Monday, November 10, 2014
Asia-Pacific leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are in Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, where China’s Xi Jinping and Japan’s Shinzo Abe met for formal talks for the first time after more than two years of deep tensions over disputed islands. South Korea and China announced this morning that they had reached broad agreement on a bilateral free-trade deal, a move that might dent U.S. economic dominance in the region. The Washington Post reports, however, that Obama traveled to Beijing with a deal of his own in mind that doesn’t include China.
Speaking at the summit, Obama insisted the U.S. wanted China “to do well” and that it “welcomes the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China.” Commenting on the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, he said that Washington’s “primary message has been to make sure violence is avoided, adding that the U.S. would "continue to have concerns about human rights" in China.
In the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar, a lower-caste tribal woman dries her sari during a protest demanding rights for those without land papers.
ISIS LEADER INJURED IN AIRSTRIKE
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was wounded in a U.S. airstrike near the Iraqi city of Mosul early Saturday, Al Jazeera reports that a spokesperson for the terrorist group wrote yesterday on Twitter. Though the authenticity of the message hasn’t been confirmed, it came after Iraqi officials made similar claims. Washington has yet to confirm it, although U.S. authorities said that the airstrikes on an ISIS gathering had killed a number of top militants. Read more from The New York Times.
French yachtsman Loïck Peyron has won the 10th running of the prestigious Route du Rhum single-handed transatlantic race in record time, sailing from Saint Malo in French Brittany to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, in just over a week.
IMPOSING ISRAELI LAW ON WEST BANK
The Israeli government approved a bill yesterday to extend Israeli laws to West Bank settlements, a move that critics inside and outside the government are branding as a “de facto annexation” that “creates a policy of apartheid,” website Ynet newsreports. But right-wing supporters of the legislation claim the bill would protect Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories and would not apply to Palestinians.
Growing division inside Israel’s government was on display yesterday with the resignation of left-leaning Environment Minister Amir Peretz, who cited the country’s diplomatic, social and economic problems. “Netanyahu has no solutions, because he is the problem and must be replaced,” he said of the Israeli prime minister.
Tension is high among Arab Israelis after a 22-year-old was shot and killed by police Saturday. They said he attacked their vehicle when officers were trying to arrest a relative, though a New York Times reporter said that security camera footage “appeared to show him retreating from the vehicle when the officers got out and shot him.” The news led to riots in northern Israel, and 24 Palestinian citizens of Israel appeared in court this morning.
HEAVY SHELLING IN DONETSK
Eastern Ukraine’s rebel-held city of Donetsk experienced its worst shelling in months over the weekend as the fight between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian security around the Donetsk airport intensified, The Daily Telegraph reports. Both sides have accused the other of violating a shaky ceasefire signed on Sept. 5, but the newspaper notes that neither side has so far launched a major offensive. The escalation comes after reports from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that its observers had spotted “convoys of heavy weapons and tanks” in rebel-controlled territory, raising fears that all-out fighting could resume in eastern Ukraine. Commenting on the military reinforcement reports, the White House expressed “grave concern.” Read more from Voice of America.
As Radikal’s Suat Kiniklioglu reports, Turkey’s secular elite are moving abroad in growing numbers to escape growing authoritarianism there. “The white-collar employees of Turkish multinational companies try to get transferred to offices outside of Turkey,” the journalist writes. “Those who have the financial power to invest abroad start businesses or buy real estate that may allow them to legally migrate. Others try their luck with temporary business contracts in the hope of securing their presence abroad later. There is a growing demand for U.S. green cards. The white collars are leaving Turkey in search of a better future. They don't want to raise their children here.”
Read the full article, What Is Driving Turkey's Secular Elite To Emigrate.
DOZENS DEAD IN NIGERIA SCHOOL BLAST
At least 48 students were killed this morning in northeastern Nigeria as a suicide bomber disguised in school uniform detonated explosives at a high school assembly, AP reports. The location of the blast, in a city that was targeted by a similar attack last week, suggest that Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram could be behind the explosion.
For more on the infamous terrorist group, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch report from Nigeria, Horror At The Front Line Of The Boko Haram Caliphate.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS
High-level talks between U.S., European and Iranian officials continued for a second consecutive day today in Oman in an attempt to reach an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline, AFP reports. Speaking on CBS’ Face The Nation yesterday, President Barack Obama warned that the gap between the two sides remained significant and that they “may not be able to get there.” But according to British newspaper The Times, Iranian and U.S. officials have held secret talks aimed at discussing a possible reopening of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Washington denied the claims.
PROTESTS TURN TO RIOTS IN MEXICO
Protests escalated into riots in Mexico over the weekend, with masked demonstrators trying to storm the presidential palace in Mexico City and setting its wooden door on fire. This came after the attorney general said gang members had confessed to killing 43 missing students.
A LAST BRICK IN THE WALL
Pink Floyd’s latest album —The Endless River — is being released today, and it also happens to be its last. The Guardian described as “a good way to call it a day.” Another highly anticipated release today is Foo Fighters’ 8th studio album, Sonic Highways.
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 but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.
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.
The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down
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".
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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