Sunday, November 28, 2010
The magazine indicated that the investigations carried out on Abubakar and other African leaders by the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security in a report entitled “Keeping Foreign Corruption Out of the United States” could serve as a hinderance to Abubakar’s ambition in 2011.
According to the magazine in the edition with the headline: “Atiku’s Chances: His problems with America,” dated December 6, 2010, the former vice-president was listed among the four case studies of persons who allegedly laundered “illicit” funds to the US.
The report which Executive Summary was initially made public after a public hearing by the US Senate Committee headed by Senator Carl Levin on February 4, 2010, listed Abubakar among the four persons tagged ‘Politically Exposed Persons’(PEP), who were used as case studies.
Others in the PEP category, including Atiku, are Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mange, sonof the president of Equitorial Guinea; president of Gabon, Omar Bongo and three PEPs from Angola.
The PEPs, according to the report, used US-based lawyers, lobbyists, escrow agents, real estate, bankers, as well as university workers to circumvent the US anti-corruption safe guards and launder funds into the country.
This act, the reprt claimed, had a corrosive effect on its rule of law, economic development and democratic principles.
On his part, Alhaji Abubakar was alleged to have, through his fourth wife, Ms Jennifer Douglas, a citizen of the US, moved $40 million in suspect funds to the United States between 2000 and 2008 through wire transfers sent by off shore corporations to US bank accounts.
In addition, the US Securities and Exchange Commission had received civil complaints in 2008, alleging that Douglas received “over $2.8 million in bribe payments in 2001 and 2002 from Siemens AG, a German firm, to bribe Nigerian officials.”
According to the report, another $2.1 million was transferred by wire through Edward Weirdenfeld, a US lawyer, who represented Douglas, Abubakar and the American University of Nigeria owned by the former vice-president.
Though, the lawyer claimed that the transaction was for the Abubakar family legal expenses for setting up the university and he assumed that the funds came from the former vice-president.
The list of money laundering allegations against the presidential aspirant included funds allegedly laundered through some American banks, including Citibank, Eagle bank, Chevy Chase, Suntrust Bank, and Wachovia Bank.
At Citibank in Maryland, Jennifer Atiku was alleged to have opened 18 different accounts, which included personal checking accounts, a home equity account, three accounts in the name of her organi-sation, Gede Foundation and two extra personal checking accounts that were later expanded for the AUN and Jennifer herself.
These accounts were said to be used to bring in $20 million suspect funds through the bank into the US.
When allegations of a US inquiry on his person was recently published by the Saturday Tribune, his media manager, Mallam Garba Shehu, said such allegations were aimed at stopping the presidential ambition of Atiku.
"It's so important to shock you to the point of waking up," Keys said. "It's not that people don't care or it's not that people don't want to do something, it's that they never thought of it quite like that."
The campaign, she said, puts the disease in perspective.
"This is such a direct and instantly emotional way and a little sarcastic, you know, of a way to get people to pay attention," said Keys, who has more than 2.6 million followers on Twitter.
The foundation, which began in 2003, will accept donations through text messages and bar-code technology, which is featured in the charity's Buy Life campaign. Raised efforts support families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.
"We're trying to sort of make the remark: Why do we care so much about the death of one celebrity as opposed to millions and millions of people dying in the place that we're all from?" said Leigh Blake, the president and co-founder of Keep a Child Alive.
"It's about love and respect and human dignity," she added.
Keys said recruiting celebrities was difficult because of scheduling, but "once I got people on the phone and I was able to paint the concept for them, everybody was in."
Not one person said no, Keys recalled.
"I have a feeling that Gaga is going to raise it all by herself," Blake said. Lady Gaga has more than 7.2 million followers on Twitter, and nearly 24 million fans on Facebook.
"She's got a very, very mobilized fan base and that's beautiful to watch I think (and) she's able to draw their attention to these issues that are very important, you know, and that people follow it and act."
As Hawkins puts it, there are two kinds of growers: "You've got the caught and the uncaught." And, at least for now, the 67-year-old Boone is a bit of both.
He spent more than a decade in federal prison after being convicted in the late 1980s of taking part in what federal prosecutors called the "largest domestic marijuana syndicate in American history," a string of 29 farms in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Wisconsin.
The group became known as the "Cornbread Mafia" and Boone was tagged by prosecutors as their leader, earning him the nicknames "King of Pot" and "Godfather of Grass." Eventually, 70 Kentuckians were accused of growing 182 tons of marijuana.
Boone's looks are a mixture of grandfatherly and sinister: Around the time of the 2008 raid on his property 60 miles southeast of Louisville, Boone sported white hair on his balding head and a shaggy white beard. Yet across his back are large, tattooed letters spelling "Omerta," the infamous Sicilian word that describes the underworld code of silence.
While federal authorities don't describe him as violent, his criminal record dates back to the 1960s and also includes charges of wanton endangerment and illegal firearm possession.
Deputy U.S. Marshal James Habib and Boone's friends call him an innovator — separating male from female plants on a large scale to increase potency and experimenting with seeds from around the world in different climates.
"He was the player. There might have been one or two close to him," said Jack Smith, a former federal prosecutor who represented Boone in the 1980s case. "I never heard of anybody who was bigger."
While Smith said some see marijuana growers as harmless, he points out large-scale operations can fund other illegal activities such as prostitution or lead to violence between dealers. Large marijuana fields in Kentucky and elsewhere are sometimes booby-trapped or patrolled by armed growers.
"It's illegal for a reason," Smith said.
Boone's rough-edged stomping grounds — dotted with small towns, corn fields and bourbon distilleries — have a colorful history of fostering illicit activities.
The area was home to moonshine runners during Prohibition, who often darted into rows of corn stalks and barns to hide from federal agents. In the early 1980s, as the economy soured and prices for tobacco and farm products dropped, parts of central Kentucky had unemployment rates nearing 14 percent. The rate in the area now is around 9 percent — similar to the national average.
"A lot of the sons of moonshine makers turned to marijuana," said Smith, a native of the area who now practices in Louisville. "That particular part of the state, that was the hometown of marijuana."
Boone himself invoked the area's hardships during the 1988 court hearing at which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
"With the poverty at home, marijuana is sometimes one of the things that puts bread on the table," Boone said. "We were working with our hands on earth God gave us."
Boone's estranged wife, Marilyn, declined to speak to The Associated Press at her house. Other family members also declined to respond to phone calls and letters. And in the towns of central Kentucky — Springfield, Raywick, Loretto and Lebanon — many people acknowledged knowing of Boone, but either professed not to know him well or wouldn't speak about him to a reporter.
"Even if I knew where he was, I wouldn't tell you," said James "Jim Bean" Cecil, a 64-year-old Lebanon, Ky., resident who spent time in prison with Boone.
Those who would talk about Boone offered similar descriptions — a friendly, nonconfrontational man who was quick to open his wallet when friends were having trouble making ends meet. For example, a man who mowed the grass on Boone's sprawling property was given twice the fee he requested at the end of the job.
When Cecil got out of prison, Boone gave him money to get back on his feet.
"He never asked me to pay him back," Cecil said.
Friends also recall him as a heck of a farmer who grew corn and who just happened to also grow marijuana, which to some locals made Boone an outlaw, not a criminal. A Facebook page set up for him has 1,600 fans.
"He was just a good ol' country boy, a farmer," said Joe Pendleton, a Boone acquaintance whose shop sells the "Run, Johnny, Run" T-shirts in nearby Campbellsville. "He's not robbing banks or nothing."
