Thursday, October 31, 2013

Anti-War Activists File Motion to Unseal Secret Documents

Raided anti-war activists to be in federal court with motion to unseal secret documents

By staff | October 31, 2013

St. Paul, MN - Two Minneapolis anti-war and international solidarity activists will be in federal court, Nov. 1, to demand an end to the government secrecy surrounding their case. Jess Sundin and Mick Kelly are two of the 23 Midwest activists targeted by an investigation that included two years of spying by undercover agents, Sept. 2010 raids of homes and offices in Minneapolis and Chicago by the FBI, and a secret Chicago grand jury.

Their attorney will present arguments for a motion to unseal the affidavits used to obtain the search warrants for their homes more than three years ago.

Jess Sundin, a plaintiff in the case, said, “The government launched its vicious attack on anti-war and international solidarity activists with two years of surveillance by undercover agents, then carried out FBI raids on a dozen homes and offices and attempted to force our testimony to a grand jury in Chicago. Every step of the way, the government acted under a cloak of secrecy and has insisted on guarding those secrets to this day. On Friday, Nov. 1, we will have our day in court, as our attorney argues for our motion to unseal the affidavits that were used to obtain the search warrants for those FBI raids.”

Bruce Nestor, attorney for the plaintiffs, writes in a document filed with the court, “Over three years ago, based upon the submission of secret evidence, the United States government convinced Magistrate Judge Susan R. Nelson to seal the search supporting affidavits at issue in this matter. Over three years after the applications and affidavits were ordered sealed, there are no public signs that the government is continuing its investigations related to these warrants or of the individuals named in the warrants. Indeed, while turning the constitutional presumption of innocence on its head by stating that the Petitioners in this matter remain subject to prosecution and therefore under ‘suspicion.’”

Nestor continues, “The government’s position in this matter also raises the question, ‘What is the prosecution trying to hide?’ [This also] … prevents undersigned counsel from effectively challenging the government’s claims.”

The hearing will take place in courtroom 3C at the United States Courthouse in Saint Paul (316 N Robert Street) at 9:00 a.m.

United States Attorney Opens Probe Into Death of Georgia Teen

Feds open probe into death of Georgia teen

Kendrick Johnson found in rolled-up gym mat

The announcement comes after new video was released showing Johnson, 17, prior to his death. He is seen walking in the hall and later crossing the gym at Lowndes High School on Jan. 10. The next day he was found inside a wrestling mat, although local investigators say his death was accidental.


Kendrick Lamar’s final day was caught partially on school surveillance.

A federal prosecutor says he'll launch an investigation into the bizarre death of Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson, who was found rolled up in a wrestling mat in his high school gym.

Despite local authorities who concluded the 17-year-old's death in January was accidental, his family has held onto the possibility that foul play was involved — and pushed for the Department of Justice to probe the case.

"My goal is to follow the facts, apply the law and protect the independence and objectivity of the investigative process," Michael Moore, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, said at a news conference Thursday.

If a criminal investigation is warranted, the FBI would conduct it, Moore added.

His announcement comes just as newly released surveillance footage shows Johnson on his last day alive at Lowndes High School. While the clips don’t reveal exactly what happened to the popular student athlete, his parents believe there could be another clue to unraveling his death.

“This is not a home run, but it gets us on first base,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Johnson family, told NBC affiliate WXIA-TV this week.

Officially, Kendrick Johnson suffocated after accidenally rolling himself up in a wrestling mat at his south Georgia high school in January.

Officially, Kendrick Johnson suffocated after accidenally rolling himself up in a wrestling mat at his south Georgia high school in January.

Just before Thursday's announcement, the family said they had been seeking federal authorities to take the lead.

"I’m certainly hoping they will," another family attorney, Chevene King, told the Daily News.

The teen’s parents fought to gain access to the footage, though officials said they saw no evidence of something sinister in the clips.

One shows Johnson in a white T-shirt casually walking down the hall with a yellow folder or book in his hand. The video was taken at 12:59 p.m. Jan. 10.

Ten minutes later, he was captured walking into the gym. The video cuts to other students playing basketball. It’s unclear how much time elapsed.

Kendrick Johnson is seen crossing the gym around 1:09 p.m. Jan. 10. He was found dead the next morning.

There was a gym class and basketball practice scheduled that evening, but the boy’s body wasn’t found until the next morning when students spotted his feet.

The Johnsons hope that by seeing it, the footage will help trigger a name, a face integral in fleshing out the case.

“It’s just something we have to do. And so we’re fighting for Kendrick ‘til the end,” dad Kenneth Johnson told WXIA about watching the clips.

The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office has said Johnson appeared to have become stuck inside the rolled-up mat while trying to fish out a shoe that fell inside the center.

A medical examiner determined the sporty teen died from positional asphyxia, which cut off his oxygen.

The body was found stuck upside down, and the mat was propped upright behind bleachers.

Kendrick Johnson was found inside a rolled up wrestling mat at his south Georgia high school, but a private pathologist found evidence of blunt force trauma.

Kendrick Johnson was found inside a rolled up wrestling mat at his south Georgia high school, but a private pathologist found evidence of blunt force trauma.

With so many questions still unanswered, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson hired a private pathologist to look into his death.

The parents won a court order in June to have his body exhumed, and an autopsy found that his body, skull and other organs were missing — and replaced with balls of crumpled newspaper, CNN reported.

That added another layer to the mystery.

“I’m not sure at this point who did not return the organs to the body,” pathologist Dr. Bill Anderson said at the time. “But I know when we got the body, the organs were not there.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Johnson’s organs were taken out during the autopsy but put back before the body was sent to the funeral home.

Kenneth Johnson and his wife speak with a CNN reporter about the death of Kendrick Johnson. Police have called the 17-year-old's death an accident but the family is searching for more answers.

Harrington Funeral Home in Valdosta sent a letter to the Johnson family saying the organs “were destroyed through natural process” because of the manner in which he died, and then “discarded by the prosecutor,” CNN said.

The family said the discovery of newspapers inside Johnson's body was a slap in the face.

In addition, the pathologist found that his body suffered “blunt force trauma” and the fatal blow appeared “non-accidental.”

Despite the mounting evidence, the sheriff’s office has kept the case closed.

The Johnsons' attorney says there's still some 1900 hours of tape that the family is awaiting to receive in the next two to three days, and they're hoping it will benefit them.

"The idea that (the sheriff) would theorize something that he couldn't see in the video ... is difficult to understand," King told The News.

Moore said his office has seen the investigative reports, including the autopsies. There are several questions that will need to be answered, he added, including how exactly Johnson died and whether a crime was committed.

But he warned that even if Johnson was murdered, "it may not be a crime which could be prosecuted in federal court."

Read more:

Obama's Approval Rating Sinks to New Low

NBC/WSJ poll: Obama approval sinks to new low

By Mark Murray, Senior Political Editor, NBC News

President Barack Obama’s approval rating has declined to an all-time low as public frustration with Washington and pessimism about the nation’s direction continue to grow, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Just 42 percent approve of the president’s job performance, which is down five points from earlier this month. By comparison, 51 percent disapprove of his job in office -- tied for his all-time high.

The NBC/WSJ pollsters argue that no single reason explains Obama’s lower poll standing.

Rather, they attribute it to the accumulation of setbacks since the summer -- allegations of spying by the National Security Agency, the debate over Syria’s chemical weapons, the government shutdown and now intense scrutiny over the problems associated with the health care law’s federal website and its overall implementation.

