Visegrad countries urge stronger EU border defense

Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have called for the EU’s border management agency to be strengthened. The Visegrad Group has pushed for hard-line policies on irregular migration to the EU.

A German police officer wearing a Frontex armband

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday said the Visegrad Group – comprising Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – has agreed to bolster the EU’s external borders and process migrants outside the bloc.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Frontex, the EU’s border management agency, should be strengthened to better deal with the challenges of irregular migration to the bloc.

Babis proposed significantly bolstering Frontex’s capacity by increasing staff to 10,000 people. He added that he was in agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on using Frontex to strengthen the the bloc’s external borders.

“We have to have a Europe capable of defending us,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who was invited to the Visegrad group meeting. “We have to strengthen Frontex, to protect our external border and ensure internal freedom.”

Migrants on a rescue boat arriving at an Italian portVisegrad countries have proposed processing migrants at centers outside the EU

Brussels boycott

After the meeting, Orban announced that Visegrad countries would also boycott a mini-summit on migration organized by the European Commission for Sunday.

Read more: Opinion: Orban remains leader of the intractable eastern EU

He said the meeting should have instead been convened by the European Council, especially when it brings together the EU’s political leaders.

“We understand there are domestic political difficulties in some countries but that cannot lead to pan-European haste,” Orban said following a meeting between Visegrad countries and Austria.

Watch video00:25

Merkel: ‘The cohesion of this European Union is at stake’

Tensions across EU

The Visegrad group’s decision comes at a tense moment in the EU concerning irregular migration. EU member states have been locked in a heated debate on how to move forward on migration, with several countries rejecting relocation quotas.

The Visegrad group, along with Austria, have been critical of Merkel’s open-door policy to refugees. More than 1 million migrants entered the EU in 2015 during the height of the migration crisis, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The migration wave also spurred a political crisis between member states, with some – including Visegrad countries – refusing to resettle migrants from front-line countries such as Italy and Greece.

Read more: The east-west divide in the EU deepens

ls/rc (Reuters, AFP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly 


Oshiomhole’s Fraud, EFCC Blindness And Buhari’s Endowment Of Corruption By Bishop (Dr) Osadolor Ochei

Governor Oshiomhole of Edo State

A human rights activist and Anti-Corruption crusader based in Benin City Bishop (Dr) Osadolor Ochei JP, today dragged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to a Federal high court sitting in Abuja.

The case has the EFCC and Adams Oshiomhole as first and second respondents. The law suit Is at the instance of EFCC’s refusal to attend to a well detailed Petition of the Applicant (Bishop Osadolor) to the 1st Respondent dated 28th October, 2016 and published in the Daily Sun Newspaper of 7th November, 2016, together with other national newspapers, bothering on economic and financial crimes against the immediate past governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

In a Motion Ex-Parte, the applicant Bishop Ochei is praying the court to as a matter of urgency compel the EFCC to commence the investigation and prosecution of the former governor in pursuant to Sections 6(b) & (h) and 13(2) of the EFCC Act, 2004.

The Applicant in his suit said he has complained to the 1st Respondent (EFCC) about allegations of corrupt practices as well as economic and financial crimes against the 2nd Respondent (Oshiomhole), on a number of occasions, without eliciting any response or interest from the 1st Respondent in this regard. The 1st Respondent failed to examine and investigate the said allegations upon such reports to it.

Bishop Ochei, said that the 1st Respondent owes Nigeria and Edo State a duty to unearth the truth by meticulously investigating these allegations to ascertain the extent of complicity and culpability of the 2nd Respondent with respect to these allegations levelled against him.

The motion exparte filed by the applicant’s counsel West Idahosa & Co. stated the Respondent’s legitimate means of income as Governor. The 1st Respondent did nothing about the said petition. The Petition and its annexures are attached as Exhibit “A”, while the satellite images of the compound, fence, and existing building are attached as Exhibits “A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 and A6”.

That on 4th November, 2016, the Applicant sent a petition to the 1st Respondent against the 2nd Respondent’s corrupt practices while he served as Governor of Edo State. Amongst the allegations made against the 2nd Respondent by the Applicant are the following:-

That the Applicant repeated the allegation that the 2nd Respondent built a sprawling mansion worth more than N10 billion naira in his home town known as Iyanho, Edo State. The said building was constructed by Verissimo, a South African Architectural outfit. The said house of the 2nd Respondent has swimming pools, water fountains, multiple theatres for cinema and live performances, huge event halls, bridges, manmade lake, lodges of different sizes amongst others. The said cost of building the mansion is well outside the 2nd Respondent’s legitimate income. The 2nd Respondent’s lifestyle and extent of the said property were not justified by his sources of income. The Applicant’s Petition is attached as Exhibit “B”, while the reminder from the Applicant is attached as Exhibit “B1”.

