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Food prices jumped to 10-year high in 2021, with outlook uncertain for this year

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Food prices jumped to 10-year high in 2021

World food prices jumped 28 percent in 2021 to their highest level in a decade, and hopes for a return to more stable market conditions this year are slim, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 125.7 points in 2021, the highest since 131.9 in 2011.

The monthly index eased slightly in December but had climbed for the previous four months in a row, reflecting harvest setbacks and strong demand over the past year.

Higher food prices have contributed to a broader surge in inflation as economies recover from the coronavirus crisis, and the FAO has warned that the higher costs are putting poorer populations at risk in countries reliant on imports.

In its latest update, the food agency was cautious about whether price pressures might abate this year.

A surge in the price of fertilizers, linked in turn to spiraling energy prices, has ramped up the cost of “inputs” farmers use to produce crops, raising doubts over yield prospects for next year’s harvests.

— Reuters

France fines Google, Facebook over privacy

France’s data privacy watchdog, CNIL, said Thursday it had fined Alphabet’s Google a record $169 million for making it difficult for Internet users to refuse online trackers known as cookies.

Meta Platforms’ Facebook was also fined $67.7 million for the same reason, CNIL said.

Internet users’ prior consent for the use of cookies — tiny snippets of data that help build targeted digital ad campaigns — is a key pillar of the European Union’s data privacy regulation and a top priority for CNIL.

“When you accept cookies, it’s done in just one click,” said Karin Kiefer, CNIL’s head for data protection and sanctions. “Rejecting cookies should be as easy as accepting them.”

In its statement, the watchdog said it had found that the Facebook, Google and YouTube websites in France didn’t allow the refusal of cookies easily, citing Google’s video-streaming platform.

CNIL said the two companies had three months to comply with its orders or face an extra penalty payment of about $113,000 per day of delay.

“People trust us to respect their right to privacy and keep them safe. We understand our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with the CNIL in light of this decision,” a Google spokesperson said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Reuters

Volkswagen will unveil the ID. BUZZ, an electric iteration of its iconic hippie-era microbus, on March 9. Chief Executive Herbert Diess announced the date Thursday in a Twitter post that sketched out the contours of the new design, which draws on the lines of the original model. VW's original microbus — the colorful, bread-loaf-shaped van that was a regular sight in the 1960s at music festivals including Woodstock — has a dedicated fan following.

Growth in the U.S. service industry, where most Americans work, pulled back in December after expanding at a record pace the previous two months. The Institute for Supply Management reported Thursday that its monthly survey of service industries declined to a reading of 62 last month, from an all-time high of 69.1 in November. Any reading above 50 indicates growth.

DNA testing giant 23andMe Holding began clinical trials this week of its first drug developed entirely in-house, a critical step toward the company's ambitions to make and sell its own therapies. The drug, dubbed 23ME-00610 for now, is an immuno-oncology antibody aimed at treating solid tumors. The first patient in the therapy's Phase I clinical trials received their first dose this week. Last June, the Silicon Valley company went public via a deal with VG Acquisition, a special-purpose acquisition company founded by billionaire Richard Branson.

8:30 a.m.: Labor Department releases employment data for December

— From news services