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Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama.


Image: Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama

By Melissa Clyne

Freedom of the press in the United States has plunged during the Obama administration, according to the 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

“The U.S. under President Obama, who once promised to run the ‘most transparent’ administration in the country’s history, fell from 32nd to 46th in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, a drop of 13 slots,” The Washington Times reports.

The report reviews the state of media freedoms in 180 countries. Major declines occurred in the United States, the Central African Republic, and Guatemala, while marked improvements took place in Ecuador, Bolivia, and South Africa, according to the index compiled by the press advocacy group.

Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway continue to lead the index for press freedoms and government openness, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea “continue to be the biggest information black holes, again occupying the last three positions.” Syria also ranked near the bottom.

The rating was based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure, according to Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

“It makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions,” Deloire said in a statement.

The report cited the handling of three events as major contributors to the declining rating for reporter freedoms the United States, according to The Washington Times.

• Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of top secret information related to U.S. spying programs;

• Army Pvt. Bradley Manning’s leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks;

• The Justice Department’s handling of a probe of The Associated Press and other media organizations suspected of receiving leaked data.

Freedom of the press is increasingly under siege as governments around the globe are targeting journalists — to get to their sources and those people who leak sensitive information, according to the report.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obama to Pitch Ideas in Speech for Spurring ‘Upward Mobility’.


President Barack Obama will urge the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to do more to help poor and middle-class Americans move up the economic ladder.

Both Obama and congressional Republicans view that issue as a high priority, a rare point of agreement between the two sides. But the Democratic president and Republicans disagree on the remedies, setting up a debate that Obama will discuss in his State of the Union address to Congress.

In the speech, scheduled for 9 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Obama will push an agenda for increasing economic upward mobility and propose aid to the long-term unemployed, an increase in the minimum wage and an expansion of early-childhood education.

After Obama’s speech, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, will deliver a response on behalf of her party. She will likely emphasize free-market ideas for improving prosperity.

Senator Marco Rubio and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, two Republicans who are both seen as potential 2016 presidential candidates, spoke this month on proposals for helping people climb out of economic hardship.

Rubio has suggested shifting responsibility for many federal benefit programs to the states. Ryan has floated the idea of providing a single benefit to low-income families, modeled on one in Great Britain.

The problem of economic stagnation is expected to be a theme in congressional election campaigns this year.

Analysts said social mobility was a potent political issue because the United States has long seen itself as a place where anyone with grit and determination can succeed.

In recent years, however, the wages of many low- and middle-income workers have held steady or fallen on an inflation-adjusted basis. The slow growth after the 2007-2009 recession has exacerbated this trend.

At the same time, the wealthiest and most highly educated Americans, referred to as the “1 percent,” have grown more prosperous.

 

Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed concern about studies showing that economic mobility in the United States lags that of some other industrialized economies, calling into question the nation’s reputation as a land of opportunity.

More than 40 percent of American men born into the poorest one-fifth of earners remain there, a 2006 study led by Finnish economist Markus Jantti showed. In Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden, only about 25 percent of such men stay in that income segment.

American sons of low-income fathers are more likely to remain stuck in the bottom tenth of earners as adults than are Canadian sons, University of Ottawa economist Miles Corak said in a study published in 2010. In the United States, 22 percent of men born to low-income families stayed in that category, while the same was true of only 16 percent of Canadians.

In 2012, former U.S. Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger published a study that linked income inequality with low levels of upward mobility. He devised a chart he named “The Great Gatsby Curve” after the fabulously wealthy protagonist of the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It showed the United States toward the upper end of the range of both inequality and low economic mobility, along with Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. At the opposite extreme, with low inequality and high mobility, were Denmark, Norway and Finland.

A study from a group led by Harvard University economist Raj Chetty added a new wrinkle to the debate with its finding that American children’s chances of moving up the economic ladder had not changed much in the past few decades. The study also made clear that children’s prospects were tightly linked to their parents’ socio-economic status – more so in the United States than in some other leading economies.

