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  • The Know Daily - Wednesday 14 February 2024

The Know Daily - Wednesday 14 February 2024

💰 Surprising UK inflation figures, camembert in trouble + a rheumatoid arthritis breakthrough.

Read in 5m 24s Listening to Maggie Rogers ∙ Share us to your socials ☝️

💰 Inflation surprise: UK inflation remained at 4% in January, the ONS revealed this morning.

🧀 Camembert-ly there: The famous French cheese - with its distinctive smell - is in trouble.

🔬 Drug discovery: Scientists have identified a jab that could prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

Mexico recently announced the creation of 20 new protected areas across the country, spanning 2.3 million hectares in total. The move will strengthen protection for species ranging from whale sharks to jaguars, said Mongabay, as well as safeguard “ecologically important coral reefs” and “areas of cultural significance to Indigenous communities”.

💰 Inflation surprise

UK inflation - which measures the rate at which prices are increasing - remained at 4% in January, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed this morning.

Tell me more.
The 4% figure is a “softer reading than expected”, noted The Guardian, given that economists had expected a small increase to 4.2% in January. Instead, inflation remained unchanged from December, and economists say that it is likely to fall again in the coming months. Essentially, it suggests inflation “is on a downward trajectory”, added the paper.

How is inflation measured?
Inflation - the increase in the price of goods and services over time - is measured by tracking the prices of everyday items (like food and fuel) through measures like the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). The CPI is the primary measure of inflation - although there is also ‘core inflation’, which doesn’t include things like energy and food, explained the BBC.

So why has inflation stayed the same?
The ONS said that rising energy prices (higher gas and electricity charges) in January were expected to contribute towards a rise in inflation, but that “furniture and household goods” prevented the expected increase.

How has the news been received?
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that the surprise figures showed that the government’s plan to bring inflation down to 2% “was working”. Meanwhile, the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves noted that “prices are still rising in shops” and said that it is “time for a change”, reported The Independent.

What happens next?
Today’s news is a “good sign” for the cost of living going forward, given that food prices have seen their first monthly fall for over two years, a senior economist told the BBC. The fact that inflation has not risen also “bodes well for interest rates”, noted Sky News’ business correspondent Arthi Nachiappan.

🙋‍♀️ TRIVIA TIME

What percentage of US adults are planning to use artificial intelligence (AI) to write a message or card to a love interest this Valentine’s Day?

A) 29%
B) 39%
C) 49%

Scroll to the very bottom for the answer.

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🧀 Camembert-ly there…

Camembert, the famous French cheese with its distinctive smell, is in trouble.

What’s the problem?
It could be on “the verge of extinction”, along with other beloved French cheeses such as brie, according to the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

The problem? A drop in the variety of microorganisms that make cheese taste and smell good. Over time, microbial diversity has dwindled, leaving many cheeses reliant on a single strain of fungus - the albino fungus - which, as one ecology researcher told The Times, is “not sustainable”.

What does a fragile fungus have to do with camembert?
To make cheese, you mix milk with bacteria and fungi, and different mixes make different cheeses. Camembert and brie used to include a variety of fungi. But a century ago, cheesemakers found the fast-growing albino fungus that makes white, tasty mould - as opposed to the somewhat less appealing grey and green moulds of the past.

They started using the albino fungus excessively, which led to less diversity. And to complicate matters further, this fungus can't reproduce in the normal way, meaning it has to be cloned. But all this cloning has led to harmful changes in its genes, “putting the whole stinking enterprise at risk”, said The Guardian’s Emma Beddington.

Can we save camembert?
Scientists have pointed out that a lack of genetic variety in food isn't just a cheese problem. Most bananas we eat, for example, are very similar genetically - and this is problematic because it makes foods less disease-resilient, Vox explains.

But cheese fans, fear not: this doesn’t mark the end of our favourite delicacies. However, we might have to “get comfortable with funkier cheeses”, said Vox. One way to increase diversity is to use other types of fungi - and while these may give cheeses a different taste and look, they will help to protect important culinary heritage surrounding le fromage.

Are you a cheese fan?

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🔬 Drug discovery: Scientists have identified a jab that could prevent rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a development which could “offer hope to millions” at risk of the chronic disease.

🇺🇸 Across the pond: The House of Representatives has narrowly voted to impeach the homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the US-Mexico border. President Biden decried the vote as a “political stunt” by Republicans.

🛀 The Body Shop: The iconic UK cosmetics and skincare retailer fell into administration on Tuesday, putting over 200 stores and thousands of jobs at risk.

🇧🇷 Carnival: The Rio de Janeiro Carnival has brought the “Amazon rainforest to the streets”, with floats and performances celebrating the indigenous communities of Brazil. Take a look.

❤️ Love is in the Airbnb: To mark Valentine’s Day, Airbnb has revealed the properties which have hosted the most proposals. One location has witnessed over 100 (!) - and “it’s easy to see why”.

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Recommended by Lynn, who uses the app to carve out some me-time when home with a 2-year old - and reckons this is the perfect day to show yourself some love by booking in for a relaxing treatment!

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Trivia answer: B) 39% of Americans plan to use AI to pen a Valentine’s Day message, according to a poll by McAfee. “Love Bytes,” said Yahoo.

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