Boone's latest trouble came in 2008, when Kentucky State Police doing aerial surveillance spotted marijuana plants on trailers on Boone's farm near Springfield. A raid turned up more than 2,400 plants, but no Boone.
"As soon as he found out they were there, he split," said Jim Higdon, a writer based in Lebanon, Ky., who interviewed Boone for a book project. "It was a death sentence. He became a fugitive."
Boone, who has marijuana-growing contacts in Central America, could be anywhere. Then again, Habib said he could still be hiding out in the rural, tight-knit area around his farm.
"It's like trying to catch a ghost," former Deputy U.S. Marshal Rich Knighten said shortly after Boone's indictment in 2008.
If Boone's friends have their way, he'll remain uncaught. Some complain it's not worth a life sentence — which Boone faces under the federal three-strikes provision — for a nonviolent drug charge.
"I never seen nobody get mad in my life smoking dope," said former Raywick mayor Charlie Bickett, who runs Charlie's Place, a bar filled with hand-painted milk cans and saws, including a painting of Boone looking out over the water while smoking a joint.
Even free, Bickett said, Boone is serving a sentence — wondering each day if he'll be caught and knowing he can't return to his family.
"I guarantee you, he'd love to be back home, Johnny would," Bickett said. "I really miss him. I sure do."
Saturday, November 27, 2010
He never got the chance. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested Friday in downtown Portland after using a cell phone to try to detonate what he thought were explosives in a van, prosecutors said. It turned out to be a dummy bomb put together by FBI agents.
It is the latest in a string of alleged terrorist plots by U.S. citizens or residents, including a Times Square plot in which a Pakistan-born man pleaded guilty earlier this year to trying to set off a car bomb at a bustling street corner. Last month, another Pakistan-born Virginia resident was accused in a bomb plot to kill commuters.
In the Portland plot, Mohamud believed he was receiving help from a larger ring of jihadists as he communicated with undercover federal agents, but no foreign terrorist organization was directing him, according to a law-enforcement official who wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on a condition of anonymity.
The official said Mohamud was very committed to the plot and planned the details alone, including where to park the van to hurt the most people.
"I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave dead or injured." Mohamud said, according to the affidavit.
"It's in Oregon, and Oregon, like you know, nobody ever thinks about it," the suspect told an agent in one discussion.
Thousands of people had gathered Friday on a cold, clear night for the annual event at Pioneer Courthouse Square, a plaza often referred to as "Portland's living room" because of its popularity.
Just 10 minutes before Mohamud's 5:40 p.m. arrest, the lighting ceremony began. Babies sat on shoulders, and children cheered at the first appearance of Santa Claus onstage.
The tree-lighting on the bricks of the plaza went off without a hitch just as the arrest was taking place.
Mohamud, who grew up in Beaverton, was a former student at Oregon State University. He had been enrolled in courses from late 2009 until Oct. 6 before withdrawing, said Oregon State University spokesman Todd Simmons.
The law-enforcement official who spoke to the AP on Saturday said agents began investigating Mohamud after receiving a tip from someone who was concerned about the teenager. The official declined to provide any more detail about the relationship between Mohamud and that source.
In an e-mail exchange with an undercover agent Mohamud complained, "I have been betrayed by my family," although he describes no specific action that family members took.
The FBI monitored Mohamud's e-mail and found that he was in contact with people overseas, asking how he could travel to Pakistan and join the fight for jihad, according to an FBI affidavit.
According to the law enforcement official, Mohamud e-mailed a friend living in Pakistan who had been a student in Oregon in 2007-2008 and been in Yemen as well.
For reasons that have not been explained, Mohamud tried to board a flight to Kodiak, Alaska, from Portland on June 14, wasn't allowed to board and was interviewed by the FBI, the affidavit states.
Mohamud told the FBI he wanted to earn money fishing and then travel to join "the brothers." He said he had previously hoped to travel to Yemen but had never obtained a ticket or a visa.
On June 23, an undercover agent contacted Mohamud by e-mail, pretending to be affiliated with the "unindicted associate" Mohamud had sent e-mails to.
The FBI's affidavit says the friend in Pakistan referred him to another associate, but gave him an e-mail address that Mohamud tried repeatedly to use unsuccessfully. The official said FBI agents saw that as an opportunity and e-mailed Mohamud in response, claiming to be associates of his friend, the former student.
The affidavit said Mohamud was warned several times about the seriousness of his plan, that women and children could be killed, and that he could back out. But he told agents: "Since I was 15 I thought about all this" and "It's gonna be a fireworks show ... a spectacular show."
Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Corvallis, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. A court appearance was set for Monday.
Authorities allowed the plot to proceed in order to build up enough evidence to charge the suspect with attempt. Mohamud sent bomb components to undercover FBI agents who he believed were assembling the explosive device, but the agents supplied the fake bomb that Mohamud tried to detonate twice via his phone, authorities said.
The FBI affidavit says the undercover agent first met Mohamud in person on July 30 and asked what he would do for the cause of jihad. The agent suggested that Mohamud might want to spread Islam to others, continue his studies to help the cause overseas, raise money, and become a martyr or put together an explosion but didn't know how and needed training, the affidavit said.
The undercover agent said he could introduce him to an explosives expert and asked Mohamud to research potential targets.
At a second meeting on Aug. 19 at a Portland hotel, the agent brought a second undercover agent, the documents say, and Mohamud told them he had selected Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square for the bombing.
On Nov. 4, the court documents say, Mohamud made a video in the presence of one of the undercover agents, putting on clothes he described as "Sheik Osama style:" a white robe, red and white headdress, and camouflage jacket.
He read a statement speaking of his dream of bringing "a dark day" on Americans and blaming his family for thwarting him, according to the court documents:
"To my parents who held me back from Jihad in the cause of Allah. I say to them ... if you — if you make allies with the enemy, then Allah's power ... will ask you about that on the day of judgment, and nothing that you do can hold me back ..."
Friday, an agent and Mohamud drove to downtown Portland in a white van that carried six 55-gallon drums with detonation cords and plastic caps, but all of them were inert, the complaint states.
They left the van near the downtown ceremony site and went to a train station where Mohamud was given a cell phone that he thought would blow up the vehicle, according to the complaint. There was no detonation when he dialed, and when he tried again federal agents and police made their move.
Tens of thousands of Somalis have resettled in the United States since their country plunged into lawlessness in 1991, and the U.S. has boosted aid to the country.
In August, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment naming 14 people accused of being a deadly pipeline routing money and fighters from the U.S. to al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliated group in Mohamud's native Somalia.
Officials have been working with Muslim community leaders across the United States, particularly in Somali diasporas in Minnesota, trying to combat the radicalization.
On Saturday, Omar Jamal, first secretary to the Somali mission to the United Nation and an advocate for Somalis in Minnesota, said Mohamud has a stepmother in Minneapolis. He condemned the plot and urged Somalis to cooperate with police and the FBI.
Jamal said he had spoken to two Somalis who knew Mohamud, and he was described as religious, quiet and innocent. Jamal said Mohamud is from southern Somalia.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
The room had no window or phone so the 69-year-old was unable to tell anyone but she tapped on pipes during the night, hoping to alert her neighbours.
They thought the noise was DIY work and started a petition to have it stopped.
But a few people realised they had not seen the pensioner recently and called the authorities, who sent in a rescue crew.
Firefighters broke into her second-floor flat in Epinay-sous-Senart and reportedly found her lying on the ground in the bathroom, in a "very weakened" state.
The woman, who has not been named, had survived on warm tap water for almost three weeks.
