Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brazil's President Rousseff Ousted From Office By Senate

ASSOCIATED PRESS


Brazil's President Michel Temer gives the thumbs up before taking the presidential oath at the National Congress, in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Temer was sworn in as Brazil's new leader following the ouster of President Dilma Rousseff.



BRASILIA, BRAZIL (AP) — Brazil's Senate on Wednesday voted to remove President Dilma Rousseff from office, the culmination of a yearlong fight that paralyzed Latin America's largest nation and exposed deep rifts among its people on everything from race relations to social spending.

While Rousseff's ouster was widely expected, the decision was a key chapter in a colossal political struggle that is far from over. Her vice president-turned-nemesis, Michel Temer, was immediately sworn in as president with Rousseff's allies vowing to fight her removal.

Rousseff was Brazil's first female president, with a storied career that includes a stint as a Marxist guerrilla jailed and tortured in the 1970s during the country's dictatorship. She was accused of breaking fiscal laws in her management of the federal budget.

"The Senate has found that the president of the federal republic of Brazil, Dilma Vana Rousseff, committed crimes in breaking fiscal laws," said Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, who presided over the trial.

Opposition lawmakers, who made clear early on the only solution was getting her out of office, argued that the maneuvers masked yawning deficits from high spending and ultimately exacerbated the recession in a nation that had long enjoyed darling status among emerging economies.

Nonsense, Rousseff countered time and again, proclaiming her innocence up to the end. Previous presidents used similar accounting techniques, she noted, saying the push to remove her was a bloodless coup d'etat by elites fuming over the populist polices of her Workers' Party the last 13 years.

The opposition needed 54 of the 81 senators to vote in favor for her to be removed. They got many more, winning in a landslide of sorts, 61-20. "Today is the day that 61 men, many of them charged and corrupt, threw 54 million Brazilian votes in the garbage," Rousseff tweeted minutes after the decision.

Rousseff won re-election in 2014, garnering more than 54 million votes. In a second Senate vote about 30 minutes later, Rousseff won a minor victory as a measure to ban her from public office for eight years failed. The 42-36 vote fell short of the 54 votes needed for passage.

In the background of the entire fight was a wide-ranging investigation into billions of dollars in kickbacks at state oil company Petrobras. The two-year probe has led to the jailing of dozens of top businessmen and politicians from across the political spectrum, and threatens many of the same lawmakers who voted to remove Rousseff.

Rousseff argued that many opponents just wanted her out of the way so they could save their own skins by tampering with the investigation, which Rousseff had refused to do. Many lawmakers and Brazilians nationwide, meanwhile, blamed Rousseff for the graft even though she has never been personally implicated. They argued that she had to know, as many of the alleged bribes happened while her party was in power.

Rousseff's removal creates many questions that are not easily answered. Temer will serve out the remainder of her term through 2018. He was expected to address the nation in the evening. But Brazilians have already gotten a taste of Temer's leadership, and they are clearly unimpressed.

In May, Temer took over as interim president after the Senate impeached and suspended Rousseff. The 75-year-old career politician named a Cabinet of all-white men, a decision roundly criticized in a nation that is more than 50 percent nonwhite. Three of his ministers were forced to resign within weeks of taking their jobs because of corruption allegations, which also follow Temer and threaten his hold on power.

When Temer announced the opening of the Olympics on Aug. 5, he was so vociferously booed that he remained out of sight for the remainder of the games. Rousseff's allies have vowed to appeal to the country's highest court. While previous petitions to the court have failed to stop the impeachment process, at the very least legal wrangling will keep the issue front and center.

Late Wednesday night, a group of unhappy Rousseff supporters smashed windows of bank branches, other businesses and a police SUV in the city of Sao Paulo. Anti-riot police tried to quell the demonstration with stun grenades and tear gas.

The decision to remove Rousseff also leaves many question marks over the economy, expected to decline for a second straight year. Temer has promised to pull the country of 200 million people from its recession by tackling reforms that have long been taboo, such as slimming public pensions.

But he has not been able to accomplish much the last three months as interim president, and it remains to be seen whether Congress will be willing to work with him. Several polls have shown that Brazilians prefer new elections to solve the crisis.

For that to happen, however, Temer would have to be removed from office or resign, something he clearly has no intention of doing. Speaking to the nation in televised address Wednesday evening, Temer hit back at Rousseff.

"Putschist is you," he said, referring to Rousseff's accusation that he had led the charge to oust her. "It's you who is breaking the constitution." Temer said he had tasked his Cabinet with pushing forward budget and pension reforms as well as proposals to create jobs.

"From today on, the expectations are much higher for the government. I hope that in these two years and four months, we do what we have declared — put Brazil back on track," he said. Speaking to supporters at the presidential residence, Rousseff promised to mount a strong opposition, but didn't elaborate.

"This coup is against social movements and unions and against those who fight for their rights," she said. "Rights for the young people to make history, rights for the black, indigenous, LGBT and women."

Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese reported from Brasilia and AP writer Peter Prengaman reported from Rio de Janeiro.

Peter Prengaman on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/peterprengaman

Mauricio Savarese on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/MSavarese

US Set To Destroy Big Chemical Weapon Stockpile

BY DAN ELLIOTT
ASSOCIATED PRESS



Debra Michaels, Chemical Operations Manager demonstrates a gas chromatograph inside a mobile testing lab at the Army's Pueblo Chemical Storage facility in Pueblo, Colo. The lab is used to test the air for leaking mustard agent. Depot commander Lt. Col. Robert C. Wittig looks on at left. On Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, the U.S. Army said that it plans to start operating a $4.5 billion plant next week that will destroy the nation's largest remaining stockpile of mustard agent, complying with an international treaty banning chemical weapons.



DENVER (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
— The U.S. Army plans to start operating a $4.5 billion plant next week that will destroy the nation's largest remaining stockpile of mustard agent, complying with an international treaty that bans chemical weapons, officials said Wednesday.

The largely automated plant at the military's Pueblo Chemical Depot in southern Colorado will begin destroying about 780,000 chemical-filled artillery shells soon after this weekend, said Greg Mohrman, site manager for the plant. He declined to be specific, citing security concerns and possible last-minute delays.

"We've practiced a lot," Mohrman told The Associated Press. "Next week it gets real." Robots will dismantle the shells, and the plant will use water and bacteria to neutralize the mustard agent, which can maim or kill by damaging skin, the eyes and airways. At full capacity, the facility can destroy an average of 500 shells a day operating around the clock. It's expected to finish in mid-2020.

The plant will start slowly at first and likely won't reach full capacity until early next year, said Rick Holmes, project manager for the Bechtel Corp.-led team that designed and built it. Construction began in 2004, but until now, the Army has been vague about the start date, citing the complexities of building and testing the facility and training the workforce.

The depot has already destroyed 560 shells and bottles of mustard agent that were leaking or had other problems that made them unsuitable for the plant. Those containers were placed in a sealed chamber, torn open with explosive charges and neutralized with chemicals. That system can only destroy four to six shells a day.

Irene Kornelly, chairwoman of a citizens advisory commission that Congress established as a liaison between the public and the plant operators, said her group had no remaining safety concerns. The shells stored at the Pueblo depot contain a combined 2,600 tons of the chemical.

The Army stores an additional 523 tons of mustard and deadly nerve agents at Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. Blue Grass is expected to start destroying its weapons next year, finishing in 2023. Mustard agent is a thick liquid, not a gas as commonly believed. It has no color and almost no odor, but it got its name because impurities made early versions smell like mustard.

The U.S. acquired 30,600 tons of mustard and nerve agents, but it says it never used them in war. Nearly 90 percent of its original stockpile has already been destroyed, mostly by incineration. The Colorado and Kentucky depots are using chemical neutralization because residents and officials expressed concerns about vapor from incineration.

A 1925 treaty barred the use of chemical weapons after debilitating gas attacks in World War I, and the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention called for eradicating them. But international inspectors say Syria and the Islamic State group used them in 2014 and 2015. The United Nations Security Council met in closed session Tuesday to consider whether to sanction Syria.

Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/dan-elliott.