“It’s not so much that we’re losing the American dream,” said Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren, one of the study’s authors. “It’s did we ever have it, and do we want it?”

The focus on economic mobility builds on a pledge Obama has emphasized over the past two years: to improve the standing and security of the middle class.

The theme is newer for Republicans, who failed to capture the White House in 2012 in part because many voters perceived their party’s candidate, Mitt Romney, as dismissive of the struggles of the poor and working classes.

But analysts say a promise to boost economic mobility could resonate across the ideological spectrum.

“The idea of the United States being exceptional in its ability to promote economic opportunity or the notion of the nation being suited to help people rise is very much part of our national ethos,” said Erin Currier, director of economic mobility for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Americans feel strongly that the United States should be the land of opportunity.”

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Survey: Americans Falling Behind in Growing Global Skills Gap.


Americans are not building the literacy, numeracy, and problem solving skills they need to compete in the global economyaccording to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

While today’s students and adults are keeping up intellectually with previous generations of Americans they are mostly falling behind fast-advancing foreigners, The New York Times noted in an editorial.

The OECD report looked at people ages 16 to 65 in 24 developed countries focusing on the ability to understand written material, use mathematical concepts, and interpret data using computers. It found that Americans were comparatively weak in literacy, close to the bottom in numeracy, and slightly below average in using computers for problem solving.

In literacy, for example, 12 percent of US adults scored at the highest levels, just about average for the developed world. One in six scored below average compared with one in 20 in Japan.

Other key findings:

  • African-Americans and Hispanics are overrepresented in the low-skilled population.
  • Literacy skills are associated with employment and socio economic prospects.
  • Adults born to better-educated parents tend to have stronger literacy skills.

The Times said the report shows more needs to be done for education, noting countries at the forefront of the digital revolution such as Finland “broadened access to education, improved teacher training and took other steps.”

But Nicole Russell, writing in the American Spectator,  said homeschooling could be the best option for change.

“In every subject, from math and science to reading and social studies, homeschooled kids out-perform public school kids by 30 percentage points or more. Studies confirm they’re resilient and focused, doing well regardless of household income or whether their parents were certified teachers or [whether] a large sum of money was spent on their education.”

There is still a stigma attached to homeschooling and it is unfeasible for all parents, said Russell, who called the OECD findings “disheartening — staggering even — though unsurprising.”

But she said homeschooled students outperform their public school cohorts in communication, maturity, socialization and daily living.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Elliot Jager

Home » Commentary » Articles Commentary If Demons Could Talk By Ikechukwu Mbachu.


 

Ikechukwu Mbachu
By Ikechukwu Mbachu

I had a funny and telling experience last two weeks. My Cameroonian friend woke me up with an early morning phone call, his voice strained. I ruminated on what will necessitate such an early call and asked him what the matter was, expecting him to unleash one tale of horror or happiness, He did neither; instead he started asking for directions to a particular church in Nigeria.

I was flabbergasted and sightly angry and could not help but flippantly ask him if he didn’t know I am not a church goer. He then told me that indeed it was a serious matter. How serious was the matter? I asked, did anyone die? No. Is any one in a great deal of danger? No. Is anyone sick? Yes and No, He answered, I asked him who the sick person was, because having seen him the previous day, I knew if anyone was sick, it was most probably not him, He told me, he is not sick, that it was his brother in Cameron who was sick. I then asked him the nature of the ailment, he launched on a tirade of nonsensical statements about his brother been troubled by demons and other malevolent spiritual forces; all the symptoms he mentioned simply described a schizophrenic and I told him so. I advised him to take his brother to a psychiatrist for proper care. He would have none of that, instead he placed all the blames on the table of spiritual attacks from several imaginary and perceived physical cum spiritual enemies. Since I was in no mood to argue, I decided not to embark on the arduous task of vitiating his views. I simply accepted, but wondered if there was no church in Cameron that could perform the “deliverance” as he kept on calling it that he needed to travel all the way to Nigeria for this ritual.

