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Posts tagged ‘Asia’

FBI Joins Possible Terror Probe for Missing Malaysia Jet.


Vietnamese authorities searching waters for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner spotted an object Sunday that they suspected was one of the plane’s doors, as international intelligence agencies joined the investigation into two passengers who boarded the aircraft with stolen passports.

More than a day and half after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, no confirmed debris from the plane had been found, and the final minutes before it disappeared remained a mystery. The plane, which was carrying 239 people, lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning for Beijing.

The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper cited Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam’s army, as saying searchers in a low-flying plane had spotted an object suspected of being a door from the missing jet. It was found in waters about 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Tho Chu island, in the same area where oil slicks were spotted Saturday.

“From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane,” Tuan said. Thanh Nien said two ships from the maritime police were heading to the site.

The missing plane apparently fell from the sky at cruising altitude in fine weather, and the pilots were either unable or had no time to send a distress signal — unusual circumstances under which a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline would crash.

Malaysia’s air force chief, Rodzali Daud, said radar indicated that the plane may have turned back, but did not give further details on which direction it went or how far it veered off course.

“We are trying to make sense of this,” Daud said at a news conference. “The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back, and in some parts this was corroborated by civilian radar.”

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said pilots are supposed to inform the airline and traffic control authorities if the plane does a U-turn. “From what we have, there was no such distress signal or distress call per se, so we are equally puzzled,” he said.

Authorities were checking on the identities of the two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight’s manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

“I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference late Sunday, adding that the footage was being examined. “We have intelligence agencies, both local and international, on board.”

Hishammuddin declined to give further details, saying it may jeopardize the investigation.

“Our focus now is to find the aircraft,” he said, adding that finding the plane would make it easier for authorities to investigate any possible foul play.

Interpol confirmed that at least two stolen passports used by passengers on the plane were registered in its databases. It said no one had checked the databases, but added that most airlines and countries do not usually check for stolen passports.

Hishammuddin said only two passengers had used stolen passports, and that earlier reports that the identities of two others were under investigation were not true.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the U.S. was looking into the stolen passports, but that investigators had reached no conclusions.

In addition to the plane’s sudden disappearance, which experts say is consistent with a possible onboard explosion, the stolen passports have strengthened concerns about terrorism as a possible cause. Al-Qaida militants have used similar tactics to try and disguise their identities.

Still, other possible causes would seem just as likely at this stage, including a catastrophic failure of the plane’s engines, extreme turbulence, or pilot error or even suicide. Establishing what happened with any certainty will need data from flight recorders and a detailed examination of any debris, something that will take months if not years.

European authorities on Saturday confirmed the names and nationalities of the two stolen passports: One was an Italian-issued document bearing the name Luigi Maraldi, the other Austrian under the name Christian Kozel. Police in Thailand said Maraldi’s passport was stolen on the island of Phuket last July.

A telephone operator on a China-based KLM hotline on Sunday confirmed that “Maraldi” and “Kozel” were both booked to leave Beijing on a KLM flight to Amsterdam on March 8. Maraldi was then to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark, on KLM on March 8, and Kozel to Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8.

She said since the pair booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines, she had no information on where they bought them.

Having onward reservations to Europe from Beijing would have meant the pair, as holders of EU passports, would not have needed visas for China.

Meanwhile, the multinational search for the missing plane was continuing. A total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships have been deployed to the area by Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the United States, in addition to Vietnam’s fleet.

Vietnamese air force jets spotted two large oil slicks Saturday, but it was unclear whether they were linked to the missing plane.

Two-thirds of the jet’s passengers were Chinese. The rest were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.

After more than 30 hours without contact with the aircraft, Malaysia Airlines told family members they should “prepare themselves for the worst,” Hugh Dunleavy, the commercial director for the airline, told reporters.

Finding traces of an aircraft that disappears over sea can take days or longer, even with a sustained search effort. Depending on the circumstances of the crash, wreckage can be scattered over many square kilometers (miles). If the plane enters the water before breaking up, there can be relatively little debris.

A team of American experts was en route to Asia to be ready to assist in the investigation into the crash. The team includes accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as technical experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, the safety board said in a statement.

Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed last July in San Francisco, killing three passengers, all Chinese teenagers.

© AFP 2014
Source: Newsmax.com

CBO Report Underestimates Obamacare Damage to Employment, Economy.


In a new report, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) once again underestimates the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, on labor-force participation and the economy.

Gross domestic product (GDP), growth and employment for most workers will be harmed.

It estimates employment will be cut by 1.5 percent to 2 percent, thanks to workers choosing to cut hours or not work at all to obtain Obamacare subsidies for private insurance or maintain eligibility for Medicaid.

