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Crypto — investor incompetence and the endless miseries of FTX

‘Every hour of the past seven days has seen a new claim of malfeasance that exceeds the depravity of the last’ — Peter McCormack, UK journalist and podcaster.
I have been writing this crypto column for about six months. It used to be fun. I bounced around from this shiny thing to that sparkly thing — NFTs, cryptocurrencies, Metaverse, DAOs, Gamefi, Defi, DIDs and other crypto toddlers, reporting gaily on their clumsy totterings as they tried to walk on to the world stage.
Then FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried happened. And now that is the only story in crypto, consuming this column for four weeks running.
It is endless in its manifold miseries. Not so much fun. I hope never to write a column about FTX again.
A recap. Smart young guy starts an exchange to allow people to buy cryptocurrencies with their real-world currencies. He takes custody of the money, buys the cryptocurrencies on the blockchain, and holds the keys to access the money on the blockchain (the first big no-no — never allow someone to take custody of your keys). Unbeknown to most, the guy has racked up debt in another company he owns and so he steals his exchange customers’ cryptocurrencies to keep the other company afloat.
The FTX story isn’t that hard to understand, but I’ll say it differently to make a point.
You, a six-year-old schoolgirl, give a dollar to your sweet seven-year-old cousin Sam to buy some chocolate for you at the tuckshop when you are hungry, because Sam knows the guy behind the counter and says he might also get him to add a lollipop for free. You trust your cousin — everyone does — because he is so lovable. But your cousin is secretly a dodgy gonif (thief) who has been losing heavily in the playground marbles game.
Sam buys some marbles with your money and keeps playing, hoping to win back his losses. But he is a terrible marbles player, especially because it has rained recently, and the ground is rutted and stony. Your dollar is gone forever. It sits with this guy who sells the marbles, and he is not giving it back.
Casino built on a Ponzi
FTX went something like that, give or take. Although much more labyrinthine in its details. As macroeconomist Lyn Alden so aptly described it — a casino built on top of a Ponzi.
You’ll notice something about this story, though. It has nothing to ...

UN panel accuses regional South Sudan officials of overseeing gang rapes, beheadings

NAIROBI, Nov 28 (Reuters) - South Sudan should investigate officials accused of overseeing systematic gang rapes, some of whose victims were girls as young as nine, UN rights experts said on Monday in a statement the government dismissed as a fabrication.
Investigators say sexual abuse has been used as a weapon by all sides in South Sudan’s civil conflict, which erupted in 2013 and triggered Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said it had reasonable grounds to believe a county commissioner in the northern oil-rich state of Unity orchestrated gang rapes at a military camp.
The documented abuses also involved beheadings, with rape victims being forced to carry the severed heads, victims being burnt alive, and days of brutal sexual assaults, the UN experts said in a statement.
“Conflict-related rape and sexual violence in Unity State has become so systematic and is a direct result of impunity,” said commission member Barney Afako.
Multiple witnesses said the Unity official planned and ordered the attacks, which were led by his deputy and followed strikingly similar patterns in different areas, according to the statement.
Michael Makuei, South Sudan’s information minister and government spokesperson, dismissed the commission’s statement as a fabrication.
“They come and sit in hotels here in Juba and fabricate these false reports on South Sudan to make a living . I am saying these are false reports fabricated against the government,” he told Reuters.
The commission said the abuses cut across all political affiliations. It said one governor in the opposition in the state of Western Equatoria was appointed to his post despite having responsibility for the 2018 abduction, rape, torture and sexual slavery of more than 400 women and girls.
Lam Paul Gabriel, military spokesperson for Vice President Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), said it had had no hand in the reported crimes.
“This report is misplaced because they do not know who is fighting who in those areas where these accusations are made,” Lam said.
Attempts to reach officials from Unity and Western Equatoria to comment were unsuccessful.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but two years later descended into a spiral of brutal ethnic violence and revenge killings.
A peace agreement was signed in 2018, but 9.4 million people will require humanitarian assistance next year, representing more than three-quarters of the population, according to U.N. figures.
The UN Human Rights Council set up the Commission ...

