Election 2019: ”A Fight Between Good and Evil”

In a recent remark, the Vice President and Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was quoted as having said that the spate of crossovers from one party to the other which is threatening the very fabric of democracy in the body politic is “a fight between good and evil.”

That, in our considered opinion, is putting it very succinctly. However, at the very root of what should be considered acceptably good or bad depends on the lens from which one is said to be observing the happenings which have held us spell-bound for months on end, not just within the few weeks during which the esteemed Senators deemed it inevitable that they were in conscience and duty bound to leave the APC, and return to the PDP which they left to amalgamate with others to oust the PDP from the Presidency. 

Any observer of the political landscape must recall that in the late months of 2014 and the months to the run-up to the 2015 elections which ushered President Buhari to power, Nigeria was practically made ungovernable by a conglomeration of forces such as: the unending fuel scarcity; the escalation of attacks and killings by Boko Haram; and the onset of the mayhem unleashed on the non Hausa-Fulani States in the Middle Belt, North-East; South-West; South-East and South-South zones by the Fulani militia, generally known as Fulani Herdsmen.

In hindsight, most observers believe that those events were politically motivated with a view to turning the tide against the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan and ensuring a shoo-in for Mohammadu Buhari.  The further marriage of the Hausa-Fulani north and the Yoruba West on one hand, and the Mosque and Penticostal Christianity on the other by the Buhari and Tinubu engineered coup of nominating Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as Buhari’s running mate ensured that the unbending retired army general secured the Presidency.

However, like someone remarked lately, it was asking for too much for a general who retired thirty years back to correct all the ills of the economy which the incumbent Phd holder  found formidable when he, in all those thirty years: didn’t start a company; didn’t sit on the board of any established organisation; didn’t write a book on either his command in the armed forces, or his brief Head of Stateship; and never gave any public lectures.

In the three plus years of his incumbency, Buhari’s Presidency has been known mostly for six things: its oft-touted anti-corruption stance; its selective hounding of “the corrupt”; the reintegration of Boko Haram militants into the society as rehabilitated; its obsession with creating Grazing Reserves in every state of the Federation; and the unabated killings and destruction of properties in the non Hausa-Fulani States. Not to be forgotten is the venom with which President Buhari, who did nothing about the Fulani militia’s terror on law abiding Nigerian citizens, descended on IPOB on his return to the country after his 100 plus days health vacation in the UK via his appropriately named “operation python dance.”

With the turn of the year, the Fulani terror increased a huge notch; while the Federal government insisted on seeing the problem as “farmers and herders” clashes, those affected in the North-Eastern, Benue, Plateau, and the Southern States insisted that these were terror attacks instigated by the AK 4O-wielding Fulani militia.

The hallmarks of such attacks were, a) the invasion of farms by the herdsmen who chop into bits and pieces yam, potato and cassava tubers and other cash crops which they feed their cattle, followed by the unleashing of terror with bullets and matchetes on any group of farmowners who raise any form of objection over the liberality with which the Fulani herdsmen treated their means of livelihood; b) that initial skirmish often leads to the fight being taken by the herdsmen to the nearest villages, resulting in destruction of lives and property; c) the ensuing pogrom often left in its wake men, women, children and the very elderly with heads, chests, stomachs, backs and limbs

split open or completely hacked off with matchetes, belying the notion of clashes between such murderous cattle hérders and farmers, as children cannot by any dint of the imagination be numbered amongst farmers.

That prominent people like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was compelled to write his famous open letter to the President expressing his distaste over his perception of how Buhari had governed the country is now history. On his part, General TY Danjuma in a lecture had opined that the military was aiding and abetting the killer herdsmen, and therefore advised the besieged Nigerians to defend themselves.

Almost immediately after Danjuma’s lecture, the Fulani militia unleashed fresh terror on Benue and Plateau States. Meanwhile, in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, discussions on the daily killings had become perfunctory; Senators Marafa, Ben Bruce-Murray, Dino Milaye and a host of others shouted themselves hoarse over the fact that in spite of the daily slaughter and the then usual expressions of condemnation, the executive arm of government basically did nothing.

Outside the hallowed chambers of the Nigerian Senate, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a minister of Aviation in the Jonathan administration shouted and condemned the atrocities committed by the herdsmen on Nigerian citizens, all to no avail. The Senate President, a fellow Fulani as the President and murdering herdsmen, was compelled, at that stage, to wade into the issue. 

