Trump And The World

Donald Trump, The Fear Candidate

Protesting agains Trump in Cleveland
Protesting agains Trump in Cleveland
The Editorial Board

WASHINGTON â€" These are anxious times in America. Despite a steadily, if slowly, growing economy and the absence of a major war, people remain troubled by a sense of national underperformance and myriad social ills, most recently the surge in racially tinged fatal shootings committed by law enforcement officers and against them. A new Gallup poll reports that only 17% of Americans feel satisfied with the way things are going, the lowest percentage since October 2013 â€" and down 12 points in just the past month.

For many, of course, a cause of concern is Donald Trump, who accepted the Republican presidential nomination Thursday evening. Belligerent and erratic, Trump nevertheless has a serious chance to win in November. In his acceptance speech, he sought to enhance his political prospects the only way he knows how: by inflaming public angst, so as to exploit it.

Trump took real challenges and recast them in terms that were not only exaggerated but also apocalyptic. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life,” he claimed. Though he addressed issues ranging from public safety, to immigration, to trade, Trump’s proposed solutions all shared a common premise: The way to overcome difficulty is through force. To American companies that exercise their right to move production abroad, the Trump administration will administer unspecified “consequences.” A giant wall will block migrants and drug traffickers along the Mexico border. And “law and order” â€" an old trope of Richard Nixon and George Wallace that Trump brought out of retirement â€" will be restored.

Perhaps politically effective because of their simplicity, Trump’s now-familiar formulations would fail as actual policies â€" because they are simplistic. There is no practical prospect, for example, of constructing the wall he insistently touts; even if built, drug traffickers and others could eventually tunnel under it. And, as per usual, last night he added no details to this plan that might convince anyone otherwise.

As for law and order, the president has at most indirect influence over thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country. To the extent it can be taken seriously at all, Trump’s assertion that “safety will be restored” on the day of his inauguration implies a vast federalization of a traditional state and local function, contrary to long-standing law and custom â€" not to mention the small-government doctrine of the Republican Party that has so unwisely and hypocritically hitched its wagon to Mr. Trump’s star. To tense communities in need of the nuanced toughness that police chiefs such as David O. Brown of Dallas have successfully applied, a President Trump would project from the White House a repressive attitude, unbuffered by a shred of sensitivity, racial or otherwise. Less safety, not more, could be the result.

Trump began his speech by presenting himself as the bearer of painful but necessary truth. And no doubt, for many of his listeners, his words expressed a deeply felt emotional reality. There is real fear in the land; real pain. But it will take real leadership, not the wishful, demagogic brand Trump embodied Thursday night, to address this.

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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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