WHO to use ‘mpox’ for monkeypox to fight stigma

GENEVA, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The World Health Organization said on Monday it would start using a new preferred term, 'mpox', as a synonym for monkeypox and urged others to follow suit after receiving complaints that the current name for the disease was racist and stigmatising.
“Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the global health organisation said.
The WHO launched a public consultation process to find a new name for the disease earlier this year.
One of the more popular proposals was ‘mpox’ or ‘Mpox’ which was put forward by a men’s health organisation RÉZO among others. Its director said at the time that the removal of monkey imagery helped people take the health emergency seriously.
Others were farcical such as ‘Poxy McPoxface’ which alluded to Boaty McBoatface – almost the name of a British polar research vessel after a public vote on the choice.
Monkeypox, discovered in 1958 and named after the first animal to show symptoms, mostly spread in a group of countries in west and central Africa until this year. Now, 110 countries have reported some 80,000 confirmed cases and 55 deaths, according to WHO data.
(Reporting by Shivani Tanna in Bengaluru and Emma Farge in Geneva;)

Militants attack hotel used by officials in Somalia’s capital

MOGADISHU, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Islamist militants attacked a hotel used by government officials in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Sunday evening, police and witnesses said.
Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which controls large swathes of the country, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that it was targeting the nearby presidential palace.
“We were shaken by a huge blast, followed by heavy exchange of gunfire,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, who lives close to the scene. “We are just indoors and listening to gunfire.”
Security forces were responding to an attack by al Shabaab on a hotel in the capital’s Bondhere district, state broadcaster SNTV said on Twitter.
“The forces rescued government officials and members of the public who were trapped in the building,” the broadcaster said.
The assailants stormed the Villa Rose hotel, which is close to the presidential palace, two police officers told Reuters. It was not immediately clear how many attackers there were, the officers said.
Some government officials at the Villa Rose were rescued after using windows to escape, said Mohammed Abdi, one of the police officers.
The state minister for the environment, Adam Aw Hirsi, wrote on Twitter that he was safe after a “terrorist explosion targeted at my residence” at the hotel, where many government officials stay.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected earlier this year, has been carrying out a military offensive against al Shabaab.
(Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan and Feisal Omar; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Hugh Lawson and David Evans)

Zelensky warns Ukraine to brace for more Russian attacks

LVIV/KYIV, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that Russia would surely launch new missile attacks on his country, and warned defence forces and citizens to be prepared to withstand a new week of strain on the power grid.
Snow fell in Kyiv and temperatures hovered around freezing on Sunday with fog forecast overnight.
City authorities said workers were close to completing the restoration of power, water and heat, but high consumption levels meant some blackouts had been imposed. Millions in and around Kyiv were coping with disruptions caused by waves of Russian air strikes.
“We understand that the terrorists are planning new strikes. We know this for a fact,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “And as long as they have missiles, they, unfortunately, will not calm down.”
Zelensky said the coming week could be as difficult as the previous week, when attacks on electricity infrastructure subjected Ukrainians to the most acute power cuts since Russian troops invaded in February.
“Our defence forces are getting ready. The entire country is getting ready,” he said. “We have worked out all the scenarios, including with our partners.”
There was no immediate response from Moscow to Zelensky’s claims.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moscow has said it does not target the civilian population. The Kremlin said on Thursday that Kyiv could “end the suffering” of its population by meeting Russia’s demands.
Russia annexed swaths of Ukraine’s east and south in September and President Vladimir Putin said Moscow’s territorial demands are non-negotiable. After the annexation, Zelensky said he would not negotiate with Moscow and also insisted that Ukraine’s territorial integrity cannot be negotiated.
Sunday was relatively calm with no devastating attacks on Kyiv or other major cities. Ukraine’s central army command said Russian forces launched four missile attacks and fired multiple times on civilian objects in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
The situation, however, remained intense along front lines in various parts of Ukraine, Zelensky said in his nightly address.
“The most difficult is in Donetsk region as has been the case in previous weeks,” he said.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian troops had shelled a dozen villages in Donetsk, including the main targets of Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
The cold weather is gradually boosting energy needs as repair workers race to fix wrecked power facilities, grid operator Ukrenergo said.
Electricity producers still cannot resume full power supply after Russia’s missile attacks on Wednesday ...

