ISIS CLAIMS BAGHDAD ATTACK
ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack in Baghdad that killed at least 76 people and wounded 212 this morning. A refrigerator truck packed with explosives blew up inside the popular Jamila food market in Sadr City, a predominantly Shia neighborhood. It represents one of the biggest acts of violence in the capital since Haider al-Abadi became prime minister a year ago, Reuter reports.
CHINA EXPLOSIONS KILL 44 AND COUNTING
Two massive explosions today at an industrial warehouse in the Chinese port city of Tianjin have killed 44 people, including 12 firefighters. Another 520 people have been hospitalized, 66 of them in critical condition, Chinaâ€™s official news agency Xinhua reports.
- The cause of the two deadly blasts, which happened some 30 seconds apart, is still unclear. The facility was described as being a storage and distribution center for hazardous and flammable goods.
- The explosions caused a huge fireball, followed by a rain of debris, while the detonation was felt for miles around. Watch this expand=1] collection of footage from the explosion to get an idea of the blastsâ€™ magnitude.
- The accident has disrupted the coming and going of chemical and oil tankers in and out of the port, trading and shipping sources told Reuters.
JIMMY CARTER ANNOUNCES CANCER DIAGNOSIS
Former President Jimmy Carter, 90, announced in a statement yesterday that he has been diagnosed with a spreading cancer discovered during liver surgery and that he would be adjusting his schedule to accommodate a treatment regimen. The 39th U.S. president has enjoyed the longest post-presidency in American history, The New York Times notes, maintaining an active private and public life that includes leading a Sunday school class in Plains, Ga., and remaining engaged at the Carter Center, a prominent human rights organization he co-founded. Though Carter didnâ€™t elaborate on the type of cancer, his family has an extensive family history of pancreatic cancer, from which his father and three siblings all died. â€œJimmy, youâ€™re as resilient as they come, and along with the rest of America, we are rooting for you,â€ President Barack Obama said in a statement.
â€œDonors have looked at her as the answer to Hillary, but I think a lot more donors will now see her as the answer to Donald Trump,â€ Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway told The New York Times in an article today about the growing emergence of GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the crowded Republican field.
Todayâ€™s front page of Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published a dramatic image of an airlift rescue scene after a rubber dinghy sank in the Mediterranean Sea. The Italian navy rescued 52 migrants, who were taken to Lampedusa island, but almost as many passengers who had been on board remain unaccounted for. Read more in our Extra! feature.
Spanglish: Is it a dialect? Ghetto talk? Whatever else it may be, Spanglish is now the brazen, no-nonsense fruit of two languages and cultures coexisting in the United States, Eduardo Marceles reports for El Espectador. â€œSpanglish emerged from Hispanics' need to communicate with the Anglo-Saxon culture around them before they had fully learned English,â€ he writes. â€œThey began a mix-and-match approach to get their meaning across. Some knowledge of both languages is needed, of course. In this idiom, English words are borrowed and Hispanicized to aid the flow of conversation. That has effectively meant additions â€" some of them charming â€" to the Spanish language.â€
Read the full article, Spanglish, The Muy Popular U.S. Street Lingo.
ON THIS DAY
Let Bobby Clarkeâ€™s smile make your day! This, and more, in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of history.
SWEDEN DROPS PARTS OF ASSANGE CASE
Swedish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into two sexual assault allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange based on Swedenâ€™s statute of limitations, AFP reports. But Assange, who has been holed up in Londonâ€™s Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, is not out of the woods yet, Swedish daily Aftonbladet notes. The whistleblower still faces a more serious rape allegation, which will not expire until 2020.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
Grab your ukulele and check out this live stream of deep water exploration off the coast of Hawaii, courtesy of IFLScience.
It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.
PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.
Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.
Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.
Share capital of one billion
The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).
The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.
Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.
While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.
The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down
Raising Initial Coin Offering
Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.
For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."
What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".
Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.
Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.
Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.
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