He then told me how enamored he was by this Nigerian pastor and his great spiritual powers, such that he knows that at the sight of this man all the demons troubling his brother will disappear. I was impressed by the absolute faith and had to ask him what made him feel so sure about the powers of the man. He said “my brother you never see anything” I said “anything like what?” He called the pastor’s name, only then did he tell me what convinced him to come to Nigeria to see the pastor. He told he just watched a clip of the man’s antics on YouTube. I promptly replied I am used to seeing poor people visit the man for deliverance and I felt it was simply an indication of the parlous socio-economic state of the nation. I also mentioned hearing different tales about an ex-Super Eagles star’s encounter with the man. My friend told me those were small fries, I told him I also know about the Presidents and former Presidents who has visited him for different reasons. Suddenly, my friend, blurted out “do you know Mij Ekyi?” (names changed) I said “yes” “He has just been delivered in this church” He said. I shouted in absolute surprise, “you don’t mean it!” He simply directed me to a website where I saw a topnotch Nollywood star act out the best script of his life. Personally, my view is that apart from the mistake about his shoes, since I started watching his flicks, this was his best performance so far. After watching the charade of a deliverance, a puerile circus show and classic exercise in spiritual abracadabra. I could not help but ask some questions.

I thought when it comes to matter of demons, only the poor cry, I never knew the rich also cry. Seeing a respected Nollywood star wallowing in a spiritual stupor left me wondering. Why do Nigerians still believe such fairy tales? If an exposed and enlightened actor can take part in the odious display of religious chicanery, what would the commoners do? Is the kind of mindset that will develop the nation?

Is Nigeria the headquarters of demons of the world? From the number of posters and programs on exorcisms, deliverance etc, it would be safe to say that Nigeria has the highest number of demons in the world. There is no kind of demons that these charlatans have not claimed to have power to exorcise,just name the phenomenon and there is a demon for it in Nigeria. It is only in Nigeria that I have heard of exam-failure demon, pregnancy-stopping demon, bloodsucking demon, poverty demon, asthma demon, disappointment demons and plenty more. The way these charlatans talk about demons makes it seem like the Nigerian airspace is full and cluttered with them and these demons might pretty soon start dropping on us from the sky.

I thought our major export product was oil, when did it religious imbecility become our major export? I am not against Nigerian religious leaders using religion to make money or using it to earn foreign exchange, since religion itself has become a major form of tourism, however their modus operandi need not be so crude and so outdated.

The unfortunate and amazing part of thing is that while the number of programs on deliverance and people who claim to possess the power to chase out demons keeps increasing astronomically, the number of demons shows no signs of reducing, if anything they are growing in numbers.

Truth be told, the total and absolute belief of Nigerians in demons borders on ignorance. It is ignorance and poverty that makes makes most of them believe in these spiritual gobbledygook, hocus pocus and balderdash. However, I am not surprised at the ignorance of the many. Like the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer sarcastically asked, “if gold rust what shall Iron do?” If highly education, exposed and enlightened rulers can blame spiritual forces for all our woes, what would the commoners do? Is it not in the same Nigeria that Ministers of Power (past and present) openly and shamelessly blames demons and other evil esoteric forces for the energy problems in Nigeria.

Is it not the same Nigeria where a former minister of aviation and the present minister of aviation have engaged themselves in war of words on the cause of frequent air crashes in the nation. As educated as we are should this argument rise at all? Should educated people be discussing the spiritual forces responsible for air mishaps?

Is not the same Nigeria where politicians blatantly rig elections and claim God gave them victory?

Is it not the same Nigeria where some members of the national Assembly are planning a national day of prayer to stop air crashes in the country? They forget the golden maxim, “ Heaven help those who help themselves” Nigerians, especially the leaders refuse to understand that even if spiritual forces played any role in these matters, they can do little to help us because we have tied their hands with our actions and conducts.