Those events have combined to erase some of the advantage the president gained with polls showing most Americans blame congressional Republicans for the shutdown.

And for the first time in the survey, even Obama’s personal ratings are upside-down, with 41 percent viewing him a favorable light and 45 percent viewing him negatively.

“Personally and politically, the public’s assessment is two thumbs down,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

‘Mad as hell as we’re not going to take it anymore’

But that two-thumbs-down assessment also applies to almost every other politician measured in the poll. Consider:

The public’s view of the Republican Party has reached another all-time low in the survey, with 22 percent seeing the GOP in a positive light and 53 percent viewing it negatively;

House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remain unpopular;

Sixty-three percent of voters want to replace their own member of Congress, which is the highest percentage ever recorded on this question that dates back to 1992;

Seventy-four percent believe Congress is contributing to problems in Washington rather than solving them;

Only 22 percent think the nation is headed in the right direction;

And half of respondents (50 percent) think it’s likely that there will be another government shutdown.

Peter King explains why the president needs to stand with the NSA.

GOP pollster McInturff says that if the previous NBC/WSJ poll -- conducted during the shutdown -- sent shock waves hitting the Republican Party, this new poll is sending shock waves hitting everyone else.

“It feels like we’re in a Howard Beale moment,” adds Hart, referring to an often-quoted line from the 1976 movie “Network.”

“We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore,” Hart paraphrases from that movie.

Measuring the shutdown’s aftermath

And the American public is particularly mad -- at everyone -- after the government shutdown.

By a 41 percent-to-21 percent margin, respondents say they have a less favorable impression of President Obama after the shutdown rather than a more favorable one.

Ditto congressional Tea Party Republicans (45 percent to 12 percent) and congressional Republicans (53 percent to 9 percent).

Still, more Americans blame congressional Republicans for the shutdown (38 percent) than Obama (23 percent), while 36 percent say they blame both sides equally.

But the poll also shows that the political gains that Democrats made during the shutdown have eroded somewhat.

Democrats have a four-point advantage among voters, 45 percent to 41 percent, on which party should control Congress after next year’s midterm elections. Yet that’s down from the eight-point edge, 47 percent to 39 percent, they held in the last NBC/WSJ poll.

President Barack Obama addresses the issues facing Wednesday during a speech at Boston's Faneuil Hall.

And measuring the health care rollout

In addition, the health care law is slightly less popular than it was earlier this month, according to the poll.

Thirty-seven percent see it as a good idea, versus 47 percent who see it as a bad idea.

That’s down from the 38 percent good idea, 43 percent bad idea in the previous survey.

But the public is divided over whether the problems associated with the health-care law’s federal website are a short-term issue than can be solved, or a long-term issue that signals deeper troubles.

In the poll, 37 percent say that the website woes are a short-term technical problem that can be fixed, while 31 percent believe they point to a longer-term issue with the law’s design that can’t be corrected.

Another 30 percent think it’s too soon to say.

In a separate question, 40 percent say they are less confident about the health-care law from what they recently have seen, heard or read about it; 9 percent are more confident; and 50 percent say there has been no change.

As Hart puts it, “The sign-up problems have hurt the president personally rather than hurt the law.”

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Oct. 25-28 of 800 adults (including 240 cell phone-only respondents), and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.5 percentage points.

Court Blocks Ruling on New York Police Stop-Frisk Policy

Court Blocks Ruling on NY Police Stop-Frisk Policy

NEW YORK October 31, 2013
Associated Press

A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a judge's ruling that found the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy was discriminatory and took the unusual step of removing her from the case, saying interviews she gave during the trial called her impartiality into question.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the rulings by U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal by the city.

The judge ruled in August the city violated the Constitution in how it carried out its program of stopping and questioning people. The city appealed her findings and her remedial orders, including a decision to assign a monitor to help the police department change its policy and the training program associated with it.

During arguments, lawyers in the case said the police department hasn't had to do anything except meet with a monitor since the judge's decision. But the city said police officers are afraid to stop and frisk people now and the number of stop-and-frisks has dropped dramatically.

The three-judge appeals panel, which heard arguments on the requested stay on Tuesday, noted that the case might be affected in a major way by next week's mayoral election.

Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio, who's leading in polls, has sharply criticized and promised to reform the NYPD's stop-and-frisk technique, saying it unfairly targets minorities. He said he was "extremely disappointed" in Thursday's decision.

The appeals court said the judge needed to be removed because she ran afoul of the code of conduct for U.S. judges in part by compromising the necessity for a judge to avoid the appearance of partiality. It noted she had given a series of media interviews and public statements responding to criticism of the court. In a footnote, it cited interviews with the New York Law Journal, The Associated Press and The New Yorker magazine.

The judge said Thursday that quotes from her written opinions gave the appearance she had commented on the case in interviews. But she said a careful reading of each interview will reveal no such comments were made.

The 2nd Circuit said cases challenging stop-and-frisk policies will be assigned to a different judge chosen randomly. It said the new presiding judge shall stay all proceedings pending further rulings by it.

After a 10-week civil trial that ended in the spring, Scheindlin ruled that police officers violated the civil rights of tens of thousands of people by wrongly targeting black and Hispanic men with the stop-and-frisk program. She appointed an outside monitor to oversee major changes, including reforms in policies, training and supervision, and she ordered a pilot program to test body-worn cameras.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented plaintiffs in the case, said it was dismayed that the appeals court delayed "the long-overdue process to remedy the NYPD's unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices" and was shocked that it "cast aspersions" on the judge's professional conduct and reassigned the case.

The city said it was pleased with the federal appeals court ruling. City lawyer Michael Cardozo said it allows for a fresh and independent look at the issue.

Stop-and-frisk, which has been criticized by civil rights advocates, has been around for decades, but recorded stops increased dramatically under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330, mostly of black and Hispanic men. A lawsuit was filed in 2004 by four men, all minorities, and became a class action case.

About 5 million stops have been made in New York in the past decade, with frisks occurring about half the time. To make a stop, police must have reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred, a standard lower than the probable cause needed to justify an arrest. Only about 10 percent of the stops result in arrests or summonses, and weapons are found about 2 percent of the time.

Supporters of changes to the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program say the changes will end unfair practices, will mold a more trusted police force and can affect how other police departments use the policy. Opponents say the changes will lower police morale but not crime.

The judge noted she wasn't putting an end to the stop-and-frisk practice, which is constitutional, but was reforming the way the NYPD implemented its stops.

Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on RT Spanish Service: 'Africa, Detroit and the World Economic Crisis'

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
Thursday October 31, 2013

Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on RT Satellite Television News Program Hosted by Daniel Estulin Discussing Pentagon Militarism in Africa, Detroit's Bankruptcy and the World Economic Crisis

To watch this program featuring Abayomi Azikiwe on just click on the website below:

Pan-African News Wire editor Abayomi Azikiwe is shown in this RT news program discussing several issues including the increasing militarism by the United States and NATO in Africa.

He analyzes developments in Zimbabwe, Somalia and other African states targeted for regime-change and political control by Washington.

Other topics included the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and the economic crisis in Detroit within the context of the capitalist austerity and the global downturn.

The program is called Desde la Sombra (From the Shadows) and is hosted by investigative journalist Daniel Estulin who is based in Spain. The show is in Spanish where an over voice translates Azikiwe's responses to a myriad of questions.

Azikiwe is a frequent contributor to media outlets for television, radio and newspapers throughout the international community. His articles on African, Middle Eastern, North American and world affairs are reprinted broadly.