She is now recovering in hospital.
"You could hear banging sounds, like a hammer, even at night," one neighbour told local media. "But we thought they were doing work at night. We said: 'They are going too far! They are preventing us from sleeping!' If we had known....'"
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Releasing the schedule of electoral activities, INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, said presidential election would be held on April 9 while elections into the National Assembly would be held on April 2, 2011.
Jega told newsmen that governorship and state houses of assembly elections would be held on April 16.
He said: ``In accordance with Electoral Act 2010, the conduct of party primaries by political parties is to hold from November 26 to January 15, 2011 as provided by section 87 of Electoral Act 2010.''
Registration of voters holds from January 15 to 29, 2011 and display of voter register for claims and objections is between February 3 and 8, 2011.
Last date of submission of forms CF001 and CF002 at the national headquarters of the commission is January 31, 2011.
Publication of personal particulars of candidates comes up on February 6.
Last day for withdrawal by candidates and substitution of withdrawn candidates by political parties for National Assembly elections is February 14, 2011.
He explained that the deadline of withdrawal by candidates and their substitution by political parties, for the presidential election would be February 21, 2011.
According to Jega, deadline for the withdrawal of candidates and their substitution by political parties for governor/state assembly election is February 28.
The commission fixed February 21 for publication of personal particulars (CF001) of substituted candidates.
According to the timetable, collection of nomination forms will start from February 7 and end on February 10, while the deadline for submission of nomination forms by political parties is February 21.
The date for publication of official voter register for election is March 2, while publication of list of nominated candidate for National Assembly Elections is from March 2 to 16, 2011.
Publication of notice of polls is fixed for March 18 and submission of names of party agents to the Resident Electoral Commissioners is March 25, 2011.
Jega said the deadline for campaigns for National Assembly Election was April 1, while campaigns for presidential election would cease on April 8.
The last day for campaigns into governorship and state assembly elections is April 15, 2011.
Jega said that run off elections into the office of governor of a state and office of the president, if any, would be held within seven days after the announcement of the affected result.
He added that the new timetable superceded the earlier one issued by the commission.
“There shall be no campaign 24 hours before and on the date of elections which are April 2, 9 and 16,” he said.
INCHEON, South Korea – North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire Tuesday after the North shelled an island near their disputed sea border, killing at least two South Korean marines, setting dozens of buildings ablaze and sending civilians fleeing for shelter.
The clash, which put South Korea's military on high alert, was one of the rivals' most dramatic confrontations since the Korean War ended, and one of the few to put civilians at risk, though no nonmilitary deaths were immediately reported. Fifteen South Korean soldiers and three civilians were injured and the extent of casualties on the northern side was unknown.
The skirmish began when Pyongyang warned the South to halt military drills in the area, according to South Korean officials. When Seoul refused and began firing artillery into disputed waters, albeit away from the North Korean shore, the North retaliated by bombarding the small island of Yeonpyeong, which houses South Korean military installations and a small civilian population.
"I thought I would die," said Lee Chun-ok, 54, an islander who said she was watching TV in her home when the shelling began. Suddenly, a wall and door collapsed.
"I was really, really terrified," she told The Associated Press after being evacuated to the port city of Incheon, west of Seoul, "and I'm still terrified."
South Korea responded by firing K-9 155mm self-propelled howitzers and dispatching fighter jets. Officials in Seoul said there could be considerable North Korean casualties. The entire skirmish lasted about an hour.
Each side has threatened the other against another attack.
The escalating tensions focused global attention on the tiny island and sent stock prices down sharply worldwide. The dollar, U.S. Treasury prices and gold all rose as investors sought safe places to park money. Hong Kong's main stock index sank 2.7 percent, while European and U.S. stock indexes fell between 1 and 2 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 165 points in afternoon trading, or 1.5 percent.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who convened an emergency security meeting shortly after the initial bombardment, said that an "indiscriminate attack on civilians can never be tolerated."
"Enormous retaliation should be made to the extent that (North Korea) cannot make provocations again," he said.
The United States, which has more than 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea, condemned the attack. In Washington, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called on North Korea to "halt its belligerent action," and said the U.S. is committed to South Korea's defense.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned North Korea's artillery attack, calling it "one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said. Ban called for "immediate restraint" and insisted "any differences should be resolved by peaceful means and dialogue," the spokesman said.
The supreme military command in Pyongyang threatened more strikes if the South crossed their maritime border by "even 0.001 millimeter," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
South Korea holds military exercises like Tuesday's off the west coast about every three months.
A statement from the North said it was merely "reacting to the military provocation of the puppet group with a prompt powerful physical strike," and accused Seoul of starting the skirmish with its "reckless military provocation as firing dozens of shells inside the territorial waters of the" North.
Government officials in Seoul called North Korea's bombardments "inhumane atrocities" that violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never signed, and nearly 2 million troops — including tens of thousands from the U.S. — are positioned on both sides of the world's most heavily militarized border.
The exchange represents a sharp escalation of the skirmishes that flare up along the disputed border from time to time. It also comes amid high tensions over the North's apparent progress in its quest for nuclear weapons — Pyongyang claims it has a new uranium enrichment facility — and six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il anointed his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, as the heir apparent.
"It brings us one step closer to the brink of war," said Peter Beck, a research fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, "because I don't think the North would seek war by intention, but war by accident, something spiraling out of control has always been my fear."
Columns of thick black smoke rose from homes on the island, video from YTN cable TV showed. Screams and shouts filled the air as shells rained down on the island just south of the disputed sea border.
Yeonpyeong lies a mere seven miles (11 kilometers) from — and within sight of — the North Korean mainland.
China, the North's economic and political benefactor, which also maintains close commercial ties to the South, appealed to both sides to remain calm and "to do more to contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
Stephen Bosworth, the Obama administration's special envoy to North Korea, said he discussed the clash with the Chinese foreign minister and that they agreed both sides should show restraint. He reiterated that the U.S. stands firmly with its ally, South Korea.
Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea and the U.S.-led U.N. Command, said in a Facebook posting that the U.S. military is "closely monitoring the situation and exchanging information with our (South Korean) allies as we always do."
Yeonpyeong, famous for its crabbing industry and home to about 1,700 civilians as well as South Korean military installations. There are about 30 other small islands nearby.
North Korea fired dozens of rounds of artillery in three separate barrages that began in midafternoon, while South Korea returned fire with about 80 rounds, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Naval operations had been reinforced in the area, the JCS said early Wednesday, declining to elaborate.
Two South Korean marines were killed and 15 injured, it said. Island residents fled to some 20 shelters on the island and sporadic shelling ended after about an hour, according to the military.
The Koreas' 1950s war ended in a truce, but North Korea does not recognize the western maritime border drawn unilaterally by the United Nations at the close of the conflict, and the Koreas have fought three bloody skirmishes there in recent years.
South Korea holds military exercises like Tuesday's off the west coast about every three months.
In March, a South Korean warship went down in the waters while on a routine patrolling mission. Forty-six sailors were killed in what South Korea calls the worst military attack on the country since the war.
Seoul blamed a North Korean torpedo, but Pyongyang denied responsibility
Monday, November 22, 2010
Today Gibson makes an appearance in the family law area of Los Angeles County Superior Court to address custodial rights involving Lucia, now a little over a year old.
"We're told the atmosphere was extremely tense and that Mel and Oksana have not interacted," reported TMZ in describing the in-court scene.