That the 2nd Respondent bought a property along Okoro-Otun Avenue, G.R.A., Benin City owned by Edo State Government while serving as Governor of Edo State in an insider deal without due process and in abuse of his oath of office. The Okoro-otun property acquired by the 2nd Respondent was originally given to University of Benin as a gift by Edo State Government. The 2nd Respondent, while a dispute was pending in Court between University of Benin and Edo State Government, forcibly acquired the property for his personal use. The 2nd Respondent has since erected a structure with an underground apartment, roof-top swimming pool, another giant structure worth more than N500,000,000 (five hundred million naira) which is far beyond his legitimate income. At the time of the sale, the open market price of that magnitude of property and in that such high-brow location was about N100 million naira. This transaction took place while the 2nd Respondent was Governor of Edo State and he bought the said property for just N23 million naira vide an Access Bank cheque.

That the 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the highly inflated contract and payment within a relatively short time for the construction of 168 hostels rooms in Edo State University, Iyamho for the sum of N1.88 billion naira. The average cost per room translates to N10 million naira for each hostel room. This contract was awarded to the firm of A & K Construction Limited without compliance to due process. Similarly, the 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the highly inflated contract of building the Teaching Hospital of the said University for the sum of N12.2 billion naira without compliance to due process. The Memorandum of Approval by the 2nd Respondent is attached as Exhibit “C”.

That the 2nd Respondent authorized and approved the diversion of N1.2 billion naira approved for the construction of a new accident and emergency ward complex and renovation of existing structures in the Central Hospital, Benin City for the payment of additional 10% advance payment to A & K Construction Limited for the construction of the Teaching Hospital of the University of Science and Technology, Uzairue (also known as Edo State University, Iyamho, without compliance with due process and against public interest. The Memorandum of Approval of the said diversion is attached as Exhibit “D”.

That the 2nd Respondent borrowed N25 billion naira from the Capital Market through the issuance of bonds. He purportedly paid the first N6 billion naira to Hitech Construction on March 2, 2011 and listed several roads as part of Phase One of the Storm Water Project to include Adolor College road, Textile Mill road, and a host of others. These roads are largely abandoned with little or no work done by Hitech Construction Company. The gullies created as a result of initial work have become major sources of flooding in Benin – City. More than six persons have been killed by this artificial flood.

That the 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the construction of the 7.2 kilometer Ogba/Airport Road, Benin – City to Servetek Construction Company Limited for construction of drainage structures and dualization from Ring Road to Ogba River Bridge for industry record setting sum of N4.4 billion which translate to N611 million naira per kilometer without compliance with due process.

Following disputes with the Company on how the money was to be shared amongst stakeholders, the Company refused to work further and the contract was terminated. It was re-awarded to Setraco Nigeria Limited for over N12 billion naira, on the pretext that 17 Acres roads were to be constructed along the main Airport Road. It was later discovered that these access roads were re-awarded as stand-alone contracts with new cost tag. The contracts were awarded without compliance with due process.

That the 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the construction of the Emergency / Accident Unit of the Central Hospital, Benin – City, to Company for the sum of N2.7 billion naira and later reviewed same upwards to over N3 billion naira. The constructed building subsequently collapsed killing the owner of the Company, Dr. Stefano De La Roca and confident of the 2nd Respondent. The contract was thereafter re-awarded to another company, SCL without penalizing the previous Company for the poor work done and thereby causing serious financial loss to Edo State. The said SCL is also one of the Companies that constructed the Lord of the Manor Proto-type mansion and adjoining premises of the 2nd Respondents at Iyamho in Edo State.

That in 2012, the 2nd Respondent initiated and authorized the approach to the World Bank to secure a loan of $225 million dollars under the First Edo State Growth and Employment Support Credit project with identification number “P123353”. The World Bank paid Edo State Government $75 million U.S. dollars as initial payment and another $75million U.S. dollars as second installment, despite massive protest by Edo people.

The said second installment which was domiciled in Access Bank was largely transferred to private off shore accounts and round tripped to the detriment of Edo State.