All these talks about demons, witches and wizards is symptomatic of the high level of frustration and hatred in the land, it is an outpouring of the ill-feeling pervading the land. Are not ashamed of ourselves? We need to ask ourselves what is wrong with us. Why are these demons not in Germany, Japan, Finland and other developed countries? Is it that they fear the people of these country or what? Why are they only found in places riddled with poverty and corruption such as Nigeria, The truth be told, the only demons we need to deliver ourselves from are the demons of corruption, demons of mismanagement, demons of laziness, tribalism, nepostism etc. And if we are waiting for esoteric forces to exorcise these demons in us, we will be waiting for the proverbial Godot. Methinks it’s time we begin to tell ourselves the truth, we often resort to blaming esoteric forces for our misfortunes because we are afraid to accept our weaknesses and failures. We are afraid to face our our problems headlong, we are afraid to face our problems pragmatically and analytically.

My question to the charlatans is why is they always find it easy to cast out personal demons, but almost impossible to tackle the national demons harassing the nation. Is it that there are no national or regional demons in the country? In the wake of the numerous disasters in recent times; I doubt if any of them will deny the existence of such demons. What are these exorcists doing to send these demons to the bottomless pit? It seems they are only good in exorcising imagined, concocted, and non-existent personal demons while the real demons are busy ravaging the land. I wonder why there is so much concentration on spiritual and supernatural demons in Nigeria while the real demons continues to ride roughshod over Nigerians.

I know people will ask what real demons I am talking about; Well, the answer is not far-fetched, I am talking about the demons of Boko Haram, the demons of endless academic strike, the demon of kidnapping, the demon of armed robbery, the demon of accidents (road and air) the demons of early child marriage, the demon of erratic power supply and countless other demons in the land. These are the real and tangible demons plaguing Nigeria not some invented demons.

It is demoralizing to hear most Nigerians in high and low places adduce most socio-economic problems to demonic forces. I know exactly what the demons (if they existed) would be thinking and saying to Nigerians if they could talk.

They would tell Nigerians they are not responsible for the all heinous crimes committed by that noxious and murderous group who says western education is evil. They would tell Nigerians that the activities of the murderous bands have nothing to do with them, but more to do with the resolve of some disgruntled urchins to make the nation ungovernable for the president.

If demons could talk, I am sure they will be telling Nigerians they are not responsible for the interminable strike keeping most Nigerian students at home,they would be screaming at Nigerians to ask their Presidents, and his minister of education why they can’t keep to their part of the agreement with Academic Staff Union of Nigeria.

If demons could talk, they would be pointing accusing fingers at the bad roads, careless drivers, arbitrary police check point, badly maintained vehicle for the incessant road mishaps in the country. They would tell Nigerians who call them blood sucking demons and accuse them of been the architect of fatal accidents that if the roads were good, the drivers careful, regulations followed to the latter, if the vehicles were regularly maintained, their blood sucking activities will be reduced to the barest minimum.

If demons could talk, they would tell the President, the governors, the senators, the ministers and the pastors blaming them for all the problems in the nation that they are been very economical with the truth. They would tell them that most of the problems in the country is not caused by demons but by bad rulers.
If demons could talk, they will be telling Nigerians that most of the diseases attributed to them have natural causes, they would be telling Nigerians to stop falling prey to charlatans who are simply on one mission, namely, to hoodwink the vulnerable using their ignorance.

If demons could talk they would tell Nigerians they are not responsible for the billions been looted from the nation treasury in the name of corruption. They would ask Nigerians to hold their President, Governors and lawmakers responsible.

If demons could talk, they will tell Nigerians demons and spiritual agents have little or no role to play in the development of a nation. They would tell Nigerians that most developed nations are not spiritual, They would tell Nigerians most developed country decided to stop dancing to the gallery and decided to face their problems squarely and pragmatically. Nigerians should stop using spiritual forces as excuse for their failures, their inadequacies, their laziness, their shortcomings, their flawed mentality, their “mumuism” They should stop invoking supernatural deities for every of their problems. Most of our problems in Nigeria are not super natural, they are natural and should be solved naturally with our nature given intellects. If only demons could talk, they will have a lot to tell Nigerians!
Ikechukwu Mbachu
Brandenburg Technical University, Cottbus, Germany
Email: ikechukwembachu@gmail.com

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

US Adults Score Below Average in Math, Reading on Worldwide Test.