Abayomi Azikiwe, PANW Editor, Featured on Press TV's US Desk: 'Drone Attacks Are Immoral, Illegal'

‘US drone attacks are immoral, illegal’

Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:37AM GMT

To listen to this statement by Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, over Press TV's US Desk, just click on the website below:

Drone attacks carried out by the United States are immoral and illegal, says Abayomi Azikiwe, editor at Pan-African News Wire.

On Monday, at least two people were killed in a US drone attack in southern Somalia. Reports said the victims were al-Shabab fighters.

“In Somalia, they announced recently that they had killed two members of the al-Shabab organization but we do not know if these reports are indeed true,” said Azikiwe in a phone interview with Press TV on Wednesday.

“These attacks are carried out in an effort to destabilize the various countries which are targeted through these drone attacks,” he pointed out.

“We can see very clearly that this is part and parcel of a broader United States military program towards Africa,” Azikiwe added.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint report earlier this month that US officials could be found guilty of war crimes for the secret CIA drone attacks which have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen and Pakistan.

However, the administration of US President Barack Obama said Washington “would strongly disagree” with the report, claiming the US actions are legal.

Moreover, two UN human rights investigators, Ben Emmerson and Christof Heyns, criticized last week the secrecy around Washington’s drone attacks in countries like Pakistan and Yemen and called for more transparency from the US.

According to Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, data from the Pakistani government show at least 2,200 people have been killed in Pakistan by US drone attacks since 2004, of whom at least 400 were innocent civilians.

However, Emmerson says, the involvement of the CIA in US drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen makes independent verification almost impossible because it creates an “insurmountable obstacle to transparency.”

South Africa Makes Strides in Narrowing Gender Gap

‘SA makes strides in narrowing gender gap’

October 31, 2013

JOHANNESBURG. – South Africa took the second slot in terms of gender equality, an achievement that has won applause from the African National Women’s League (ANCWL), according to the Global Gender Gap 2013 report released Tuesday by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Global Gender Gap Index, introduced by the WEF in 2006, is a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress. The report rates Lesotho, for the fourth consecutive year, as the country with the smallest gender gap in Africa. South Africa takes the second slot, followed by Burundi, Mozambique and Malawi as the continent’s most equal societies in terms of gender parity. Burundi is the only country from the east and central Africa region ranked among the top 30 by the Index.

ANCWL Deputy President Nosipho Dorothy Ntwanambi said on Tuesday that it is clear that South Africa took the second slot in terms of narrowing the gender gap because of the government’s commitment to end discrimination against women since 1994.

According to the report, South Africa is the best performing BRICS member and second best performing individual G20 country in closing the gender gap in the areas of health, education, politics and economic equality.

“It is independent research such as this that consistently reaffirms our assertion that South Africa is a better place for women today than it was in 1994,” Ntwanambi said in Johannesburg.

The rankings are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.

The Index measures gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in individual countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries.

The ANCWL said that while the country’s performance overall is “praiseworthy”, the league is concerned about the reported decrease in the women’s economic participation and opportunity variable.

Women’s economic participation measures gender equality in labour force participation, wage equality, estimated earned income and nature of work done.

“It is an accepted fact that women in South Africa have and continue to bear the harshest brunt of poverty and thus whilst it is noted that there are improvements in the economic opportunities and participation for women, these must be sustained,” Ntwanambi said.

Women must be found everywhere within the economy, including at it’s commanding heights, ensuring a greater share in economic decision making thus reversing the legacy that left many occupying primarily low-skilled and low-paid sectors, she noted.

According to the ANCWL, the work done by the ANC government since 1994 to fulfil the commitment to end discrimination against women is bearing results.

More girl children than in 1994 are today gaining access to education, passing primary and secondary education and obtaining degrees at universities, ANCWL said.

A social security net which benefits, in excess of 16 million people, 13 million of which are children, has been created.

In South Africa the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill which will enforce gender equity compliance within both government and the private sector is currently being finalised by government.

“While a lot of challenges still remain, particularly the scourge of violence against women and children, it is these and many more successes that we must jealously guard and build on” Ntwanambi said.

– Xinhua.

22 Perish in Ethanol Inferno in Zimbabwe

22 perish in ethanol inferno

October 31, 2013
Samuel Kadungure in CHIPINGE

TWENTY-TWO people were killed — many burnt beyond recognition — after a Mazda T35 truck ferrying mourners collided head-on with a Green Fuel tanker carrying 45 000 litres of ethanol which burst into flames on impact at 7am yesterday.

The vehicles collided near Checheche Growth Point along the Tanganda-Chiredzi highway in Chisumbanje.

The T35 truck — laden with Muyambo family members — was also carrying a coffin bearing the body of Clifford Muyambo who died on Monday.

The body also got burnt.

Twenty-one victims were burnt beyond recognition.

Police said six people had been rescued, but two died on their way to Chipinge District Hospital.

Four mourners, among them a child, were admitted and their condition was said to be critical.

They sustained head, spinal, internal injuries, fractured ribs and limbs.

Tragedy struck barely 20km from the mourners’ destination at Mariya Village where Muyambo was scheduled to be buried today.

Manicaland police traffic co-ordinator Chief Inspector Cyprian Mukahanana confirmed the accident.

He said investigations were still in progress.
However, preliminary investigations point to driver fatigue.

The mourners — who were on their way from Chegutu — had travelled all night.

Apart from the mourners, a Green Fuel employee and tyre fitter who was with three others in the gutted truck was among people who died on the spot.

His lower part of the body was reduced to ashes.

The tanker was Harare-bound.

Charred remains of the deceased were taken to Chipinge District Hospital mortuary where concerns were raised over the facility’s capacity to accommodate all the bodies.

Mr Johnson Chanyongonya, an eyewitness, said: “I was one of the first people to arrive within minutes of the accident and we rescued victims who were in the T35 truck.

We retrieved them from the wreckage and put them to safety in the water way. Minutes later, the tanker exploded and the ethanol started flowing in the direction of the survivors. Since ethanol is inflammable, it caught fire and engulfed all the victims. We were all forced to retreat.

“The victims were burnt while we watched. We could not help the situation because the fire was ferocious. They died a painful death.

“Eighteen people who were in the truck died on the spot, and two on their way to Chipinge District Hospital. The Green Fuel truck had three passengers and one died on the spot, while two including the driver escaped with serious injuries.

“We had managed to put six victims to safety and administered first aid as we took them to St Peter’s Mission Hospital. Two failed to make it. Their condition was beyond remedy.

They sustained head and spinal injuries and had also lost a lot of blood,” said Mr Chanyongonya.

Said Chipinge South National Assembly member Cde Enock Porusingazi: “This is really a black day. The victims struggled to death. Imagine what they went through as they were charred to ashes. They had travelled all the way from Chegutu only to meet their fate about 20km from their home. Even the coffin and its contents were also reduced to ashes.”

A spokesperson of the Muyambo family, Mrs Irikidzai Mtetwa, said her family was shattered.

“It is a tragedy. We are in deep mourning. We are shocked that things have turned this way. It is unbelievable that the whole family has been wiped just like that. It is painful. This will be a permanent scar to the Muyambo family,” said Mrs Mtetwa.

Zanu-PF provincial chairman Ambassador John Mvundura, who visited the scene in the afternoon, said the accident must be declared a national disaster.

“I am sorry about the occurrence of a disaster of this magnitude in Checheche. I know people die in accidents, but in my whole life I have never witnessed anything like this. I am shocked that a whole family perished and was reduced to ashes by fire.”