That the 2nd Respondent authorized and approved the counterpart fund scheme between Edo State Government and Bank of Industry with each party providing N250 million naira each. This agreement was reached in December, 2009. From the enquiries made by Applicant only N41.6 million naira was disbursed. The balance sum was diverted for personal gain and to the detriment of Edo State residents.

That the 2nd Respondent received over N500,000,000.00 (five hundred million naira) as security votes. These funds were diverted to proxy accounts according to available records. For instance, One Chief M.A. Kadiri collected sums of money approved by the 2nd Respondent and totaling about N42 billion. In December 2014, 2nd Respondent approved N700 million naira which was collected by the same Chief M.A. Kadiri on grounds of urgent security challenges when there was no security threat to justify the purported use of such an astronomically huge amount of money. The said funds were collected by Chief M.A. Kadiri for the benefit of the 2nd Respondent and to the detriment of the residents of Edo State. Copies of memoranda showing some of the receipts by Chief M.A. Kadiri, as approved by the 2nd Respondent are attached as Exhibits “E1-E4”, copies of some of the approvals are attached as Exhibits “E5-E11” and copies of payment vouchers are attached as Exhibits “E12-E22”.

That the 2nd Respondent approved the purchase of vehicles at ridiculous prices from Sata Motors Limited, a Company owned by one Hon. Gani Audu who was also a Personal Assistant to the 2nd Respondent without compliance with due process and in abuse of the office of Governor of Edo State occupied by the 2nd Respondent. The vouchers are attached as Exhibits “F1, F2 & F3”.

That the 2nd Respondent purportedly acquired properties in United States of America, South Africa and Dubai worth billions of U.S. dollars and far in excess of his legitimate income while serving as Governor of Edo State.

That on December 31st 2014, the N.N.PC. paid $54.9 million dollars to Edo State Government and her Local Government Councils as contributions to Power Sector “Special Sector Intervention Fund”. That the money did not reflect in the income of the State till date was never captured by an Appropriation Act for the State. There is no place in Edo State where any project was built with funds from the so-called special Sector Intervention Funds. The said funds were merely diverted for the private use of the 2nd Respondent. Copies of the NNPC statement of transactions showing withdrawals from the Excess Crude Account and disbursement to Edo State are attached as Exhibit “G”.

That the Petition of the Applicant to the 1st Respondent contained weighty allegations bothering on corrupt practices that ought to have been investigated given the effect of corruption on the stunted socio-political and economic growth of Nigeria to the detriment of all persons resident therein.

That the 1st Respondent owes Nigeria and Edo State a duty to unearth the truth by meticulously investigating these allegations to ascertain the extent of complicity and culpability of the 2nd Respondent with respect to these allegations.

That by the Applicant’s letter dated 28th October, 2016 and received by the 1st Respondent on 04/11/16, the attention of the 1st Respondent was drawn to the allegations made against the 2nd Respondent by the Applicant. The 1st Respondent failed or neglected to invite the 2nd Respondent for investigations into the said allegations.

That failing the said invitation of the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent for investigations, the 2nd Respondent began to boast openly to his kindred that he was untouchable and that no anti-corruption Agency of Government would dare investigate him.

That in the Applicant said Petition to the 1st Respondent, the Applicant laid out the allegations against 2nd Respondent and requested the 1st Respondent to investigate the said allegations. The Petition was published in the Daily Sun edition of Monday, November 7, 2016. The copy of the Newspaper publication is attached as Exhibit “H”. Copies of other newspapers are attached as Exhibits “H1, H2, H3 & H4”.

That following the said failure of the 1st Respondent to investigate the allegations against the 2nd Respondent, the Applicant wrote a reminder to the 1st Respondent and same was received by 1st Respondent on 13th December, 2016. Thereafter, one Barr. Eze of EFCC call the Applicant on telephone on 5th January, 2017, requesting for evidence to support the petition. On 9th January, 2017, the Applicant sent the documentary evidence and analysis of evidence done by him to the 1st Respondent by DHL with tracking number 6888917195. The said document was delivered to 1st Respondent on 12th January, 2017 at 09.01am and was received by one Daniel Tsamiya. A copy of the reminder is attached as Exhibit “I”.

That despite the said petition and the reminder sent by the Applicant to the 1st Respondent, demanding that it performs its duty by investigating the allegations against the 2nd Respondent, the 1st Respondent did not investigate the 2nd Respondent or even reply the Applicant’ letters.

