KERRY: QUASI COLD WAR
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was â€œconcernedâ€ and warned of a return â€œto a kind of Cold War statusâ€ after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the addition of more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to Russiaâ€™s nuclear arsenal. These new missiles will be â€œcapable of overcoming any, even the most technically sophisticated, missile defense systems,â€ The Washington Post quotes Putin as saying. The Russian leaderâ€™s announcement came after the Pentagon confirmed it was seeking to place heavy weaponry closer to Russia, in NATO states of Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
STRIKES AGAINST YEMEN EXPAND
Airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Muslim states have expanded to a western Yemen province for the first time, with more strikes across the country and on the capital Sanaa, despite ongoing peace talks in Geneva, Reuters reports. The negotiations in Geneva between the exiled government and Houthi rebels have made little, if any, progress so far and itâ€™s unclear whether they will continue next week with the start of Ramadan. Yesterday, the Houthi delegation accused the government of trying to use the UN as a â€œtool,â€ saying that it was â€œseeking to hamper any serious ... outcomes that could resolve the country's political situation.â€ Read more from Al Jazeera.
ON THIS DAY
Cathy Come Home, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Riff-Raff â€¦ Can you name the British director who was born on this day, 79 years ago? This, and more, thanks to your 57-second shot of history.
HUGE CHINA-AUSTRALIA TRADE DEAL
Australia and its largest trading partner China have signed a free-trade deal that Beijing described as its â€œmost liberalâ€ yet. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott hailed the agreement as â€œhistory-making,â€ saying it would â€œchange our countries for the better, it will change our region for the better ... change our world for the better.â€ According to Australiaâ€™s ABC, tariffs will be lifted on 95% of Australian exports to China. Xinhua meanwhile highlights that the deal will make Chinese investments in Australia easier.
â€œI'm certain future historians will recognise that little Greece, with its little power, is today fighting a battle beyond its capacity not just on its own behalf but on behalf of the people of Europe,â€ a defiant Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told legislators during a televised address on Tuesday. The leftist leader accused Athensâ€™ international creditors of wanting to â€œhumiliateâ€ Greece with more pensions cuts and tax hikes that would affect the poor. What is being billed as a last-chance meeting of eurozone ministers is due to take place tomorrow.
HONG KONG DEMOCRACY DEBATE
Hong Kong government members and lawmakers have started a three-day debate on a blueprint for the election of the cityâ€™s next leader in 2017, South China Morning Post reports. The move, described as an â€œhistoric moment,â€ will give citizens the right to elect their leader for the first time but critics lament that Beijing wants to cherry-pick the candidates, a decision that sparked the â€œumbrella protestsâ€ of last year. Both supporters and opponents to the reform package are demonstrating.
DONALD TRUMP TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Photo: Nancy Kaszerman/ZUMA
Two days after Jeb Bush, real estate mogul Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he would seek the Republican nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidency. Speaking from Trump Tower in New York, Trump said, â€œSadly the American dream is dead â€" but if I get elected president, I will bring it back, bigger and better and stronger than ever before and we will make America great again.â€
Hamas, the Islamist group that governs Gaza, is now facing a challenge from Islamic State insurgents and growing disenchantment with its leadership, Piotr Smolar writes for Le Monde: â€œThe leaders of Hamas recognize this prospect: Over the past several months, Israel has loosened its grip, letting more material and people circulate. The drip is keeping the patient in a stable state of survival. But Hamas has other worries, including talks over national reconciliation with their Palestinian Authority counterparts in the West Bank, which have been frozen, as all sides appear unwilling to give ground.â€
Read the full article, ISIS And Corruption Undermine Hamas Rule In Gaza.
JAPAN LOWERS VOTING AGE
Japanese lawmakers have lowered the countryâ€™s voting age from 20 to 18, a move aimed at boosting political participation in younger people, news agency Kyodo reports. But despite adding 2.4 million to the electorate, the move is unlikely to dent the â€œsilverâ€ voteâ€™s dominance in one of Asiaâ€™s most-rapidly aging countries.
As many as 2.1 million lives could be saved every year if every country on the planet brought their pollution levels within those recommended by the World Health Organization, a recent study found. Read more from AP.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
NORTH KOREA HIT BY SEVERE DROUGHT
The worst drought in 100 years is hitting North Korea hard and is dramatically affecting rice-growing provinces, raising fears of food shortages in a country where million already suffer from malnutrition, state news agency KCNA reports. Find out more about the five most alarming droughts around the world in our Take 5 feature.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS NBA CHAMPIONS
The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 in Game 6 of the finals to claim their first championship in 40 years.
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 but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.
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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