According to the report, lower employment only translates into a 1 percent reduction in worker compensation, owing to the concentration of those in low-wage categories.

However, the report fails to adequately calibrate the impact of higher Medicare taxes and the surcharge on interest, dividends and capital gains on the participation of older workers — especially high-productivity and entrepreneurial workers and business owners above age 50 but heretofore not yet inclined to cut hours or retire.

In addition, it fails to consider the consequences of distorted career paths on labor productivity, negative effects on research and development (R&D) spending and lower investment overall in the United States. Those activities will be lost to China, Japan and Germany and other competitors in Asia and Europe because of their lower healthcare costs.

Major industrialized competitors in Europe and Asia spend 9 percent to 12 percent of GDP, and often attain higher healthcare outcomes, while the United States spends 18 percent. And Medicare and Medicaid’s own actuaries expect the latter figure to rise under Obamacare, thanks to the inadequacies of cost controls.

Whether paid through direct taxes, business outlays for health insurance or penalties for failing to provide healthcare, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, those costs weigh heavily on cost competitiveness and decisions to locate manufacturing and service activities in the United States, especially those critical to R&D effort and innovation.

The Obama administration argues that subsidies for healthcare and Medicaid give Americans more personal choices, and decisions not to work improve the performance of the economy.

Taken to its logical conclusion, the administration should provide direct cash payments to workers to abstain from seeking employment.

Rolling it all up, the impact on the economy beginning this year and escalating through the decade is likely in the range of $240 billion to $320 billion. This will damage the viability of the Social Security trust funds and shake state and local government finances.

More cities, like Detroit, will face bankruptcies. States like Illinois will face lower credit ratings and be forced to reduce funding for education, public safety and the like.

By failing to address the handicap imposed on American businesses by higher healthcare costs, the Affordable Care Act, like other efforts to equalize income, will slow growth to a pace more akin to lethargic European economies than emerging competitors in Asia.

Editor’s Note: 18.79% Annual Returns . . . for Life? 

© 2014 Moneynews. All rights reserved.

By Peter Morici Twitter @pmorici1

National Conference Nigeria’s unity, no-go area.


 

national-conference-001

*All 492 delegates to be nominated *75% majority to approve decisions *Conference may begin late February

THE Federal Government, yesterday, declared that the indivisibility and indissolubility of Nigeria would be the only no-go area for the planned National Conference which may be convened before the end of February.

This was disclosed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, while briefing newsmen in Abuja on the Federal Government’s endorsement of the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue which submitted its report few weeks ago.

During the briefing, Anyim was flanked by Chairman and Secretary of the Presidential Committee on National Dialogue, Senator Femi Okurounmu and Dr. Akilu Indabawa, respectively.

 

He also said the Federal Government had provided for the confab in the 2014 Appropriation Bill currently before the National Assembly.

Anyim further disclosed that a total of 492 delegates would be expected to attend the conference which is scheduled to take place in Abuja after the conclusion of nomination of delegates slated for February 20.

The SGF said that the confab which is scheduled to last for three months shall have a Chairperson and a Deputy Chairperson of “unimpeachable integrity.” He added that the exercise must be concluded before the commencement of political activities leading up to next year’s general elections.

According to Anyim: “The official name of the conversation/conference shall be “The National Conference”.
He stated that decisions at the National Conference shall be by consensus, but where it is not achievable, it shall be by 75 per cent majority.

He further stated that the National Conference shall advise the Government on the legal framework, legal procedures and options for integrating the decisions and outcomes of the confab into the Constitution and laws of the country.

Anyim disclosed that a Conference Management Secretariat shall be established to manage, administer and run the affairs of the Conference.

He also stated that nomination of delegates which shall begin immediately must be completed by all stakeholders before a date for the commencement of the confab could be fixed.
List of nominees
According to him: “The list of nominees shall be submitted either online to http://www.osgf.gov.ng or in hard copy to the Office of the Permanent Secretary (Special Duties Office), Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Federal Secretariat Complex, Phase I, 3rd Floor, Central Business District, Abuja.”

The SGF also released a list indicating the details of the proposed composition of the conference which showed that the Federal Government would nominate a minimum of 73 delegates.

A break down of this figure shows that the President shall appoint the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Secretary of the confab. He shall also nominate 37 elder statesmen representing the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. The document further indicates that the Federal Government shall directly nominate 20 delegates, of which six shall be women.

The confab shall also have six retired judiciary nominees which would be appointed by the President. Another six nominees who shall represent outstanding youths in the country shall be appointed by the Federal Government to represent the nation’s six geo-political zones.

The list further shows that state governments and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, would nominate a total of 109 delegates to represent the nation’s Senatorial Districts. Each state in the federation would be expected to nominate three delegates while the FCT would be represented by one delegate.