That consequent upon the refusal of the 1st Respondent to investigate and prosecute the 2nd Respondent, the Applicant have no option than to approach the Court of Law for an Order mandating the 1st Respondent to perform its statutory duties as required by law.

That the Applicant is an indigene of Edo State who are entitled to enjoy the benefits of good erosion / flood control, good roads, adequate security coverage and other rights flowing from their residency in Edo State and citizenship of Nigeria; which they have been denied as a result of the corrupt activities of the 2nd Respondent.

17. That the Applicant is a fulltime Clergy man, being a Bishop of the Divine Heavenly Vision International Ministry Inc., Benin City. He lives on offerings from the Church and has no earnings upon which he can be taxed. His Church does not engage in any form of business whatsoever.

18. That the Applicant is a dutiful citizen of Nigeria who is committed to the performance of his duties to the nation in order to make positive contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the country.

19. That the Applicant, pursuant to his constitutional duties to render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order sent several petitions to the 1st Respondent complaining about the economic and financial criminal activities of the 2nd Respondent in his capacity as Governor of Edo State from 2008 to 2016. The Applicant did not receive any positive response from the 1st Respondent despite petition, reminder, documentary evidence and numerous visits to the Headquarters of the 1st Respondent with respect to the said petitions.

20. That the said petitions are in public interest and are supported by ample documentary evidence. The petitions did not seek any particular method in which the 1st Respondent was to do its job other than to invite the 1st Respondent to investigate the allegations made against the 2nd Respondent.

21. That the Applicant is specially aggrieved by the failure of the 1st Respondent to act on the said petition for the following reasons:

As a result of the miss-use and abuse of public funds by the 2nd Respondent, the road leading to the Applicant’s house and other roads in the locality remained untarred despite several requests from the Applicant to Edo State Government to do so and the said Government continually claimed that they had no sufficient funds while 2nd Respondent was busy expending public funds on his expensive lifestyle, including acquiring mansions all over the world at costs outside his legitimate income. Several letters from the Applicant’s community to the 2nd Respondent requesting the development of the said community are attached as Exhibits “J1, J2, J3 & J4”.

The failure to tar Applicant’s road and other roads in the locality has led to frequent repairs on Applicant’s car and loss of valuable time due to frequent visits to mechanic workshops. The same is applicable to others who reside in the area. The receipts of repairs of Applicant’s car are attached as Exhibits “K1, K2 & K3”.

The Applicant and many other ordinary citizens had a hard time gaining access to medicare as the Central Hospital in Benin City which 2nd Respondent claimed to have spent billions of naira of public funds on was not equipped and remained non-functional. Applicant and others had to practically beg for contributions to receive medicare from private hospitals.

These reasons prompted Applicant to carry out an enquiry into how 2nd Respondent’s spent public funds belonging to Edo State and Applicant found out that 2nd Respondent was not prudent in the use of such funds and frequently diverted funds meant for the development and security of the State to private use.

The Applicant found out that the 2nd Respondent wasted hundreds of millions of naira on chartered flights, when public facilities in the State were abandoned and the public denied the benefit of these facilities. Copies of the approved vouchers for some of such chartered flight expenditure are attached as Exhibits “L1 – L13”.

The 2nd Respondent spent millions of naira for choice drinks when major public facilities like roads, hospitals and schools were in dilapidated conditions. Copies of the approved vouchers for the purchase of soft-drinks are attached as Exhibits “M1-M22”.

That the failure of the 1st Respondent to act on the Applicant’s petitions gave the impression that public officers are entitled to use public funds arbitrarily and outside public good.

That the failure of the 1st Respondent to act on the Applicant’s petitions was contrary to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which enjoins the State to abolish corrupt practices.

That the failure of the 1st Respondent to act on the Applicant’s petitions has enabled the 2nd Respondent’s successor in office, Godwin Obaseki, to largely continue with the 2nd Respondent’s arbitrary and corrupt use of public funds.

That the Applicant would continue to suffer lack of access to good roads, medicare and other government subsidized essential facilities due to the failure to investigate the Applicant’s petitions against the 2nd Respondent and prosecute him accordingly by the 1st Respondent in other to serve as deterrent to other public office holders in Edo State.

That the Applicant as a dutiful citizen is desirous of ensuring that the war against corruption which is founded on the 1999 Constitution is fought without regard to a suspect’s political affiliation or class. The 2nd Respondent is an APC Stalwart and is taking advantage of his membership of the ruling party to influence the 1st Respondent from doing its job.