It’s long been known that America’s school kids haven’t measured well compared with international peers. Now, there’s a new twist: Adults don’t either.

In math, reading and problem-solving using technology — all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength — American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation’s high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven’t.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.

The study, called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, found that it was easier on average to overcome this and other barriers to literacy overseas than in the United States.

Researchers tested about 157,000 people ages 16 to 65 in more than 20 countries and subnational regions. It was developed and released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of mostly industrialized member countries. The Education Department’s Center for Education Statistics participated.

The findings were equally grim for many European countries — Italy and Spain, among the hardest hit by the recession and debt crisis, ranked at the bottom across generations. Unemployment is well over 25 percent in Spain and over 12 percent in Italy. Spain has drastically cut education spending, drawing student street protests.

But in the northern European countries that have fared better, the picture was brighter — and the study credits continuing education. In Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands, more than 60 percent of adults took part is either job training or continuing education. In Italy, by contrast, the rate was half that.

As the American economy sputters along and many people live paycheck-to-paycheck, economists say a highly-skilled workforce is key to economic recovery. The median hourly wage of workers scoring on the highest level in literacy on the test is more than 60 percent higher than for workers scoring at the lowest level, and those with low literacy skills were more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

“It’s not just the kids who require more and more preparation to get access to the economy, it’s more and more the adults don’t have the skills to stay in it,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement the nation needs to find ways to reach more adults to upgrade their skills. Otherwise, he said, “no matter how hard they work, these adults will be stuck, unable to support their families and contribute fully to our country. “

Among the other findings:

—Americans scored toward the bottom in the category of problem solving in a technology rich environment. The top five scores in the areas were from Japan, Finland, Australia, Sweden and Norway, while the U.S. score was on par with England, Estonia, Ireland and Poland. In nearly all countries, at least 10 percent of adults lacked the most basic of computer skills such as using a mouse.

—Japanese and Dutch adults who were ages 25 to 34 and only completed high school easily outperformed Italian or Spanish university graduates of the same age.

—In England, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United States, social background has a big impact on literacy skills, meaning the children of parents with low levels of education have lower reading skills.

America’s school kids have historically scored low on international assessment tests compared to other countries, which is often blamed on the diversity of the population and the high number of immigrants. Also, achievement tests have long shown that a large chunk of the U.S. student population lacks basic reading and math skills — most pronounced among low-income and minority students.

This test could suggest students leaving high school without certain basic skills aren’t obtaining them later on the job or in an education program.

The United States will have a tough time catching up because money at the state and local level, a major source of education funding, has been slashed in recent years, said Jacob Kirkegaard, an economist with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“There is a race between man and machine here. The question here is always: Are you a worker for whom technology makes it possible to do a better job or are you a worker that the technology can replace?” he said. For those without the most basic skills, he said, the answer will be merciless and has the potential to extend into future generations. Learning is highly correlated with parents’ education level.

“If you want to avoid having an underclass — a large group of people who are basically unemployable — this educational system is absolutely key,” Kirkegaard said.

Dolores Perin, professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said the report provides a “good basis for an argument there should be more resources to support adults with low literacy.”

Adults can learn new skills at any age and there are adult-geared programs around the country, Perin said. But, she said, the challenge is ensuring the programs have quality teaching and that adults regularly attend classes.

“If you find reading and writing hard, you’ve been working hard all day at two jobs, you’ve got a young child, are you actually going to go to class? It’s challenging,” Perin said.