The list provides that ethnic nationalities in the country, alongside socio-political and cultural groups will produce a total of 90 delegates which shall comprised 15 per geo-political zone. Nominations for delegates in this category must reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of the various geo-political zones.

The comprehensive list
The comprehensive list is as follows: Retired military and security personnel:
Military – six delegates: one from each geo-political zone; Police- six delegates, one from each zone; State Security Service and Nigerian Intelligence Agency NIA, six, one from each zone.

A total of 13 traditional rulers in all shall be delegates at the confab. Every zone shall send two traditional rulers, while one would come from FCT. Retired civil servants would nominate six delegates from the six zones.

The Nigeria Labour Movement shall be represented by a total of 24 delegates which shall comprise 12 each from the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Unions Congress, TUC.

The Organised Private Sector would be represented by eight delegates who are to be nominated by NECA, MAN, NACCIMA and NESG. Each of them shall nominate two delegates.

Nigerian youths shall also be represented by 18 delegates at the confab: Six of them shall come from the six zones; six from NANS representing the six zones while another six ” outstanding youths and role models” would represent the six zones.

Women groups in the country would be represented by a total of 24 delegates. Among the groups that would nominate delegates are NCWS-12; Market Women associations- six, reflecting the six zones. Other women groups that would send two delegates each are NAWOJ, FIDA and WINBIZ.

Political parties in the country which have members in the National Assembly would also be represented by two delegates each; they include PDP, APC, Labour Party, APGA and Accord Party.

The two major religions in the country that is Christianity and Islam are to be represented by six delegates each, while civil society groups are to be represented by 24 delegates who are expected to reflect the nation’s federal character.

Nigerians in diaspora would not be left out as eight of them would also participate in the confab as delegates. The eight delegates are to represent Nigerians in the Americas-two, Europe-two, Asia and the Middle-East, two and Africa-two.

People living with disabilities would nominate six delegates to the confab, one from each zone.
The media would also be represented by NPAN, NUJ, NGE and BON which were allotted two slots each.
Professional bodies in the country would also send 13 delegates. They include NBA, NSE and CIB. Others include NMA, NIM, NIA, ICAN, ANAN, NIPR, AAPN, NIESV and Nigeria Environmental Society. They are all expected to send one delegate each.

The various academies in the country would send a total of five delegates. They include: Academies of Science, Engineering and Education. Others are academies of letters and social sciences. Each of them would send one delegate.

Former political office holders would also be accommodated at the confab. Former governors in the country would send six delegates- from the six zones. This also applies to former Senators, former members of the House of Representatives and Association of former Speakers. Former chairmen of local government areas would also send six delegates reflecting the six zones. They would be nominated by ALGON.

It would be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan had during his Independence Day broadcast last October, informed Nigerians that he had set up a Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue with the following composition: Senator Dr. Femi Okurounmu-Chairman; Dr. Akilu Sani Indabawa -Secretary and

Senator Khairat Abdulrazaq-Gwadabe as member.
Others included: Senator Timothy Adudu; Professor Olufunke Adeboye; Professor George A. Obiozor and Professor Ben Nwabueze, SAN, NNOM.

Also appointed into the committee were Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed; Malam Bukhari Bello, MFR, mni; Mr. Tony I. Uranta; Col. Tony Nyiam (Rtd); Alhaji Dauda Birmah, OFR and Dr. Mrs. Mairo Ahmed Amshi, MFR.

In his remarks while inaugurating the Committee on October 7, 2013, President Jonathan had said it comprised of ‘Nigerians with wide experiences from various disciplines. He also described the formation of the Committee as ‘a child of necessity.’ He stated that the foundational principle that drove the composition of the Committee was to work towards convening a national conversation.

By Okey Ndiribe

Source: Radio Biafra.

Lagos : Gleaming New City For The Wealthy Leaves Historic City In Dust.


Jan. 21 (GIN) – As developers rush to complete a dream city of soaring glass and steel high-rise buildings, luxury housing for 250,000 amidst a leafy boulevard with ritzy shops and tony restaurants, hopes for a better future are growing dim for the sister city of Lagos, the largest city in Africa with 21 million residents at last count.

Eko Atlantic, the new project, is rising on Victoria Island – now connected by an artificial land bridge to Lagos which sinks deeper into poverty as its neighbor’s income skyrockets.

Lagos, visited by the Portuguese in 1492, was the nation’s capital from 1914 to 1991. Today it struggles with aging infrastructure, unreliable electric power, fierce traffic jams and sprawling slums. Even in posh neighborhoods, sewage bubbles up from open ditches. Companies squeeze their headquarters into moldy midcentury ranch houses and turn off the lights at lunch to rest electric generators.