That the 1st Respondent has investigated similar petitions against public officers of opposition parties and prosecuted them for lesser offences.

That since then the Applicant who is resident in Benin City has repeatedly visited the office of the 1st Respondent in Abuja to no avail. Even in April, 2018, the Applicant visited the 1st Respondent’s said office for a feedback and was snubbed as usual.

That the Applicant being a Citizen of Nigeria interested in the Rule of Law, the Supremacy of the Constitution and the enforcement of existing laws has instituted this action to ensure that the 1st Respondent appears before this Honourable Court to explain why the very strongly worded petition, backed with facts and a prima facie case were not treated by the 1st Respondent despite the duty imposed on it by the law to do same.


UK and US accuse Russia of cyber attack that compromised global networks

Washington and London have detailed how Russian-backed hackers have been compromising network devices around the world since 2015. The announcement has come amid heightened tensions between the two countries and Russia.

Cyber-attack from Russia - Stock photo (picture-alliance/chromorange/C. Ohde)

The US and Britain warned on Monday of a Russian government-sponsored cyber attack against internet network infrastructure around the world.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a joint statement on the attack, which they said began in 2015 and could have laid the groundwork for further cyber attacks in the future.

Read more: Cybersecurity: Why it’s ‘hard to protect yourself’ online

What the statement said:

  • Hackers backed by the Russian government have exploited “large numbers of” routers and switches around the world since 2015.
  • The attack focused on governments, businesses, “critical infrastructure,” and internet service providers. The statement did not identify any victims by name.
  • The FBI has “high confidence” that the hackers are using the compromised networks to spy, steal intellectual property, and “potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations.”

Read more: Trump administration hits Russia with new sanctions for election meddling, cyber attacks

Watch video01:57

Cyberattacks through the years

Why say something now? The US and Britain said they wanted to warn organizations they may be affected and call on them to inform authorities if they discover breaches.

No comment from Russia: Moscow has not responded to the statement. It has previously dismissed allegations it was responsible for cyber attacks against the US and other countries, including meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and attacks against the US power grid.

‘Grizzly Steppe’: The US Department of Homeland Security separately said the attack was part of a larger Russian-backed operation called “Grizzly Steppe.”

Read more: The new digital insecurity

Ukraine attack: Washington and London blamed Moscow in February for a debilitating 2017 cyber attack against Ukraine called “NotPetya,” which also damaged IT devices worldwide.

Bad relations: Tensions are already strained between the two sides. Russia has heavily criticized the US, UK and France for launching airstrikes against Russia-ally Syria, while Washington and London have accused Moscow of responsibility for a nerve-agent attack against a former Russian double agent in southern England.

Read more: Germany admits hackers infiltrated federal ministries, Russian group suspected

Watch video02:20

Cyberattack against Germany’s government ‘ongoing’


OAU Sex Scandal: Accused Professor Goes Into Hiding

Professor Richard Akindele, a lecturer in the Department of Management and Accounting of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, who was allegedly heard in an audio recording which has now gone viral demanding for sex to pass a student has gone into hiding.

The audio recording of the professor seeking to have sex with a student five times in exchange for mark was released on April 9 and has been trending since then.

Prof. Richard, who is also a priest in the Anglican Church has since deleted his Facebook account, it was gathered.

The lecturer, Richard Akindele

All efforts to reach him via his personal telephone number have been abortive.

The male voice in the audio recording demanding sex to pass a female student has also been identified by members of the Anglican Diocese of Ife, Osun State who have spoken to journalists on the issue.

It was also gathered from investigations that the lady who spoke with him is a final year student, who had failed a course taught by the lecturer.

The lecturer, who is yet to react to the issue had also been unavailable at his office since the release of the audio recording.

Sahara Reporters had earlier reported that the management of OAU had released a statement, saying that they are conducting an investigation into the matter and will take the necessary actions to reprimand the lecturer.

China’s failing satellite is just one example of a massive space debris problem

 March 29 at 11:36 AM 
Chinese satellite will soon come crashing down into Earth

The Tiangong-1 satellite is expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere uncontrolled around April 1. This is what it would look like. 

BERLIN — If you want to catch a last glimpse of Chinese satellite Tiangong-1, you better hurry. Circling the Earth at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour every 90 minutes, the 19,000-pound satellite will probably have vanished by the end of this weekend, to reappear as a fireball for up to a minute or more somewhere over the skies of southern Europe — or perhaps somewhere else.

