Migrant Lives

Carola Rackete & Greta Thunberg: A New Kind Of Heroine For Our Times

Today, young women like Carola Rackete and Greta Thunberg have the power to conquer hearts and instill idealism into politics. But ultimately, their admirers have to act themselves if they want change.

Non-fictional superwomen
Non-fictional superwomen
Kia Vahland

OpEd- ​

MUNICH — First Greta Thunberg, savior of the planet; now Carola Rackete, savior of human lives. Young, idealistic and energetic women enter the world stage, hated by some and worshipped by others for the same reason: their determination.

The Sea-Watch spectacle was filmworthy. The petite Rackete, with a face that always looked fatigued from her cellphone-shot videos aboard the Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship, speaks of responsibility and declares that she is only concerned with the welfare of the refugees on board. All she wants to do is bring them safely ashore to the Italian island of Lampedusa. And at the moment she does exactly that, a police boat tries to prevent the docking maneuver.

As Rackete disembarked, some cheered, others cursed her. The spectacle led to a huge spike in donations to the Sea-Watch cause, with a fundraiser by German TV host Jan Böhmermann surpassing 1 million euros alone. Supporters now recognize in Rackete a young heroine, who acts where others only talk, and takes on European and also Christian values against the Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, from the anti-migrant League party, who flaunts his contempt toward his fellow human beings.

What her critics see is a rebellious lawbreaker helping migrant smugglers. Not all of them use their best arguments: Among the League supporters at the dock, some screamed out death threats and fantasized about sex orgies on the high seas.​

Rackete inspires and excites, our present moment has found in her a figure of longing and of hatred. Charismatic leaders such as Barack Obama are no longer trusted with the world's rescue; even armed revolutionaries like Che Guevara would have no star potential today.

They're considered less corrupt, less vulnerable to the influence of lobbyists.

It is now young women who conquer hearts and minds. They politely but firmly tell the rulers of Europe that they have to stick to their own promises: climate goals have to be implemented, human rights respected. Violence is not part of their formula, as Rackete immediately apologized for having scraped the police boat during the docking incident.

These heroines of the present are by no means to be confused with the type of quick-witted superheroes who have conquered the screens, they are neither Wonder Woman nor Captain Marvel. Yet they pique people's interest, all the way up to the highest echelons of power. Rackete has convinced a Roman Catholic cardinal to join her cause, while global business leaders are busy competing for Greta Thunberg's favor. These young women possess a very rare and precious quality: credibility.

This may be due to their personalities, but such credibility means a lot in this historical moment. Young women do not sit on supervisory boards, executive committees, and are usually shut out from the highest government offices. This is part of why they are considered per se less corrupt, less vulnerable to the influence of lobbyists. And at the same time, they are no longer measured, like women of earlier generations, by the feminine modesty ideal and by the man standing next to them.

Thus, the young female idealist becomes the bearer of hope, and she is idealized. This, of course, can quickly become a burden because it demands an almost superhuman purity and clarity. With their bodies and their entire lives, they should stand up for their causes, thus relieving the public — which is far from being so consistent — for a while.

Neither Wonder Woman nor Captain Marvel.

An intercontinental flight and its carbon footprint may be all it takes for the glory of Greta Thunberg to pass. A truly radical remark by Carola Rackete on immigration policy, and the bourgeoisie class she's inspired could close their hearts and purses again.

It will not be enough to applaud the German captain and the Swedish student occupying the world stage. The new heroines should be considered humans, not saintly saviors. What's missing is a bit of heroism from the rest of us.

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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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