Two-thirds of the city’s residents live in “informal” neighborhoods, while more than one million of the city’s poor have been forcibly evicted from their homes over the last 15 years.

Eko Atlantic is a prime example of a trend towards walled-off cities for the very rich on a continent that is still home to the world’s poorest.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Martin Lukacs warned: “Eko Atlantic is where you can begin to see a possible future – privatized green enclaves for the ultra rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scramble for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms.”

He continued: “Protected by guards, guns, and sky-high real estate prices, the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising… This is climate apartheid.”

Nigerian environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey added: “Building Eko Atlantic is contrary to anything one would want to do if one took seriously climate change and resource depletion.”

The developers, a pair of politically connected Lebanese brothers who run a financial empire called the Chagoury Group, received a 78 year-seal of ownership of Eko Atlantic to recoup their investment.

The Clinton Global Initiative, meanwhile, calls Eko Atlantic “one of the most inspiring and ambitious civil engineering projects in Africa,” according to the U.S. mission in Nigeria website.  Last year, former President Clinton participated in the ground breaking ceremony as did Ambassador Terence McCulley, and Consul General Jeff Hawkins, among others.

Woman To Lead Embattled Central African Republic As New President

Jan. 21 (GIN) – To the sound of cheers from the National Assembly building, the Transitional National Council of the Central African Republic on Monday tapped Catherine Samba-Panza, mayor of the capital city of Bangui, to be the country’s interim President and first woman to hold the post.

As the new leader of a country gripped by a ferocious sectarian war, Catherine Samba-Panza, 58, issued a call to the fighting groups, asking her “children, especially the anti-Balaka, to put down their arms and stop all the fighting. The same goes for the ex-Seleka. . . I don’t want to hear any more talk of murders and killings.

“Starting today, I am the president of all Central Africans, without exclusion.”

Born in Chad to a Cameroonian father and Central African mother, Ms. Samba-Panza is a former businesswoman, corporate lawyer, and insurance broker.  She also led a reconciliation effort during a previous civil war.

Paul Simon Handy, of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa, called her “a president who can unite both the country and the political elite” but warned: “I am afraid that this process will take longer than her period in office as interim president.”

The Central African Republic has been devastated by brutal fighting since a coup in March 2013 removed the unpopular president Francois Bozize. He was replaced by Michel Djotodia who suspended the constitution. Djotodia resigned this month under intense international pressure as the death toll mounted to over 1000 people and observers feared a genocide was in the works.

According to a New York Times report, “The state no longer exists in the CAR. Civil servants do not go to their offices, taxes are not collected, all the schools are closed. There is no budget, no army, no police force, no Parliament, no judges, no jails.”

Against these odds, Samba-Panza, no political novice, ran a successful campaign and beat seven other candidates for the post. Among them were two women and two sons of former presidents.

Now, her primary task will be to prepare the nation for elections in the coming year.  In addition she will need to temper the extreme animosity between the Christian and Muslim groups in the country.

Central African Republic has to hold a fresh election by February 2015 at the latest. France, however, wants the election to be held this year. Current law excludes the interim president from running.

“Everything we have been through has been the fault of men,” said Marie-Louise Yakemba, in a press interview. Yakemba, who heads a civil-society organization that brings together people of different faiths, added: “We think that with a woman, there is at least a ray of hope.”w/pix of Pres. Samba-Panza

Africa Was A Point Of Pride For Martin Luther King Jr.
By Rush Perez

Jan. 21 (GIN) – At a speaking engagement at Western Michigan University on Dec. 18, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recalled his first trip to Africa with his wife Coretta to attend the independence day celebration of the new nation of Ghana. The couple was invited by the new President, Kwame Nkrumah.

“We were very happy about the fact there were now eight independent countries in Africa,” he said. “But since that night in March, 1957, some twenty-seven new independent nations have come into being in Africa. This reveals to us that the old order of colonialism is passing away, and the new order of freedom and human dignity is coming into being.”

Later, on Dec. 10, 1965 he gave a powerful speech at Hunter College in New York City, where he attacked the Apartheid regime of South Africa, as well as the governments of Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) and the Portuguese control of Mozambique and Angola.

True to form, Dr King utilized powerful language to make his points, beginning first with a deconstruction of the popular narrative of Africa at the time.

“Africa has been depicted for more than a century as the home of black cannibals and ignorant primitives….Africa does have spectacular savages today, but they are not black. They are the sophisticated white rulers of South Africa… whose conduct and philosophy stamp them unmistakably as modern day barbarians.”

He went on to call for an international boycott of South Africa.

After the independence day ceremonies in Ghana, Dr King said in a radio interview that: “This event, the birth of this new nation, will give impetus to oppressed peoples all over the world. I think it will have worldwide implications and repercussions–not only for Asia and Africa, but also for America….It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice and that somehow the universe itself is on the side of freedom and justice. So that this gives new hope to me in the struggle for freedom.”

