distrust between police and Indigenous people. It dates back to decades when police were used as the armed wing of Canadian governments, as they imposed a policy of forced assimilation on the country’s First Peoples.
At the RCMP’s British Columbia headquarters on the outskirts of Vancouver, Constable Wayne Clary, a veteran homicide investigator, tries to explain the tragedy of the Highway of Tears.
“The northern areas are very, very isolated. Some of the activities that these women engage in, and not just Indigenous, but other women, they make themselves available for men who prey on women,” he says.
He rejects accusations of botched investigations, but acknowledges: “In the past, communication may not have been there.”

Clary is part of the E-Pana unit, created in 2005 — more than 30 years after the disappearances began — to “determine if a serial killer, or killers, is responsible.”
Eighteen women are on the unit’s list — 13 homicides and five disappearances spanning from 1969 to 2006. No connection has been established between the cases so far.
The investigations remain open, but new homicides are not handled by the special unit. The last — that of Chelsey Quaw, a 29-year-old Indigenous woman reported missing after leaving home from Saik’uz First Nation — dates back to last November.
In recent years, there has been progress, notes Good: the police listen more to families, and new relay antennas have been installed for mobile communications on the road.
“We are moving forward, but at a very, very slow, snail’s pace,” she says.
But it is a collective tragedy which the country refuses to confront, believes Radek, 69.
Speaking slowly and gravely, her voice at times rising in anger, she describes how she began traveling the country “to tell the stories of all these women with broken destinies, to be the voice of these families, because they were silenced.”
Her dilapidated van is covered with photos of the missing. When she passes through local villages along the Highway of Tears, residents often stop her to talk.
Her fight now takes her outside of Canada to conferences and demonstrations seeking to raise awareness of the women’s plight.
“I’ll never stop looking,” she says.


Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire

Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire
Updated 23 June 2024

Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire

Yacht crew charged after fireworks spark Greek wildfire
  • The crew denied the charges, and prosecutors will not pursue charges against the 17 Kazakh passengers

ATHENS: Greek prosecutors on Sunday charged 13 crew members of a luxury yacht accused of setting off fireworks that caused a major wildfire on an island near Athens, media reports said.
The crew will go on trial Tuesday on charges of causing a criminal fire, the ERT public broadcaster said.
A new surge in wildfires has put a spotlight on the case, and under recently toughened legislation the crew could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined up to 200,000 euros ($214,000).
The crew denied the charges, and prosecutors will not pursue charges against the 17 Kazakh passengers who were on the yacht on Friday night when the fireworks were set off, ERT said.
Some of the fireworks landed on the island of Hydra, starting a blaze that burned about 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine forest, according to the civil protection service.
The captain of a nearby ship who saw the fireworks being set off was questioned at Sunday’s hearing, reports said.
Amid fierce winds and rising temperature, dozens of wildfires have left at least one dead and already scarred resorts and the Greek countryside at the start of the summer season.
The civil protection service has called for extreme vigilance because the risk of fires was “very high,” particularly in the Attica region, the Peloponnese peninsula and in central Greece.
After its warmest winter ever, the Mediterranean country recorded its first heatwave of the year last week, with temperatures rising above 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) in some locations.
Last year, a fierce two-week heatwave was followed by devastating wildfires in which 20 people died.
Scientists warn that fossil fuel emissions caused by humans are worsening the length and intensity of heatwaves around the world.

Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’
Updated 23 June 2024

Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’
  • Electric minibuses have been introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada
  • Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services

ISTANBUL: Ibrahim Aycan has been waging all-out war against the electric minibuses newly introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada, which he says threaten his corner of paradise on the southern shores of Istanbul.
“We live a peaceful life here,” said Aycan, a lawyer and head of the Association of Friends of the Island.
“These vehicles sadden us. Let people walk and cycle!”
Buyukada is one of the Princes’ Islands, a popular destination for tourists and a retreat for many of Istanbul’s 16 million inhabitants.
Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services, and even horse-drawn carriages were banned in 2020 to protect the local wildlife.
But the controversial new minibuses, with a capacity of 12 people, went into service on June 15, driving through the narrow alleys of the islands.
As one of the protest leaders against the new mode of transport, Aycan uses his body as a roadblock whenever he comes across one of these “monstrobuses” — a name given by islanders in Buyukada — the largest of the Princes’ Islands, in the Sea of Marmara.
“I saw a bus on the way to my home yesterday. I had an appointment but I froze in front of it for half an hour,” Aycan said.
Eight protesters were detained on the first day, and locals have staged demos daily and spontaneously since.
Kamer Alyanakyan, 58, has spent every summer on Buyukada since his childhood, which is home to white wooden villas with gardens filled with colorful Bougainvillea plants.
“Nobody asked our opinion. The island’s streets are pedestrian, and we don’t want to lose that identity,” said Alyanakyan.
He has been knocking on doors to persuade residents to sign a petition calling for the removal of the minibuses.
Mehmet Can, whose cafe is a 40-minute walk from the pier, admits the new buses could have been “smaller” but he says they are “more comfortable.”
Above all, he sees them as “necessary in summer” because tens of thousands of people flock to the islands daily.
“(Authorities) will not throw them away just because a bunch of people are barking,” he said.
Istanbul Municipality, run by the opposition CHP party, has defended the minibuses and said that public transport is “indispensable for the island’s inhabitants,” especially the elderly.
It also argued that these minibuses are accessible to people with disabilities, unlike the existing small electric shuttle service.
Istanbul’s city council, a non-profit body that is in close dialogue with the municipality, has opposed minibuses.
“We support the islanders who want to defend their pedestrian streets,” the council said.
In the 1930s, cars were banned on the islands and since 1984, it has been a pedestrian zone and a protected area.
Alyanakyan is convinced that the municipality will eventually back down.
The activist will join a festival in July on Mackinac Island near Detroit — America’s car capital — which is known for its car-free roads.
“I’m going to talk to people, to the authorities over there,” he said.
“I will ask them: ‘How did you hold up? How did you resist the pressure?’”