Meanwhile, Green Fuel has extended condolences to the bereaved families.

“Green Fuel joins the Chisumbanje community, the nation at large and most importantly the families of the deceased, in mourning the lives tragically lost in a road accident which occurred today in Chipinge South, along the Tanganda–Chiredzi Highway near Checheche.

“As we come to terms with the devastating aftermath of this tragedy, we convey our sincere heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased,” reads part of the statement.

20 feared dead in Chisumbanje accident

October 30, 2013
Abel Zhakata in Mutare

At least 20 people have been burnt to death after a Greenfuel haulage truck carrying ethanol collided head on with a T35 truck ferrying mourners.

Manicaland police traffic coordinator Superintendent Mukahanana confirmed the accident which occurred at around 7am in Chisumbanje.

He said all the passengers in the T35 truck, including the driver, were burnt to death.

Eye witnesses said firefighters were still battling to contain the fire and the bodies of the deceased are yet to be retrieved from the flames.

A coffin with a corpse which was in the T 35 truck was also burnt.

Facts about ethanol fires . . .

October 31, 2013

THE nation’s drive towards alternative fuels carries a danger many communities, the world over, have been slow to recognise: Ethanol fires are harder to put out than petrol fires and require a special type of firefighting foam.

Many fire departments in the world do not have the foam, do not have enough of the foam, or are not well-trained in how to apply it.

The foam is also more expensive than conventional foam.

Experts say if a tanker happened to be hauling ethanol on a rural bypass and catches fire, firefighters should let the fire burn out as that cuts down on environmental pollution.

For every 90 gallons of ethanol burning, it takes six gallons of the special foam to subdue the fire.

Five gallons of the foam cost US$115, and the foam has a shelf life of 10 years, after which it should be disposed of.

Ethanol fires are more ferocious because ethanol has more alcohol than other fuels.

The foams that have been used since the 1960s form a blanket on top of the burning petrol and put out the fire by cutting off oxygen supply.

This, however, is ineffective against ethanol with its high alcohol, often distilled from corn or sugarcane, as it eats through the traditional foam drawing in oxygen which makes it continue to burn.

Because of this, firefighters often decide to allow the fuel to burn out.

In most cases they will be dealing with spills instead of fuel fires. And when such spills occur at the level of a tanker, disaster is inevitable.

Wrecks involving ordinary cars and trucks are not the major concern.

They carry modest amounts of fuel, and it is typically a low-concentration, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and gasoline. A large amount of conventional foam can usually extinguish those fires. The picture dramatically changes where thousands of litres are involved.
However, fires requiring a special alcohol-resistant foam that relies on material to smother the flames cost around US$90 to US$115 for a five-gallon container.

— The Sun Journal-HR.

COSATU's Response to South African Employment Statistics

COSATU’s response to employment statistics

30 October 2013

The Congress of South African Trade Unions welcomes the recently released Quarterly Labour Force Survey report for the third quarter of 2013.

The report shows that unemployment in the third quarter this year fell to 24.7%, from 25.6% in the second, increasing the number of employed people by 308,000. The expanded definition of unemployment, which includes people who have lost hope of finding any kind of work, fell 1.2 percentage points to 35.6% in the same quarter.

However it is still early to celebrate as unemployment is still very high. Such high unemployment rates aggravate all the social problems which we see more and more – violent community protests, crime, corruption, xenophobia and the collapse of social and moral values. Such a level of unemployment is not just a personal and family disaster but a national catastrophe!

It is also worrying that the employed population is concentrated in the Elementary and Sales and services occupations, with shares of employment amounting to 21,7% and 14,7% respectively. Very few persons were employed in Skilled agriculture occupation (0,4%).

It is even more worrying that the Manufacturing and Construction were the industries with the largest job losses down by 32 000, 13 000 and 11 000 jobs respectively.

Informal sector employment decreased by 39 000 jobs between second Quarter of 2013 and third of 2013 mainly due to job losses in the Manufacturing and Construction industries the report says.

The only explanation from Stats SA gives for these worrying figures is that there is a seasonal effect. This is proof of the impact of the rapid casualisation of labour, which can lead to much bigger rises and falls in the unemployment rate. We should remember this exploitation of workers when we celebrate a rise in employment in December.

The report further says that approximately 3,3 million of the 10,4 million youth aged 15–24 years were not in employment, education or training (NEET) in the third quarter of 2013, which highlights the vulnerability of this group. The youth who are categorised as NEET are considered to be disengaged from both work and education. This is upsetting to the matriculants who started their examination yesterday, 28 October 2013 with the hope of either furthering their education or looking for employment.

Government must expand the FET sector to accept 1 million learners per annum by 2014, compared to the current 400 000 per annum.

This will in turn reduce the youth in the NEET, by extending their stay in the education and training system, so that they acquire basic and high-level cognitive skills. In this way we can be able to curtail the rising number of young people looking for employment and those that are in the NEET category.

Economic policy shift

These statistics prove that we are already feeling the effects of the National Development Plan’s policies of deindustrialization.

COSATU is convinced that to reverse the job losses, we need an economic shift from one based on the export of raw materials and capital-intensive sectors to one that is labour-intensive, based on manufacturing industry and meeting the basic needs of our people. We can do this by urgently rolling out the Industrial Policy Action Plan II and the progressive aspects of the New Growth Path in order to activate and accelerate the five key job drivers:
• Infrastructure development;
• Labour-absorbing activities in all sectors’;
• Green economy initiatives;
• Developing the social economy and public services;
• Rural development

COSATU believes that in order to create an adequate number of sustainable new jobs we badly need, the government must show that it is forging ahead with practical implementation and adequate resourcing of the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and the Infrastructure Development Plan announced in last year’s State of the Nation Address, and ensure that all levers and institutions of state, including local procurement, and investment by state entities, are used to maximise employment and diversify the economy.

Lastly, we continue to support IPAP’s continuing emphasis on policy instruments like the designation of sectors for local procurement, not the NDP that focuses on low value added service such as travel and tourism, and call centre operations and thus creating low-paying precarious jobs. These interventions have resulted in a turn-around in the clothing, textiles and leather sector that was almost annihilated by earlier neoliberal trade policies. This is a clear indication that conscious interventions by the state can save and create more jobs in the economy.
Vusumuzi Bhengu (Shopsteward Editor)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Streets

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ANC Condemns United States Detention of Tokyo Sexwale

Author : Jackson Mthembu

Arrest of Cde Tokyo Sexwale

28 October 2013

The African National Congress condemns the detention of Comrade Tokyo Sexwale by United States of America authorities while on a trip in that country last week. Comrade Tokyo Sexwale is a former Minister of a democratic Republic of South Africa, a decorated freedom fighter, activist and leader of our liberation movement, not a terrorist.

The very fact that the Government of America continues to view members and leaders of the African National Congress as terrorists is an affront to the global anti-apartheid movement, in which many compatriots from the United Nations including that country`s sitting President, were part of. The African National Congress toiled selflessly with the people of America, despite their government`s opposition at the time, for the liberation of the people of South Africa.

In 1966, Resolution 2202 A (XXI) of the United Nations General Assembly, labeled apartheid as a crime against humanity. Both the General Assembly and the Security Council that the United States is a member of regularly condemned apartheid. It is inconceivable therefore that today, the African National Congress and/or its members and leaders, who were at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid, are regarded as terrorists by America.