Some economists say that large skills gap in the United States could matter even more in the future. America’s economic competitors like China and India are simply larger than competitors of the past like Japan, Carnevale said. Even while America’s top 10 percent of students can compete globally, Carnevale said, that doesn’t cut it. China and India did not participate in this assessment.

“The skills in the middle are required and we’re not producing them,” Carnevale said.

Respondents were selected as part of a nationally represented sample. The test was primarily taken at home using a computer, but some respondents used a printed test booklet.

Among the other findings:

—Japan, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Flanders-Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, and Korea all scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test.

—The average scores in literacy range from 250 in Italy to 296 in Japan. The U.S. average score was 270. (500 was the highest score in all three areas.) Average scores in 12 countries were higher than the average U.S. score.

—The average scores in math range from 246 in Spain to 288 in Japan. The U.S. average score was 253, below 18 other countries.

—The average scores on problem solving in technology-rich environments scale for adult ranged from 275 in Poland to 294 in Japan. The U.S. average score was 277, below 14 other countries.

_____

Online: http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/publications.htm

 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Rejoinder: The Nigerian Embassy In Sweden Will Not Close By Adeola Aderounmu.


 

AmbassadorBen Amobi, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland
By Adeola Aderounmu

With respect to the issuance of passport at the Nigerian Embassy in Sweden, I have written twice about this topic already. There was an article by a fellow named Felix Nestyy on Sahara Reporters on June 20 2013 calling for the closure of the Nigerian Embassy in Sweden.

Both of my previous articles were published at the Nigerian Village Square. The first one written on the 13th of March 2012 was titled “The Disgraceful Misadventure of the Nigerian Immigration Service”. I criticized severely the Nigerian immigration service for their cruel treatment of Nigerians through the cumbersome passport renewal processes. Nigerians abroad go through a lot of trauma and bouts of depressions while trying to renew or obtain new passports.

In the second article published on the 3rd of April 2013 I wrote an update titled: Nigeria Embassy in Sweden Gets First Biometric Machine.

For the records, Nigeria has operated an embassy in Sweden since 1967 and the embassy has been issuing / renewing passports for about 25 years.

When Mr. Onochie Amobi arrived in Sweden to oversee the affairs of Nigeria/Nigerians as the sole Ambassador of Nigeria to all the Scandinavian Islands, the most consistent part of his speeches until the early part of 2013 was his promise to stop the cumbersome processes that tail the re-issuance and acquisition of Nigerian passports.

True, new passports have been issued by the Nigerian Immigration Service in Stockholm since the first quarter of this year, 2013.  The machines are still operational and new passports can be issued by the Embassy in Stockholm.

The areas that are problematic are the renewal of passports. The prevailing technical hitches are beyond the scope of the Embassy in Stockholm. To my knowledge, it is the function of the Nigerian Immigration Service to issue passports.

However the embassy does share some responsibilities in the overall procedures. It was easy to extend the validity of the old Nigerian passports by simply applying stamps with dates. With advances in technology, the bulk of the procedures nowadays and the actual issuance of the passports rest on authorized immigration officers who are representing the Nigerian Minister of Internal Affairs.

 

For some reasons that may not be unconnected to the “Nigerian factor” and the shameful work ethics of many Nigerians which continue to suffer severe moral decadence the Nigerian Immigration Services has failed to return some of the passports of those who applied for renewal since 2012. That was before the Biometric machines were installed in Sweden.

After the installation of the passport machines the Nigerian Immigration Services, Abuja has placed some clogs in the wheel of progress of the operations of the machines in Stockholm.  It is highly unbecoming of a Federal Institution which in this case is either the Nigerian Immigration Service or its parent body-the Ministry of Internal Affairs to hinder progressive activities abroad through bottlenecks created at home.

To my knowledge the Nigerian embassy in Stockholm is working towards rectifying all the fault lines. The problematic issue has been brought to the attention of the concerned higher authorities.   In the eyes of many Nigerians in Sweden, Mr. Amobi has uplifted the image of the Nigerian embassy in Stockholm, positively.