He insisted on the Inspector General of Police submitting to the Senate, the statistcs of the killings in Benue and Plateau States by Fulani herdsmen during a month’s period. The chilling verdict was close to one thousand. Senator Saraki released the said report to the public and all hell broke loose.

Prior to that development, there was what was characterized as a bank robbery at Offa in Kwara State during which over thirty persons were killed. Police reports indicated that the mastermind behind the robbery were men who were in Senator Saraki’s employ, and that one of the vehicles had a SARAKI plate number. In essence, the Police concluded, Senator Saraki had a case to answer.

Then began a daily siege by the Police to arrest Saraki. When this seemingly failed, attempts were made, as some Senators claimed, by the Presidency to impeach Saraki. It was in the bid to thwart that move and express their anger that the now famous defections commenced.

There have been few cross-carpeting from the PDP to the APC – negligible by comparison – the most prominent being Senator Godswill Akpabio, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State.

Of note in all these are, firstly, the claim of … the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State Assembly who stated that he was offered N2 bn by the Presidency to abandon PDP for APC. What does that say of the claims and posturing of the Buhari administration to anti-corruption? Secondly, the fact that in the house of the recently dismissed Director General of the Department of State Security, Mohammed Daura were found: N21 billion; stacks of Voter cards PVCs; and hoards of arms and ammunition paints a picture of what the ruling party is planning ahead for the February 2019 scheduled elections. 

Furthermore, the fact that the same Daura was the one who posted hooded security personnel to prevent the President of the Senate from attending the session of the Senate during which he would have been impeached speaks volumes about APC’s respect for other constituted authorities, and its respect for the rule of law. Lastly, the way and manner in which the Presidency and the entire force of the APC invaded Ekiti State, and the ensuing intimidation and the ultimate election of Fayemi, the APC candidate paints a picture of what Nigerians should expect in 2019.

Given all these, we would love to echo the Vice President’s assertion that the 2019 elections would be one between good and evil. There have been so much evil in the land that it cannot be otherwise. In closing, we crave the reader’s indulgence to outline the issues that would be relevant in determining which party has consistently been on the side of good, and on the side of evil.

Although there is a plethora of reasons relevant to determining which of the contending parties has sided with either good or bad, we shall, for the purposes of this discourse limit ourselves to five, viz, Governance, Anti-corruption, Security, the Grazing Bill, and the Economy. 

Let us now have a cursory look at the foregoing issues:

  1. Governance

From the very onset after candidate Buhari became the President Elect after an election in which children were not only allowed to register as potential voters, but actually voted in the north, Buhari who avoided debating the issues, said nothing beyond the litany of promises belted out during the electioneering period. Nigerians became aware that we were headed for trouble when forming the Federal Cabinet took all of a whole year. This meant that for most of that twelve month period, President Buhari ran Corporate Nigeria alone, with the assistance of Civil Servants.

  1. Anti-Corruption. Most Nigerians, three years into the Buhari administration, can’t point at anything positive that has impacted their lives for good through the APC government. The only thing the Buhari government has been consistent at is shouting ”anti-corruption”. On his return from his oft-repeated health vacations, he has resolved to jail all looters. We only hope that this time, in his bid to impress his would-be voters in 2019, he would prosecute all looters, beginning with the looting that has gone on in Aso Rock by way of very bogus budget provisions, and the looters of Federal and State economies in the APC.

The only other thing the Buhari Administration has done consistently is her desire to impose its Cattle Grazing Policy on the rest of Nigeria. It seeks to have large expanses of land cut out and reserved for grazing of cattle in every State of the federation. At the rate of 10,000 hectares of land in every State, it would amount to reserving one third of the entire land area for cattle rearing which doesn’t bring in one dollar to the GDP. Moreover, the Buhari government has earmarked N198 billion from Oil Revenue to which not one square meter of land has been allocated for the building of cattle rearing facilities for the Fulani. When confronted over these outrageous provisions, the President was reported to have retorted that it was better to give up land than to be dead.

  1. Security

As most Nigerians now know through personal experience, the state of insecurity has never been as bad as it has been in recent times. Candidate Buhari promised to end the Boko Haram terror months into his administration. Three years into Buhari’s term, the only certainties we know are: first, Boko Haram is still alive and well; it is still abducting and killing Nigerians; the government is still paying ransom money to Boko Haram; captured members of Boko Haram, who should be serving time in jail are being released back into society as rehabilitated; and by the reckoning of the UN, Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen have collectively butchered 26,000 Nigerians.