US Soccer briefly removed emblem from Iran flag to show support for protesters

AL RAYYAN, Qatar, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The United States Soccer Federation temporarily displayed Iran's national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic as a show of solidarity with protesters in Iran ahead of the two teams' World Cup clash on Tuesday.
A now-deleted graphic of the Group B standings posted on Saturday across US Soccer’s official Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts displayed the Iranian flag only bearing its green, white and red colours.
Iran has been gripped by protests since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death in September while in police custody after she was arrested for flouting the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
The intent of the posts was to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights”, US Soccer media officer Michael Kammarman told a news conference on Sunday. Players were not consulted on the decision to alter the flag.
“We didn’t know anything about the posts but we are supporters of women’s rights, we always have been,” US defender Walker Zimmerman said.
“We’re focused a lot on Tuesday and the sporting side as well. but at the same time we’re firm believers in women’s rights and support them.
“And we know that it’s a lot of difficulties and a lot of heartbreak and in a very disturbing time.”
The banner on US Soccer’s Twitter page was also changed on Saturday to feature the flag without the emblem. It was changed back 24 hours later to the banner they had been using during the tournament.
Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency said the Iranian Football Federation will file a complaint against US Soccer to the FIFA Ethics Committee for “disrespecting the national flag” of the Islamic Republic.
Iranian leaders have accused the United States and other foreign adversaries of fomenting the protests in which Iranians from all walks of life have mounted one of the boldest challenges to the theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Washington has imposed sanctions on Iranian officials over the crackdown on protesters. Activist news agency HRANA said 450 protesters had been killed as of Nov. 26, including 63 minors, and over 18,000 have been arrested.
Iran’s players declined to sing the national anthem in their first game against England in an apparent show of solidarity with protesters. They sang quietly on Friday before their 2-0 win over Wales, where boos and jeers were heard from Iran supporters.
“We can’t speak for them and their message. We know that they’re ...

Clashes in Shanghai as Covid-19 protests flare across China

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Hundreds of demonstrators and police clashed in Shanghai on Sunday night as protests over China's stringent Covid-19 restrictions flared for a third day and spread to several cities in the wake of a deadly fire in the country's far west.
The wave of civil disobedience is unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago, as frustration mounts over his signature zero-Covid policy nearly three years into the pandemic. The Covid-19 measures are also exacting a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.
“I’m here because I love my country, but I don’t love my government . I want to be able to go out freely, but I can’t. Our Covid-19 policy is a game and is not based on science or reality,” said a protester in the financial hub named Shaun Xiao.
Protesters also took to the streets in the cities of Wuhan and Chengdu on Sunday, while students on numerous university campuses around China gathered to demonstrate over the weekend.
In the early hours of Monday in Beijing, two groups of protesters totalling at least 1,000 people were gathered along the Chinese capital’s 3rd Ring Road near the Liangma River, refusing to disperse.
“We don’t want masks, we want freedom. We don’t want Covid-19 tests, we want freedom,” one of the groups chanted earlier.
A fire on Thursday at a residential high-rise building in the city of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, triggered protests after videos of the incident posted on social media led to accusations that lockdowns were a factor in the blaze that killed 10 people.
Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference in the early hours of Saturday to deny Covid-19 measures had hampered escape and rescue efforts. Many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.
On Sunday in Shanghai, police kept a heavy presence on Wulumuqi Road, which is named after Urumqi, where a candlelight vigil the day before turned into protests.
“We just want our basic human rights. We can’t leave our homes without getting a test. It was the accident in Xinjiang that pushed people too far,” said a 26-year-old protester in Shanghai who declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.
“The people here aren’t violent, but the police are arresting them for no reason. They tried to grab me ...