This affront on the rights and dignity of Comrade Tokyo Sexwale necessitates an unconditional apology to him and the people of South Africa from the US administration. The African National Congress further calls upon the US to remove from its terrorist profiling lists all those included because they fought against apartheid. We would have expected the United States to honour these freedom fighters of our people rather than what is being done to them now.

Issued by:
Jackson Mthembu
National Spokesperson
African National Congress

Keith Khoza: 082 823 9672
Khusela Sangoni-Khawe: 079 510 5408

Concerns Persist Over Nigerian Aviation Ministry

With Six Bulletproof Cars, Duty Waivers, Concerns Persist over Cost

31 Oct 2013
Nigerian ThisDay

•BMW could face questions under FCPA, Bribery Act
•Cars imported for sports festival were later resold

By Onwuka Nzeshi and Omololu Ogunmade

What is the actual cost to Nigerian taxpayers of the two BMW bulletproof cars and other armoured cars ordered by the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, in the face of air accidents occasioned by poor capacity and meagre resources in the nation’s airworthiness regime?

This is the question that came to the fore when the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Wednesday revealed that the two BMW bulletproof cars purportedly bought by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for Oduah were imported into the country duty free and with the approval of the Office of the National Security Adviser.

The Customs Comptroller General, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko, made these disclosures at the resumed sitting of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which is investigating the controversial transaction.

The disclosure by customs is coming on the back of new startling revelations that were made in another probe conducted by the Senate Committee on Aviation into the operations of the airline industry that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) also bought four armoured cars, two of which were for Oduah. The other two were procured for the Managing Director of FAAN, Mr. George Uresi.

Of the four cars procured by FAAN, two Lexus armoured limousines were said to have cost N60 million each, while the cost of the remaining Toyota Prado armoured cars was yet to be disclosed.

With the new information that has been brought to the fore, concerns have been expressed by customs sources over why the armoured cars, which ordinarily would have attracted 35 per cent duty, but were granted waivers, were still bought by both government agencies at such astronomical costs.

In particular, lawyers informed THISDAY yesterday that given the fact that Coscharis Group, which is the duly authorised dealer of BMW cars in Nigeria has been cited in the scandal, the German auto manufacturer could face questioning in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) that addresses accounting transparency requirements under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and another concerning bribery of foreign officials.

In 2012, Japanese firm Marubeni Corporation paid a criminal penalty of $54.6 million for FCPA violations when acting as an agent of the TKSJ joint venture, which comprised Technip S.A., Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V., Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR), and JGC Corporation.

Between 1995 and 2004, the joint venture won four contracts in Nigeria worth more than $6 billion, as a direct result of having paid $51 million to Marubeni to be used to bribe Nigerian government officials.

Also, BWM stands the risk of being investigated under the Bribery Act, a UK far-reaching legislation that covers the criminal law relating to bribery and corruption.

During the House probe yesterday, the Customs Service also informed the Aviation Committee that the armoured cars were part of a fleet of 300 cars for which the Federal Ministry of Finance granted import duty waivers in November 2012.

The comptroller general, who was represented at the public hearing by the Deputy Director, Modernisation, Research and Economic Reforms, Mr. Manaseh Jatau, said the waivers were originally granted to the Lagos State Government in respect of vehicles to be used during the 18th National Sports Festival, Eko 2012.

According to the customs, the import duty waiver was granted on the understanding that Coscharis Motors would be the importer of the vehicles. Jatau told the panel that the import duty on the 300 vehicles amounted to N10 million.

He explained that such waivers were usually for a period of one year and that the Nigeria Customs cleared the cars within the period stipulated under the law.

The financiers of the car purchase, First Bank of Nigeria, said it merely financed a car loan scheme for the management cadre of the NCAA.

Mr. Seyi Oyefeso, who gave testimony on behalf of the bank, said issues about the cost of the vehicle were a matter for the NCAA and the car vendors, Coscharis Motors.

In his testimony, Chairman of Coscharis Group, Mr. Cosmas Maduka, denied any underhand deals in the transaction, insisting that it followed due process.

In an apparent outburst of emotions, Maduka said a lot of negative things had been said about his organisation because of this transaction, which had undermined his reputation as a businessman and his organisation.

He said the insinuations that his company inflated the prices of the cars and might have been involved in money laundering were politically motivated.

He challenged those who doubted the deal to make direct enquiries to BMW in Germany which would give clarifications on the bulletproof vehicles.

Some members of the House Committee on Aviation had insisted that the vehicle were sold above the market price.

But Maduka explained that there was no fraud in the duty waiver and NSA’s clearance because Coscharis had a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the federal government on such imports for special events.

He said usually, his company would provide cars for such public events from its stock, while processing the ones for which waivers had been granted by the government.

Some committee members also raised concern about the apparent discrepancies between the particulars of the vehicles contained in the NSA’s approval letter and the particulars of the vehicles they saw at the Abuja airport when they went on oversight as part of the investigations.

The Coscharis team swore that all its cars had valid documents and was prepared to tender them before the panel.

At yesterday’s hearing, Oduah was again absent. A letter from the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr. George Ossi, said Oduah was still in transit on her way back from Israel and was expected to touch down last night.

Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said the committee would give her up till 10 am today to appear and present her own defence in the transaction.

According to Onyejeocha, the appointment will be the final given by the committee as it would not be sitting on the matter after today.

She said while nobody was under trial, the extensions already granted were to give all parties the opportunity of a fair hearing on the matter.

Meanwhile, two other agencies in the aviation sector yesterday told the Senate Aviation Committee that they were not involved in the purchase of the armoured vehicles.

This came with fresh revelations that FAAN bought 202 more vehicles, which might not have necessarily followed due process.

While appearing before the Senate committee yesterday, Director General of the Nigeria Metereological Agency (NIMET), Mr. Anthony Anuforom, and his counterpart in the Accident and Investigations Bureau (AIB), Captain Muhtar Usman, asked the committee to leave them out of the car scandals, insisting that they were not involved in the transaction.

However, Senate Committee Chairman on Aviation, Senator Hope Uzodinma, pledged that the probe of a range of scandals in the aviation sector would be thorough with a view to ensuring that the sector is salvaged from the mess in which it is currently enmeshed.

Uzodinma made this promise yesterday while formally confirming the purchase of armoured vehicles by FAAN, of which two were meant for the embattled minister.

However, Uzodinma who told journalists yesterday that Senate would get to the root of the matter, also disclosed that FAAN bought as many as 202 other cars.

“Investigation is still ongoing and it will not be fair for me to pre-empt it. FAAN did confirm that among the operational vehicles they purchased, four of them were armoured vehicles, two for the managing director and two for the minister.

“We told them to go back and put everything in writing and make a comprehensive statement on all vehicles purchased, that they bought a total number of 202 vehicles for different operations. So until they come back on Monday, we cannot rush into conclusions.

“The MD of FAAN said they did a funding arrangement with a commercial bank.
“This investigation will be a very deep one so that at the end of the day, we will take a holistic approach and look at how the sector will be repositioned so that all anomalies will be corrected,” he said.

Also yesterday, the Senate stepped down the final passage of the Social Housing Bill meant to aid the provision of mass housing for low-income earners, citing faulty procedural and legal technicalities in its proposed implementation.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Housing and Urban Development, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, while presenting the report, said its passage would offer poor Nigerians the opportunity to own houses without stress.

He also said various sources of funds from the private sector had been identified for the take-off and sustenance of the scheme.

The bill was however sent back to the housing committee for further legislation following remarks by some senators that its passage would create a legal and procedural crisis that could affect its implementation.