While nobody can be certain where exactly the disintegrating satellite may literally fall from the sky — with pieces weighing up to 220 pounds expected to hit Earth’s surface — the satellite’s fate has long been sealed. Even if you miss this one, scientists say there’s plenty more to come in the junk-strewn skies of our planet’s near orbit.

The first warning signs for the Chinese station came in 2016 when it failed to respond to commands by its operators. Tiangong-1, which translates as “heavenly palace,” would eventually, according to my colleagues, turn “into a man-made” meteor.

In its latest estimate, the European Space Agency (ESA) predicts the satellite pieces will probably hit Earth “from midday on 31 March to the early afternoon of 1 April (in UTC time).” UTC is ahead of Eastern Time by four hours. The estimate will continue to be updated by ESA over the next days.

While the threat of the debris hitting a human is extremely small, the drama that could unfold over Europe’s skies this weekend may be only be a first glimpse into a problem that will worsen over the next decades, according to some bleak predictions.

The European Space Agency estimates that there are now more than 170 million pieces of space debris in circulation, though only 29,000 of those are larger than about four inches. While the smaller space debris objects may not pose a threat to Earth because they would disintegrate before reaching the surface, “any of these objects can cause harm to an operational spacecraft. For example, a collision with a (four-inch) object would entail a catastrophic fragmentation of a typical satellite,” according to the European Space Agency. Smaller pieces could still destroy spacecraft systems or penetrate shields, possibly making bigger satellites such as Tiangong-1 unresponsive and turning them into massive pieces of debris themselves.

Since the first satellites were launched in the mid-20th century, Earth’s orbit has long been treated by nations as a waste site nobody felt responsible for. Spent rockets or old satellites now mingle with other pieces of trash left behind by human space programs. All of those pieces zoom around faster than speeding bullets.

Watch man-made objects journey from the outer solar system back to Earth

Journey from our solar system to Earth and explore the man-made objects along the way.

And while the international community is gradually becoming more aware of the challenges this poses, much of the damage is already done.

Speaking at a conference in 2011, Gen. William Shelton, a commander with the U.S. Air Force Space Command, predicted much of the orbit around Earth “may be a pretty tough neighborhood … in the not too distant future,” according to the astronomy news website The U.S. military and NASA are both in charge of perhaps the most elaborate scheme to track objects bigger than four inches to predict their flight paths and move active equipment out of the way.

The problem, Shelton indicated at the time, is that there’s already enough debris in space to cause an exponential rise in the number of circulating pieces. The more pieces there are, the higher the likelihood that they will eventually collide, creating even more smaller objects that can still be dangerous to other satellites or space labs.

On Earth, ecosystems can sometimes fix themselves to some extent, even if it takes decades or hundreds of years. But in space, the problem of debris will only get worse.

One proposed solution would be to persuade nations to limit their debris and to prevent a repeat of past mistakes. China, for example, is estimated to have produced up to 25 percent of today’s objects in circulation during an antisatellite test in 2007 in the low Earth orbit.

On these NASA graphics, you can see why the international community was outraged when China added to that zone’s debris density. Congestion isn’t spread evenly around Earth: While there are some scattered pieces farther away, there is a concentration of objects within the so-called geosynchronous region, at about 22,235 miles altitude.

This computer graphic provides a view of the object population in the geosynchronous region. (NASA)

But the highest density of objects can be found in low Earth orbit — within 1,240 miles of our planet — which is the area China targeted in its test. That’s also where most satellites can be found.

This computer graphic shows objects in low Earth orbit being tracked. (NASA)

China has continued its military missile tests since 2007, although it has refrained from destroying another satellite in orbit. Observers still fear that other nations may launch their own antisatellite programs, provoking a sort of arms race in space.

With more than 50 nations now operating their own space programs, initiatives to limit the release of space debris have hardly become any easier. Some technological advances have had a limited impact — for instance by making spent rocket boosters fall back to Earth quicker than in the past. (Following that rationale, one could argue that this weekend’s satellite crash may in fact help to decongest the orbit.) Meanwhile, other nations, such as Britain and Switzerland, have experimented with schemes to clean up the mess by collecting the debris in circulation. But the proposed programs are costly and inefficient, legal challenges aside.