I am saying that the man is doing his job. I am a hardcore critic of the Nigerian government and I want to be able to raise my head high for as long as I write in public fora and for as long as I live. The last thing anyone will read from me is praise-singing of a Nigerian politician or public servant. For more than 12 years and until this day I refused to praise people for doing what their offices or job description stipulated.

It is ideal to state things just as they are. Mr. Amobi is a career diplomat who promised to put a stop to the “flying immigration”-my phrase for the Nigerian immigration officers flying around the world to “do passports”. It came to pass early this year.

The Nigerian Embassy under him has recovered from a very battered image to a glorious one. His open door policy and readiness to meet with individuals or groups at short or drop-in notices is unprecedented of 99.9% of Nigerian public office holders, I dare say.

The problems with the issuance or renewal of passports in Sweden, Finland, Norway or anywhere else abroad is essentially the problem of the Nigerian Immigration Service with headquarters in Abuja, the capital of corrupt Nigeria.

Our anger should be directed at the Minister of Internal Affairs Mr. Patrick Abba Moro, who manages the Immigration services and the Minister of External Affairs Mr. Olugbenga Ashiru, who must make sure that services connected to the Nigerian embassies around the world are rendered without the usual, totally nonsensical “Nigerian-factor” and “Nigerian-mentality” syndromes.

The Ambassadors (good or bad) already have enormous tasks on their hands. It is outrageous if the Nigerian Immigrations Service is expecting the ambassadors or the passport applicants to drop Ghana-must-go back at its doors in Abuja. From Stockholm or elsewhere from the Scandinavian Islands, it will not happen.

Those who own the passports are students who want to travel for research and other purposes. They are honest people trying to gain employment so they can send money to Nigeria to support their families and friends. For several years Nigerians abroad have sent billions of dollars home annually thereby preventing the massively looted economy from collapsing. The people who own these passports or who are trying to get new ones are people who need to legalize/regularize their stay and move on with their lives.

Without delay this matter should take the priority of both Misters Moro and Ashiru. They should ensure that passports taken to Nigerian by the “Flying Immigration officers” are quickly returned. Delays are always dangerous.  Who does not know that a stitch in time saves nine?

The problems with the re-issuance of passport at the embassies caused by lapses in Abuja should be resolved immediately. The biometric machines have been supplied, let us be honest with ourselves and our brethren abroad: bring in trained and trustworthy immigration workers to the embassies and let the glory of your country Nigerian shine.

 

aderounmu@gmail.com

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Finnish Pastor Tells Congregation to ‘Get Into the Bible’.


Pastor Shaun Rossi
Pastor Shaun Rossi (OM)

Running into a pastor who tells his congregation to “get into the Bible” is not something that happens daily in postmodern Finland. Add to that a congregation that takes time to memorize Scripture, and you have a rare combination.

Yet against all odds, what we find at United Community Church (UCC) in the capital area of Helsinki is exactly that.

According to UCC pastor and OMer Shaun Rossi, the church has “held a pattern of preaching expositionally through the Bible” throughout its history. Planted in 2007, UCC is an international English-speaking church ministering to both Finns and foreigners living in Finland. Rossi wants people to know Christ and to learn to trust and depend on Him.

“I suppose many think that to be relevant today, you must water down the truth of God’s Word,” Rossi says. “We decided we would speak the Bible for what it is to the best of our ability—really, what else do we have to give people?”

In addition to Sunday preaching, the Bible is being taught in what UCC calls “growth classes.” These Monday night classes are divided into three six-week segments that cover topics from Christian doctrine to world missions. Through these classes, people have learned to go to the Bible themselves.

“We have seen people respond with a real hunger for more and more,” Rossi explains.

Are You Reading the Bible?

When he was a new believer, Rossi read and studied a lot of theology. Then a good friend noticed that while Rossi was reading a lot about the Bible, he didn’t spend much time reading the Bible itself.