Creating A Level-Playing Field For Women

‘Creating A Level-playing Field Will Spur Entrepreneurship In Women’

Published: Sunday, 27 October 2013 00:00 Written by NIKE SOTADE
Nigerian Guardian

Globally, the continued lopsidedness in the opportunity equilibrium for men and women has remained a major source of worry to concerned stakeholders, particularly in Africa. In a bid to advance the global advocacy aimed at reversing this trend, Vital Voices Global Partnership, the Washington-based non-governmental organisation founded by former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton in 1997, recently held a one-day Supporting Public Advocacy for Regional Competitiveness (SPARC) in Lagos, to raise awareness and mentor women on how to increase their capacity for increased representation in economic and political participation. Celena Green, the Senior Programme Manager for Africa, Vital Voices Global Partnership spoke about the forum and other issues on CNBC Africa’s Beyond Markets, NIKE SOTADE reports.

With all the efforts that have been made to get women integrated within the economy, why are we still talking about it? Why is it still important to highlight women?

We know that for economic growth to continue, we can’t leave half of the population behind. We can’t under-utilise half of our great national resources and women are the greatest untapped resource as far as economic empowerment is concerned. There have been researches to show that countries with greater gender equalities and engagement of women in the labour force have seen as much as two to three per cent GDP growth just on the engagement of women.

So, it is usually a loss for a country not to fully engage women in the economy. We are therefore, talking about broader economy empowerment that will not just benefit participating women, but also really benefit the society as a whole.

Give the true picture without generalising because Africa comprises 54 different countries and advancement within these countries would be different; for instance, comparing Ethiopia with South Africa. Where are the worst offenders?

Across the board, there are challenges overall and there are also challenges in different levels of the economies. Those countries living with conflicts and turmoil such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia still have a long way to go in terms of basic women empowerment. But then, other countries that are further developed economically, that have more stable democratic societies such as Kenya and Nigeria where domestic violence continues to be a major problem, and issues such as women equality in the work force are just as severely hampering of their advancement in leadership and advancement in their decision-making. Also, women’s lack of control of their resources in the household is another issue.

So, there is still a long way to go even though there are shining stars in various countries where women have succeeded. What we are talking about is leveling the playing field across board so that every girl knows she has options as long as entrepreneurship, the corporate world or wherever she aspires to be are concerned; that there won’t be discriminatory or other societal barriers that will preclude her from realising her full potentials.

Is there any country that still actively prevents its women from being full participants in the economy?

There are many and varied laws everywhere. Vital Voices and a lot of other businesswomen’s associations such as Africa Businesswomen’s Network were part of a study led by the World Bank. They have on the website: women, business and the law. There is a number of laws around the world, but also specifically in the African continent where there are barriers that are directly discriminatory against women. And these range from women’s inability to have bank accounts in their names, to inherit property or start up and register a business in their names and pass on properties to their families and children.

So many of these barriers hamper women because when they need capital to expand their businesses on papers, they have no documented property or documented credit background because everything is in the man’s name. There are also many countries where even though they may have made progress in certain areas of the society but there is still a case with the specific law. Again, other countries may have beautiful law but don’t enforce it to protect women’s right to have their own capital. We are talking about ways to broaden all of this across the board.

What do we really need to do to get more women in because empowerment is a touchy subject, especially when trying to give a group of people advantage over the other; how can women get actively involved in the economy?

We are getting on with it, but we are not talking about giving women an advantage over men. For example, we are talking about equalities of opportunities and one of the ways we can do this is through first raising awareness of some of the overt as well as more subtle ways that discriminations affect women advancement. But women are taking up opportunities in the economy.

Secondly, after raising awareness, what we are really talking about is dedicating resources and holding ourselves accountable to ensure that women are taking advantage of the opportunities and are given fair chance. Some of the SPARC programmes being done around the continent in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria are looking at campaigns that promote investment in women as well as accountability and equal participation.

In Kenya for instance, we are looking to hold the government accountable for the objectives of achieving 30 per cent of government procurement from women in businesses. In Nigeria, they have a target of increasing the number of women on corporate boards, as well as leadership positions in the corporate world. In some other countries, they are advocating for increase in the utilisation and investment in women on farms as well as holding companies accountable to the target they set in gender equality in their companies. I think if we all have commitment to equality, monitor that commitment, and hold ourselves responsible for it, society will be better for all of us.

Who is responsible for taking charge of the process and tackling the problem; for how long and what resources should be allocated?

Vital Voices is a partnership organisation. We promote the use of partnership to address all societal problems and it is no different in women’s economic participation. Our partners in different countries, the business women’s associations are the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners (KABWO), Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (BASA), Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Limited (UWEAL) and Nigeria’s Women in Management, Business, and Public Service (WIMBIZ).

All of them are partnering with the private sector and governments to address these issues. It’s a public-private partnership approach, so that all stakeholders have a role to play in helping women achieve advancement in the economy and realise their potentials. And it involves raising awareness of the resources and opportunities out there with a number of businesswomen associations playing key role in the campaign. But governments also need to understand the barriers women face and then partner with business associations to see ways we can remove some of these barriers and where there are discriminations, do what we can to change it.

ASUU Strike and National Ignorance in Nigeria

Akhaine et al: ASUU strike and national ignorance

Published: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 00:00
Written by By Sylvester Akhaine, Olanrewaju Ajiboye, Surajudeen Mudasiru, Femi Edun, Tunde Fatunde, Tobi Oshodi, Shola Adabonyan, Wale Aderemi and Dele Seteolu and Bonaventure Chizea
Nigerian Guardian

IN an environment where people are accustomed to regarding the limit of their knowledge as the end of knowledge, it is important we intervene once again in the ongoing discourse on the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU). The negligent government of the day has sought to feed the public with half-truths and obvious disinformation and the bankrolling of so-called student union leaders to rant against ASUU. Two things stand out in the responses of the Federal Government. One, a reduction of the strike to one of sheer moralism: ASUU should go back to campus whether the contending issues have been met or not for the sake of our students. Please, go back. Two, what is the business of ASUU with the affairs of state universities in a supposed federal arrangement? We provide our response in what follows. The primary points at issue in the ongoing stand-off are increased funding for tertiary institutions, improved conditions of service and university autonomy. Earned allowance is just an element of the condition of service (for details see the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement). On these three principal areas, ASUU made clear recommendation on how to achieve them. For example in the area of funding, ASUU made quite useful recommendations. Apart from asking the government to allocate a minimum of 26 per cent of the annual budget (UNESCO benchmark) to education to be achieved cumulatively, ASUU went ahead to identify sources of funding. These include the Education Tax Fund to be amended to Higher Education Fund for effective rehabilitation, restoration and repositioning of tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria; Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) to be accessed and effectively utilized for research, training and development of academic staff; Patronage of University Services by the Federal and State agencies for quality consultancies on the basis of due process; attraction of Funds from Alumni Association through direct funding, endorsements, bequests, etc. and private sector contributions including voluntary agencies and philanthropic individuals. Indeed, government can goad the private sector through Tax Relief and other means, to make voluntary financial and material contributions to Nigerian universities. Also the private sector should be encouraged to engage in research collaboration with universities and commercialisation of research results. There are sundry cost-saving measures to boot.