GHANAIAN JOURNALIST WHO INSPIRED YOUNGER WRITERS IS RECALLED  

Jan. 21 (GIN) – An accomplished and much-admired news writer from Ghana was recalled as “the face and voice of Africa – a new young, enterprising, international connected, ambitious Africa, with a can-do attitude.”

Komla Afeke Dumor passed unexpectedly this week at age 41 from cardiac arrest at his London home.

“He was not a praise-singer,” noted BBC Africa editor Solomon Mugera. “He was determined to present a balanced story, warts and all, and to show the human face behind the headlines.”

Dumor was a BBC World News presenter and the host of the Focus on Africa Program. He joined the BBC in 2006 after working for a decade as a journalist in Ghana. He was so popular in his home country that many Ghanaians changed their profiles on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to show a picture of him.

After moving to TV in 2009, he anchored live coverage of major events including the funeral of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il,  the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the death of Nelson Mandela in December.

Born in 1972 in Accra, Komla Dumor received graduate degrees from the University of Ghana and Harvard University.

Even as a number of African countries were being heralded as among the world’s fastest-growing economies, Dumor wanted to dig deeper, recalled Mugera.

“He knew that a select few were wining and dining in five-star hotels and driving the latest luxury cars, while in the same neighborhood there were families struggling to live on $1 a day.”

The Media Foundation for West Africa, a regional independent, non-governmental organisation based in Accra, shared their deep condolences for the loss of “one of Africa’s best journalists.”

“Komla raised the standard of journalism in Africa, and brought a lot of pride to many Ghanaians and Africans when he joined the BBC Africa Service and later, the World Service…  He was an an illustrious journalist and a trailblazer for many young journalists in Ghana and Africa as a whole. .. We have indeed lost a talented gem in journalism, Komla, damirifa due! Rest in peace!” the statement concluded.

In the words of Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie:  “We have lost a star. Go well my discussant brother.”

Dumor leaves a wife, Kwansema Dumor, and three children. w/pix of K. Dumor

Rubio: I’ll Wait a Year Before Deciding on White House Run.


Same time next year.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is going to wait a year before deciding on a run for the White House, he told CNBC in an interview Tuesday from Tokyo, where he is on a weeklong tour of Asia.

“At this time next year I will have to make a decision about something like that and that time will come,” Rubio said.

Rubio also said he will consider whether he will seek re-election in 2016 or drop out of public office altogether.

“My most important job is the job of father and husband, so that will be the first thing I think about. The second is whether I feel like there is another office in which I can further this agenda that I’ve outlined, or whether there is work that remains to be done in the Senate or whether my time has come to return to the private sector,” he said.

“All those are valid choices, and I will explore those at the appropriate time.”
“I’ve always believed if you do a good job at the job you have now you’ll have an opportunity, including opportunities you have not anticipated in the past.”

The ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee is also visiting the Philippines and South Korea

He also added there was a good chance the GOP will retake the senate. “The Republican Party is an energized party. We feel like we’re going to have a real opportunity in 2014 to retake the Senate. I think that is where you are going to see the majority of Republican donors focused.

“And 2016 will be here soon enough. I am confident we are going to field a strong nominee.”

Related stories

Rubio Wants Senate Probe of State Department on Benghazi

Sen. Rubio: Democrats’ ‘Answer to Everything’ Is Send a Check

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cynthia Fagen

What President Obama Doesn’t Get About Inequality.


Inequality is President Obama’s highest priority, but his solutions are wholly naive.

Disparities between rich and poor are as ancient as civilization, but in modern democracies, this condition is exacerbated by globalization and technologies that drive it.

Successive advances in communication and transportation, for example, permit top opera singers, athletes and other professionals to reach wider audiences and earn incomes many times greater than their peers do.

Urgent: Is Obamacare Hurting Your Wallet? Vote in Poll 

Before the radio, phonograph and moving pictures, virtually every city, small and large, had an opera house or music hall that offered live entertainment. The top stars sang in New York, London and Milan and earned considerable wealth, but many local performers and traveling journeymen could earn a decent living too.

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso made more than 260 recordings for RCA Victor from 1904 to 1920, and radio sent his voice around the world. His income soared to levels unheard in past generations, but less renowned performers were displaced as regional opera companies folded.

Satellite communications, the Internet and jet travel permit star journalists to reach millions across the globe, while summonsing the demise of newspapers and opportunities for local reporters and columnists. The same goes for Wall Street bankers, big-firm lawyers and multinational executives, at the expense of their brethren in smaller enterprises.