With the inception of the Buhari Administration, the state of insecurity became worse with the influx of the Fulari from every conceivable place in West Africa. Early this year, Senator Marafa of Zamfara remarked that there were strangers all over Zamfara State. The same thing applies to most states of the Federation. It would seem that there is a preparation of sort to force people to vote in a certain direction in 2019, or be slaughtered the way Fulani Herdsmen are doing right now unchecked.

  1. The Grazing Reserve

Along with the inexplicable influx of the Fulani into Nigeria, the spate of killings increased in the North Eastern zone, the Middle Belt zone, especially Benue and Plateau States, and the Southern States. With the inception of the year, the killings increased to the extent the Senate summoned the Inspector General of Police who supplied the Senate damning evidence on the statistics of the number of Nigerians being butchered on a daily basis. There’s no other way to see things than from the viewpoint that the herdsmen were positioning themselves for their grazing reserve.

  1. The Economy

The Nigerian economy is still in the doldrums. The economy has gone from bad to worse on a yearly basis. Recent reports have it that within the three-year period it has been in power, the APC government has increased the Debt burden to N23 trillion. The unemployment rate has been on the increase, and the Abacha loot which return the previous administration discovered and negotiated to have repatriated, the Buhari Administration has resolved to share to the poor in an unverifiable manner, instead of being used to reduce the domestic debt burden.

Finally, no one knows what spin the Federal government would put on the N21 billion cash, 400 assorted and sophisticated small arms and thousands of PVCs belonging to Niger Republic immigrants found in the house of the ”sacked” DSS boss, Alh. Daura.

Given the foregoing, it seems which party is on the side of GOOD, and which is on the side of EVIL. If there is still a God in Heaven, like we believe, then the issue of which party would win is obvious.

May God save Nigeria from evil.

Gabby Ogbechie

Follow me on @GabbyOgbechie1

Turkey Currency Crisis 2018: How Long Can Erdogan Maintain Grip on Power Amid Economic Meltdown?

Turkey Currency Crisis 2018: How Long Can Erdogan Maintain Grip on Power Amid Economic Meltdown?







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Turkey’s economic woes didn’t begin with a tweet from President Donald Trump, but they certainly didn’t improve after the Republican leader lashed out against his erstwhile ally via social media earlier this month.

The Turkish lira has been steadily losing value over the past year, and it crashed precipitously after Trump sanctioned the country’s justice and interior ministers and announced plans to impose tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. As previously solid geopolitical alliances began to wobble, investors grew frightened. Today, inflation is hovering at around 16 percent, and consumers are seeing the value of their money decrease and the cost of food rise.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintains an unyielding opposition to raising interest rates. In May, as investors began worrying about high inflation and a crashing lira, Erdogan called low-interest rates the “mother and father of all evil.” Even as the value of the lira reached an all-time low this week, Erdogan continued to pressure the Turkish Central Bank not to raise rates, banking on the idea that cheap credit would continue to fuel the economy.

In many countries, a similar economic scenario could lead to social unrest and perhaps the downfall of the government. But Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently won a resounding victory in both presidential and parliamentary elections, making it nearly impossible to oust him. And despite the hardship, the strongman leader has effectively manipulated nationalist sentiment to maintain a solid base of support. Still, experts say that something will have to change or Turkey could end up asking the international community to dig it out of an economic hole.

“There is concern among investors because short-term rollover is two and half times the federal reserves. The underlying case for Turkey’s economic growth model—borrow cheaply and invest in high growth at home—is getting more and more expensive,” Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told Newsweek. “If the current situation doesn’t stabilize, if there isn’t some economic reform and interest rate hikes, we will see rising defaults and a potentially negative spiral. I don’t think it’ll be enough for them to go to the Qataris and ask for more money. At that point, all roads lead to the IMF [International Monetary Fund].”

1016055080-594x594 People exchange money at a currency exchange office in Istanbul on August 13. The lira hit another record low overnight, forcing Turkey’s Central Bank to act to curb its collapse, but the action was not enough to subdue investors’ fears about the country’s financial crisis. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Analysts say Turkey’s economy has been overheating since last year, as demand outpaced productivity and spurred inflation. The country spends more on imported goods than it sells abroad, and it has one of the largest current account trade deficits of the world’s emerging markets today. Much of the country’s imports are financed with foreign debt.

