The Latest: Myanmar Protests, Glacier Burst, Annual COVID Shots

Myanmar saw one of its largest protests in more than a decade yesterday as tens of thousands demonstrated in Yangon against the military coup
Myanmar saw one of its largest protests in more than a decade yesterday as tens of thousands demonstrated in Yangon against the military coup

Welcome to Monday, where South Africa halts AstraZeneca vaccine after poor results on local variant, 180 are feared dead in India glacier collapse, and Tom Brady makes Super Bowl history. We also look at the unlikely feud involving Indian farmers, top cricket stars — and Rihanna.

COVID-19 latest: South Africa halts use of AstraZeneca vaccine after a clinical trial showed "disappointing" results on the coronavirus variant first detected in the country. Israel has begun easing its third strict nationwide lockdown amid the world's fastest per-capita vaccination campaign.

Mass protests in Myanmar: Tens of thousands protested in Myanmar yesterday, a week after a military coup and the arrest of charismatic leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Himalayan glacier collapse: At least 170 people are missing after a massive glacier broke in the Himalayan mountains of northern India.

Netanyahu in court: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleads not guilty to corruption charges as his trial resumes six weeks before voters again head to the polls in national elections.

Trump impeachment trial: The U.S. Senate trial begins tomorrow of the second impeachment charges of former President Donald Trump, accused of inciting the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and preventing the peaceful transfer of power after his election loss to Joe Biden.

China arrests Australian journalist: TV anchor Cheng Lei has been formally arrested after having been detained since August without charge. Chinese authorities have now charged the Chinese-born, Australian-raised journalist on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.

Super Bowl legend: At the age of 43, legendary quarterback Tom Brady won his record 7th Super Bowl, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Ecuador's daily El Universo reports on the first-round results of the country's presidential election, which will head to a second round after 36-year-old economist Andrés Arauz fell short of the 40% threshold to avoid a run-off.

Indian Farmers' Protests: Cricket, Bollywood Icons v. Rihanna

Pop singer Rihanna's recent tweet about Indian farmers' protests prompted backlash from the government with the support of several Indian actors and cricketers, "patriots' vs "external forces' trying to "divide the country." Anushka Deepak, writing in The Wire, questions the influence of celebrities in India, and beyond.

The Ministry of External Affairs released a statement using particular hashtags at the end of the document, as if they were indicating anyone who loves his country to create a social media trend that can, with just a tweet from an influencer, take the attention off of the past 70 days of struggle. From Sachin Tendulkar to Akshay Kumar, there was a similar pattern which was followed in the tweets trying to unite the "Indians' and bringing #IndiaTogether while we scream #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.

Ironically, these were the same influencers who announced #BlackoutTuesday and supported #BlackLivesMatter to voice their support towards ending systemic racism in the U.S. As much as it seems like we're not bothered by their stand, we do treat our actors and cricketers like no less than God himself. And when God goes against the people of this country, those people who made him God, it hurts. It hurts because this is exactly the kind double standards we didn't expect from them, considering they did support a good cause in the past which was someone else's "internal matter".

The only people who spoke even then and now are those celebs who would never get to take a group selfie with the prime minister of India. It seems like those whom we thought were above politics and chose to stay away from topics which are not of their expertise, did end up choosing a side. The day we decide to start treating these influencers like just another human being, we'll understand what made them do what they did and what we need to do.

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Hiding the dough: Woman caught smuggling €70,000 in pasta

Italy, as everyone knows, is the place for pasta. And so it goes without saying that visitors to the country often head home with a package or two in their duffels or suitcases.

The woman in this story was no exception, in that regard. And yet, there was something about her that must have puzzled authorities when she showed up recently at customs controls in Milan Malpensa airport.

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reports that the woman — who has not been identified by name but is said to have Nigerian origins and been living near Turin, in the country's northwest — was boarding a connecting flight to Istanbul, Turkey, with final destination Lagos.

At customs control, when asked if she was carrying cash, bonds, or other valuables out of the country, she declared she had less than 10,000 euros in cash — the maximum amount that can be taken out of the country without notifying authorities according to Italian law.

Something about the woman didn't sit right, though, and so after a routine check on the spot, the officers decided to search the woman's checked luggage. That's when they found several paper boxes of penne, rigatoni and pipe rigate. Hmmm....

Intrigued, the officers then decided to open the boxes, and that's when they discovered — hidden under the different types of pasta — various wads of 20-, 50- and 100-euro notes. Oh, mamma mia!

Italian authorities report that in total the woman had some 70,240 euros with her, at least 60,000 of which were in the pasta packets. According to the news report, they seized half of the undeclared cash but did not say whether the woman was allowed to travel on to Istanbul and Lagos.

Also unclear is whether she was able to keep her valuable pasta.

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

32 billion

According to French customs data, France forked out 6 billion euros to import 126,000 tons of face masks in 2020 — which business daily Les Echos estimates to amount to 32 billion masks.

We see ... probably an annual shot, in the way we do with flu vaccinations where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world.

— Britain's vaccine deployment minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said on Sunday that annual coronavirus vaccinations are highly possible.

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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 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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