Iran players sing national anthem at World Cup match

AL RAYYAN, Qatar, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Iran's national soccer team sang during the playing of their national anthem at their second World Cup match against Wales on Friday having refrained from doing so in their opening game earlier this week in apparent support for protesters back home.
Loud jeers were heard from Iranian supporters as the anthem played, with the team singing quietly. Two anti-government fans said security had prevented symbols of support for the protests being taken into the stadium.
In the stadium, displays of support for protesters included a woman holding a soccer jersey with “Mahsa Amini – 22” printed on the back and blood red tears painted beneath her eyes – a reference to the woman whose death in police custody ignited the protests.
Iranian authorities have responded with deadly force to suppress protests ignited by the death of Amini, who was detained by morality police for allegedly breaching the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes.
The protests have mark one of the boldest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Ahead of the match, a man wearing a jersey declaring support for the protests was escorted into the stadium by security officers, a Reuters witness said.
Reuters could not immediately confirm why the man, wearing a shirt declaring “Women, Life, Freedom” – a major slogan of the protests – was being accompanied by three security officers in blue.
A spokesperson for the organising supreme committee referred Reuters to FIFA and Qatar’s list of prohibited items, but without saying which prohibited item he was carrying.
The rules ban items with “political, offensive, or discriminatory messages”.
The media liaison at the stadium for world governing body FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the stadium media manager was not aware of the incidents but would respond later.
Another anti-government fan told Reuters her friends had been turned away because of their T-shirts which read “WOMEN LIFE FREEDOM”, adding that she had managed to sneak her own anti-government T-shirt past security.
Another supporter held an Iranian flag with the words “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) scored through with black lines as a security man stood nearby apparently pointing at him, a Reuters photo showed.
Iranian fans were in good spirits as the game approached, with big cheers around the stadium as their players emerged from the tunnel for warm-ups, emitting a roar as star striker Sardar Azmoun, who has spoken in support of ...

Amazon workers across world urged to strike on Black Friday

BERLIN, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Workers at Amazon AMZN.O sites across the world, including in the United States, Germany and France, were urged to strike on Black Friday, targeting the online retailer on one of the busiest shopping days of the year with calls for better pay.
The Make Amazon Pay initiative, which made the call for strikes, said industrial action was planned in more than 30 countries.
Germany’s Verdi union said work stoppages were planned at 10 fulfilment centres in that country.
It demanded the company recognise collective bargaining agreements for the retail and mail order trade sector and called for a further collective agreement on good working conditions.
“As an employer, Amazon offers great pay, benefits and development opportunities – all in an attractive and safe working environment,” a spokesperson for Amazon in Germany said in a statement.
Among other things, the spokesperson pointed to a wage increase for Amazon logistics employees in Germany from September, with the starting wage now at 13 euros ($13.52) per hour or more, including bonus payments.
On Friday morning, the company said the vast majority of its employees in Germany were working as normal, with strike action limited to nine of its 20 German fulfilment centres.
A spokesperson for Amazon France said there had been no sign of disruption to operations so far.
“This is the first time that Amazon has had an international strike day,” said Monika Di Silvestre, Verdi’s representative for Amazon workers.
“This is very important, because a major global corporation like Amazon cannot be confronted locally, regionally or nationally alone,” she added.
(Reporting by Rachel More and Mathieu Rosemain; editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)

China reports new daily record COVID cases, curbs tighten across country

SHANGHAI, Nov 25 (Reuters) - China on Friday reported another record high of daily COVID-19 infections, as cities across the country enforce measures and curbs to control outbreaks.
Thursday’s new local COVID-19 infections set a daily record for a second consecutive day, beating a figure set in mid-April, when the commercial hub of Shanghai was crippled by a citywide lockdown of its 25 million residents that lasted two months.
Excluding imported infections, China reported 32,695 new local cases on Thursday, of which 3,041 were symptomatic and 29,654 were asymptomatic, up from 31,144 a day earlier.
Big outbreaks are numerous and far-flung, with the southern city of Guangzhou and southwestern Chongqing recording the bulk, although hundreds of new infections have been reported daily in cities such as Chengdu, Jinan, Lanzhou, Xian and Wuhan.
Cases quadrupled in Shijiazhuang to 3,197 on Thursday from the previous day.
China’s capital, Beijing, reported 424 symptomatic and 1,436 asymptomatic cases on Thursday, compared with 509 symptomatic and 1,139 asymptomatic cases the previous day, local government data showed.
Financial hub Shanghai reported nine symptomatic cases and 77 asymptomatic cases on Thursday, compared with nine symptomatic cases and 58 asymptomatic cases a day before, the local health authority reported.
Guangzhou, a city in the south of nearly 19 million people, reported 257 new locally transmitted symptomatic and 7,267 asymptomatic cases yesterday, compared with 428 symptomatic and 7,192 asymptomatic cases a day before, local authorities said.
Chongqing reported 258 new symptomatic locally transmitted COVID-19 infections and 6,242 asymptomatic cases for Thursday, compared with 409 symptomatic and 7,437 asymptomatic cases the previous day, local government authorities said.
(Reporting by Shanghai and Beijing newsroom; Writing by Bernard Orr; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Gerry Doyle)