“There are no salvage laws in space. Even if we had the political will to [salvage junk], which I don’t think we do, we couldn’t bring down the big pieces because we don’t own them,” Joan Johnson-Freese, a Naval War College professor, told The Washington Post in 2014.

That’s why some academics are arguing that the lower orbit might soon be lost altogether. Instead, they believe, scientists should develop smaller satellites that can circulate closer to Earth — and in a safe distance from a part of the orbit that may eventually become a satellite kill zone.

Facebook to change privacy controls amid data scandal outcry

The social network has said the changes will give users more control over their data. Among the measures is a new privacy shortcut menu that will allow people to quickly increase the security of an account.

A figurine is seen in front of the Facebook logo

Facebook said on Wednesday it was planning to revamp its privacy settings in an effort to give users more control over their data.

The social network is under fire after a whistleblower revealed that consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica misused information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts to influence close elections in Britain and the United States. Facebook has lost $100 billion in market value since the scandal broke.

Read moreWhat role did Cambridge Analytica play in the Brexit vote?

“The last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies and to help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” Erin Egan, vice president and chief privacy officer, and Ashlie Beringer, vice president and deputy general counsel at Facebook, wrote in a post.

“In addition to Mark’s [Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO] announcements last week – cracking down on abuse of the Facebook platform, strengthening our policies, and making it easier for people to revoke apps’ ability to use your data – we’re taking additional steps in the coming weeks to put people in more control over their privacy,” the two said.

Read moreFacebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal: What you need to know

‘Privacy shortcuts’ menu

Facebook will add a new Privacy shortcuts menu that will allow users to easily increase account security and control their data.

“You can review what you’ve shared and delete it if you want to. This includes posts you’ve shared or reacted to, friend requests you’ve sent, and things you’ve searched for on Facebook,” Egan and Beringer wrote.

The proposed changes will also include features enabling users to download their data and move it to another service. Users will also be able to manage advertisements they see.

Watch video02:09

Zuckerberg: ‘We made mistakes’

EU data protection law

The measures come ahead of EU data protection law in May, which makes it incumbent on companies to give people a right to take their data with them.

Breaking the law — EU General Data Protection Regulation — can cost companies up to 4 percent of global revenues.

There has been a growing demand from lawmakers across world that Facebook explains how it uses and protects users’ data. Zuckerberg is due to testify before the US Congress to explain how UK-based Cambridge Analytica managed to harvest personal data of Facebook users.

ap/sms (Reuters, AFP)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.


Islamic State suicide bomber kills 29 as Afghans celebrate new year

Islamic State suicide bomber kills 29 as Afghans celebrate new year
Afghan security officials inspect the scene of a suicide bomb blast Wednesday that targeted a shrine visited by Shiite Muslims in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the country observes the Nowruz Persian New Year. (Hedayatullah Amid / EPA / Shutterstock)


An Islamic State suicide bomber struck on the road to a Shiite shrine in Afghanistan’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least 29 people as Afghans celebrated the Persian new year.

The Public Health Ministry said 52 others were wounded in the attack, which was carried out by a bomber on foot.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites. Islamic State said the attack targeted “a gathering of Shiites celebrating Nowruz.”

The Persian new year, known in Afghanistan as Nowruz, is a national holiday, and the country’s minority Shiites typically celebrate by visiting shrines. The Sunni extremists of Islamic State have repeatedly targeted Shiites, whom they view as apostates deserving of death.

The attack took place near Kabul University and a government hospital, around one mile from the Sakhi shrine, where people were gathered to celebrate the new year, said Gen. Daud Amin, Kabul’s police chief.

The chief said the attacker managed to slip past police checkpoints set up along the road. He said that an investigation into the security breach is underway, and that anyone found to have neglected his duties would be punished.

Earlier this month, another Islamic State suicide bomber targeted Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, killing nine people and wounding 18 others. The bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint near a gathering of minority Shiites in western Kabul.

That bomber also was on foot and was trying to make his way to a compound where the Hazaras had gathered to commemorate the 1995 death of their leader, Abdul Ali Mazari, who was killed by the Taliban.

Kabul has recently seen a spate of large-scale militant attacks by the Taliban and Islamic State group. In late January, a Taliban attacker drove an ambulance filled with explosives into the heart of the city, killing at least 103 people and wounding as many as 235.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack in a statement, calling it a “crime against humanity.”

Despite the earlier bombing, by afternoon, many people — including women and children — came into the streets wearing colorful clothing to continue celebrating the new year holiday.

Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

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