Between Two Earthquakes - China Media Moves From Tabloid To Tender



BEIJING – More than 4,000 aftershocks have been recorded since the earthquake that struck Sichuan Province, in the southwest of China, last Saturday.

The death keeps rising, with dozens still missing reports Xinhua. More than 11,470 people were injured in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

While the relief effort continues in Sichuan Province, with 22,000 Chinese troops deployed in the area, the disaster has sparked a debate on Chinese Internet about how the press should cover such news, reports Caixin media.

This young girl lost her grandfather in the earthquake in China…

— David McKenzie (@McKenzieCNN) April 25, 2013

Five years ago, when a massive earthquake struck Sichuan Province, killing more than 80,000 people, numerous photos of dead bodies were shown on television and in the newspapers. The media circus that descended on Sichuan was seen as many as highly insensitive, with journalists hounding the victims’ families and putting on a sensationalist show.

The number of reporters who rushed to the disaster site took up the time and energy of the local authorities, which had other – more important – things to do, obviously.

Xinhua reports on a Chinese student studying in Japan who wrote an article entitled How the Japanese media reported the 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, saying that Japanese reporters had stayed calm and “released sufficient information without violating privacy; provided data without being sensational; offered warnings without prompting panic."

According to Caixin media, although China is prone to disasters, its press seriously lacks experience in ethics. This is because of the lasting influence of the propaganda machine.

This time the reports on the Sichuan earthquake focused on rescue efforts and on heart-warming stories – but still avoided talking about important issues.

A frightened Panda in #China holds the leg of his caretaker after a massive earthquake #EarthPics…

— Google Earth Pics (@GoogleEarthPics) April 21, 2013

Many are happy, though, that the Chinese media is starting to show signs of maturity in the way it covers disasters.

The media is also changing the way it is reporting news. The People's Daily newspaper reports out that the Chinese television stations have adopted the foreign media’s practice of interrupting programming to provide updates on the earthquake. There is also a new phenomenon, a kind of “grassroots Internet journalism,” that has appeared on China’s micro-blogging sites, as well as on WeChat, a popular mobile phone text and voice messaging communication service. These new medias played an important role in the aftermath of the earthquake and during the rescue effort.

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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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