Nigerian In Recession With 'Record' Low Foreign Investment

AFP
AUGUST 31, 2016





ABUJA, NIGERIA (AFP) - Nigeria's economy nosedived into a recession official data revealed Wednesday with oil production hammered by militant attacks on pipelines and foreign investment at a "record" low.

Output in the three months to the end of June was -2.06 percent with the oil sector reporting a double-digit decline following a wave of attacks by rebels in the oil-producing south.

The slowdown was recorded across many sectors in a sign that Africa's largest economy is wrestling with deeper structural issues than just the low price of crude.

Foreign investors, wary of the Nigerian government's controversial currency peg, avoided putting money into the country leading to a "record" decline in capital importation, reported Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics.

The $647.1 million worth of capital imported into Nigeria in the second quarter represented a "fall of 75.73 per cent" compared to 2015.

"This provisional figure would be the lowest level of capital imported into the economy on record, and would also represent the largest year on year decrease," said the statistics agency.

"There was considerable uncertainty surrounding future exchange rate policy which may have deterred investors," added the statistics agency.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's government finally devalued the naira in June after upholding the currency peg for months, yet experts say the negative impact of the controversial monetary policy will still be felt in months to come.

"It's really, really grim," John Ashbourne, Africa economist at research firm Capital Economics, told AFP.

"I think people underestimated the degree to which the oil sector would contract," said Ashbourne, speaking from London.

"Investors want to see some direction from Buhari, there is a sense that the policies they have implemented so far aren't working," Ashbourne said.

"Nigeria is very dependant on foreign investment to improve the infrastructure and get the economy back on track, we need investor confidence," he said, "people are staying away because they don't have any faith that things are turning around."

This year Nigeria's domestic product could contract by 1.8 per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

An Emotional Bill Clinton Eyes Possible Exit From Foundation

JULIE PACE
ASSOCIATED PRESS
AUGUST 30, 2016






WASHINGTON (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — When Bill Clinton told the staff of his global charity he would have to step down if Hillary Clinton won the White House, he was vividly clear about how that felt: Worse than a root canal, he said.

For Clinton, the foundation that bears his name has shaped much of his post-White House legacy, helping transform him from a popular yet scandal-tainted former president into an international philanthropist and humanitarian. But the Clinton Foundation is also the focus of election-year scrutiny — pushed along by Donald Trump — about the Democratic power couple's ability and willingness to separate the organization's wealthy contributors from past and possible future government roles.

The decisions surrounding the foundation's future are the latest chapter in an unprecedented partnership of personal and political ambitions. While political spouses — Hillary Clinton among them — often put aside their own goals, never before has that been required of a former president.

Friends and associates say that while Bill Clinton knows his role in the high-profile charity has to change, settling on how and when he might walk away has been emotional. He's also said to be deeply frustrated with the criticism shadowing his potential exit.

"We're trying to do good things. If there's something wrong with creating jobs and saving lives, I don't know what it is," he said last week. Mark Updegrove, the director of the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library and author of "Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House," said that while the foundation has unquestionably done good work around the world, the former president has no choice but to step aside if his wife wins the White House.

"Bill Clinton is smart enough to know that as much as the Clinton Foundation might help to augment his legacy, Hillary Clinton becoming president will be a far greater legacy than anything he himself can do as a former president," Updegrove said.

The foundation made some adjustments after she became secretary of state, but it has still faced numerous questions about how rigorously firewalls were upheld that were meant to separate donors from her government work.

An Associated Press review of Clinton's calendars from a two-year stretch show that more than half of those she met with from outside of government had made contributions to the foundation. For Trump and other Republicans, the Clintons' overlapping worlds are rife with ethical lapses. And for some Democrats, even that perception is worrisome in an election year where control of the White House and Congress are at stake.

Meanwhile, there's an odd reality of modern American politics: What presidents do after leaving the White House can shape their legacy almost as much as their tenure in the Oval Office. It can be an opportunity to bolster presidential successes and try to make up for failures. And those who leave office relatively young — Clinton was 54 — can spend many more years on these legacy projects than they did in the White House.

"For the last 15 years, it has been his life," said Tina Flournoy, Clinton's chief of staff. During the announcement of his potential departure, she said he noted that his role as head of the foundation was "the longest job he has held."

Jimmy Carter, who was seen by some as an ineffectual one-term president, has dramatically reshaped his image with decades of work on global issues. George W. Bush left office deeply unpopular, but has been applauded for dedicating his post-White House years to HIV programs in Africa and work with wounded military veterans. President Barack Obama has been discussing plans for his White House afterlife with confidants for months.

"There's a certain expectation that you stay involved, you don't totally get off the scene," said Anita McBride, a longtime Bush family aide. Bill Clinton's foundation began largely to support the building of his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas. As his post-White House ambitions grew, so did the foundation, ballooning into a $2 billion charity focused on global health, climate change and other international efforts.

The former president has leveraged his contacts to fill the foundation's coffers and traveled the world to meet with people helped by its work. He's the star of the annual Clinton Global Initiative meetings in New York, a mingling of international power players and celebrities that has become the hottest invitation in the philanthropic community.

The plan for the foundation's future in the event of a Clinton victory this fall includes daughter Chelsea Clinton remaining. Foreign and corporate donations will be halted, though the foundation is looking for ways to spin off some programs and keep them running.

The prospect of Bill Clinton stepping away from the foundation that has been the main outlet for his energy and intellect has renewed discussions about how he would fill his time in his wife's administration. Though he's now 70 and slowed by health issues, people close to the Clintons say they fully expect him to seek a prominent role. Hillary Clinton has even raised the prospect of putting her husband in charge of "revitalizing the economy."

"He just has to feel productive every single day," said Susie Tompkins Buell, a longtime Clinton friend. "If he gets into another situation where he's going to have that ability, he's going to be fine."

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Sunday, August 28, 2016

If You Work In Development In Africa, You Need To Get On Board With Black Lives Matter

QUARTZ AFRICA






As a child of a Nigerian immigrant and an African American, I grew up in the US crossing and navigating many cultural lines. For the past seven years I have been living and working across Africa. In my time here, I have watched from afar, helplessly, as the numbers of our African American brothers and sisters—victims of extrajudicial killings, continue to grow along with the lack of verifiable action on the part of the US government.

Over the past decade, I have worked with a range of international development practitioners in Africa and in the Americas. While some development organizations and individual practitioners are aware of the current and historical context in which they are operating, others are very unaware of terms, behavior, and perceptions that make up neo-colonialism and the preferential treatment which one of my taxi drivers in Kenya terms “white magic”.

White privilege goes hand in hand with the injustice minorities face in the United States. If development organizations don’t face and address the significance of this privilege in Africa, they will export similar issues worldwide (and arguably are already doing so). In Kenya, for example, NGOs are being asked to justify overpayment of expatriate staff --particularly those being paid sometimes three to four times more than Kenyan staff filling the same roles

This is not about white people or whiteness but about a system of white supremacy that no development organization working in Africa should be on the fence about. I am most impressed by organizations that take an approach to program design and particularly to senior leadership and organizational composition that says—we care about the people we are trying to empower or support so much so that they need a voice at the (leadership) table.

One of the reasons some Kenyans and Africans in the diaspora don’t trust the Nairobi social enterprise scene is that it has often been disconnected from the day-to-day politics. challenges, and realities on the ground. This is changing. African entrepreneurs are speaking up, crowdsourcing platforms like Homestrings and Emerging Crowd are democratizing fundraising so you no longer need to be Harvard or MIT trained with connections to US investors to make it work. African institutions are training and developing the next generation of African leaders, who are becoming more aware and critical of aid and interests.

Recently, the Ford Foundation wrote about  "Why black lives matter to philanthropy"  on the role of philanthropy in social justice movements. The article calls out the need to have public services focus more attention on those populations that have historically been excluded, and the need for philanthropic organizations to invest in social justice organizations.

#BlackLivesMatter should be central to any organization operating on the continent. It should be central to the policies and procedures with which we operate. Black lives matter is about equality and human rights. How can you claim to be an organization fighting to help people and countries that are less privileged than you are, but ignore inequality in your backyard? Illicit financial flows occur many times with the knowledge and support of wealthier countries and account for as much as ten times the amount of aid Africa receives. Children under five should not be dying of malnutrition in developing countries when the world produces more food than we need. This is not about idealism, but about a shift in the way we view our work, operations, and our impact on creating a better world for ourselves, our children, and for others. If we are serious about “development”, we must be serious about black lives mattering and what it means for the world.