TMZ has also reported that Gibson will try "to wrestle custody from Oksana on grounds she is not acting in the best interests of Lucia. He's also asking the judge to deny Oksana overnight visits, and to grant her supervised visitation
It's also reporting that the reason Gibson is appearing in court is "because he wants the judge to see how serious he is about getting full custody, on grounds Oksana is hurting Lucia by going on what he considers a public smear campaign rooted in lies. We're told Mel's team believes Oksana's conduct -- especially in the face of Judge Scott Gordon warning her to stay silent -- smacks of instability."
TMZ's sources also said: "Mel will ask the judge to make the order last for six months, after which the issues can be revisited."
Attorneys representing both parties did not return calls.
In advance of any official legal ruling, victims' rights attorney Gloria Allred weighed in.
"It appears that Gibson is seeking primary physical custody of Lucia, and is attempting to severely restrict Oksana's visitation rights, but I think it's unlikely he'll obtain this," she said.
"In family law, the general principle is to do what's in the best interest of the child," she said, adding there are many factors that are involved with this type of decision. "However, the court will always consider which primary parent the child has been living with, and will wish to continue this arrangement unless it's no longer in the best interest of the child to continue it.
"Because Gibson's infant daughter has been living with Grigorieva, it is she who has had primary physical custody, and it's Gibson who has been having overnight visitation. The court would probably be reluctant to change this arrangement."
Guandique was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for attacking and killing Levy.
Police finally caught up with Guandique, 29, nine years after Levy dissapeared. The Salvadoran immigrant was already in prison, serving a 10 year sentence related to assaults in Washington D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, the same park where Levy vanished while jogging on May 1, 2001.
The revelation that Condit had an affair with the young intern made him the primary suspect in the case for years. A lawyer for Condit said the former congressman would likely not be making a statement on the verdict. Condit has written a book about the investigation, which he has said would not publish until after the trial.
Levy's mother Susan Levy told ABC News she was pleased with the verdict, but compared losing her daughter to receiving her own "lifetime sentence." After staying in Washington for the month-long trial, Susan Levy will return to the family's home in Modesto, Calif.
"Chandra Levy and her family deserved justice. That it took this long is unforgivable. Our father will tell his story at the appropriate time," Condit's children Cadee and Chad Condit said in a written statement.
"The Chandra Levy case was really the perfect storm in the summer of 2001," Sari Horwitiz, a Washington Post reporter and author of "Finding Chandra" told "Good Morning America" when the trial began last month.
"It became a parlor game in Washington. Everybody was obsessed with the idea that Gary Condit, congressman from California, had something to do with this murder of a young intern."
The allegations pushed Condit's political career to the brink and in July 2001, he admitted to having a sexual relationship with Levy. In an interview with ABC News' "Primetime," he denied knowing anything about Levy's disappearance and stated that he did not kill her. No evidence ever connected Condit to Levy's disappearance.
Last year after a decade without any actionable leads, authorities charged Guandique with murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault among other counts. Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, was already serving a 10-year sentence for separate assaults that took place in Rock Creek Park.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
CULVER CITY, Calif. — Hundreds of Hollywood insiders gathered this weekend to pay tearful tribute to a publicist-to-the-stars, Ronni Chasen, who was shot to death as she drove home from a movie premiere.
Some 500 people jammed Hillside Memorial Park's largest chapel near Los Angeles Sunday to pay respects to Chasen. Another 500 people were gathered on a wind-swept patio outside.
The 64-year-old publicist was shot to death in Beverly Hills early Tuesday as she drove home from a party following a premiere and party of the Cher-Christina Aguilera film "Burlesque."
Among those attending her service were Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter Carol Connors, producer Lili Fini Zanuck and Oscar-nominated film composer Hans Zimmer.
Many of Hollywood's best known publicists also gathered to pay respects.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Luis Moreno Ocampo gave few details of what he called "preliminary examinations," which are the first steps toward possibly seeking indictments for war crimes or crimes against humanity.
He said one investigation was related to the coup in Honduras in June 2009 and was started after the court was sent reports of possible human rights abuses.
"There were different allegations," he said. "Massive tortures, thousands of people were arrested for one day. We are analyzing if this is under our jurisdiction or not."
Speaking to a small group of reporters at the court's headquarters in The Hague, Moreno Ocampo declined to discuss the Nigeria case further.
"We received many communications about crimes in Nigeria and Honduras," he said. "People who send the communications allege they are under our jurisdiction, so we are doing an assessment on that."
The International Criminal Court, which began work in 2002, is a tribunal of last resort, meaning it only launches cases in countries whose governments are unwilling or unable to prosecute atrocities on their territory.
All suspects in custody so far have been involved in African conflicts.
On Monday, the court will begin its most significant trial to date, against former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba for allegedly commanding troops who went on a rampage of murder, rape and pillage in Central African Republic in 2002-2003.
Moreno Ocampo said he expects verdicts in 2011 in the court's first two trials, which are against Congolese warlords.
He revealed little about one of the court's most contentious preliminary examinations — a bid by the Palestinian Authority to recognize the court's jurisdiction as a first step toward launching an investigation into alleged war crimes during the Gaza conflict that began in December 2008.
The outcome is significant; it touches on the question of Palestinian statehood, as the court can only be recognized by states.
Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel, along with international legal scholars and nongovernment groups, have presented arguments to the court.
Moreno Ocampo said his office was "fully briefed" on the issue, but gave no indication when a decision would be reached.
He also confirmed that he would issue two indictments in December naming six suspected instigators of deadly postelection violence in Kenya in 2007 and 2008 that left more than 1,000 people dead.
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Rene Castro says Costa Rica filed the case with the Netherlands-based court after Nicaragua decided to disregard an Organization of American States resolution that it withdraw troops from disputed territory along the San Juan border river.
Nicaragua sent troops to the area last month, angering Costa Rica.
Castro told reporters Thursday he is confident the world court — the U.N.'s highest judicial body — can force Nicaragua to remove the troops.
Conservative blogger Kevin DuJan is psyched. He's actually starting to think Palin can win the whole kit and kaboodle.
No, not Sarah — though he hopes she'll be the next president. He means daughter Bristol, on "Dancing with the Stars."
The 20-year-old Palin's improbable run to next week's finals — championed by websites like DuJan's Hillbuzz.org — has led to such an uproar that conspiracy theories are floating, some fans are insisting they'll never watch again, and a Wisconsin man actually shot up his television, apparently in disgust over Palin's dancing.
"There's been more angst over this than over the 2000 election," quips media industry analyst Shari Anne Brill, only slightly kidding.
The real winner? ABC, of course. The always-popular "Dancing with the Stars" is enjoying a ratings boost, undoubtedly due to the novel casting.
For those whose television tastes tend toward shows less awash in sequins, mirrors, feathers and fishnets, a brief recap: Many were surprised when the shy Bristol, once the country's best-known teen mom, became a contestant on the hit show, where judges' scores are combined with public votes to determine the winners.
But no matter: Bristol, paired with professional partner Mark Ballas, put on her game face and started, well, learning to dance. Her effort was clear; so was her lack of skill and experience.
Flash forward to this week's results show, with the four remaining couples vying for three spots in the finals. First "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey was declared safe, then Disney Channel's Kyle Massey.
It came down to Palin and singer Brandy, who had wowed the judges with her sultry tango, earning a perfect score. When Palin was declared safe, Brandy was speechless, and the jaw of Grey's partner, Derek Hough, quite literally dropped.
The next morning, "Dancing" fan Kimberly Fishman arrived at her job at a northern California bank. She was furious at the result, and so were co-workers. "People were saying it's the tea party voting, that all of Alaska voted," says Fishman, 42. "It's all politics."