Without ambiguity, the demands of ASUU are based on the long-term survival of the educational sector in Nigeria and to turn around a system that currently churns out half-baked graduates who cannot compete globally. Without infrastructure and fiscal commitment to the universities, the goal of producing globally competitive graduates will remain elusive. This is about realism and the future of our children and not sheer moralism. If anyone borders to reflect on the quality of human resources in the country he/she will arrive at the conclusion that the country has no quality human resources or put in other words, the country suffers deficient human resources despite the huge population. It speaks volume for the state of education in the country. This situation cannot be turned around through empty promises by public officials who have no fidelity to principles and the commitment to the people.

The rot in the education sector is real (See the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities). Only recently the NYSC Director affirmed what we know. He said 89 per cent of the mobilised corps members cannot communicate in English. This does not rankle any sensibility in government circles. President Obama, smarting from the shutdown of his government by the U.S. Congress, reinstated what the United States uses its money for. He listed education, infrastructure and research. In reality these translate into education and infrastructure. No country that wants to survive the 21st Century will take its education lightly. This is far beyond the thinking of the warped state elite running Nigeria aground and who rake off the coffers about 25 per cent of government expenditure.

On the federalism question, federalism does not mean mutual antagonisms, federalism allows for national cooperation on suprastate matters, such as national standard for education, collective bargaining for minimum working conditions for workers in whatever sector in the country and that becomes the point of departure for the federating states. In the context of the prevailing quasi federalism in the country today, there is the National Universities Commission (NUC) that regulates state, federal and private universities in the country; there is the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and National Youth Service Scheme (NYSC) for all graduates from Nigerian universities. Do these negate the federal principle or help the goal of nation building? In the 2009 agreement, we agreed that the Federal Government should, “as appropriate, provide general assistance both to the State Governments that are proprietors of universities and those that do not own universities but need assistance in the area of higher education, as allowed by the Nigerian Constitution (Section 164.1)”.

Our country is a rentier-state without indigenous capital where the local capitalists build their capital base through sheer looting of state resources. Being at the forefront of tertiary education provisioning, it is incumbent on ASUU to hold the state accountable to adequate educational funding especially in a polity awash with resources that are recklessly and routinely squandered e.g. to procure armoured vehicles for officials and celebrate colonial subjugation.

The eminent voices calling on ASUU to return to work, must ‘conscientiously’ ponder three truths: 1) It is the federal government that has the wherewithal to immediately resolve the ongoing impasse and can do so if it really cares for the ‘students’, their ‘parents’ and the ‘nation’ they have touted. The House of Representatives has already expressed its willingness to provide supplementary appropriation towards this. 2) This is a government that is notoriously perfidious; if it has not kept the 2009 agreements which it signed, there is no basis for suggesting it will honour future agreements even if it agrees to it. 3) A call for return to work is a clear endorsement that the educational system be left intact, until its imminent demise, when that happens, memories become short and Nigerians will lampoon ASUU.

A final food for thought for Nigerians, how much financial seepage to foreign countries do we incur due to educational rot? A particular British University has over 400 Nigerian students who pay between £10,000 to £16,500 tuition per session, home students pay on the average less than 67 per cent of this and are further subsidized. This sum is not inclusive of exorbitant accommodation and living costs. Nigerians must choose what they want.

• The subscribers to this article are academic staff in Lagos State University and Ambrose Alli University.

ASUU Intensifies Public Enlightenment Campaign Over Strike

ASUU intensifies public enlightenment campaign over strike

Published: Tuesday, 29 October 2013 21:59 Written by From Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia) and Abba Anwar (Kano)
Nigerian Guardian

Abia students give seven-day ultimatum to end industrial action

THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has increased its public enlightenment campaign strategy to sensitise the various segments of the Nigerian society on its demand from the Federal Government.

ASUU’s strategy was to educate and inform members of the public and the other sectors of the economy on the details, key points and the need by government to respect an agreement reached between it and the government in 2009.

ASUU’s acting Branch chairman of the Kano State University of Science and Technology, Wudil, (KUST), Dr. Audu Yaro said during the branch’s public enlightenment campaign rally at the university campus, yesterday that it was a blatant lie to say Nigerian economy would be shut down if ASUU’s demands were implemented.

“We are not taking any promises from government any more. We have seen what happened to primary education and secondary education. We will not allow a similar thing to apply to university education. That will be over our dead bodies. What the government is doing is a deliberate attempt to thwart and kill our universities”, he said.

He regretted that children were at home not because ASUU wanted them to be at home, but rather, it was because government wanted children to remain at home. He informed the audience that government was not ready to do anything regarding the recommendations of the NEEDS Committee established by the government, in trying to see how agreements could be implemented.

The purpose of this public enlightenment campaign, according to the chairman was to sensitise all stakeholders in the education sector on the ongoing strike action embarked by university lecturers. “We are doing this to tell the truth of the matter as far as this strike action is concerned. We are seeing some disgruntled elements using some divisive tendencies to distort the fact about the strike action,” he disclosed.

Yaro revealed that ASUU had written close to100 letters to the Federal Government reminding it of the need to respect agreements reached with it but to no avail, adding that lecturers’ concern was not that of salary increase as being insinuated by some elements, but rather the decay in the education sector as a whole.

Student’s bodies were involved in the public campaign, where Umar Shehu Umar, past President of KUST said students were in support of the strike action, especially because the declining standard of university education needs to be redressed.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone B (Umuahia) yesterday issued a seven-day ultimatum to ASUU to call off the action it started since July 2013, failing which it would declare what it called ‘Aluta Confrontation’.

Zone’s Financial Secretary, Comrade Eluwa Miracle, addressing journalists in Umuahia, Abia State capital, said students by their long stay at home during the prevailing strike, instead of being in their campuses studying have resorted into various vices.

NANS, he said, is now of the opinion that the ASUU strike was for selfish desires and politically-motivated.

“NANS Abia State chapter condemns in strong terms the lingering nationwide strike embarked upon by ASUU. The timing is not only wrong but detrimental to the security and economic situation of the country”.

Human Rights Working Group Makes Statement on Death of Somalian Journalist

Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)

Somalia: Press Release By the Human Rights Working Group On the Assassination of Universal Reporter and Closure of Shabelle

29 OCTOBER 2013

The Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), a group of international partners comprising the European Union, Norway, Switzerland and the United States, sharply condemns the assassination of Universal TV reporter Mohamed Mohamud Tima'adde, who succumbed to his injuries on the evening of 26 October. The HRWG expresses its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mohamed Mohamud Tima'adde.

The HRWG is also concerned about the forced closure of the Radio Shabelle outlet in Mogadishu by government's forces, and the arrest of Radio Shabelle staff and reporters. A free, independent, and vibrant press is indispensable to any democratic society.

The HRWG urges the parties to find a peaceful solution and calls on the Federal Government of Somalia to allow all journalists to work without fear of censorship or being subject to intimidation. Fundamental rights and freedoms warrant protection - including the freedom of expression and of the press.

The HRWG notes with regret that these series of targeted attacks and harassment against journalists highlight the continuing threat to media workers . The HRWG calls upon the Federal Government of Somalia to take immediate action to improve the protection of media workers; to operationalise the announced Task Force on the Investigation of the Killings of Journalists; and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.


The European Union and its Member States established a Human Rights Working Group on Somalia (HRWG) in December 2011, together with Norway, Switzerland and the United States. Respect for and promotion of human rights is at the foundation of the participating members of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), and an inherent part of their development policies.

Somalia Intelligence Involved in United States Drone Attack

Garowe Online (Garowe)

Somalia Intelligence Involved in U.S. Drone Attack - Official

29 OCTOBER 2013

Mogadishu — Federal Government of Somalia's Minister of Interior and National Security Abdikarin Hussein Guled has declared that Somali intelligence officials coordinated the US military drone strike that killed a senior Al Shabaab bomb specialist near the southern Somalia town of Jilib with the US government on Tuesday, Garowe Online reports.