What next?

Ignoring what “black lives matter” is about in the context of development work misses a direct, clear link to the core of the movement “a world in which the full humanity and dignity of all people is recognized”. Black lives matter should be reflected as a call to action and for self- and organizational reflection on the interconnectedness of our world and the need for intentionality in actions and addressing consequences.

For our individual selves: How critical are we of the behaviors, strategies, perceptions we use in our work day-to-day? How sensitive are we to ensuring our African colleagues have a voice at the table? What are we doing to support our colleagues in the US that experience now more visible injustices day-to-day? Let’s learn more about BLM, support the movement, and reflect its values and vision every day. Let’s influence those in power to change the policies, processes, and perceptions that have led us to where we are. In the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, ““If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Let’s break the silence and complicity.

Friday, August 26, 2016

EFCC Rakes In N1.9bn From Seized Funds Of Tafa Balogun, Others

THE NATION







The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says N1,956,007,975.81 has accrued to government as interest from the public funds sized from a former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, and other suspects under investigation or trial.

N2.25billion was confiscated from Balogun alone.

The amount was deposited in 11 accounts,according to records put together by the agency.

The EFCC document sighted by The Nation also shows that seized properties from the founder of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Erastus Akingbola, former Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion, former Plateau State Governor Joshua Dariye and seven other highly-placed people under investigation ,have yielded about N185.6million as rents for government.

The other suspects in this category are: Alhaji Tukur Muazu, Bayo Lawal, Kayode Ojuri, Timothy Akani, Esai Dangabar, Aliyu Bello and John Yusuf Yakubu.


Similalrly, the EFCC took over 75 money laundering cases involving drug barons from the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency ( NDLEA) between 2006 and 2013.

EFCC sources said the records were put together following the controversy generated by the assets seized from the former IGP.

Balogun resigned his appointment as the IGP on January 18, 2005 following the uncovering of a huge amount in his accounts by the EFCC under its pioneer chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

But 11years after, some critics alleged that cash and assets seized from Balogun had been re-looted.

The EFCC records sighted by The Nation says in part: “A total of 15 Spring Bank accounts were forfeited by Mr. Tafa Balogun. Of this number, four accounts had NIL (zero) balance.

“The total balance in the remaining 11 accounts as of January 2005 was N1, 226,518,163.09. In addition to this, seven treasury bills/commercial papers in the same bank had a total balance of N1, 017, 178, 719.42.

“The two added together came up to N2, 243,696,882.51. With the addition of the accrued interest of N14, 403,634.36, the figure came to N2, 258,100,516.87.

“This sum was what was paid to the commission by Spring Bank and eventually remitted to the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Finance.”

But the commission said that some assets of the former IGP were yet to be disposed of because of legal disputes.

Continuing, the EFCC says: “There were legal issues on some of the properties recovered from Tafa Balogun. Other claimants emerged, with claims to the properties. The cases include the property at Plot 2220 Suez Crescent, Zone 4, Abuja, which the Commission eventually won in 2013, while the other involved a property at Plot 1488, Fugar Street, Asokoro which case the Commission lost in 2014.

” Apart from the Fugar Street Asokoro property that is now a subject of appeal by the EFCC; three other properties forfeited by Tafa Balogun are yet to be disposed of. One of the properties is located at Plot 110, Tunis Street, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja.

“Meanwhile, the total sum of N46,358,393.15 generated from the management of the property by Diya Fatimilehin & Co since 2009 was remitted to the Commission at various times.

“The remitted sum is in the Commission’s recovery account.

“The remaining two properties which appeared on the forfeiture order as Plot 75, Asokoro and Plot 2262B Maitama A6 District, Abuja, are also subject of legal disputes.”

The EFCC also admitted that it raked in about N1,956,007,975.81 from forfeited funds placed in interest yielding accounts.

It says: “The placement of forfeited monies in interest yielding accounts is not an entirely new idea. The court in various rulings ordered some funds to be placed in interest yielding accounts.

“Rather than warehousing forfeited funds in current accounts for a long period, the commission lodged such funds, including those of Tafa Balogun, in interest yielding accounts.

“The interest element is always in line with CBN Cash Reserve Ratio and not fixed. Not a single kobo is taken out by the commission under this initiative.

It is interesting to note that under this initiative, as at March 2015, the sum of N696, 590,765.36 was generated as interest on recovered funds with Access Bank Plc. “Another sum of N522,807,543.83 presently stands as interest generated from recovered funds with Ecobank Plc, while the subsidy recoveries with Enterprise Bank Plc has yielded the sum of N736,609,666.62. All these monies are intact and are held on behalf of the Federal Government until all encumbrances to their release are cleared.

“For purposes of transparency and accountability, the commission sought and obtained approval to operate a dedicated interest income account vide a letter from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation Ref. No. AGF/TRY/RB/441/VOL.I/128 dated 3rd December, 2012.”

Meanwhile, about N185.6million was collected as rents from seized properties of Erastus Akingbola, Lucky Igbinedion, Alh. Tukur Muazu, Bayo Lawal, Kayode Ojuri, Timothy Akani, Esai Dangabar, Aliyu Bello, Joshua Chibi Dariye and John Yusuf Yakubu.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the said rents were remitted to the commission as follows:
The sum of N70, 655,872.47 was collectively generated from the management of the forfeited properties of Erastus Akingbola, Lucky Igbinedion and Alh. Tukur Muazu.
The sum of N99, 083,241.75 was collectively generated from the management of the forfeited properties of Erastus Akingbola, Bayo Lawal, Kayode Ojuri, Timothy Akani, Esai Dangabar, Aliyu Bello, Joshua Chibi Dariye and others.

iii. The N15, 944,222.40 was collectively generated from the management of the forfeited properties of Mr. Bayo Lawal, Esai Dangabar and John Yusuf Yakubu.

On money laundering cases by drug barons, the EFCC confirmed receipt of 75 cases from the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency ( NDLEA) between 2006 and 2007.

It said: “Between 2006 and 2013, the EFCC received a total of 75 cases from NDLEA. The cases related to various offences including, unlawful possession of financial instruments, currency trafficking, unlawful possession of counterfeit financial instrument, obtaining under false pretense and unlawful possession of fake currencies among others.

“The cases were basically transferred along with exhibits which include financial instruments in form of cheques, drafts, traveler’s cheques, money order and cash in local and foreign currencies which were mostly fake or counterfeit in nature.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

95% Of Medical Laboratories In Nigeria Manned By Quacks

VANGUARD, AUG. 25, 2016





NNEWI, ANAMBRA STATE (VANGUARD)
—The Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, MLSCN, has said that about 95 per cent of the medical laboratories in some hospitals in Nigeria, as well as private medical laboratories that are scattered throughout Nigeria are manned by quacks and unqualified medical laboratory scientists.

This was disclosed by the Acting Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, Mr. Tosan Erhabor at the 18th Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting, AGM, of the Guild of Medical Laboratory Directors of Nigeria, GMLDN, held at Emmaus House, Awka, Anambra State ,yesterday. 

He said: “MLSCN was determined to engender confidence in laboratory results, and is therefore, seeking the co-operation of GMLDN in its efforts to rid the medical laboratory science profession of quackery and illegal practice. Advocacy meetings had been mounted across the country.

 “The Council EQA programme first set of samples from participatory laboratories has been received and analyzed, medical laboratories that were yet to key into the scheme to do so. The management and stakeholders have completed the protocol for assessment of laboratories as a way of objective assessment geared towards global best practices”.

 He described the theme of the conference “Medical Laboratory Automation in a Challenging Economy”, as apt given the “technical recession” the nation’s economy is experiencing presently, adding that medical laboratory automation is the use of clinical laboratory instruments to assay large numbers of samples with minimal human intervention”. 

He said that the major obstacle to the implementation of automation in medical laboratories had been its high cost which has prevented laboratory scientists in a challenged economy like ours to adopt, but nevertheless, advocated the use of simple and low cost automated devices like robotic arms or 3D printers which he said can also perform tasks done by large automations, adding that “in a challenging economy like ours, bench top automation is recommended”. 