Fishman, who identifies herself as a liberal, has resolved not to watch next week. "I'm done," she says. "No one could say Bristol is the better dancer." And yet, she adds, she herself didn't vote.
That's a key point, media analyst Brill says. "A lot of people out there are watching but not voting."
So who does vote? Obviously, people who really, really care. Like DuJan, the conservative activist. A former Democrat, he turned into a major Sarah Palin fan after Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the Democratic nomination in 2008.
"Are you planning on hosting a Team Bristol Monday Night Dancing Watch party?" reads a post on his website. "You ... can actually vote together and send Bristol over the top ... while sending Leftist heads into meltdown."
In an interview, DuJan said the public support for Palin was a sign of real affection and a desire to reward her after her ordeal under the harsh media spotlight — both as an unmarried pregnant teen, and now with the snide comments about her dancing.
"Think of all the things they've said about Bristol," he said. "This would never be allowed to happen to Chelsea Clinton, or the Gore daughters, or God forbid the Obama daughters. Support for her is real."
And besides, "I think she's a marvelous dancer. She's the only one whose performances have improved every single week."
DuJan defends a tactic that has gotten some critics angry: The use of fake e-mail addresses and multiple phone numbers to let people exceed their vote limit.
People can vote by phone, text or online — with the first two methods possible for 30 minutes after the show and online voting until 11 a.m. the next day.
At this point in the season, there's a limit of five votes per phone number and e-mail address. While people must register their e-mail address with ABC.com, if one uses fake addresses, the possibilities are endless.
Which is great, says DuJan, who has sat for hours into the night, voting.
"If people want to have pajama-jammy-jams all night, having pillow fights and roasting marshmallows and voting, then why not?" he says. "Isn't the winner supposed to be the one who has the most passion behind them? Well, this is passion."
On his website, DuJan recently put it this way: "Start calling the moment the show starts ... After that, use someone else's phone to call the maximum times. Then ... randomly knock on neighbors' doors and use their phones to call, call, call, and then call some more."
In an interview with the Associated Press, "Dancing" executive producer Conrad Green acknowledged that using fake e-mails was possible, but he said security checks are in place to detect abnormal activity.
Still, he doubted many people were doing it — and said that, anyway, fans of any dancer could do the same. "I don't think there's any reason to believe our voting system is unfair," Green said after Tuesday's show. "If someone really wants to sign up for a million e-mail addresses ... well, so be it. But they could be doing that for Jennifer, they could be doing that for Kyle, they could be doing that for anyone."
He added that Bristol has earned the right to be where she is.
"This girl, she's got this sort of everywoman quality," Green says. "She's come from no background in performance of any sort ... and she's technically pretty good."
Television analyst Steve Sternberg says people shouldn't be so surprised at the results.
"If you only want the most talented and best to be picked, don't allow the general public to vote," Sternberg says. "I think this controversy is actually helping ratings."
Indeed. According to ABC, "Dancing," now in its 11th season, is up substantially over last year, drawing an additional 3.3 million viewers (20.9 million vs. 17.6 million). It's up 18 percent among adults 18-49. According to Nielsen, 65 percent of the overall audience is viewers over 50.
Certainly next week's finale — with Palin alive and kicking, so to speak — should be a huge ratings draw.
One person who won't be watching is Mickey Meader, 63, who works the night shift at a shipyard in Lewiston, Maine. Despite his schedule, he has followed the controversy and caught up with video clips here and there.
"Honestly, this is just people who don't like Sarah Palin, and all this stuff gets carried over into the show," Meader says. "If you look at websites on the right, you'd think she's the greatest dancer since sliced bread. If you look at the left-leaning sites, she couldn't dance if she was on a pedestal that was spinning by itself."
In a climate of Internet campaigns to shun airport pat-downs and veteran pilots suing over their treatment by government screeners, some airports are considering another way to show dissatisfaction: Ditching TSA agents altogether.
Federal law allows airports to opt for screeners from the private sector instead. The push is being led by a powerful Florida congressman who's a longtime critic of the Transportation Security Administration and counts among his campaign contributors some of the companies who might take the TSA's place.
Furor over airline passenger checks has grown as more airports have installed scanners that produce digital images of the body's contours, and the anger intensified when TSA added a more intrusive style of pat-down recently for those who opt out of the full-body scans. Some travelers are using the Internet to organize protests aimed at the busy travel days next week surrounding Thanksgiving.
For Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida, the way to make travelers feel more comfortable would be to kick TSA employees out of their posts at the ends of the snaking security lines. This month, he wrote letters to nation's 100 busiest airports asking that they request private security guards instead.
"I think we could use half the personnel and streamline the system," Mica said Wednesday, calling the TSA a bloated bureaucracy.
Mica is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Once the new Congress convenes in January, the lawmaker is expected lead the committee.
Companies that could gain business if airports heed Mica's call have helped fill his campaign coffers. In the past 13 years, Mica has received almost $81,000 in campaign donations from political action committees and executives connected to some of the private contractors already at 16 U.S. airports.
Private contractors are not a cure-all for passengers aggrieved about taking off their shoes for security checks, passing through full-body scanners or getting hand-frisked. For example, contractors must follow all TSA-mandated security procedures, including hand patdowns when necessary.
Still, the top executive at the Orlando-area's second-largest airport, Orlando Sanford International Airport, said he plans to begin the process of switching to private screeners in January as long as a few remaining concerns can be met. The airport is within Mica's district, and the congressman wrote his letter after hearing about its experiences.
CEO Larry Dale said members of the board that runs Sanford were impressed after watching private screeners at airports in Rochester, N.Y., and Jackson Hole, Wyo. He said TSA agents could do better at customer service.
"Some of them are a little testy," said Dale, whose airport handles 2 million passengers a year. "And we work hard to get passengers and airlines. And to have it undone by a personality problem?"
To the south, the city's main airport, Orlando International, said it's reviewing Mica's proposal, although it has some questions about how the system would work with the 34 million passengers it handles each year. In Georgia, Macon City Councilor Erick Erickson, whose committee oversees the city's small airport, wants private screeners there.
Erickson called it a protest move in an interview.
"I am a frequent air traveler and I have experienced ... TSA agents who have let the power go to their head," Erickson said. "You can complain about those people, but very rarely does the bureaucracy work quickly enough to remove those people from their positions."
TSA officials would select and pay the contractors who run airport security. But Dale thinks a private contractor would be more responsive since the contractor would need local support to continue its business with the airport.
"Competition drives accountability, it drives efficiency, it drives a particular approach to your airport," Dale said. "That company is just going to be looking at you. They're not going to be driven out of Washington, they will be driven out of here."
San Francisco International Airport has used private screeners since the formation of the TSA and remains the largest to do so.
The airport believed a private contractor would have more flexibility to supplement staff during busy periods with part-time employees, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. Also, the city's high cost of living had made it difficult in the past to recruit federal employees to run immigration and customs stations — a problem the airport didn't want at security checkpoints.
"You get longer lines," McCarron said.
TSA spokesman Greg Soule would not respond directly Mica's letter, but reiterated the nation's roughly 460 commercial airports have the option of applying to use private contractors.
Companies that provide airport security are contributors to Mica's campaigns, although some donations came before those companies won government contracts. The Lockheed Martin Corp. Employees' Political Action Committee has given $36,500 to Mica since 1997. A Lockheed firm won the security contract in Sioux Falls, S.D. in 2005 and the contract for San Francisco the following year.