For ordinary workers, cheaper oceanic and rail transportation for goods and the Internet for services have magnified global competition. More workers in the United States must now compete with those in China, and those in northern Europe must compete with those in southern Europe and in large Chinese cities with those elsewhere in Asia.

Governments have made extremes of income worse. Big cities, often with federal support, subsidize concert halls and sports stadiums, and further raise the salaries paid top performers and big league ball players.

The United States and European Union have gone along with trade and environmental agreements that permit China to charge high tariffs on imports and avoid pollution abatement, making “Made in China” even cheaper. That pushes down wages for American and European workers and wreaks havoc on the global environment.

In China, migration laws permit rural workers to move to factories in big cities, but most may not bring their children. One in five Chinese children lives without their parents, and often those drop out of school and become unemployable, which will create enormous social problems.

Income disparities are making education more unattainable for the children of poor and working classes. This is a social time bomb, but government policies to address the problem often make things worse.

In the United States, government-subsidized loans drive up tuition costs. Community and less-prestigious four-year colleges have lots of children from low and middle-income families, and many graduates are saddled with huge debt and have not found jobs that pay much better than high school graduates.

Enrollment at top business and professional schools are still dominated by students whose parents are well off. They get most of the top-paying jobs on Wall Street, in high-end law firms and among multinational corporations.

Obamacare is making health insurance more expensive for many middle-class families and driving up the cost of healthcare. That makes income disparities worse not better.

Research at the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research has shown putting otherwise able people on public assistance encourages the same in their children, and extended unemployment benefits actually increase unemployment by raising employer costs and reducing the demand for labor.

All these burdens slow growth and lessen job opportunities for the struggling middle class and disadvantaged.

High talk about social justice, widening economic opportunities and income redistribution makes liberal politicians media darlings and wins elections, but such demagoguery does little to fill the belly of the poor.

Urgent: Is Obamacare Hurting Your Wallet? Vote in Poll 

© 2014 Moneynews. All rights reserved.

 

The Deprivation And Collusion In The Ban Of Fish Imports By Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi.


Happy new year beautiful people and welcome back to our rendezvous.

Permit me to allow fish to engage our attention today. It seems the creature is angered by our letting goats, cows chickens and turkeys steal the spotlight as if it never existed. As if it wasn’t what we relied on for our animal protein prior to the yuletide. It is justifiably irked that within the last two weeks we’ve helped our favourite yuletide animals exit this wearisome world without visiting the same favour on it.

Hence, fish has taken us on in protest as we can see in their current prices. Its kind is apparently revolting. Maybe, it figured that we have been this contemptible because it wasn’t as costly as the others. That has led it to speak to us in that language we very much understand; when a commodity commands high price, it then becomes suitable to be offered to royals or served at special times.

That’s exactly what it has responded to! As a result, its price has rocketed by 20 percent, spoiling to go even higher. To be clear, a carton of the species we call Titus has increased from N10,500 to N13,500, while a carton of the Kote variety now sells for N10,200, up from the N7,500 it sold at a month earlier. The locally produced catfish is not left out of the fray as the hike in its imported kind has made its rate far removed from the reach of average income earners in the country.

You may not believe this, but fish-kind has found none other ally in subjecting us to this ‘correction’ than the federal government. Yes, the FG you know! While we understand the grievance of fish, that of the FG which made it get involved in this matter is what we need to decipher. So let’s now forget about the avenging and paranoid fish and focus our mind to better understand the relationship our FG has with fish.

To be fair to the federal government, it did tell us before hand. This instance is no where near the ambush it perpetrated against us in the 2012 removal of oil subsidy where it caught us totally off guard in the most cavalier manner.

It had in a letter dated October 29, 2013, to fish importers directed them to ensure that all Bills of Lading, conveying fish consignments, dates not later than October 2013 and arrived the Nigerian waters not later than December 31, 2013. This explains why major shipping lines such as Maerskline, Safmarine, Belmas etc stopped the transportation of frozen fish leading to the scarcity of the item.

Though government was fair in specifying exactly when this will happen, it fell short of fairness by not heeding the outcry that earlier greeted the policy. People have continued to argue that the directive was a ploy to deny the poor masses of their only cheap source of protein and enrich corrupt custom officers. Yet, the last has not been heard of it as the policy is targeted at an annual reduction of fish importation by 25 percent in the next four years by which time we would have attained zero importation of frozen fish.

The fish products that have become staple food in our country, that is the mackerel (titus) and horse mackerel (kote) are not farmed here. They  are caught in high seas in Asia, Europe and America, from where we import them. The variant that we cultivate locally is catfish. The problem with it is that it’s a tad too expensive for the poor and not widely available.

This situation caused the recourse to fish importation which costs government $600 million yearly. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina is not happy that government is losing such money, hence, he is all about conserving the sum. However, in doing this, he and members of his team appear to be overlooking some vital issues.