“It consists of machines of reduced size compared to large automation units found in resource –rich laboratories. Bench top automation is often flexible and can deal with many different tasks. It is an attractive solution for many laboratories bearing in mind that majority of laboratories in a challenging economy do not need employment of full scale automation”, he said. 

National President of GMLDN Dr Fabian Chukwuezi in his speech said “GMLDN was faced by many challenges that were borne by principal officers with their own personal resources leading to some leaving the stage, but the present National Executive Committee has been consistent and have continued to contribute to series of achievements, especially to the call by the National assembly for public opinion on various challenging health issues”. 

Chairman Anambra State, branch of GMLDN, Dr. Uche Ngenegbo said the state government has now moved to ensure that all the laboratories in the states hospitals are certified.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Anger In The Delta Keeps Oil Majors Quiet -- And Nigeria's Crude Offline

BY LIBBY GEORGE AND ULF LAESSING
REUTERS, SUNDAY, AUGUST 21, 2016





* Splinter militant groups a hurdle to ceasefire talks

* Non-violent local protests have also exacted a toll

* 'People giving up in short term' - oil industry source (Adds Niger Delta Avengers says ready for dialogue)


LONDON/LAGOS, AUG 21 (REUTERS) - Oil companies and even Nigerian officials are losing faith in a deal anytime soon with militants who have slashed the nation's oil output, casting doubt on a production recovery in what is typically Africa's largest oil exporter.

In the six months since the first major attack on Nigeria's oil - a sophisticated bombing of the subsea Forcados pipeline - dozens of attacks have pushed outages to more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd), the highest in seven years.

Talk in the country has shifted from ceasefire optimism, and oil companies' assurances that repairs were underway, to hedged comments from the government and radio silence from oil majors.

On Sunday, the Niger Delta Avengers militants, which have claimed several major pipeline attacks, said in a statement they were ready to give dialogue a chance.

But highlighting the fracturing of militants into small groups, the previous day a group called Niger Delta Green Justice Mandate claimed an attack on a gas pipeline in the southern swamps lands.

Without a unified command and groups dominated by "generals" unable to fully control their own fighters, it is difficult for the government to identify the right people to talk to or enforce any ceasefire.

"People are giving up in the short term," one oil industry source told Reuters of a resumption in exports of key Nigerian grades such as Forcados or Qua Iboe, adding you "can't get anything" out of the majors, including Shell, Chevron , ExxonMobil or ENI, about when the oil might come back.

Shell declined to comment, while the other companies did not immediately responded to a request for comment.

In June, Nigerian government officials said privately it had a ceasefire with militants. But pessimism crept in, with even Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu telling journalists this week "we are talking but (it) is not an easy thing," and "we need a ceasefire" - a contrast to the belief that a ceasefire was underway.

He has also said another challenge to brokering a ceasefire is that there were several militant groups to talk to.

DEEP-SEATED ISSUES

The problems reflect deep-seated issues in the Niger Delta, which produces the bulk of oil but whose local communities complain of pollution, a lack of opportunities and what they say is an insufficient share of petro dollars. These problems are compounded by an economic crisis and a government battle with Boko Haram militants in the north.

"This is likely the beginning," Elizabeth Donnelly, deputy head and research fellow of London think-tank Chatham House's Africa Programme said of the unrest, adding that "the resolution that will come will not come quickly."

The government this month resumed cash payments to militant groups that it stopped in February, just before the launch of the worst violence since the payments began under a 2009 amnesty. But attacks continued anyway.

The Delta Avengers claimed the bulk of them, announcing strikes on Twitter even before oil majors themselves knew their remote pipelines had been hit. Twitter shut the group's account, but sources said the Avengers have extensive knowledge of oil sites, and follow the media closely to track companies' actions.

"With the Avengers, you don't want to say 'we'll be back up next Wednesday', because then you'll get a bomb next Tuesday," one oil executive said. "They have to be careful."

But new groups, such as the self-styled Revolution Alliance, which claimed an attack on a Shell-owned oil line, loom, while non-violent local protests have also exacted a toll.

Collings Edema, a local youth leader of the Itsekiri group that has blocked access to Chevron's Escravos tank farm for almost two weeks, said "the oil companies have not shown any sign that they are ready to improve our lives".

Experts warned that as long as people are unhappy, militants and their targets could evolve in unpredictable ways.

"This is also about frustrations of younger people coming up in the Niger Delta and needs not having been addressed," Donnelly said. "This isn't just about militancy, though the political and economic context feeds it."

Adding to the division of the militant scene, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), another group which agreed to a ceasefire in 2009, denounced the Avengers due to its "criminal and treasonable activities".

"MEND reiterates its full support for the ongoing military presence in the Niger Delta," it said in a statement, referring to a recent military campaign to hunt down the Avengers. (Additional reporting by Anamesere Igboeroteonwu in Onitsha, editing by David Evans)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

AFRICA: Seeds Of Democratic Revolution In Ethiopia

SRI LANKA GUARDIAN


Ethiopian migrants of the Oromo Community in Malta protest against the Ethiopian regime (Image: Reuters)



After being frightened into silence for over two decades, the people of Ethiopia are finding their voice and calling for fundamental political change.

Thousands have been taking to the streets in recent weeks and months to peacefully protest against the ruling party, expressing their collective anger at the injustices and widespread human rights violations taking place throughout the country and calling for democratic elections.

The People are Rising Up

The people have awakened, and overcoming fear and historic differences are beginning to unite. The two main ethnic groups are rallying under a common cause: freedom, justice, and the observation of their constitutionally acknowledged human rights. And the two major opposition parties, the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) and Patriotic Ginbot 7 for Unity and Democracy (PG7) have formed an alliance in the fight to overthrow the incumbent regime, and are seeking to bring other opposition groups together.

The protests are dominated by people under 25 – 30 years of age; young people, connected to the world via social media who are no longer prepared to live in fear, as Seyoum Teshome, a university lecturer in central Ethiopia told the New York Times, “The whole youth is protesting. A generation is protesting.”

At the moment demonstrations are largely confined to Oromia and Ahmara, but as confidence grows there is every possibility that other regions could become involved, swelling numbers of protestors, overwhelming security forces.

When there is unity, and consistent, peaceful collective action, governments are eventually forced to listen (as has been demonstrated elsewhere in the world), and the attention of the international community is garnered. Ethiopia receives between a third and half of its federal budget in various aid packages from international donors; irresponsible donor countries which see Ethiopia as an ally in the so-called ‘war on terror’, a stable country in a region of instability – the illusion of stability maintained by keeping the populace suppressed.

To their utter shame the countries primary donors – America, Britain and the European Union – have repeatedly ignored the cries of the people, and turned a blind eye to human rights abuses perpetrated by the ruling party, which in many cases constitute state terrorism. It is neglect bordering on complicity.

Remain peaceful

This is a historic moment that could result in the overthrow of the government – a day longed for by the majority of Ethiopians – and usher in what activists and opposition groups have been campaigning for; democratic fair elections, and open political debate. None of which, despite the false pronouncements of Barack Obama and the like, have taken place under the EPRDF. Indeed Ethiopia has never known democracy.

It is essential that protestors remain largely peaceful, in spite of the government’s brutal response – and it has been brutal – and this does not turn into an ethnic conflict, with Tigrayan military forces loyal to the government pitched against groups from Oromo, Amhara, Ogaden and elsewhere. To take up arms on any significant scale would not only risk large numbers of casualties and national chaos, but would also allow the regime to propagate false claims of terrorism, attribute the uprising to destabilising influences and ignore the demands of protestors and opposition parties.

The government owns the sole telecommunications company as well as virtually all media outlets in the country, and seeks in every way possible to condition reporting by international media. They regularly close down the Internet in an attempt to make it difficult for protestors to communicate, and will no doubt attempt to manipulate the narrative surrounding the protests. But given the coverage flooding social media – much of which shows so-called ‘security personnel’ indiscriminately beating protestors – as well as first hand accounts, they will not be able to suppress or contaminate the truth.