Raytheon Company's PAC has given Mica $33,500 since 1999. A Raytheon subsidiary began providing checkpoint screenings at Key West International Airport in 2007.
FirstLine Transportation Security Inc.'s PAC has donated $4,500 to the Florida congressman since 2004. FirstLine has been screening baggage and has been responsible for passenger checkpoints at the Kansas City International Airport since 2006, as well as the Gallup Municipal Airport and the Roswell Industrial Air Center in New Mexico, operating at both since 2007.
Since 2006, Mica has received $2,000 from FirstLine President Keith Wolken and $1,700 from Gerald Berry, president of Covenant Aviation Security. Covenant works with Lockheed to provide security at airports in Sioux Falls and San Francisco.
Mica spokesman Justin Harclerode said the contributions never improperly influenced the congressman, who said he was unaware Raytheon or Lockheed were in the screening business.
"They certainly never contacted him about providing screening," Harclerode said.
Anger over the screenings hasn't just come from passengers. Two veteran commercial airline pilots asked a federal judge this week to stop the whole-body scans and the new pat-down procedures, saying it violates their civil rights.
The pilots, Michael S. Roberts of Memphis and Ann Poe of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., have refused to participate in either screening method and, as a result, will not fly out of airports that use these methods, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington.
Roberts is a pilot with ExpressJet Airlines and is on unpaid administrative leave because of his refusal to enter the whole-body scanners. Poe flies for Continental Airlines and will continue to take off work as long as the existing regulations are in place.
"In her eyes, the pat-down is a physical molestation and the WBI scanner is not only intrusive, degrading and potentially dangerous, but poses a real and substantial threat to medical privacy," the lawsuit states.
Schneider reported from Orlando. Associated Press Writer Adrian Sainz in Memphis and AP Business Writer Samantha Bomkamp in New York contributed to this report.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Clad in a flowing green frock, the singer/actress joined co-star Cher as the pair worked the crowd as they slowly but surely made their way into Grauman's Chinese Theater for the debut of their upcoming movie.
"Burlesque" was directed by Steve Antin while boasting a star-studded cast also including Kristen Bell, Julianne Hough, Cam Gigandet and Eric Dane.
Due out in theaters on November 24, the musical drama is about "a small-town girl who ventures to Los Angeles and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says in a USA Today opinion piece that body scanners used at many airports are safe and the images viewed in private.
She says pat-downs have been used for years at airports and measures are in place to protect travelers' privacy.
The head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, said Monday on NBC's "Today" show that "everybody wants the best possible security" and the TSA is looking for a balance between security and privacy.
Some travelers fear the scanners may produce unhealthy radiation and complain the pat-downs, which can include touching the inside of travelers' thighs and feeling their buttocks, are too personal.
Not all of the attention has been flattering, though. The disclosures section of the I.P.O. prospectus refers to a long personal court battle involving Mr. Akula.
For nearly eight years, he has been embroiled in a custody dispute with his Indian-American ex-wife, Malini Byanna, a lawyer based in Chicago, over their son. The boy, Tejas, now 9, currently lives with his father in Hyderabad, India.
An Illinois court awarded Ms. Byanna custody of Tejas in 2002. In a case now pending in the Illinois appellate court, Ms. Byanna has argued that Mr. Akula has improperly held the boy since last year, when he opened custody proceedings in Indian court. At the time Mr. Akula was caring for Tejas, Ms. Byanna was undergoing surgery in the United States.
Mr. Akula’s lawyers assert that American and Indian courts have granted him temporary custody until legal cases in both countries are resolved.
Ms. Byanna, who says she has lost her home and owes $600,000 to creditors because of legal costs, recently filed a complaint with Indian securities regulators, contending that that the SKS I.P.O. prospectus omits important information about the custody dispute — including, the complaint says, that the State Department has referred to the case as one of “international parental child abduction.”
John Echard, spokesman for the State Department’s bureau of consular affairs, said Thursday, “A child is still being retained abroad, and Ms. Byanna, who has sole legal and physical custody of him, determined by an Illinois court, is still unable to exercise her custodial and parental rights."
Told of Mr. Echard’s statement, Michael DiDomenico, a lawyer for Mr. Akula in Chicago, countered, “The U.S. State Department has never requested information about this case, nor has it ever given Mr. Akula notice about their opinion.”
In a July 14 hearing in Chicago, Mr. Akula’s lawyers appealed a lower court’s decision that India lacked jurisdiction to award Mr. Akula custody. Patrick J. Quinn, an Illinois appellate court justice, said, “This is not a kidnapping,” but he added that the child remained in India in defiance of court orders in the United States.
The Illinois court is expected to issue a final ruling on the jurisdiction question next month. The case is also pending in India’s Supreme Court.
Mr. Akula, in an e-mail response to questions about the custody battle, declined to comment beyond saying, “My focus is — and has always been — on doing what’s in the best interest of my son.”
A rare ethics trial begins Monday for the representative from Harlem. Rangel's career peaked in 2007 when he became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. It took a dive last March, when he relinquished that post after his corporate-funded travel was criticized in a separate ethics case.
Rangel, first elected in 1970 and now 80 years old, apparently is without a lawyer. He and his defense team parted company a few months after he complained in an August speech on the House floor that he could no longer afford legal bills that had reached nearly $2 million.
The ethics investigation goes back to at least July 2008. Only former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, who was expelled from the House after a criminal conviction, has faced a similar trial since current House ethics procedures were adopted two decades ago.
Key charges portray Rangel as a veteran congressman who thought he could ignore rules on disclosing his assets, and improperly used official resources to raise money for a college center that was a monument to his career.
But an allegation that caught the public's eye was his failure to declare rental income to the IRS from a resort unit he owned in the Dominican Republic.
The case has generated its share of political game-playing. Republicans on the House ethics committee demanded that the proceeding be held before the election, when the trial of the House's fourth-most-senior member could have embarrassed Democrats. The Democratic committee chairman, Zoe Lofgren of California, rejected the request.
Rangel was charged by an investigative panel of four Democrats and four Republicans with 13 counts of violating House rules.
A separate group of eight, four from each party, will act as a jury to decide whether there's "clear and convincing evidence" that House rules were broken. Ethics committee lawyers will function as prosecutors.
If Rangel is found to have violated rules, the ethics committee would meet to decide punishment. It could end the case with a critical report, or recommend a House vote expressing displeasure with Rangel's conduct.
Rangel has acknowledged ethical lapses; he's argued he did not intend to break the rules.
The charges allege violations of:
-A House gift ban and restrictions on solicitations. Rangel is accused of using congressional staff, letterhead and workspace to seek donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. The requests usually went to charitable arms of businesses with issues before Congress, including Rangel's Ways and Means Committee.
-A U.S. government code of ethics. Several allegations fall under this code, among them: Accepting favors (the Rangel Center donations) that could be construed as influencing Rangel's congressional duties; acceptance of a rent-subsidized New York apartment used as a campaign office, when the lease said it was for residential use only; and failure to report taxable income.
-The Ethics in Government Act and a companion House rule requiring "full and complete" public reports of a congressman's income, assets and liabilities each year. Rangel is charged with a pattern of submitting incomplete and inaccurate disclosure statements. He only filed amended reports covering 1998 to 2007 after the investigative ethics panel began looking into his disclosures. He belatedly reported at least $600,000 in assets.
By LARRY MARGASAK Associated Press
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Confirming the good news, a rep for Miss Simpson stated, "Yes, we are excited to confirm that they are engaged!"
The wedding plans come after the "Dukes of Hazzard" actress began dating the former NFL player back in May of this year - with the two having been together for a short six months.
The timing of the pair's engagement also comes on the heels of Jessica's ex husband Nick Lachey's engagement news to Vanessa Minnillo.
While no wedding date has been divulged, Jessica and Eric plan on spending Thanksgiving together in NYC, as Simpson said, "We're all gonna be in New York. I'm gonna be on a [Macy's parade] float. It's not always the best way to spend a Thanksgiving, but it's a great way to celebrate. So, maybe I'll just have all families on the float."
Held at the El Capitan Theatre, the 26-year-old actress was joined by co-star Zachary Levi as the pair ready for their animated flick's November 24th theatrical release
Making for a family-friendly movie-going experience, "Tangled" is about "a young girl's journey to self-discovery, a handsome egocentric thief, a misguided but noble horse, a treacherous 'mother' and other engaging characters."
Portraying Princess Rapunzel in the Nathan Greno and Byron Howard directed feature, Mandy previously said of her character: "Everything she's always been told about the outside world is that it's big and scary and it's filled with people who are waiting to kidnap her and cut her hair off... and in spite of that, it doesn't dissuade her from her ultimate journey."
DR Emmanuel Uduaghan was refereeing a novelty football match between the Protocol department and the Press Unit of Government House in the Government House complex on Tuesday evening when news of the invalidation of the election that brought him to office as governor reached him.
Uduaghan’s adjudication was immediately superseded by the superior pronouncement of the Benin Appeal Court even as proceedings on the football field immediately ceased and confusion and awe took hold on all, players, onlookers and referee.
It is the same confusion that equally shadowed the judicial proceedings in the election petition case that ended that Tuesday.
Indeed, after a Retrial Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Asaba dismissed the petition filed by the Action Congress (AC) governorship candidate for the 2007 polls in Delta state, Mr. Peter Okocha on 9th July, 2009 on the ground that Okocha was not validly nominated by his party to contest the election, both Uduaghan and the PDP officials had thought that the coast was totally clear for them.They perhaps did not perceive any serious threat from the subsisting petition filed by Chief Great Ogboru, the candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP). After all, it was conceived in the mind of some associates of Uduaghan that Ogboru was a familiar object of electoral pounding. But how mistaken they were.
How it all began:
*16th April 2007, two days after the gubernatorial elections, the then INEC Delta State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Ismaila Abdulkareem announced in Asaba, the outcome of the 2007 governorship election and gave a breakdown of the votes scored as follows:
Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan scored a total of 1,004,403 votes to emerge winner thereby beating his strongest contender, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru of DPP, who scored 46,869 votes. Others were Felix Ozorbo – RPN – 944 Okeya Edwin – NMDP – 396 Igbini Emmanuel – PRP – 268
Taju Isichei – PPA – 3,677 Michael Aristole – ANPP – 6,304 Chief Onokpite Ogbe – CPP – 712
Abel Edijala – LP – 3,409 Johnson Boghuku – MRDD – 272 Chief Ngozi Ogbogo – ADC – 1,857 Peter Oghenevwogaga – A – 3,020 Dr. Emmanuel Mafina – DPA – 1,489
The INEC boss put the number of total votes cast at 1,071,8051 out of which 4,155 votes were rendered invalid.
He however noted that election did not hold in three local government areas namely; Ethiope East local government explaining that it was caused by “heavily indicting security reports” as well as Ukwuani local government area which he said “was as a result of burning down of INEC office and electoral materials before the commencement of the poll”.
*16th May 2007: Ogboru filed election suit before Election Petitions Tribunal at Asaba
Ogboru in his 9_point relief sought is praying the tribunal among others:*for an order on 3rd and 4th respondents (INEC) to conduct fresh election for the governorship office in Delta state devoid of corrupt practices
*an order nullifying the governorship election purportedly held in Delta state on 14th April 2007 including returns made thereto
*It be determined that the 1st respondent (Uduaghan) was purportedly returned did not win the governorship election of 14/4/07 and was therefore not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election as majority of Deltans were substantially disenfranchised from doing so.
A total of 2,975 persons were indicated as defendants//respondents in the petition filed by the Democratic Peoples Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate, Chief Great Ogboru before the State Election Petitions Tribunal at Asaba.
A perusal into the petition showed that apart from the Governor_elect, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), INEC and the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Delta State, the outgoing governor Chief James Ibori, some of his commissioners and notable members of the PDP were among the 2,974 defendants.
They also included a former running mate to the Action Congress governorship candidate in the state, Chief Charles Obule, former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Young Daniel Igbrude.
*24th May 2007: Tribunal Grants Ogboru’s prayer for substituted service on Uduaghan, others
THE 5_man State Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Asaba on 24th May 2007 granted the governorship candidate of Democratic Peoples Party (PDP) Chief Great Ogboru prayer seeking to serve his petition and other court processes against the PDP governor_elect, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and other defendants by substituted service.
The motion was supported with 17_paragraph affidavit deposed to, by him (Agbamu).He stated in paragraph 13 of the affidavit that “I am informed by the bailiff of this honourable tribunal (Boniface Onyonyewoma) abut 8.40am on the 23rd May, 2007 at the tribunal premises and I verily believe him as to the following that he has twice gone to the 1st respondent’s (Uduaghan) residence in Warri to effect personal service on him but to no avail”.
29th June 2007: Tribunal stops Ogboru from inviting Metropolitan Police of London
Ruling on the application, the Chairman of the five_man Tribunal, Justice Ayobode Lokulo_Sodipe stated that granting the order at the interlocutory stage would amount to deciding on issues that are in the substantive petition and therefore threw away the application.
The tribunal maintained that “the law is that if the very same issue that must invariably come up for resolution in a substantive case rears its head in an interlocutory application then the court must avoid pronouncing on the very issue at the interlocutory stage.
*28th May 2008: Tribunal strikes out the petition
The Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Asaba on this day struck out the petition filed by Ogboru for lack of competence.In a swift reaction, the State Chairman of DPP, Chief Tony Ezeagwu described the verdict as biased saying that “we are appealing the verdict right away. We long expected the judgment but never mind we appealing immediately. I am collecting the CTC (Certified True Copy) of the ruling today for the appeal”.
The Tribunal chairman, Justice Abdulahi Waiya in his ruling observed that the petition fell short of the mandatory provision of the Electoral Act 2006, noting that “it failed to state the political parties that took part in the election, the candidates and their respective scores”.
Ogboru approached the Court of Appeal Benin and his petition was sent back for retrial
*27th February, 2009: Fresh panel begins hearing of Ogboru’s petition.
A fresh panel declared that nobody can stop us from hearing Ogboru’s petition on merit as ordered by Court of Appeal
THE five_man Retrial Elections Tribunal sitting in Asaba, on that day ruled that it has the mandate of the Court of Appeal Benin to hear the petition filed by Ogboru challenging the election of Uduaghan on merit.
Ruling on oral application by Mr. Adebayo Adenipekun (SAN) and Mr. Efe Akpofure (SAN) both counsel to governor Uduaghan and PDP respectively, the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice B.S. Mohammed stated that “it was clear that this tribunal is in receipt of two petitions (that of Peter Okocha and Great Ogboru) . It is not in dispute and cannot be disputed and it is very clear that this tribunal was constituted to hear the petition (Ogboru’s) on the merit”.*8th April 2009: Tribunal heard that over 540 witnesses, 10 experts would be fielded
This was disclosed by counsel on both sides while addressing the Retrial Elections Tribunal sitting in Asaba on the harmonization of issues, preparatory to proper take off.While Ogboru’s lawyer disclosed his readiness to call 200 witnesses and three experts, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said they have also lined up 200 witnesses including three experts. On its part Governor Uduaghan’s counsel told the tribunal that a total of 120 witnesses and three experts.
