Welcome to Tuesday, where clashes erupt on the Myanmar-Thailand border, Israel is accused of "apartheid" and mischievous beavers cause internet mayhem in Canada. We also go to Hong Kong where the wave of emigration caused by China's clamping down on freedoms has a troubling side effect on dogs and cats.
• Clashes at Myanmar's Thai border: Ethnic minority Karen insurgents attacked Myanmar army outpost near the Thai border in one of the most intense fighting since the February 1 military coup. Meanwhile, young protesters are training to fight the junta.
• First aids arrive in India: Vital medical supplies have arrived in India as the death toll nears 200,000. The UK has provided ventilators and oxygen equipment while France is sending oxygen generators and China tries to get medical supplies to its neighbor, despite border conflicts.
• Eyes on AstraZeneca: The U.S. will share up to 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses with other countries in the coming months, while the European Union launches legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company over breach of contract concerning delivery of its vaccine.
• HRW condemns Israel for apartheid: A new Human Rights Watch report accuses Israel of committing crimes of apartheid and racial persecution against Palestinians. Israel's foreign ministry has dismissed the report, accusing the NGO of being biased against the country.
• Chad protests: Violent protests have erupted in Chad's capital of N'Djamena as demonstrators ask for a return to civilian rule after a military council seized power following former President Idriss Deby's death last week.
• Fleet for a "Global Britain": UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced on Monday that Britain will send an important naval force through the Pacific in a move to "shape the international system of the 21st century" and "protect its influence."
• Beavers sabotage internet: Beavers are being blamed for causing a 12 hour-internet blackout in a town of Canadian province of British Columbia. Parts of the underground cabling were found in the beavers' home.
Portuguese daily Jornal I reports on coronavirus cases among young people between 10 and 19 years old, which have increased by 60% this past week in Portugal, as citizens over 60 are being vaccinated.
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a nationwide "tecrit" (Turkish for "lockdown") starting on Thursday and lasting until May 17, in bid to halt COVID surge. Schools will be shut and moved online, national travels will be monitored and a strict capacity limit will be imposed for users of public transport. The country has the world's fourth highest number of cases, with 37,312 new COVID-19 infections and 353 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Abandoned pets crisis amid Hong Kong's emigration wave
As a growing number of people pack up and leave the former British colony, the question arises: What to do about the family dog? While some pay thousands of HK dollars to specialized agencies to deal with pet-immigration procedures, plenty of people leave their animals behind, writes Lin Kexin in Hong-Kong based digital media The Initium.
In the past six months, the Lifelong Animal Protection charity (LAP) in Hong Kong has received many requests from people looking for somewhere to leave their pets. And by at least one count, the number of pets abandoned in 2020 has increased by 15% compared to previous years. Since last year, the number of abandoned reptiles and amphibians has also soared from fewer than 10 cases a year to more than 10 per month, the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation (HKHerp) reports.
The emigration wave is keeping Chen Juntao busy. He runs a pet migration business, and says that in the past year alone, he's helped send off more than 500 cats and dogs, about half the number he handled in the previous four years combined. For a dog or cat destined for the United Kingdom, Mr Chen's services provide for the animal's quarantine, flight and custom clearance, and the cost can range between 30,000 to 100,000 HK dollars ($3,800-$12,800), depending on the size of the animal.
But some cannot afford such expenses. Aunt Qi is the owner of nine pet huts, called the "Comfortable Nest," which house abandoned dogs and also provide temporary respite care for dogs as well as cats. Since the end of last year, more and more people have called up Aunt Qi to ask whether or not she'll take over the pets they no longer want to keep. Meanwhile, the number of pet owners who entrusted her with the temporary care of their dogs, but who vanished after a few months, has also soared.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
Black women face higher risks of having a miscarriage with rates over 40% compared with white women, a study from The Lancet on 4.6 million pregnancies in seven countries suggests. The higher rate is partly explained by the fact that black women are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, two conditions that increase the risk of miscarriage.
I felt hurt and left alone: As a woman and as a European.
— European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen shared her feelings during a speech yesterday to the European Parliament, about the "sofagate" incident that took place in Ankara, Turkey on April 6. Ursula von der Leyen had been left without a chair during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as EU Council President Charles Michel had taken the only seat available next to Erdogan. "Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie?," she asked, suggesting sexism was at the root of the incident.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet & Emma Flacard
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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