Government’s Brutal Reaction

Ethiopia is made up of dozens of tribes and a variety of ethnic groups. The people of Oromo and Amhara (at 35% and 27% respectively of the population) make up the majority, and rightly feel they have been ignored and marginalised by the Tigray (6% of the population) TPLF dominated government – who also run the military. And it is in Oromia and the city of Gondar in Amhara that the protests have concentrated in recent weeks and months. Protests that the government has responded to with predictable violence.

It is impossible to state the exact numbers of protestors killed by government forces over the last week or two; Al Jazeera reports that “between 48 to 50 protesters were killed in Oromia,” but the satellite broadcaster, ESAT News, says that “several sources revealed that in the last few days alone [up to August 10th] at least 130 people have been murdered in the Oromo region…while 70 others have been massacred in Amhara.” No doubt the actual figure is a great deal higher than either of these.

Residents of the city of Bahir-Dar told The Guardian that, “soldiers fired live rounds at protesters. Hospitals have been filled by dead and wounded victims.” Thousands have been arrested, and ESAT reports, security forces have been demanding ransom payments from the families of young people who were detained after protesting in the capital Addis Ababa.

Despite the fact that freedom of assembly is clearly spelt out in the Ethiopian constitution (Article 30), the Prime Minister, Haile Mariam Dessalegn, announced a blanket ban on demonstrations, which, he said, “threaten national unity”. He called on the police – who need no encouragement to behave like thugs – to use all means at their disposal to stop protests occurring. The Communications Minister Getachew Reda chipped in, and called the protests illegal. All of which is irrelevant and, of course, misses the point completely.

Shocked and appalled at the ruling regime’s violent reaction to the protests, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged “the government to allow access for international observers into the affected regions to be able to establish what exactly transpired.” The spokesperson described information coming out of Amhara and Ormoia as “extremely alarming”, saying there had been “no genuine attempt at ensuring accountability” since reports of abuses by security forces began emerging back in December. The government’s arrogant — not to say cowardly — reply was to reject the request; Getachew Reda, without a whiff of irony, told Al Jazeera that “the UN was entitled to its opinion but the government of Ethiopia was responsible for the safety of its own people.” Perhaps if Ethiopia’s main benefactors began to do their donor duty and apply pressure to the regime, they would be more conciliatory.

Refusing to engage with opposition groups and believing totally in the power of force and fear to control populations, dictatorships like the EPRDF instinctively respond to calls for freedom and justice by intensifying the very suppressive measures that are driving the popular uprising: The days of such totalitarian regimes are fast coming to an end, it is a disintegrating body moving towards certain extinction.

Unstoppable Momentum for Change

For years the Ethiopian government and the country’s major donors have been propagating the lie that democracy and social development were flowering inside the country. As the people march that myth is now beginning to totally unravel.

The plain truth is that the EPRDF government, in power since 1991, is a vicious, undemocratic regime that has systematically suppressed the population for the last twenty-five years. There is no freedom of expression, the judiciary is a puppet of the state, political opposition leaders as well as journalists and anyone who openly expresses dissent are imprisoned (often tortured), their families persecuted. Humanitarian aid, employment and higher education opportunities are distributed on a partisan basis; and what economic growth there has been (dramatically downgraded by the IMF recently) has largely flowed into the coffers of government officials and supporters.

A social protest movement has been building with growing intensity since the 2010 general election (which like the ones before it, and since, was stolen by the EPRDF), and now the momentum appears to be unstoppable.

No matter how many courageous protesters the police and military shoot – and they will no doubt continue killing – arrest and intimidate, this time there is a real chance that the people will not be put down; they will no longer be denied their rights. They sense, as large numbers of people do everywhere, that an energy of change is sweeping through the world, that they are in tune with the times, and that this is the moment to unite and act.

Beginning in Oromia in March 2014 and intensified last November, large demonstrations were staged in opposition to government plans to expand the capital Addis Ababa onto agricultural land in Oromia. They began in Ginchi, a small town southwest of the capital, and spread to over 400 locations throughout the 17 zones of Oromia. At the same time demonstrators were marching in Gondar demanding, amongst other things, academic rights.

The ERDF reacted by deploying armed police and military that used “excessive and lethal force against largely peaceful protests.” Human Rights Watch (HRW) states that over 400 innocent people were killed; ESAT, however, puts the number even higher, saying that “at least 600 protesters were killed in the last nine months” in the Oromia region.

The protests in Oromia and Amhara have been ignited by specific issues – territory, land use, the stolen 2015 elections and the EPRD’s paranoid undemocratic hold on power – however, these are not the underlying causes, but triggers, a series of final straws laid on top of two decades of violent suppression and injustice. Such violations are not just confined to these major regions, but are experienced more or less throughout the country; in Gambella, and the Ogaden region, for example, where all manner of State-sponsored atrocities have been taking place.

The EPRDF government has attempted to rule Ethiopia through intimidation and fear. Such violent, crude methods will only succeed for so long: eventually the people will unite and revolt, as they are now doing, and all strength to their cause, which is wholly just.

Graham Peebles is Director of The Create Trust, a UK registered charity supporting fundamental social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org.

Repeal Or Retain? Election Opens Final Act For 'Obamacare'

ASSOCIATED PRESS
SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, 2016


Deborah Paddison stands in her home office in Phoenix on Friday, July 15, 2016, while she recovers from her latest orthopedic surgery. She fears she would become uninsurable if the Affordable Care Act was repealed. For most her life she has battled rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and tissues. Paddison works as a freelance editor and writer and says her independence is due in part to subsidized coverage under the health care law.




WASHINGTON (AP) — Election Day 2016 will raise the curtain on the final act in the nation's long-running political drama over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. If Republican Donald Trump wins, the unraveling begins.

"We have an obligation to the people who voted for us to proceed with 'repeal and replace,'" said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. If Democrat Hillary Clinton goes to the White House, it gets very difficult for Republicans to keep a straight face about repealing "Obamacare."

"There just won't be any credible way to keep talking about repealing the Affordable Care Act," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA and a supporter of the law. After years of debating health care politics and policies, Americans remain divided over the 2010 law, which was passed without a single Republican vote when Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress. What happens next could affect health insurance for nearly everyone.

It's not just the millions who have gained coverage through expanded Medicaid in a majority of states and subsidized private health insurance in every part of the country. It's also anyone with an existing medical condition who now can apply for health insurance without fear of being turned away. It's millennials weighing paying monthly premiums against paying a fine for remaining uninsured. It's women whose birth control is covered free by their employer, and parents who can keep late-blooming kids on their workplace plans until age 26.

Brian Greenberg, of Stamford, Connecticut, is in his early 30s, and his insurer has already spent more than $845,000 on medical care for the Crohn's disease patient. A financial services professional, Greenberg worries about a return to lifetime dollar limits on coverage, a type of cutoff that was previously allowed.

Deborah Paddison, of Phoenix, fears she would become uninsurable. For most her life she has battled rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints and tissues. Paddison works as a freelance editor and writer and says her independence is due in part to subsidized coverage under the health care law.

The law's tangible benefits for Greenberg, Paddison and millions of other Americans present a major challenge for Republicans. They've honed their legislative strategy for repealing most, if not all, of Obama's law, but they still have to work out key parts of their plan for replacing it.

The framework that GOP congressional leaders have released isn't detailed enough to allow a full comparison with current law. The Center for American Progress, a think tank aligned with the Clinton campaign, estimates 24 million people will lose coverage by 2021 if the law is repealed and says the Republican replacement will not fill that hole.

But Barrasso, one of his party's leaders on health policy, said Republicans will provide a path to more affordable coverage with less government regulation. "I have no desire to protect 'Obamacare,' but I want to protect the American people," he said.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

California Wildfire Brings Destruction And Uncertainty

Firefighters battle a wildfire as it crosses Cajon Boulevard in Keenbrook, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. Firefighters had at least established a foothold of control of the blaze the day after it broke out for unknown reasons in the Cajon Pass near Interstate 15, the vital artery between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Five years of drought have turned the state's wildlands into a tinder box, with eight fires currently burning from Shasta County in the far north to Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego.



SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A ferocious wildfire had swallowed up many homes as it spread across 40 square miles of mountain and desert east of Los Angeles. Exactly how many, however, and to whom they belonged, remained uncertain.