A large current account deficit isn’t automatically catastrophic if foreign funds continue to finance investment at home. But it makes the economy more vulnerable to global shifts and could be a recipe for disaster at a time when interest rates are rising worldwide, economists say.

“A sudden stop to capital flows that has haunted Turkey’s economic outlook for months is finally upon us. The mind-boggling 18% fall in the TRY on 10 August has exposed Turkey to a full-blown currency crisis whose trigger has been as much political as economic,” read an Oxford Economic report published in August.

The Turkish government itself has one of the world’s lowest levels of sovereign debt, but the situation is dire for the country’s corporations. Much of the country’s private sector, including growing construction and real estate businesses that have boosted employment, has borrowed in foreign currency, accepting loans in euros and dollars despite earning in lira. With the value of the lira crashing, their debts are harder to repay.

1016066308-594x594 Turkish lira in Istanbul, August 13. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Experts say Turkey will need to act quickly in order to prevent the companies from defaulting on their loans. The country needs around $200 billion in financing for the year, amounting to a full 25 percent of gross domestic product, according to estimates.

“They have been able to attract more than $50 billion of capital inflows this year, but this isn’t sufficient to offset their needs. They have $80 billion in reserves, which is quite low compared to what they need. Weaker lira means higher debt,” Hung Tran, executive managing director of the Institute of International Finance, told Newsweek. “Time is of the essence. Both inflation and current account deficits will need to be adjusted.”

Turkey’s now tense relationship with some NATO allies is only exacerbating the problems by damaging investor confidence. Ankara and Washington have a relatively insignificant economic relationship, and Trump’s sanctions and tariffs will do little damage in real economic terms. But the deteriorating relationship has an outsized impact on investor confidence. Erdogan has turned to other allies for support, and Qatar pledged $15 billion in foreign direct investment this week. Notwithstanding, even if this boosts investor confidence in the short term, that amount alone will be unable to fix Turkey’s myriad problems.

What’s more, the government has some liability thanks to a credit guarantee fund it used to boost growth. Erdogan raised the guarantee in the lead-up to elections in June.

“There is a bit of overlap between corporate and government debt. A lot of the corporate debt is subject to a government guarantee, so the government has to pay if a corporation defaults,” Kirkegaard told Newsweek. “The Central Bank says there’s $130 billion in corporate debt, short-term rollover in the next 12 months. The number of corporations taking advantage of the government guarantee has been rising.”

Some warned that a recession might be imminent. “Turks have learnt from previous crises and made sure the Turkish banks have a lot of equity, but this equity can melt away pretty quickly if Turkey goes into deep recession and the corporates cannot pay back their foreign exchange loans,” Carsten Hesse, a European economist at the investment company Berenberg, told Newsweek. “I think the population is more angry about the consequences of inflation, which means it’s going to get a lot more expensive to get credit and will lead to a recession.”

Despite all this, many expect that Erdogan will hold out until the last possible minute to implement reforms. Currently, a U.S. dollar is equivalent to between 6 and 7 Turkish lire, and experts say corporate defaults could be avoided if the currency corrects to around 4.5 lire per dollar. In the meantime, Erdogan can always blame foreign influence for the country’s economic woes, experts noted.

“Are we close to a social breaking point? I would say we should be, but Erdogan is still winning elections. If we’re suddenly talking 20 to 25 percent of inflation, though, that’s a different world, at least politically,” Kirkegaard said.

“But his nationalist rhetoric is seemingly working. And President Trump gave him a huge political gift with his tweet, because he can blame it on Trump,” he added. “He’ll spin it and say they’re victims of Western financial imperialism, so it won’t hurt him that much.”

Pronita Naidu contributed to this article. 

Mueller Says Papadopoulos Hurt Investigation

The special counsel recommends incarceration for the former Trump campaign adviser

Special counsel Robert Mueller recommended incarceration for George Papadopoulos, above, a former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Special counsel Robert Mueller recommended incarceration for George Papadopoulos, above, a former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Ex-Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos wasn’t helpful to the special counsel’s investigation, hurt investigators’ efforts to detain a Russian intermediary and should face at least one month in prison, special counsel Robert Mueller said in a filing late Friday.