“He called me out, asking whether I was reading the Bible regularly,” Rossi recalls, and he admitted he wasn’t. He felt “a gentle conviction” and began to read the Bible daily, a habit that has since been “pretty consistent with the occasional lull.”

Rossi wants to lead by setting an example. He believes Christian books and Internet sermons can be beneficial but insists that the real question is whether or not you are reading the Bible.

“For me, reading the Bible is not about wanting instant help,” he says. “I think many are deterred from reading the Bible because they want all of their questions and problems answered during their morning devotions. For me, the real fruit of Bible reading can be seen in looking back over the years and seeing how the Word has strengthened and molded me and been a source of grace in my life.”

Investing in Christian Men

An information technology project manager by profession, Rob Curtis is in charge of men’s ministry at UCC. He believes “spiritual growth doesn’t just happen.” Rather, churches have to invest in it in order to see change.

According to Curtis, churches in the West have been “spoon-feeding” Christians for decades. The result is “large chunks of Christian generations feeling ill-equipped and inadequate” to evangelize, lead family devotions or have “anything that even vaguely resembles a daily walk with God,” Curtis says.

“Young Christians need to be taught God’s Word and how to use it and live by it themselves,” he continues. Curtis wants to be a catalyst, rocking the boat and stirring things up.

“Telling people the truth comes easily to me,” he admits. “However, it only helps if you love the person with the love that God has put inside you. You can’t pass something on that you don’t have. I need to be living out a fresh, daily relationship with God myself. That is the greatest challenge, and it is only doable by walking humbly before God.”

Finding Answers

A few years ago, Minni Suova, a fashion designer from Helsinki, became curious about the Bible and decided to join a friend’s Bible study group. She was not attending a church at the time. However, what she learned through the Bible study started affecting her thinking.

“All those passages about the church being important—if I wanted to take what I was reading seriously, I had to find myself a church,” Suova recalls.

She came to UCC to visit and never went anywhere else.

“Why keep looking?” she asks. “I feel at home here, and besides, no church will ever be perfect and meet all of my requirements. By committing to this church, I can grow and help others to grow as well.”

Today, Suova serves as the missions coordinator at UCC. “I was never particularly interested in missions,” she admits. “But the position needed to be filled, the work needed to be done, and there I was. Why not take the job?”

“Sometimes we spend too much time trying to figure out what our calling is,” she adds. “Maybe I wasn’t so interested in missions before. Now I am. I have found my place in the church.”

Minni still attends the same Bible study. The group consists of women from different church backgrounds. While their theological stances vary, they all share a genuine desire to know God’s Word.

“We go through the Bible book by book,” Suova shares. “I’m in a habit of getting stuck on hard questions, which I can’t let go of until I understand what the Bible says about them. The group has walked with me and helped me find answers.”

Joy Through Challenges

A student of theology and tourism, Satu Kolehmainen started attending UCC three years ago. Last year, she lived through a personal crisis that saw her relationship with Jesus change dramatically.

“I had been a listener rather than a doer,” Kolehmainen explains, referring to James 1:22, which says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (NIV).

“But then God allowed such challenges and trials in my life that I had to depend on Him,” she says.

In the midst of the challenges, Kolehmainen started reading the Bible in a new way. Pastor Rossi advised her to meditate God’s Word. That prompted her to memorize Scripture verses, which she then repeated silently, over and over again.

“At first I didn’t feel anything,” Kolehmainen recalls. “I was simply putting together a collection of comforting passages.”

But soon the words started molding and changing her. She clung to God’s promises, and slowly but surely those promises started becoming true.

“My life in Christ is no longer about achievement,” Kolehmainen says. “Now it’s about having a relationship with Him.”

Today, bursting with joy and excitement, Kolehmainen believes God allows us to sometimes face challenges simply because we need to realize how much we need Jesus. And it’s easy to believe what she says—her eyes twinkle, and one can almost touch the joy radiating from her.

Like Kolehmainen, many at UCC have found that God’s Word is truth, indeed.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

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