WHILE YOU SLEPT

Italy Quake, Once The Dust Has Settled

Two days after an earthquake tore through central Italy, the dust is settling on the razed buildings, and the hope of finding survivors in the rubble is fading away. The first burials of victims took place this morning, only hours after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi declared a state of emergency for the worst-hit areas and pledged 50 million euros to rebuild devastated towns, according to Italian daily Il Messaggero.


As with every natural disaster, we keep an eye on escalating tolls. At least 268 people were killed and more than 400 were wounded by the 6.2-magnitude quake. Dozens are still missing. Hundreds of aftershocks, including a 4.7-magnitude tremor early this morning, are putting the lives of thousands of rescue workers at risk.


But the images are often more potent than numbers: The drone expand=1] footage of the streets of Amatrice â€" one of the worst-hit villages â€" taken by the Italian fire and rescue service, brings back memories of the L'Aquila quake in 2009, which killed more than 300 in the Abruzzo region. In an op-ed, Italian daily Corriere della Sera focuses on the lessons we should learn from past earthquakes and the need to build structures that are resistant to them.


As is often the case, many are wondering what could have been done to avoid such a high toll in a famously earthquake-prone region. The dust may be settling, but the questions are only beginning to be raised.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY (& WEEKEND)



CAR BOMB IN TURKEY KILLS 11

A bomb-laden truck targeting a police station killed 11 officers and wounded dozens early this morning in the Cizre district of southeastern Turkey, state-run Anadolu Agency reports. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities are blaming members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).


CAR BOMB IN SOMALIA KILLS 6

Two gunmen belonging to al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group killed at least six people at a beach restaurant in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, setting off a car bomb before opening fire, Al Jazeera reports.


â€" ON THIS DAY

From the Vatican to NYC, here’s your 57-second shot of History.


DAMASCUS SUBURB SIEGE ENDS

Syrian state news agency SANA reports that a deal was signed today between rebel fighters and the Syrian army to evacuate families from the Damascus suburb of Daraya. The settlement ends one of the longest-standing sieges in Syria’s five-year civil war.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

In 2012, Serge Desazars left his well-paid job in fashion to start looking for black diamonds: Tuber melanosporum â€" a.k.a. "black truffle." For French daily Les Echos, Stéphane Frachet met the businessman-turned-mushroom hunter â€" and his dogs: “Serge Desazars admits it bluntly: He's ‘addicted’ to truffles. In 1996, aged 26, he planted truffle oaks on 1.5 acres next to the family house. ‘He used to train his dog in Paris' public gardens by hiding truffles in the soil,’ says Adrienne, his wife, laughing as she remembers her husband down on all fours, his hands in the soil to feel the precious mushrooms. ‘People would look at him as if he was a freak. Many thought he was a crackpot.’”

Read the full article, From Fashion To Truffle Hunting, A Businessman’s Tale.


265 MILLION ACRES

As yesterday marked the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to create the world’s largest protected marine area by expanding Hawaii’s Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to 600,000 square miles, the Honolulu Civil Beat reports. During his presidential terms, Obama has permanently protected more than 265 million acres of public land and water â€" more than any other president.


QUOTE/UNQUOTE

To celebrate the late Mother Teresa’s birthday, who would have turned 106 today, here’s one of Worldcrunch’s exclusive, 15-second Quote/Unquote videos, featuring words of wisdom from the Skopje-born nun and missionary.


VERBATIM

"From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia," U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said yesterday at a rally in Reno, Nevada, about the Republican nominee. The declaration came a day after Trump called her “a bigot.”


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Fishing Fashion â€" Nazaré, 1963


UBER LOSES $1.2 BILLION

According to Bloomberg, ride-sharing giant Uber lost at least $1.27 billion in the first half of 2016. Most of the losses can be blamed on subsidies for the company’s drivers.


MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

DO YOU SPEAK GEEK?

Humor website Cracked.com sat down with two “conlangers,” that is, linguists in charge of creating fictional languages for movies and TV shows like Avatar and Game of Thrones. And their stories are fülgentasblikk.

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

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.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

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.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

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".

Finding culprits 

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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