Mr. Papadopoulos’s meetings with a Russian conduit, a professor in London who told him about Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, led to the launch of the U.S. counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October 2017 to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with the professor, who had close ties to the Kremlin and claimed that Russian officials could provide the Trump campaign with “thousands of emails” harmful to Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Mr. Papadopoulos couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. His wife has made media appearances in recent months asking President Donald Trump to pardon him.

His lawyer couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

In the Friday filing, Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors said Mr. Papadopoulos’s lies hurt investigators’ ability to “effectively question” the professor, Joseph Mifsud, who has been previously described as an honorary director of the London Academy of Diplomacy.

Mr. Papadopoulos admitted he lied about the timing of his meeting with Mr. Mifsud and played down his own assessment of Mr. Mifsud’s connections to high-ranking Russian officials, according to documents filed in connection with Mr. Papadopoulos’s plea agreement.

Mr. Mifsud, who told a British newspaper last year that he “had a clear conscience” and denied wrongdoing, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The filing said the FBI located the professor in Washington soon after Mr. Papadopoulos’s January 2017 interview with FBI agents, but didn’t detain or challenge the professor before he left the country on February 11, 2017, because Mr. Papadopoulos had lied to the FBI about him.

“The defendant lied…early in the investigation, when key investigative decisions, including who to interview and when, were being made,” prosecutors said in the filing.

An FBI agent told him at the voluntary interview: “The only thing, we don’t want dis-information” because that would “make…our job a lot harder,” Mr. Mueller’s office said.

“The defendant acknowledged the agents’ admonitions. He thereafter deliberately and repeatedly lied,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to investigators, a crime that usually results in a sentence of between zero and six months. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 7. The special counsel’s office said it wouldn’t ask for a specific sentence but said some incarceration was warranted and referenced a similar case in which the defendant was imprisoned for one month.

Prosecutors said specifically that Mr. Papadopoulos wasn’t helpful to investigators. Such cooperation can often lead to reduced sentences.

“The defendant did not provide ‘substantial assistance,’ and much of the information provided by the defendant came only after the government confronted him with his own emails, text messages, internet search history, and other information,” Mr. Mueller’s team said.

Prosecutors said that while they didn’t know for sure why Mr. Papadopoulos lied to investigators, “the record shows” that he was “attempting to secure a job with the Trump Administration” at the time of the interview and “had an incentive to protect the Administration and minimize his own role as a witness.”

They cite communications Mr. Papadopoulos had in which he sought to obtain a position with the National Security Council, the State Department or the Energy Department.

Write to Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com


Laser Beam Attacks Bedevil U.S. Military Pilots in Mideast

Lasing is a growing and dangerous problem, officials say

In this image from the U.S. Department of Defense, C-130 pilots prepare to land at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in March.
In this image from the U.S. Department of Defense, C-130 pilots prepare to land at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in March. PHOTO: PETTY OFFICER 1ST CLASS DOMINIQUE A. PINEIRO/U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

WASHINGTON—Hostile forces in the Middle East are targeting American pilots with laser pointers at a growing rate, imperiling aircrews and reflecting a problem more widespread and longstanding than the Pentagon has previously acknowledged.

American pilots operating in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the three most prominent conflict zones for American troops, experienced most of the more than 350 lasing incidents reported over the last seven months by aircrews operating across the Middle East, officials at U.S. Air Forces Central Command in Qatar said.

That is a significant increase from the approximately 400 lasing incidents reported for the region during all of 2017, according to officials, and marks an upswing after a decline in recent years.

Lasing attacks appear to be an easy way for enemy combatants to harass and try to distract military pilots, both in planes and helicopters.

The rate of lasing incidents so far this year is on track to top the roughly 600 incidents reported in 2016 and match 2015, when there were a total of about 700 incidents in the Middle East, according to officials. The numbers of lasing incidents had not been previously disclosed.

The Pentagon earlier this year acknowledged a spate of attacks in two other regions. Several incidents occurred in and around an American base in Djibouti in east Africa, where laser beams appeared to come from a nearby Chinese base. A handful of incidents took place in the East China Sea, where U.S. pilots were hit by laser beams that may have come from Chinese personnel or from fishermen operating in the area, according to U.S. military officials. China has denied involvement in the incidents.

Those incidents accounted for comparatively fewer attacks than in the Middle East. The number of incidents may be related to the frequency of U.S. military aircraft operations, officials said. Flight operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and against the Taliban in Afghanistan have grown more intense in recent years.