Guled said "following concrete evidences and full intelligence reports" provided by inside sources and the Somali government Ibrahim Ali Abdi (Anta Anta) was killed along with his friend Abu Ali, adding that Al Shabaab officials couldn't escape from such operations.

"After intelligence reports, Anta Anta and Abu Ali were killed and how the attack was coordinated shows that terrorist leaders wouldn't escape from the justice," Interior Minister said while he was speaking to the government radio in Mogadishu.

Continuing, he said that the targeted Al Shabaab commander was the mastermind of suicide bombings which claimed at killed many lives in Somalia.

Eyewitnesses who arrived at the site of the strike in Dhaytubako Village near Middle Juba region's most populous town of Jilib, about 112 km north of Kismayo-former Al Shabaab stronghold and the Jubaland administration's capital city- told the Somali media that Al Shabaab commanders' luxurious vehicle was leveled to the ground by the missile.

Somalia's Al Qaeda linked Al Shabaab group is yet to comment on the incident which has come weeks after US navy seals carried out a pre-dawn and sea-launched attack in the southern coastal town of Barawe.

Al Shabaab is still active in southern Somalia where the country's weak central government wants to exert credible authority.

Keeping Remittances to Somalia Flowing

Keeping remittances to Somalia flowing

Campaigners want Barclays to back down

LONDON, 30 October 2013 (IRIN) - Never has the UK’s Somali community taken so much interest in a court case. Dahabshiil Holdings Ltd, by far the biggest company remitting money from the UK to Somalia, has taken Barclays to court to try to prevent the bank closing down its account, without which the company says it cannot legally continue to operate. Other remittance companies have already had their accounts closed, because of what banks say are security concerns about money laundering and terrorism.

Faced with this threat to the system by which they support their families back home, the community has mobilized on an impressive scale. And they have got the government involved. Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, who has many Somali constituents, had been one of those leading the campaign.

She told a recent public meeting on the issue: “Everyone understands that banks are under pressure from US regulators, but what we are asking is not unreasonable - simply that there should be a proper, safe way of getting money to loved ones around the world… But let me tell you, the UK government would not have taken an interest in this issue if you hadn’t exercised your political muscle.”

The protesters have lobbied Barclays Bank on a fleet of bicycles, handed a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to the prime minister’s office, and persuaded one of Britain’s best known sportsman to be the face of their campaign. Double Olympic gold medal winner Mo Farah comes from a Somali family, and says he too uses the money transfer services to help support his relatives. “Of course he does,” campaigner Sulekha Hassan told IRIN. “Any Somali who says they don’t use these services is lying.”

Barrage of indignation

The barrage of indignation, not just from the Somali community, but also aid agencies like Oxfam who use money transfer operations to fund their activities in Somalia, may have startled the government into paying attention, but Barclays, which was the last major British bank still willing to hold accounts for the money transfer services, has stuck by its decision.

Tom Keatinge, a former banker who worked on a government study of the issue, says it all goes back to the attack on the World Trade Centre.

“The amount of compliance work we had to do went through the roof. I counted up the number of terrorism finance and money laundering trainings I had to do over my last 18 months, and it was 15. We were told all the time, ‘Avoid any business that involves cash transfers. Avoid any business that involves third party involvement - in this case money going via Dubai to somewhere else.’… What’s happening now is collateral damage from a regulatory environment which has gone way out of control since 9/11.”

Keatinge told IRIN that banks like Barclays are not so worried about falling foul of British regulation; this is all about the United States. “I think if you look at the dominant pressure that global banks feel, that pressure is from the US. And access to the US market, the dollar market, is the lifeblood of many banks. So from that you can deduce that while the UK regulator is important, the existential regulator is the US.”

The irony - not lost on the government - is that the demise of large, visible, regulated companies like Dahabshiil will only result in money going through less visible channels.

Oxfam’s Ed Pomfret says it does not make sense to say you want more control and transparency, while closing down the only regulated channel. “The only result will be more money moving in suitcases.”

Procedures being tightened

The response from the industry and the British government has been to try to tighten procedures to allay the banks’ fears. The money transfer companies in the UK already go beyond legal requirements and demand proof of identity from everyone sending money, even small sums. They say they will do whatever is necessary to comply.

Meanwhile, the government has set up an action group involving all concerned government departments. These have been given a work plan which will include the Treasury increasing its supervision of the companies and working with them on training and improving their skills. The National Crime Agency will share threat assessments with banks entering the money transfer market and provide them with alerts on risks within the sector. And the Department for International Development, DFID, is to work on setting up a “safe corridor” pilot for Somalia, along the lines of a system already working for Pakistan, which will track payments right through, from sending, through clearing to eventually receiving the money.

But to get this in place is going to take around a year. How will people be able to send money meantime? Well, having their own bank account is only a legal requirement for the larger money transfer companies, those handling more than three million euros a month (just over US$4 million) - which between Britain and Somalia at the moment is only Dahabshiil. Smaller companies are allowed to process their transfers through a “wholesale” Money Service Business - as long as these MSBs remain willing to work with them. But the Somali Money Services Association, SOMSA, warns that these cash processing companies are also starting to come under pressure from their own banks to stop handling transfers to Somalia.

Aid agency payments - OK

NGOs should be all right, because Dahabshiil says it has found a small UK bank willing to handle aid agency and corporate payments. And one company will be able to continue operating because it does not deal with cash or rely on banks, but instead sends money to mobile phones, using the international telecoms infrastructure. But this at the moment is only practical in Somaliland, where mobile cash transfers are already commonplace.

The bigger unresolved question is whether, even when a safe corridor has been built and all the new safeguards are in place, the banks will be willing to get back into what is, after all, only a modestly profitable business. What if they still refuse to reopen the accounts? “They could still do that,” the chairman of SOMSA, Abdi Abdullahi, told IRIN. “And it’s very likely. We’ve been asking then what we should do. We are ready to do anything that is do-able, but they won’t give us any criteria.”

Barclays responds

Responding to a petition, Barlcays said it “remains committed to responsibly supporting the remittance industry and we recognise the benefit that money transfer firms provide to local communities around the world. We are happy to continue to serve companies who, in our opinion, have sufficiently strong anti-financial crime controls and meet our eligibility criteria.”

In a separate public statement the bank said:

“In recent months we have had to take some difficult decisions around money transfer businesses. We understand and appreciate the important role these businesses play in helping people to transfer money around the world, in some cases to places where there is great need of financial support. However Barclays has an obligation to operate within the rules and regulations set by governments and regulators in the countries in which we do business. Failure to do so would result in Barclays being prosecuted by regulators around the world and potentially fined many hundreds or potentially billions of pounds.

“Money transfer businesses are a particular focus for regulators given the risk of them being used for money laundering or funding terrorism. We deeply regret that any client has to look for alternative banking arrangements, however Barclays’ stakeholders rightly expect us to do our best to uphold the law and the regulations.”

So what then? There is the interesting precedent of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a company which uses animals for pharmaceutical testing. When, in 2001, it became “unbankable” because of pressure from animal rights campaigners, the Bank of England - which is not normally a retail bank - provided banking facilities to prevent it going out of business. Abdi Abdullahi says SOMSA has asked the government to facilitate the temporary provision of banking services, either with the Bank of England or with the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is currently 80 percent government owned. But so far, he says, the government has not responded.

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire.