WHILE YOU SLEPT

Power In America And American Power

The election of Donald Trump is a shocking event for millions of Americans. And not only Americans. The man set to move into the White House has spent the past 18 months crossing lines of both basic decency and what we still like to call modern democracy. Beyond any fair debate on points of policy, Trump’s candidacy amounted to a vitriolic, almost violent thirst for power and disregard for a half-century of progress in the way we talk to and about each other. He also seems utterly uninterested in doing the basic homework necessary for one of the most demanding and consequential jobs in the world.

While some Americans expressed their outrage at Trump’s win by protesting on the streets, The New Yorker editor David Remnick articulated his own in words. “The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy.”

And yet, even if one can imagine them sharing such a sentiment, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had something very different to say out loud yesterday. In her concession speech, Clinton told her supporters that they must now root for Trump’s success: “We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.” This is something much bigger than courtesy or protocol. Public officials, at their best, know the stakes of their work and weight of their words â€" and how they can influence both their own followers and their fiercest rivals. In part because it is unclear what Trump actually believes or wants to do with his power, his opponents in America must now decide whether to try to limit the harm of his presidency through coaxing or confrontation.

Contained in the famous quote “war is merely the continuation of politics by other means,” is the understanding that the democratic battle over power and ideas is always at risk of suddenly turning very ugly. That applies both at home and abroad. Some non-Americans have lamented Trump’s victory as the death of the U.S. model for progressive democracy and discourse, while others have noted bitterly that Washington may be about to get a taste of the kind of “strongman” leadership it has long imposed on other countries around the world.

Geneva-based Le Temps asked Rupert Colville of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights about Trump. “If we think that the decisions or practices of the next American administration violate the human rights of any groups or individuals, we will say so, just as we have done in the past, and as we do in the rest of the world.” We might all agree the world is better off with such checks in place on American power. Now we must also hope the checks are in place on the power of any one American.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY


ANTI-TRUMP PROTESTS ACROSS U.S. CITIES

Protests erupted in various cities across the U.S. as thousands of people took to the streets against Donald Trump’s victory, with chanting “Not my president!” At least 65 demonstrators were arrested in New York City after protesters outside Trump Tower burned American flags and effigies of the president-elect, NBC News reports. Though most other protests were peaceful, a demonstration in Oakland, California, ended in violence with street fires and smashed windows.

ASIAN MARKETS RALLY

Asian stocks roared back after suffering spectacular losses yesterday in reaction to Trump’s unexpected victory. European shares were also up again this morning, with The Guardian writing that “analysts who predicted markets would slump if Trump pulled off a shock win have some explaining to do today.”

â€" ON THIS DAY

On this day, Bill Gates unveiled the very first version of Windows. They grow up so fast.

CIVILIAN TORTURES AND KILLINGS IN MOSUL

Gunmen wearing Iraqi Federal Police uniforms reportedly tortured and killed civilians in villages south of Mosul in late October, according to Amnesty International. The report says that at least six people were extrajudicially executed on suspicions of being ISIS jihadists. Inside Mosul meanwhile, ISIS killed at least 20 people accused of “passing information to the enemy” over the past two days. According to Reuters, five bodies were crucified and put on display at a road junction, and others were hanged to electricity poles and traffic signals, to send a message to the city’s inhabitants that the terror group is still in charge.

â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Brediterranean View â€" Valletta, 1990

RISK OF CIVIL WAR IN DRC IF PRESIDENT DOESN’T QUIT

The Democratic Republic of the Congo could descend into civil war if President Joseph Kabila doesn’t leave office at the end of his current mandate, opposition leaders have warned. Kabila, who succeeded his father after his murder in 2001, was elected in 2006 and again 2011, but the Constitution bars him from seeking a third mandate. He recently announced however that elections, scheduled for this month, would be postponed to April 2018, amid growing unrest. Read more from The Guardian.

NEW INTERPOL HEAD

Meng Hongwei, China’s Vice Public Security Minister, was elected today as Interpol’s new president, becoming the first Chinese to lead the global police organization, AFP reports. The news agency notes however that this is a “potentially controversial choice” given Beijing’s campaign to hunt down fugitives abroad.

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0.637 SECONDS

If you look very closely, you might be able to see this robot establish a new record for the fastest-solved Rubik's Cube.

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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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