Hostile forces typically point small, hand-held lasers at pilots in flight, especially during landings when they are most visible from the ground, in an attempt to distract them, officials said. Such lasing could result in an accident, though officials said there haven’t been any mishaps as a result of lasing. It is unknown how coordinated or organized the attacks are: officials declined to discuss specific details about the perpetrators.

The attacks against military crews have resulted in minor injuries, including short-term vision impairment and headaches, military officials said. Officials said they were not aware of any permanent injuries resulting from the attacks, most of which occurred near major population centers or military air bases in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

“Lasing attacks are dangerous and have the potential to confuse, temporarily interfere with the vision of our aircrew, or to permanently damage the eyesight of our service members,” said Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, in an email. Central Command is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

In many cases, American aircrews take off and land aircraft in places that aren’t accessible to enemy forces, but lasers are a relatively cheap and available weapon used to harass aircrews from afar, even thousands of feet away, officials said.

“It is exceedingly difficult to pinpoint the origin of a short laser engagement, so we can’t definitively source most laser attacks,” Capt. Urban said. “We assess that many likely come from insurgents and terrorist organizations like [Islamic State], al Qaeda and others.”

Lasing attacks have long been a nuisance for commercial pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports thousands of lasing incidents each year, which can range from individuals using small “cat lasers,” or in some cases, more powerful “military grade” lasers.

The FAA reported more than 2,800 lasing incidents in the first six months of 2018, about on par with the more than 2,700 reported incidents between January and June 2017.

Since 2004, there have been at least 55,000 lasing incidents reported by civilian pilots including in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and Canada, said Patrick Murphy, a laser expert and editor of laserpointersafety.com, an educational site that tracks the misuse of consumer-type lasers.

Of those, he said, “there are no documented or proven cases of permanent case of eye injury,” Mr. Murphy said.

But aiming lasers at pilots raises a number of concerns, including “flash blindness,” which can be produced by a small, hand-held laser as far away as a mile, Mr. Murphy said. Lasers can also cause pilots to experience vision-blocking glare up to 5 miles away, he said. The bigger worry is about distraction, targeting an aircrew as it attempts to land a plane.

Laser pointers range widely in power and capability. They include “cat lasers,” marketed primarily for digital presentations and playing with pets, which nonetheless can be used as a visual distraction up to 2 miles away. Larger hand-held lasers, known as “class four” devices, are more powerful and are capable of causing eye damage or even skin burns if used at very close range.

The most damaging laser pointers are green, because the eye sees the color green as the brightest, Mr. Murphy said.

Military officials avoid discussing what they are doing to mitigate against lasing attacks. Mr. Murphy said one of the main things pilots can do is get educated about attacks by lasers, including using them inside flight simulators.

Pilots can train to manage laser attacks, and can use laser glare-protection glasses that can diminish the lasers as a distraction. Commercial firms also offer glare-resistant screens that may help reduce the effects of a laser beam.

Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com


Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General, Dies at 80

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat reshaped the organization as a champion of human rights

Mr. Annan before a meeting at his office at the United Nations offices in Geneva.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the first black African to lead the U.N., died Saturday at age 80.

Alongside Liberian politician Ellen Johnson, left, and Algeria’s Lakhdar Brahimi, Mr. Annan attends the Elders walk in Johannesburg to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 100th Anniversary on July 18.

Mr. Annan, who was a Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat, speaks at the White House after meeting President Bill Clinton in January 1997.

Mr. Annan with Former French President Jacques Chirac in Paris in 2008.

Mr. Annan consoles family members of victims of a massacre by pro-Indonesia militia in Liquica, East Timor, in 2000.

Mr. Annan with rock star and "Make Poverty History" organizer Bob Geldof, center, and U2 lead singer Bono for a session of the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005.

Mr. Annan as U.N.-Arab League mediator listening to a reporter's question during a news conference in Geneva in August 2012.

Mr. Annan, inspects an army base south of Stockholm with Swedish Defense Minister Bjoern von Sydow in 1997.

In 1997, Opera great Luciano Pavarotti pays a courtesy visit to Mr. Annan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Mr. Annan and other members of the Elders group at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow in 2015.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the first black African to lead the U.N., died Saturday at age 80.
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Kofi Annan, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat who rose through the ranks of the United Nations to become its first black African secretary-general and reshape the organization as a proponent of human rights, died Saturday at the age of 80.