Firefighters were faced with the difficult task of tallying that damage while still battling the huge, unruly blaze. That left evacuees in a cruel limbo, forced to spend another night wondering whether anything they owned was still intact.

They included Shawn Brady, who had been told by a neighbor that flames had raged down their street. But he was waiting for official word. "What I've been told is that flames are currently ripping through my house," said Brady, a dockworker who lives on the outskirts of the evacuated town of Wrightwood with his mother, sister and a dog.

"I'm trying to remain optimistic," Brady said as he sat outside a shelter for evacuees in Fontana. "It's the not knowing that's the worst." San Bernardino County fire officials could only confirm that dozens of structures had burned, and that big numbers are likely.

"There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing," county Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said Wednesday after flying over a fire scene he described as "devastating." "It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn't seen before," he said.

Firefighters had at least established a foothold of control of the blaze the day after it broke out for unknown reasons in the Cajon Pass near Interstate 15, the vital artery between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The fire was 4 percent contained on Wednesday.

The California Highway Patrol reopened I-15 late Wednesday night, while the southbound side remained closed. Those assessing damage were also looking for dead and injured, but none had been reported yet. Cadaver dogs were searching the ruins for anyone who was overrun by the flames.

Five years of drought have turned the state's wildlands into a tinder box, with eight fires currently burning from Shasta County in the far north to Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego. Residents like Vi Delgado and her daughter April Christy were also among those wondering whether their home was intact, though they had found out that their pets and the shelter animals they take care of had been saved. They had been through earlier wildfires, but nothing like this one.

"No joke, we were literally being chased by the fire," Christy said in a voice choked with emotion in a minivan outside the Fontana evacuation center. "You've got flames on the side of you. You've got flames behind you."

More than 34,000 homes and about 82,000 people were under evacuation warnings as firefighters concentrated their efforts on saving homes in the mountain communities of Lytle Creek, Wrightwood and Phelan. They implored residents not to think twice if told to leave, but it appears many were staying.

"From reports that we were hearing, possibly up to half didn't leave," said Lyn Sieliet, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman. "It does change the way that we can fight fire," she added, "Now we have to worry about the people in there as well as trying to protect the structures and trying to build a line of defense as the fire comes toward that area."

A fleet of 10 air tankers and 15 helicopters and an army of 1,500 firefighters took on the blaze, many of them coming fresh from other wildfires around the state. Another large fire, north of San Francisco, was fading. The 6-square-mile blaze was 50 percent contained after destroying 268 structures, including 175 homes and eight businesses, in the working-class community of Lower Lake over the weekend.

Damin Pashilk, 40, is charged with starting the blaze along with more than a dozen other counts of arson and one of attempted arson in connection with fires dating back to July 2015. He appeared in court on Wednesday, but he did not enter a plea.

Associated Press writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

ISRAEL: Deputy Defense Minister: African Migrants Don’t Need Helping Hand

TIMES OF ISRAEL


African migrants gather during a protest in Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv on January 07, 2014. (Gideon Markowicz)



Eli Ben Dahan hails decision barring soldiers from aiding refugees in Tel Aviv, says IDF should focus on programs ‘that benefit Israelis’

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan on Sunday praised a controversial decision to cancel a program for IDF soldiers to volunteer with the children of migrants and asylum seekers in Israel, saying the predominately African community in south Tel Aviv does not need to be helped.

In an interview with Army Radio, Ben Dahan claimed that “none of the 150,000 illegal infiltrators have been categorized as refugees, they don’t need to be extended a helping hand or be pulled out of the sea and saved from drowning.”

Official figures show nearly 47,000 illegal immigrants are currently residing in Israel, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. Most live in the poorer neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, with some blaming them for rising crime rates in the city.

“There people have infiltrated into Israel, taken Israelis’ jobs and made south Tel Aviv an impossible place to live,” Ben Dahan charged.

Ben Dahan, who has previously made racially disparaging remarks about Palestinians, went on to question whether if the ban would earn the same backlash from left-wing Israelis if the program were based in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

“Israeli soldiers should volunteer for programs that benefit Israeli citizens,” the deputy minister said.

Pressed by the interviewer about the Jewish commandment to “love theger [stranger] in your midst,” Ben Dahan said the edict only applied to gentiles who embraced Jewish sovereignty in Israel.

Earlier on Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered an ene to IDF soldiers working with Elifelet, an organization dedicated to help migrant children in south Tel Aviv, following complaints by local residents and right-wing activists.

“If soldiers have free time, they should help Holocaust survivors or the needy,” Liberman told IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot according to Yedioth Ahronoth. “Charity should begin at home.”

A report by Channel 10 last week showing a number of Military Intelligence soldiers volunteering with the NGO Elifelet sparked complaints by some Jewish residents of south Tel Aviv neighborhoods — who have long complained of the influx of poverty-stricken, mainly African foreigners in their neighborhoods — who voiced anger at the soldiers’ actions, accusing them of effectively working for a “radical left-wing” group and backing illegal immigration.

Elifelet is a nonprofit organization that says it helps hundreds of children from migrant families who are suffering from “different levels of hunger and physical distress due to poverty.” It aims to provide food and care for such children. It also claims to protect migrant kids from “racial persecution.”

After Channel 10’s report aired, President Reuven Rivlin expressed support for Elifelet's volunteer program, saying: “It is not a sin… for Israeli soldiers to lend a hand to the helpless, such as the children of refugees whose parents may well have broken Israeli law by entering illegally, for various reasons.” But, he said, “the children are not to blame.”

Israel has in recent years sought to limit the migrants’ numbers. It has built a fence along the border with Egypt, a once-common migration route, and sent many migrants to a desert detention facility — and in some cases back to third-party countries in Africa.

Many say they are fleeing conflict and persecution and are seeking refugee status. Israeli officials contend they are economic migrants, and have resisted calls to recognize them as refugees.

Between 2009 and 2015, 2,408 Eritreans requested refugee status in Israel. The state has responded to 1.42% of these requests, or 45 people, rejecting 40 outright and granting temporary protection to five, while the Interior Ministry granted refugee status to four people.

Israel’s approval ratings for refugee status are drastically lower than international levels. According to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, internationally, 84 percent of Eritreans and 56 percent of Sudanese asylum seekers received either refugee status or extended protection in 2014.

Under Jonathan, Nigeria Earned N51 Trillion From Crude oil

VANGUARD, NIGERIA


JONATHAN IMAGE COURTESY OF SIGNAL


The Nigerian state, during the five-year Presidency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, earned a total of N51 trillion from petroleum resources. The money is part of the N96.212trillion the country earned in 58years of crude oil sales.

Of this princely sum, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the country’s revenue, only N12.258 trillion (just about 14% of total) has been paid to the oil producing areas as derivation. The figure is N35.848 trillion less than the N48.106 trillion the oil-bearing regions should have received as derivation if 50 per cent derivation had not been jettisoned few years after crude oil became the chief revenue earner for Nigeria. The figures are the outcome of research by Sunday Vanguard, relying on documents from the Petroleum Inspectorate, NNPC, CBN Annual Report and Statement of Account, Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, NEITI. In the face of biting contemporary economic realities Nigerians are contending with, there is a consensus that the different tiers of government – federal, state and local government councils – have indeed squandered the nation’s earnings. Even the modest attempts at saving for the rainy day with the creation of, first, the Excess Crude Account, ECA -which suffered mismanagement occasioned by under-hand spending by the Federal Government that was supposed to hold the funds in trust – and, thereafter, the controversial and ineffectual Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF – which became a subject of litigation and high-wire politicking between the Federal Government and the leadership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF – suffered from the typically Nigerian insincere approach to economic management. A breakdown of the earnings shows that between 1958 and 2007 (CBN Annual Report and Statement of Account, 2008), Nigeria earned N29.8 trillion from petroleum resources. And between 2008 and June 2016, the country generated N66.412 trillion.