Ronaldo relishes ‘beautiful moment’ with new World Cup record

DOHA, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Cristiano Ronaldo said he was living a "beautiful moment" after becoming the first player to score in five men's World Cups as he helped Portugal to a 3-2 victory over Ghana on Thursday at the start of their campaign in Qatar.
“It’s a beautiful moment in my fifth World Cup,” Ronaldo told reporters. “We won. We started on a good foot. It’s a very important win. We know in these competitions the first match is fundamental.
“It’s another record too,” he said. “That makes me very proud. I am very happy for the team to have put on excellent performance. It was difficult but we deserved to win.”
Asked about his acrimonious departure from Manchester United this week, Ronaldo said the only thing that counted was Portugal’s win. “All the rest, it doesn’t matter,” he added.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos hailed his 37 year-old captain who won a second-half penalty and converted it himself to open the scoring against Ghana.
“I think Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend,” Santos told reporters. “In 50 years time, we will still be talking about him.”
Ronaldo was substituted in the 88th minute to a rousing reception around Stadium 974 in Doha at the start of what is likely to be his last World Cup.
Santos rebuffed suggestions by his Ghanaian opposite number Otto Addo that the penalty decision was incorrect – given for a shove by defender Mohammed Salisu – and should have been reviewed by U.S. referee Ismail Elfath via the VAR system.
“If the VAR tells the referee that he has to have a look, he will have a look,” he said. “If the VAR didn’t call over the referee it’s because they watched the images and there was nothing to see.”
Santos, in charge of Portugal since 2014 and who led them to the 2016 European Championship title, said the game had its “highs and lows” for Portugal and he was unhappy about conceding two goals.
“Now we have to look and see what happened with the players and respond to it,” he said.
Portugal, who top Group H, face Uruguay – who drew 0-0 with South Korea on Thursday – in their next match on Monday.

Ukrainians suffer in cold, darkness as president implores UN to punish Russia

KYIV, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy demanded the United Nations punish Russian air strikes on civilian infrastructure, after a missile barrage caused the worst nationwide power outages yet, plunging cities into freezing darkness.
With millions of Ukrainians enduring below zero temperatures at home, authorities were working hard on Thursday to get the lights and heat back on. Russia’s latest missile barrage killed 10 people, shut down Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and knocked out most power nationwide.
By Thursday morning, regional authorities in Kyiv said power had been restored to three quarters of the capital and water was working again in some areas. Transport was back up and running in the capital, with buses replacing electric trams.
Authorities hoped to restart the three nuclear power plants in Ukrainian-held territory by the end of the day.
Since early October, Russia has launched huge barrages of air strikes around once a week at energy targets across Ukraine, each time firing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles to knock out Ukraine’s power grid.
Moscow acknowledges attacking basic infrastructure, saying its aim is to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight and push it to negotiate. Kyiv says such attacks are clearly intended to harm civilians, making them a war crime.
“Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That’s the Russian formula of terror. This is all against our energy infrastructure,” Zelenskiy said overnight via video link to the U.N. Security Council chamber.
“Hospitals, schools, transport, residential districts all suffered,” he said, calling on the United Nations to act to halt the attacks.
There was no prospect of action from the Security Council, where Russia wields a veto. Moscow’s U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said it was against council rules for Zelenskiy to appear via video, and rejected what he called “reckless threats and ultimatums” by Ukraine and its supporters in the West.
In an overnight address to Ukrainians, Zelenskiy said: “We’ll renew everything and get through all of this because we are an unbreakable people.”
Ukraine says it is shooting down most of the missiles and restoring most power within a day, but that each such assault causes worse damage and greater hardship for civilians.
“If Moscow really believes that power outage will make Ukrainians overthrow government and beg for mercy, then after nine months of war Kremlin still does not know a damn thing about Ukraine,” tweeted Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.
“Each new attack only strengthens our character.”
Winter ...

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