In The News

Auckland Stabbing Attack, U.S. Flood Toll Rises, ABBA’s Back

Welcome to Friday, where a "terrorist attack" in New Zealand leaves at least six dead, the New York flooding toll multiplies and an iconic Swedish 70s disco band is making a comeback. Italian daily La Stampa also looks at the unlikely rise in China of gray-haired influencers trending on social media.

Auckland Stabbing Attack, U.S. Flood Toll Rises, ABBA’s Back

Spraying pesticide to kill mosquitoes in Dhaka, Bangladesh, hit by a dengue fever outbreak

Sultan Mahmud Mukut/SOPA Images/ZUMA
Meike Eijsberg, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

• New Zealand terror stabbings: A man believed to be linked to ISIS has stabbed and wounded six people in a supermarket in Auckland, New Zealand. The attacker, who was known to the authorities, was shot and killed by police. Three of the wounded are in critical condition. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as a "terrorist attack" and said the man was "a supporter of ISIS ideology."

• Japan's Prime Minister Suga to step down: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced he will not run for re-election as party leader this month thereby signalling the end of his tenure. His decision comes only a year after replacing longtime Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down for health reasons. Suga's popularity plummeted amid Japan's most recent wave of COVID cases and the fallout from the decision to go ahead with the Summer Olympics during the pandemic.

• Kabul airport reopens, fighting in holdout Afghan province: According to Afghanistan's Ariana Airlines, domestic flights from Kabul airport are set to resume Friday. There have been no flights to or from the airport since the Aug. 15 takeover by Taliban Islamist group. Meanwhile, heavy fighting has been reported between Taliban and thousands of opposition fighters in the Panjshir Valley, the last province to resist the takeover.

• New York flash floods: The death toll has risen to 45 in the flash floods that have hit the U.S. northeast, in the wake of Hurricane Ida. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the record rainfall "historic" and declared a state of emergency in the city, urging people to stay off the subway and roads.

• COVID-19 update: The EU and coronavirus vaccine-maker AstraZeneca have reached a deal, settling a row over a shortfall in vaccines that had affected the rollout in Europe earlier this year. North Korea has refused 2.97 million doses of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine, saying they should be sent to countries with worst outbreaks.

• NASA's Mars rover 2nd drill attempt: NASA's Perseverance rover has retrieved a rock sample on Mars after a previous attempt last month saw the sample crumble to dust. This time, a rock core was securely picked up; and if it is successfully delivered back to Earth, would be the first ever rock collection from another planet.

• New ABBA songs: They're still the dancing queens and kings, though far from being only seventeen … Iconic Swedish 70s disco band ABBA are making a surprise comeback with their first new songs in nearly 40 years. A new album and a virtual concert will follow.



"How India should deal with the Taliban," titles weekly magazine India Today, writing that it is "wise to negotiate with the new government of Afghanistan rather than boycott it."



Aging influencers, Chinese grandmas are social media hit

Imagine a 70-year-old Chinese version of Chiara Ferragni. Now multiply these "senior" Asian influencers by a dozen and you will have a snapshot of the new phenomenon that has hit social media in China. Grey is the new blond, a wise man once said, and old age is turning into a modern trend, with Chinese characteristics, writes Carlo Pizzati in Italian daily La Stampa.

👵 The aging divas are the stars of the feed dedicated to "Fashion Grandmothers" on the Chinese social network Douyin, the national version of Tik Tok. They call themselves "fashion_grannies" or "Glamma Beijing," playing on the Chinese pronunciation of the English words grandma and glamor. And they are quite something to see, wrapped up in traditional damask cheongsam, buttoned all the way up their neck or hopping in casual clothes of the latest fashion brands.

💄 What do glamor grandmothers do? Just like elderly Barbies, they are dressed, stylized and dolled up by squads of young designers, aestheticians and makeup artists before walking the catwalk in slow-motion videos, with sudden speed-ups to further show off the charisma of these trendy grandmas. "When I was young, I never wore makeup," says Sang Xiuzhan, a 75-year-old who spent 50 years living in Beijing. "My dream as a girl was to work in show business, but I had to become an engineer in the 1960s. We had to contribute to economic growth, not spending any time on the superfluous."

🤩 This reality is full of surprises that paint the picture of a strange return to the past, made possible precisely thanks to the latest technology. "These videos of seniors disrupt stereotypes of old age. Retirees used to be seen as passive, unsophisticated and coarse," says Xiao Lijuan, the CEO of Letuizu, a digital platform that turned five grandfathers and five grandmothers into lifestyle icons. "Now these opinionated senior citizens are demonstrating the possibility that people over 60 can be beautiful and graceful people, albeit in a different way than young people."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com



Duped by North Korean propaganda, Japanese expats are suing Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, has been summoned to appear in a Japanese courthouse. Five people who moved to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) between 1959 and 1984 are seeking 500 million yen (3.8 million euros) in damages from the North Korean government for deceiving them with promises of a prosperous life they never found in the totalitarian state, South Korean daily Segye Ilbo reports.

The plaintiffs, four women and one man, are among the estimated 93,000 Japanese-Koreans and other Japanese who moved to North Korea in the latter half of the previous century, often persuaded by a propaganda project (Zainichi Chosenjin no Kikan Jigyo) to attract immigrant workers. The targeted campaign was carried out through the General Association of Koreans in Japan (Chongryon), the de facto representative of North Korea in Japan, touting life in the Northern peninsula as "paradise on Earth."

At the time, it wasn't so far-fetched, with the DPRK's economy developing faster than that of South Korea and Japan. The idea was especially attractive to Koreans who had arrived in Japan during its colonisation (1910-1945) and remained after the war. Whether forced laborers or volunteering immigrants, many were living in dire poverty and were drawn into the prospect of Communist North Korea guaranteeing their basic needs.

The arrivals from Japan soon discovered a far more grim reality, without the promised housing, education, food and clothing, and forced to work under dire conditions. One of the plaintiffs, Eiko Kawasaki, who went to North Korea at the age of 17 in 1960, explained: "North Korea wanted to attract Koreans, skilled workers and technicians, to cope with its labor shortage," French daily Le Monde writes.

Once the individuals arrived, they were not allowed to leave. Eiko only managed to flee in 2003. According to a 2013 UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights report, many of the Japanese expats "ended up in political prison camps and other places of detention in the DPRK."

Kim Jong-un, the grandson of the leader at the time, Kim Il-sung, is named in the suit as legal representative of the North Korean state. It is unclear if he is aware of his court date, scheduled for October 14, as South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reports. In Japan, court summons are usually delivered directly to the person, but if there is no response, then the notice is publicly posted outside the courthouse. According to Japan Today, if he doesn't show up, it is likely the judge will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and order Kim Jong-un to pay the sought-after amount.





€225 million

Facebook's messaging service WhatsApp was hit by a record 225-million euro fine by Ireland's data protection regulator, for failing to conform with EU data rules about transparency in 2018. The company disputed the decision, declaring the "penalties are entirely disproportionate."



Resign? I don't even think about it.

— Pope Francis said in a radio interview, asserting that he has no intention of stepping down despite the major intestine surgery he underwent last July and rumors about his worsening health. "I lead a totally normal life," he added.




Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
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.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