Between 1958 and 1966, Nigeria earned N140 million from crude oil; 1967 to 1975, the General Yakubu Gowon got about N11.03 billion; while the late General Murtala Mohammed/ Olusegun Obasanjo military regime scooped about N25 billion from 1975-1979. In like manner, the civilian administration of President Shehu Shagari earned N36 billion oil money; Buhari, in his first coming as military head of state (1984-85), earned about N25 billion; General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, 1985 to 1993, N420 billion; the Ernest Shonekan/Abacha regime (1993-1998), N1.6 trillion; and General Abdulsalami Abubakar regime (1998-1999), N350 billion. With the return to civil rule, Nigeria, under President Obasanjo realised about N27 trillion from crude oil between May 1999 and May 2007. His successor, Umaru Yar’ Adua, reaped about N9 trillion in his almost three-year rule before he passed on. The luckiest of the leaders is former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose administration in five years, between 2010 and 2015, earned about N51 trillion from petroleum resources. Since he came to power on May 29, 2015, the President Buhari administration has been able to earn just about N6 trillion from crude. However, the huge earnings, since 1958, arguably, have translated to little or no improvement on the welfare of the citizenry, especially the people of the oil-producing areas, whose environment – land, water and air, has been adversely contaminated and, in many cases, devastated and polluted.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Why Snails Are One Of The World's Deadliest Creatures







As far as the world’s deadliest creatures go, large predators like sharks and lions tend to get all the credit. But in fact, if we were to point to the animal kingdom’s most frequent killer, it’d actually be the mosquito.

Another creature belonging to the “small but deadly” category is the freshwater snail, which is responsible for more than 200,000 deaths a year — more deaths than sharks, lions and wolves combined.

Freshwater snails carry a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis, which infects nearly 250 million people, mostly in Asia, Africa and South America.

“It's one of the world's most deadly parasites,” says Susanne Sokolow, a disease ecologist at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station.

“You do contract it from just wading, swimming, entering the water in any way, and the parasites basically exit the snails into the water and seek you. And they penetrate right through your skin, migrate through your body, end up in your blood vessels where they can live for many years even decades. It's not the worms that actually cause disease to people, it's the eggs. And those eggs have sharp barbs because they eventually need to make it back out of the human body and back into the water and find that there are snails that they need to complete their reproduction cycle. And so those eggs can lodge in different tissues and cause severe symptoms ranging from anemia and fatigue, all the way to various severe symptoms, even death in about 10 percent of chronic cases.”

In the 1970s, the drug praziquantel became an affordable option for combating schistosomiasis around the world, and countries abandoned alternative methods of “snail control” in favor of modern medical treatments.

But today, researchers are starting to rethink a drug-only approach to combating schistosomiasis. In a new study, researchers at Stanford University discovered that countries that used a creative ecological approach to snail control — such as introducing a predator to the environment—greatly reduced infection rates in those communities.

“One sort of creative avenue we're looking at now is reintroduction of snail predators,” Sokolow says. “It hasn't been used much in the past but in particular in an area in Senegal in West Africa we're working with a local nonprofit ... trying to investigate how the environment has changed by human activities and has driven away a predator — these native prawns — that you know are real voracious predators of the snails, and how we might bring them back through creative engineering — building ladders over dams so that prawns can access these sites that they're now eradicated from or even using aquaculture.”

Sokolow says other countries have also had success in reducing snail population using an integrated approach.

“Japan eliminated the disease in the late 1970s pretty much exclusively focusing on creative engineering solutions to reduce snail habitat,” Sokolow says. “The snails have not disappeared from Japan even today, but the parasite did because we addressed medical care for the people in combination with creative strategies to reduce the snails. It's that integrated strategy ... that has really worked.”

Some people worry about the environmental impact of reducing a snail population, but Sokolow says an integrated approach to the problem should lead to beneficial results.

“As a team of ecologists and epidemiologist and medical doctors, you know, we're looking at every angle,” Sokolow says.

“But we're talking about real human lives here. We're talking about a lot of suffering. In fact, the vast majority of people suffering from schistosomiasis is children — young children and young adults, and, you know, we have to balance all of those risks with the benefits. And here we're really talking about restoring a system, studying that system, finding those ecological levers, we like to call them, that have been pushed by human activity and pushing them back so that they're back in balance. And really, you know, all human activity has some risk, but I think if we do things well and do things smartly we can reap the benefits.”

This article is based on an interview that aired on PRI's Science Friday

Inaugural Cannabis Fair Being Set Up In Oregon

BY ANDREW SELSKY
ASSOCIATED PRESS



\

James Knox, owner of Savant Plant Technologies, discusses his products while setting up for the Oregon Cannabis Growers' Fair in Salem, Ore., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. In a sign of how mainstream the once-illicit marijuana industry is becoming in Oregon, one of four states to have legalized it, exhibitors are heading to the state capital to set up for the inaugural Oregon Cannabis Grower's Fair.


SALEM, OREGON. (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — From seed providers to a company offering mechanized bud trimmers, those involved in the once-illicit marijuana industry in the Pacific Northwest got ready on Friday for the first-ever Oregon Cannabis Growers' Fair.

Reggae music thumped from Savant Plant Technologies' display as owner James Knox, 38, of Corvallis, set up his do-it-yourself grow package, including peat and microorganisms to stimulate plant growth, among more than 80 exhibitors registered for the two-day fair that starts Saturday.

Oregon is one of four states to have legalized marijuana, along with Washington, D.C. "It's nice for us to be stepping across the line and say, 'Here we are, and we're ready to do business,'" he said. "For those of us who have been doing this a long time, this is a breath of fresh air because we're able to work openly and in the light."

Winning entries of a pot-plant competition at the fair will be displayed in two weeks at the Oregon State Fair, the first time cannabis will be exhibited at a state fair anywhere in the United States, organizers said.

"It is an historic event. It's a great opportunity to meet these growers that typically were underground," said fair organizer Mary Lou Burton. "We're trying to get people connected up and networking."

Nine winners of the pot-plant competition will showcase their plants at the Oregon State Fair, along more traditional items like tomatoes, hogs and horses, in two weeks. They will be under display in a small greenhouse amid tight security, she said.

Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in a November 2014 ballot initiative, Measure 91. Medical marijuana was legalized years earlier. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is in the process of issuing licenses for recreational marijuana production.

The business is booming. Oregon's Legislative Revenue Office in May quadrupled its estimate of net state tax revenues, from $8.4 million to $35 million, expected from recreational marijuana through June 30, 2017.

But with marijuana still illegal under federal law, the industry can't use banks to do their business. Jerry Fee, owner of NorthWest Safe Sales of Oregon City, uses the banking impediment as a business opportunity and was setting up a display at the growers' fair including four formidable-looking safes. His prices range from $800 to $15,000.

"People like to lock up what's important to them, whether its money or product," he said. Business names at other booths being set up included Pruf Cultivar, My Urban Greenhouse, Half Baked and Greener Futures.

Donald Morse, executive director of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council and the person who thought up the fair, said it aims to "demystify" marijuana. "It's not to tempt people to use marijuana," Morse said. "It is to educate. Cannabis is Oregon's newest farm crop."

 Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter @andrewselsky

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Born In The U.S., Raised In Nigeria, Ufomba Kamalu Finds Way To NFL

HOUSTON CHRONICLE



Houston Texans defensive end Ufomba Kamalu (94) hits a blocking dummy while running a drill during Texans training camp at Houston Methodist Training Center on Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Houston. ( Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle )


Ufomba Kamalu was big and confused.

Early in his freshman year at Starr's Mill High School in Fayetteville, Georgia, he showed up for a football practice in shorts and soccer cleats. No shoulder pads.

Kamalu, now an undrafted rookie defensive end for the Texans, had size then that made him an intriguing football prospect to Starr's Mill football coach Chad Phillips, who encouraged the boy to join his team. He stood about 6-foot-5 and weighed around 215 pounds. He just didn't realize the football Phillips was talking about wasn't the same one people play in Africa.


Kamalu thought Phillips wanted him to play soccer.

"Because I'm from Nigeria," Kamalu said as an explanation to the confusion.

Kamalu was born in San Luis Obispo, California, where his father was a mechanical engineering professor. But he spent most of his first 14 years living with his grandmother in Umuocham, a village in Aba, Nigeria.

He and his two siblings mostly lived apart from his parents during that time. He learned Igbo, a language of southern Nigeria. He learned the culture of his parents' home country. He draws on the experience today as a NFL rookie.

He calls the move "the best decision my parents made raising us."

