BBC

The Latest: Mogul’s Prison Suicide, Indigenous Graves, Britney’s Back

In Gaza City, Palestinian students sit for their final high school exams, known as “Tawjihi,” that will qualify them to enter college
In Gaza City, Palestinian students sit for their final high school exams, known as “Tawjihi,” that will qualify them to enter college

Welcome to Thursday, where software mogul John McAfee is found dead in his Spanish prison cell from apparent suicide, hundreds of indigenous graves are discovered in Canada and French soccer fans get very lost. Meanwhile, the Worldcrunch Express stops at iconic train stations around the world that are being kept alive in unusual ways.

• Merkel and Macron's olive branch to Putin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have suggested inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to a summit with the EU, as part of a broader reset of the bloc's relations with Russia, which has been excluded from summits since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

• Anti-virus creator John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison: John McAfee, the anti-virus software entrepreneur, was found dead in his prison cell in Barcelona hours after a Spanish court agreed to extradite him to the U.S. to face tax evasion charges. According to the Catalan justice department, "everything indicates' that McAfee took his own life.

• Hundreds more unmarked graves found at former indigenous school in Canada: The Cowessess First Nation made the discovery at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in the province of Saskatchewan. This is the second discovery in less than a month and statements suggest that the number of graves surpass last month's finding of unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children in British Columbia.

• Long COVID and new rare vaccine side effect: According to new research in the UK, more than 2 million adults in England have had "long COVID" and have thus experienced coronavirus symptoms lasting over 12 weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be adding a warning about a rare heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults to fact sheets for the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, Brazil registers a new daily record of 115,228 confirmed cases.

• Former President of Philippines Benigno Aquino dies: The only son of the Philippines' two democracy icons died in a Manila hospital on Thursday, aged 61. During his six-year term starting in 2010, the country's long history of junk-debt status ended and average economic growth was at its highest since the 1970s.

• Sesame Street introduces two gay fathers in its show for the first time: On Thursday, the series aired an episode called "Family Day" that introduced Frank, his husband Dave and their daughter Mia as the family attend a surprise party for Big Bird. It is the first time in the show's 51-year history that a same-sex couple has been featured.

• Britney Spears speaks out against "abusive" conservatorship in court: The American pop star Britney Spears said she was traumatized by the conservatorship that has controlled her life for 13 years. The 39-year-old also said she had been denied the right to have more children and was put on a psychiatric drug against her wishes.


After 26 years of publishing, Hong Kong's biggest pro-democracy paper Apple Daily was forced to shut down after its assets were frozen. Its final edition was published at midnight local time in Hong Kong, with a million copies reportedly selling overnight. The frontpage reads "Hong Kongers' painful farewell in the rain: ‘We support Apple Daily"".

Hotels, museums, concert halls: upcycling iconic train stations

As Bangkok transitions its iconic Hua Lamphong train station into a museum, here's a look at the other historical train stations around the world that have been kept alive in unusual ways.

The most famous example is certainly Paris' Musée d'Orsay, with its wide windows and rustic clocks. Similar to the Hua Lamphong station, the Musée d'Orsay was also once a centrally located railway hub. Now, it is home to mostly impressionist and post-impressionist works of art, welcoming over three million visitors per year.

Across the ocean from the Musée d'Orsay is Brazil"s Julio Prestes Station, located in São Paulo. Built in 1875 with a hall that reflects the European Louis XVI style, the station was originally used to transport coffee throughout the country. Today, the station serves as a concert hall, hosting the São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra. It maintains its place as a city hub, but for culture instead of transportation.

In the heartland of the United States of America's rust belt, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is widely known for its history of steel production, which made the city crucial for keeping trains and railways alive. The Grand Concourse, formerly the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station, opened in 1898, helping connect the country's Midwest to its East Coast. These days, however, it is one of Pittsburgh's most popular restaurants, attracting an average of 900 diners every Sunday pre-pandemic with its tall, vaulted ceilings and delicate stained glass windows.

South Africa is also home to an inventive, upcycled railway project: the Kruger Shalati Train Lodge. Resting on a bridge in what used to be a train car, a luxury hotel with 31 rooms occupies forgotten tracks. In the 1920s, trains would park at this same location, which is just on the border of the Kruger National Park. Now, hotel guests peer over the deck to see wildlife, as did the passengers of the previous century.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


18%

After a year of protests for racial justice and increasingly negative perceptions of policing, a study of more than 200 U.S. police departments found that resignations rose by 18% between April 2020 and April 2021, with retirements also increasing by 45%. Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden announced his decision to increase funding for police departments to tackle the rise in homicide rates across American cities.

Budapest or Bucharest? A tale of very lost French soccer fans

Let's be honest, as European capital names go, Budapest (Hungary) and Bucharest (Romania) are pretty similar. It's even slightly closer in French: Budapest and Bucarest. Still, for six French football fans who wanted to watch last week's France v. Hungary match live, we can only wonder how this geographic blooper could have gone this far.

Oui, oui...the supporters of les Bleus wound up in Bucharest, watching the game on television, rather than the stadium Budapest where France and Hungary finished in a 1-1 draw.

It's unclear who bought the plane tickets, but as local Romanian newspaper Jurnalu National reports, these fans took quite a while to realize their mistake. Non, non, it wasn't at the airport or hotel: Indeed, they still thought they were going to see the game live when they spotted other football fans on the streets of Bucharest wearing yellow and blue outfits.

"We thought they were Hungarian supporters who were also going to the stadium," they told Jurnalu National. In reality, they were a group of Ukrainian supporters, who had arrived early before their country's game, scheduled a few days after in the Romanian capital. (Also, Hungary's colors are red and green ...)

The French fans eventually found out they travelled to the wrong country while sharing beers with the Ukrainian supporters. "We should learn more about Europe," one of the confused supporters confessed.

The European football championship is usually hosted in only one or two countries, but this year's matches are spread around 11 nations, giving soccer fans a chance to improve their knowledge in geography — or get lost on their way to the stadium.

Next up for the French team, which qualified for the round of 16, is Switzerland, a game that will take place Monday ... in Bucharest. So maybe our lovably lost fans just showed up early?

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com


It's hard to believe, but when I became chancellor, the iPhone didn't even exist.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended her last Q&A session at the German parliament yesterday, and cheerfully responded to various questions with witty comebacks. Upon answering a question related to digitalization in Germany, Merkel joked that there were no iPhones when she came to power in 2005, adding that she was pleased with current achievements while emphasizing the importance of a Europe-wide digital identity.

✍️ Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Genevieve Mansfield, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Dan Wu and Bertrand Hauger

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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 but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

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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