For one, it is a basic understanding that the fundamental ground for import ban is import substitution. It then flies in the face of logic for a country to ban what it cannot produce locally. Where this occurs, it becomes deprivation! That is why it is difficult to fault Daily Sun’s Steve Nwosu who, while commenting on the allocation of N34.5m for two animals in Aso Rock Zoo in the 2014 budget, wrote: “… the only assurance I can give those presidency animals is that any day any of them gets so over-fed that it strays into the streets, it would end up in our soup pots;”

I’m sure most Nigerians would be more than happy to devour those pets in the Aso Villa whenever they have the chance. They wouldn’t even mind if it be any of the ‘unclean animals’. For when a person is denied something important, anything else that come close comes in handy. Even if not as substitutes, there would be people who think their health status will improve if they feast on them as that would afford them nutritional benefits that animals better fed than princes have to offer.

Aside from these Nigerians who just hunger for GEJ’s pets, there will still be those who would gladly prey on the animals to free up the preposterous amount the government is spending on them. Who knows when they’re no longer there to quaff such humongous public funds, Dr. Adesina may have to tolerate the $600million government spends to avail us of animal protein.

Be that as it may, another reason the ban is seen as ill-conceived which derives from the former is that the species of fish being banned have proven difficult if not impossible to be  bred locally. For they are either too expensive to cultivate or do not adapt to our local conditions. With this in mind, it then seems as if the policy doesn’t give a damn about those with preference for the banned species of fish and would have none of the catfish brand.

You may say: heck, what do we care when their taste is milking the nation of $600million. But, remember we are practising democracy and if about 70 per cent poor Nigerians vote to have their favourite fish rather than conserving what is being spent on it for government to use and buy additional aircraft to its over-bloated fleet, why shouldn’t that be respected?

Further, we have seen that it’s not really that the catfish will come cheap when an embargo is placed on the others. The truth is that the unavailability of the imported brand will cause the price of the already expensive catfish to go up. We saw this happen and there is every possibility that it will get more expensive when the availability of kote and titus fish continues to shrink. Whence, then, should Nigerians go for cheap animal protein?

But, a major consolation most Nigerians have is that men of the Nigeria Custom will always play ball. Since it is in their DNA to play. After all, many years after government placed a ban on frozen turkey, you need not look too hard before you find out where they are sold. In the streets stalls and market shops they are displayed for sale.

Many other commodities had being banned by government but were un-banned by those at the customs. So, government still has to eventually spend the same sum it is working to conserve. Moreover, the smuggling activity that this ban will engender is sure to fester corruption and lead to more revenue losses to the government considering the porous nature of our borders.

With all this in mind, government should just tarry the policy till it had ensured that there is an alternative in place that the poor can relate to. Since we must have the titus and kote species, efforts should be expended on coming out with ways through which their production can be domesticated. Our academics should be engaged to research into ways this can be realised.

No one is disputing the good intention of the government in this policy. It’s just that it failed to properly do its homework before executing it. This has led it to unwittingly  play into the hands of fish kind that is now having a good time settling a score with us!

Ugochukwu, a freelance journalist can be followed on twitter @ugsylvester or reached via ug.ugovester@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters 

Thousands March in Hong Kong in Escalating Battle for Democracy.


HONG KONG — Thousands protested in Hong Kong on Wednesday pressing China to allow full democracy in the city as a battle intensifies over Beijing‘s attempts to control the outcome of a planned direct election for the city’s leader in 2017.

Beijing had promised direct elections in the former British colony as the goal for 2017, but the devil is in the details of the rules governing who can run.

Pressure has been building between democratic forces in the financial hub, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, and China’s stability-obsessed Communist Party leaders who fear a rival democrat being voted into office.

Protesters at the annual New Year’s Day democracy rally shouted slogans demanding full democracy in 2017, with a key condition being the open nominations of candidates so that anyone, including China critics, can run for office.

But Chinese officials and leftist newspapers have rejected that, citing the city’s mini-constitution that states all nominees must be endorsed by a 1,200-strong election committee, which is stacked with Beijing loyalists.

“There’s more and more interference [from Beijing],” said Tsang Fan-yu, a designer who was at Wednesday’s protest with his seven-year-old son for their sixth consecutive year. “We have to come out to make our voices heard. The form of democracy Beijing wants is unacceptable. It’s fake.”

A cluster of banners read “Real Universal Suffrage. No pre-screened election,” while protesters also called on the city’s embattled and pro-Beijing leader, Leung Chun-ying, to step down after a series of scandals.

“We want to see Hong Kong people have a genuine choice in electing their leaders,” said Anson Chan, a respected former head of the civil service, who was at the rally.