Mr. Annan’s family confirmed his death from a short, unspecified illness, in a statement from his foundation.

Known for his cool manner, noble posture and charismatic personality, Mr. Annan served as the U.N.’s leader for two five-year terms, from January 1997 to December 2006. He campaigned to protect people everywhere from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, though his tenure was also clouded by allegations of corruption and bribery within the organization.

Kofi Annan


It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness…

From 1993 to 1997, Mr. Annan served as the head of the U.N.’s peacekeeping operations, a period that saw the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, during which about 800,000 people were killed, and the massacre of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica in 1995. Mr. Annan later said he should, and could, have done more to raise the alarm and galvanize support from member nations. That regret led him to focus acutely on the plight of marginalized people around the world.

He had a keen influence on many of the crises of recent decades, from the HIV/AIDS pandemic to the Iraq War and had a strong hand in making the world’s tragedies the responsibility of the organization.

Mr. Annan overhauled and revitalized the U.N., creating an organization much more deeply involved in peacekeeping efforts and alleviating poverty around the globe. An ardent human rights advocate, he championed development in the developing world and especially his home continent of Africa. Mr. Annan established the U.N.’s Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

“Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world,” the Kofi Annan Foundation said in a statement.

“It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement. “In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”

Kofi Atta Annan was born along with his twin sister Efua Atta, in Kumasi, a city in southern Ghana, on April 8, 1938.

He earned a degree in economics from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., in 1961, joining the U.N. the following year as an administrative and budget officer at World Health Organization in Geneva. A decade later, he graduated with a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

In 1965, Mr. Annan married Titi Alakija, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1983, and a year later he remarried, to Swedish lawyer Nane Marie Lagergren, who had a daughter from a previous marriage.

He served as the Economic Commissioner for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, and various roles in New York before being appointed as the U.N.’s seventh secretary-general in 1997.

In 1998, Mr. Annan negotiated directly with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad over U.N. weapons inspections. Though the diplomatic mission was successful, he faced backlash for shaking hands and smoking cigars with Mr. Hussein.

Mr. Annan again became embroiled in scandal in 2004, when his son, Kojo Annan, was implicated in a scandal surrounding a U.N. humanitarian program in Iraq, known as “oil for food.” The program, which allowed Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian items, was exploited by Mr. Hussein, due to lax oversight at the U.N. headquarters.

A commission eventually exonerated Mr. Annan, but found that he hadn’t done enough to investigate once he was made aware of the situation.

Mr. Annan and the U.N. were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for revitalizing the organization and prioritizing human rights.

He is survived by a wife and three children.

Write to Alexandra Wexler at alexandra.wexler@wsj.com


Boko Haram, herders kill 26,000 in North-east – UN

The United Nations on Friday lamented that conflicts, mainly from Boko Haram terror activities and killings by herdsmen, have claimed at least 26,000 lives in North-east of Nigeria, while battles globally had displaced over 65 million persons.

The UN Nigeria Representative, Mr. Edward Kallon, disclosed this in Maiduguri, Borno State, while marking this year’s World Humanitarian Day (WHD).

Kallon noted that in the North-east, civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict that led to widespread forced displacement, abuse and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

According to him, women, men and children face grave humanitarian rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence on a daily basis.

He further disclosed that in the insurgency affected region, thousands of women and girls had been abducted, while children continued to be used on regular basis as so called “suicide” bombers.

“Thousands of families have been forced to flee their villages and communities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. Aid and medical workers, who care for people affected by the violence, suffer the consequences of insecurity.

“Three aid workers were killed and three abducted in March this year in Rann; an aid worker was killed in Ngala in May. A member of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was killed in Damasak just last week,” he lamented.

He noted that a vast majority of humanitarians working to provide life-saving aid to people in need were Nigerians and condemned the killings and abduction of aid workers, urging parties to the conflict to allow humanitarian workers discharge their duties as it would facilitate their access to people in need, and in line with International Humanitarian Law.

He also pressed for the release of abducted aid workers.

“I call on Nigerian leaders to do everything in their power to protect the people caught up in conflict. Together, we stand with the Government of Nigeria, in solidarity with civilians in conflict, and with the humanitarian workers who risk their lives to help them,” he declared.

According to him, civilians in conflict zones continue to be killed and maimed, deliberately or indiscriminately, thereby forcing a large number of people to flee from their homes.