Stella and her husband, Ngozi Kamalu, debated over how soon to send Ufomba and his sister, who is a year older than him. Stella wanted to wait a few years. Ngozi pushed for them to do it a year after Ufomba was born. The younger his son was, the father knew, the easier it'd be for him to learn the language.

Later, Ufomba's younger brother joined his other two siblings. The parents visited their children at first for a month out of each year, then for a few months at a time. Ufomba said he'd come back to America occasionally when he wasn't in school.

The children all lived with Ngozi's mother. But the number of people who raised the Kamalu children, Stella said, is too large to count. Relatives live close together in Nigerian villages, she said, and they all work in harmony.

"I think that it takes a whole village to raise a child," Stella said, taking a common saying a bit more literally. "My husband and I here, I don't think we would've been able to … teach them and incorporate all that we wanted them to be by ourselves."

Ngozi said he wanted his children to understand simple tenets of the Nigerian culture: respect for parents, one's place among ancestors and the importance of accomplishing what an elder asks.

Ufomba would fetch water from a nearby river. He learned not to complain about cold showers or a lack of electricity when generators failed to work - which happened about four times each month.

The parents believe overall their children's quality of life was comparable to the United States. But there were less distractions, Ngozi said, and that helps Ufomba today.

"If he is focused on what he's doing, he will accomplish a lot of things," the father said. "This is probably the key in (a) child's development, where if he focuses himself, he can really accomplish anything."

The parents brought their children back to America for high school so they could still assimilate to the United States as children. They wanted them to feel comfortable in both worlds. Football helped Ufomba settle into America.

He struggled at first. When he knocked a teammate down in practice, he'd pick him up before the play was over. He didn't know what "y'all," a word he kept hearing in Georgia, meant.

Though Ufomba seemed lost on the field, Phillips said "he immediately had 75 friends." He learned English, slang included. He learned how to play defensive line, which fit his size - 6-6, 297 pounds today - and required less processing of English than a potentially audible-filled position on offense.

He said it took "a good two, three years to really start understanding and be part of the States."

And though colleges began recruiting him his junior year on size, it wasn't until Ufomba's senior year that he blossomed as a football player.

During his senior year, Starr's Mill played a game on television against its rival. Ufomba sacked the quarterback and came up dancing. It was the first time Phillips saw Ufomba excited. The coach said the moment "kicked the first domino." Ufomba began showing more emotion after that.

When Starr's Mill lost the state championship game at the Georgia Dome later that season, Phillips found Ufomba with tears rolling down his face.

"At some point during the season, he completely understood," Phillips said. "He completely bought in."

Ufomba struggled to qualify academically for an NCAA school out of high school. He played at Butler Community College before transferring to Miami.

In three seasons with the Hurricanes, he recorded 11.5 tackles for a loss, including 8.5 sacks. Against Georgia Tech this past season, he forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.

He stands an outside chance of making the Texans roster, but his parents believe because of a decision they made more than two decades ago, Ufomba will capitalize on his time in Houston.

"Having grown up there, having been there that many years and being here, he will seize opportunities," Stella said. "That also teaches him that he needs to work hard in life, and that when he achieves, it is not just him, it is not just Ufomba.

"Ufomba has his family, his village looking after him in America. And when he succeeds, it is not just for him, it's for his village."

Monday, August 08, 2016

NIGERIA: A Nation In Dire Strait

EMMANUEL NWAGBONIWE
VANGUARD NIGERIA





One does not need the rare gift of clairvoyance to see through the palpable hopelessness, anguish and anomie across the Nigerian landscape in these uncertain times. Sad enough, the country becomes a clime peopled by innumerable economic and social underdogs consigned to the abyss of abnegation and despair by a crop of malignant elite leadership bereft of any visionary fervent and futuristic promptings.

Through these years of inept leadership oscillating between corrupt politicians and their kleptomaniac military collaborators, the nation has finally crashed at a labyrinth where the pathway to national rebirth and regeneration remain foggy. Even the only 'visible' tunnel has been clogged by the monstrous inanities of clannishness and the obduracy of the 'ancient regime' and their pawns.

From the crushing economic pains of the day, to the social dislocations and mounting insecurity everywhere in the land, coupled with the ignorable and dodgy power play at Abuja, a common thread runs through all these: a nation in dire strait!

But before we got to this precipitous crossroad, the signs were as visible as the day that the route we have taken these 55 years after flag independence, was doomed to lead to perdition. We soon became despondent and needy in spite of our huge human and material resources, no thanks to the profligacy of our leaders. Even the docility of the followership who largely assumed the shameful role of chorus singers as the looting and brigandage lingered, further nailed the coffin of the deceit that went for governance.

Now, the economy is in an avoidable recession as spiral inflation, job losses, unprecedented unemployment and crippling poverty reign supreme with no visible respite in sight. Equally so, the oil boom has given way to a doom, and like the dog who discountenanced the hunter's whistle, we have strayed into the wild forest and now at the mercy of the wild breasts.

And still not cherry, the land is equally inflicted by the cancer of hatred, which has manifested in forms of tribal distrust and killings. Everywhere around us, there are palpable hostilities occasioned by a resentment rooted in economic pains and political alienation. The daily cry is that of restructuring of the polity, ostensibly to put an end to the colonial lie called united Nigeria.

But as we wobble and grope along this uncertain path, and with our ever 'all- knowing' leaders believing, erroneously of course, that we are on the right track, the more the reality stares us on the face like the monster that we are only playing the ostrich.

But can these perilous times be allowed to consume us and make this African giant, though with feet of clay, sink deeper into the abyss? Should all men and women of goodwill in this country allow this macabre dance of the insane to continue while they resign in utter resignation and bewilderment?



Truth is: from ages, great nations have emerged from the ashes of their woes, and this new dawn comes about with visionary leadership. For instance, the persecution of the Jews by Hitler's Nazi strengthened and made them to think home which culminated in the State of Israel in 1948. Germany after World Wars 1 and 2 lost her choice overseas colonies to the Allied Powers and was slammed with all manners of sanctions aimed at crippling her from becoming militarily strong enough to terrorize Europe again. Even Japan after the bombing of Hiroshima, which consequently ended World War 2, was in economic mess and in ruins. But today, these nations have become world powers not only in terms of economic stability, but are more united, thanks to visionary and purposeful leadership.

Though Nigeria fought a 30-month civil war, and the victors in their frenzy of having defeated and silenced the belligerent Igbo, failed to tap into the human ingenuities exhibited, especially by the Biafra side during the war, to rebuild Nigeria. The post-war oil boom era ushered the nation into a new world of easy money and made our leaders and the people an indolent and complacent lot who never cared how to seize the opportunity of the boom to build a buoyant economy.

But had we explored and improved on those novel technologies deplored during the civil war, perhaps today, we won't be thinking about when we will have a 'Made in Nigeria' car, or how to produce enduring industrial machineries to feed our teeming population.

But in spite of our sorry state as a nation, the pertinent questions on many lips are: Can President Muhammadu Buhari seize this moment of great national despair and etch his name in gold? Or will he, like many of his predecessors, come as a spectator and end up as a mere footnote in history? Can this former army general whom destiny smiled at last year after three failed previous attempts at the presidency, rewrite the history of this ailing, but potential great nation?

The inexplicable fact is: Buhari can seize this moment and rebuild Nigeria into a socially cohesive, economically vibrant and politically sophisticated nation. But this rare feat can only be achieved if the President jettisons partisan politics and evolve a holistic strategy of assembling the best minds across the country on a rescue mission for a nation on her knees.

One believes that in this period of grave national emergency, the era of we- can- do- it- alone as a ruling political party is far-gone, such an illusion can only push the nation further deeper into the cliff. And let us not delude ourselves; future generations won't forgive us for squandering their tomorrow at the altar of inaction and buck- passing.

Buhari must, like the World 2 American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, declare an equivalent of our own Marshal Plan. The present executive ground standing and official rhetoric about a near future robust economy and stable polity amid policy somersaults are no longer convincing to the discerning minds. We must expeditiously begin to rebuild this crumbling edifice called Nigeria before it comes down heavy under our feet. God forbids!

Emmanuel Nwagboniwe, a media practitioner, wrote from Lagos.