Discord over the city’s democratic future could culminate in a protest this summer called “Occupy Central,” seeking to shut down the central business district of one of Asia’s most important financial centers.

“No direct election? See you in Central!” read one of the banners.

A New Year civil referendum was also launched to gauge the public’s preferences for the 2017 poll, with some 50,000 Hong Kong residents having voted by late afternoon.

“Hong Kong’s political future has now come to a critical moment,” said Johnson Yeung, one of the rally organizers. “The 2014 New Year’s Day rally will become the first field of battle between the public and the government.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Chinese Recycling Tycoon Wants to Buy New York Times.


Image: Chinese Recycling Tycoon Wants to Buy New York TimesChinese billionaire and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao jumps on the roofs of new cars which he bought in Beijing as presents to the 43 owners of Japanese cars that were damaged during nationwide anti-Japan protests.
An eccentric Chinese recycling magnate said on Tuesday he was preparing to open negotiations to buy the New York Times Co..Chen Guangbiao, a well-known philanthropist, is something of a celebrity in China. During a particularly murky bout of pollution in January, the ebullient and tireless self-promoter handed out free cans of “fresh air”.But Chen says he is perfectly serious in his bid to buy the Times, which he said he had been contemplating for more than two years. He said he expected to discuss the matter on Jan. 5, when he is due to meet a “leading shareholder” in New York.

“There’s nothing that can’t be bought for the right price,” Chen told Reuters.

It is unlikely that the Times, which has long been controlled by the Ochs-Sulzberger family, would sell to Chen.

A spokeswoman for the New York Times, contacted after initial Chinese media reports about Chen’s offer, said the company did not comment on rumours.

The company’s chairman, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., said recently that the Times was not for sale.

Chen believes the Times is worth $1 billion, but said he would be willing to negotiate.

He said that because his funds were limited, he had persuaded a Hong Kong tycoon to put in $600 million while he would pay the rest. He said the tycoon was not ready to reveal his identity.

“If we act in sincerity and good faith, I believe the Times chairman will change his way of thinking,” he said.

Chen said if he was unable to buy the New York Times, he would settle for becoming a controlling stakeholder, and failing that, would simply buy a stake.

Hurun’s Rich List of China’s super-wealthy put the magnate’s wealth at about $740 million in 2012. Chen said he would not hesitate to sell off most of his assets if it enabled him to buy the Times.

Chen said his aim was not to push any political agenda, but rather his personal ideals of “peace on earth, protecting the environment and philanthropy”.

He attracted attention in August 2012 when he bought a half-page advertisement in the New York Times stating that an island chain at the centre of a dispute with Japan had belonged to China since antiquity.

“After that, I realised that the Times’ influence all over the world is incredibly vast,” he said. “Every government and embassy, all around the world, pays attention to the New York Times.”

The Times earned the ire of the Chinese government in 2012 with a report about the wealth of former Premier Wen Jiabao. The Times website has been blocked since then.

Chen said it was natural for the government to block the site because the report on Wen “contained biased and negative things that were not verified”.

“If I acquire the Times, the paper will only report the truth and must verify all information,” he said, adding that he would like every Chinese household to subscribe to the paper.

If his offer failed, Chen said he would extend offers to CNN, the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal.

“As long as they have some influence, I’m still willing to consider buying lesser media outlets,” he said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US Drawdown.


Image: Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US DrawdownU.S. soldiers inspect the site of a car bombing outside Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 11

By Elliot Jager

When American troops leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the Taliban will gain ground and the country will probably descend into chaos, according to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the Washington Post reported.

The gains achieved by the 2009 troop surge will likely be wiped out.

With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign a security agreement that would authorize a contingent of American and international troops to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training Afghan forces beyond 2014, the estimate takes a bleak view of Afghanistan by 2017.

This downbeat intelligence prognosis is not unanimously shared.

Pessimists see years of U.S. gains being squandered with the Kabul government ultimately losing the big cities. Even if several thousand troops stay behind to conduct counter-terror operations and for training purposes and even if Congress continues to bankroll the country. The intelligence estimate could bolster those who would like to see the U.S. pullout accelerated, the Post reported.

Optimists — including some in the Obama administration — say the capabilities of the Afghan army are being underestimated and that the Taliban will be pressured to sue for peace. One administration official said the intelligence estimate is intended only to highlight “potential upsides and downsides” to U.S. policy.

Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations sees continued stalemate in the years ahead depending on how much financial backing the U.S. provides the Kabul government.

If Karzai ultimately agrees to a deal regulating the U.S. and international presence, the country would continue to receive billions in U.S. and other aid.

As of December 28 the number of service personnel killed this year in Afghanistan stands at 127 for a total of 2,301 since America’s longest war began in 2001.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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