The UN Nigeria Representative said: “This year’s commemoration marks the 15th Anniversary of the attack on the United Nations in Baghdad, Iraq, during which 22 of our colleagues were killed.

“Since that tragedy, which led to this day’s designation as WHD; over 4,000 humanitarian workers have been killed, injured, detained or kidnapped.”

He said that the WHD; was to express solidarity with people affected by humanitarian crises and pay tribute to workers that helped victims of conflict and violence.

On devastations of conflicts, he said: “Children are recruited by armed groups and used to fight, while women are also abused and humiliated.”

He observed that though humanitarian workers deliver aid and medical workers provide for people in need, they were however; targeted or treated as threats.

Governor Kashim Shettima said that 1.5 million people had been displaced by the nine-year insurgency.

He said out of the displaced people, 164,000 had returned to their liberated communities in Mobbar, Dikwa, Gwoza, Ngala, Konduga, Bama, Damboa, Mafa and Askira/Uba councils.

He said that Abadam and Marte council areas were not secured enough for IDPs return to their communities.

According to him, the two council areas were vulnerable to insurgents that were recently pushed to the Lake Chad Islands by the military.

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Why is the Bible so offensive?

Why is the Bible so offensive?
Floyd Richardson holds his bible during a service for the National Day of Prayer in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. on May 4, 2017. (Nick Tomecek / Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)


Would you believe it if I told you the mere sight of the Bible is offensive to some people?

This week, my church is holding its SoCal Harvest event for the 29th year in a row. Formerly known as Harvest Crusade, this annual gathering is one of the largest evangelical outreach events in the world. As many as 100,000 people will fill Angel Stadium this evening and the following two days, and a good portion of them will find hope, purpose and meaning for their lives.

Some people are pretty upset about SoCal Harvest. Not because of anything I just mentioned, but because, in a series of billboards we use to promote the event, there’s a photo of me holding a Bible.

A real estate company that owns one of the most popular malls in Southern California said it received multiple complaints from people who found the image of the Bible offensive, and at least one “serious threat.” The Bible disturbed people so much that one local business felt forced to remove the ads completely.

It’s often said that a Bible that is falling apart is an indication of a life that isn’t. What’s offensive about that?

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Apparently, in our intolerant culture, we no longer can display the Bible in public.

The art in question was a tribute to my hero and mentor, the late Rev. Billy Graham, who often lifted the Bible high over his head as he preached to stadiums full of people. We hold the Bible high, just like Billy did, because it has changed our lives. The same is true for millions of other people; and it has been true for centuries.

Harvard, Yale and a number of the other original nine colonial colleges in America were established by people who believed in the Bible. The Salvation Army, which has helped countless vulnerable people, was started by a man who believed in the Bible and lived accordingly. The abolitionist movement was led by men and women who believed the words in the Bible and took them to heart. And let’s not forget Martin Luther King Jr., whose celebrated speeches, which in many ways were really sermons, are now enshrined in our collective consciousness.

And yet, here we are, having to tiptoe around some who find it offensive.

Most of us know that the Bible is a powerful book. When we swear people into office or take their testimony in a court of law, we often ask them put one hand on the Bible. When a couple is married, a child is born or a loved one passes, many of us write their names in family Bibles.

We can find Bibles in nearly every hotel room in America, and most Americans have at least one Bible in their home. In fact, 80% of Americans, including 71% of college graduates, believe the Bible is the inspired word of God.

At the same time, there is a significant disconnect. Half of those who claim to read the Bible aren’t able to name the four Gospels in the New Testament. (The names are not John, Paul, George and Ringo.) SoCal Harvest exists in large part to help bridge this disconnect for as many people as possible.

We believe the Bible is God’s love letter to humanity. It’s for people who do not want to be controlled by their passions; people who do not want so much pain in life; and people who want better relationships with others. The Bible is for people who want to know the purpose of this life and enter Heaven in the next one.

As a 17-year-old kid searching for meaning and strung out on drugs, I heard the words in the Bible and began a transformation that changed the course of my life. Forty years later, when my son Christopher died suddenly in a car crash at the age of 33, the Bible became much more than a book to me. It was my lifeline.

It’s often said that a Bible that is falling apart is an indication of a life that isn’t. What’s offensive about that?

Pastor Greg Laurie is the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. He is the author of more than 70 books, the host of the national radio broadcast “A New Beginning” and the founder of Harvest Crusades.


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