*9th July 2009: E.K Clark declines to give evidence
*5th August 2009: Ogboru closes case with 68 witnesses.*12th August 2009: Uduaghan opens defence.
*19th October 2009: Tribunal strikes out the petition again
Chairman of the tribunal Justice B.S. Mohammed ruled that “a lot of doubt has been cast in the statements of the petitioner’s witnesses. The onus of proving non voting lies on the petitioner which the petitioner failed to prove.
But in a swift reaction, Ogboru said he would still approach the Court of Appeal again for justice.
*9th November 2010 : Court of Appeal Benin nullifies Uduaghan’s election as it upheld the submission by Ogboru that there was no election in the State.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Some people say life is unfair, others believe that life is enjoyable, yet others believe life is a conbination of both. The truth is, life in its entirety is like a pregnancy, it goes through a period gestation and so many processes are involved. This takes time. Mind you there is time for everybody, as conception and delivery of everyone may not be the same, the pains and struggle are
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
This prompted the convening of the consultative forum in early 2008 where the Security and Intelligence agencies and major telephone operators reached a consensus with NCC for immediate registration of all existing and prospective SIM cards.
It is a fact that international terrorism, fraud, robbery and other crimes often involve extensive communications through text messages or voice calls.
The Madrid bomb was detonated using a SIM card. Back home in Nigeria, we are also witnessing increasing incidents of threats and frauds launched daily on our citizens using mobile phone platforms. The remarkable upsurge in violent crimes in Nigeria like kidnapping – with criminals demanding ransom mainly through mobile telephone calls have contributed to the reason why the Federal Government added its voice in calling for the registration of SIM cards.
It is therefore disheartening to read that the some members of the House of Representatives have sworn that they would not allow the Commission register SIM cards. The House had passed the NCC budget without SIM card registration sometime in July 2010, but the Senate lived up to its billing and passed the budget to allow the much expected registration to begin.
Yet, the latest tragicomedy arose after the relevant committees of both houses met and approved the budget with SIM card registration. While the Senate approved, the Reps still prevaricated.
It is hoped this latest episode does not give credence to rumours making the rounds in the industry that some GSM operators have been lobbying the lawmakers to reject NCC registration to allow them the long three years and more which they have proposed to accomplish the project.
For many reasons – policy makers, law makers, regulators, operators, security agents, stakeholders in the industry and informed segment of the general public are unanimous in their support for SIM card registration in the country with NCC driving the process. As a matter of fact, the attitude of the GSM operators over the SIM card registration initiative has been duplicitous and prevaricating.
Notwithstanding that every mobile phone operator and stakeholder had participated and agreed to all the modalities for the exercise established jointly with the NCC in various public forum on the SIM card registration initiative, the GSM operators have continued to use the media to pose diversionary questions about modalities to be adopted for the exercise. Network operators had been reported as saying that they would prefer to register their over seventy million subscribers themselves, rather than have the exercise conducted by external consultants as proposed by NCC.
According to some media reports, the leading networks have said the time frame proposed is unrealistic. They argued that in South Africa for instance, the operators were given between 18 and 24 months. This doom and gloom viewpoint was masterfully injected into the National Assembly.
The lawmakers forgot quickly that as far back as 2002, ECONET and MTN, both mobile companies, were registering SIM cards, but abandoned it at a point, citing low patronage from subscribers as excuse. During the public debate in the House on the budget of the NCC, the House had treated dismissively an important disclosure by Mr. Dave Salako - the chairman of House Committee on Communications, who informed members that the telecoms operators had expressed their inability to finance the SIM card registration exercise.
As a result, a compromise position was worked out whereby the telecom operators agreed with NCC to register fresh subscribers while the commission would register old and existing subscribers. We are told that this decision which arose after a public hearing conducted by the House Committee was submitted to the House on Plenary, and was not opposed then, ostensibly because the lobbyists have not arrived at the national Assembly at that time.
Our law makers should note that even if the mobile phone operators are mandated to take on the entire burden of carrying out the SIM card registration exercise, they will ultimately pass on the cost to the subscribers in form high tariff and charges – granted there is no free lunch anywhere in the world.
Asking the GSM operators to carry out the registration exercise perhaps tantamounts to Nigerian government abdicating its vital institutional role of being the sole custodian of security sensitive database and managing citizen identity information. That will be a very humiliating and damaging turn of event for the country as anybody could be blackmailed by private companies.
Another point to note is that the lawmakers who said that the amount budgeted for the project by NCC is too high, must have been playing on our collective intelligence because they are not unaware of the amount which was approved for INEC, which is targeting about same population size of 70 million and capturing the same basic personal information — visual and biometric as the SIM cards registration project. A media analysis even indicated that the amount approved for INEC is ten times above what the telecom regulator is asking for. But is anybody listening?
Lawmakers must not forget too quickly that the practical reason for desiring to create a database of SIM card subscribers is to provide a unified and seamless access of SIM data to such stakeholders as national security and law enforcement agencies — including the NPF, SSS, NSA, NIA, FRSC, NIS and NPS. Now if we allow each telecom operator to create a separate database for subscribers on its network, access to data by the security agencies will become impractical and far from seamless.
Should Nigerian law makers take the bait thrown up by the lobbyists, the SIM card registration exercise may never see the light of day.
The National Assembly thus should join hands with the NCC and put Nigeria above all other interests. The SIM card registration project may actually turn out to be the shortest linear path, as well as the most affordable approach to the creation of a National Identity Database, especially if we consider the level of involvement of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in structuring the currently debated SIM cards registration drive.
Dr. Idika Ochaa, a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and, Computer Registration Council of Nigeria, is a telecom expert based in Abuja.
By Idika Ochaa
It is a demonstration of how persons with a severely limited view of history could manipulate institutions for their own here and now purposes. And the lawmakers in Abuja are going about the issue in a manner that should rankle all democratic sensibilities. There are bills for laws for the good of the people that have been pending in the National Assembly, but this one that is essentially for the benefit of the legislators appears to be their priority item now.
The law being tabled at the House of Representatives seeks to amend the Electoral Act 2010 with some curious clauses. The purposes include making federal legislators automatic members of the National Executive Council (NEC) of their respective political parties. If the bill sails through, half of the members of the NEC would form a quorum and two-thirds would be required for decision making.
Meanwhile, among the crucial decisions that the body would take is the one on nomination of candidates for election. So it is all about intra-party politics. It is obvious that if the Abuja legislators have their way, the overwhelming majority of them who happen to be members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would dominate the NEC of that party.
Before now, moves to insert into the law a "right of first refusal" for lawmakers seeking re-election generated an outrage. The essence of such moves is to put the incumbent legislators above any legitimate challenge from their fellow party members who might also wish to seek the party tickets in the primaries that should be conducted by the party for the election.
It is clear that the sponsors of the bill are employing the weapons of lawmaking in what is otherwise a legitimate intra-party struggle for the control of the structures of influence and decision-making. In other words, as it has been the case in recent times what should ordinarily be an internal issue for a political party has now been elevated into a national issue.
It would, of course, be interesting to know the position of the legislators from other parties to this egregious manipulation of the law-making process. Hitherto, they have not been vehement in opposing moves by members of the National Assembly using the institutions for their own benefits at the expense of the public.
In other climes from where Nigeria is supposed to be borrowing the institutionalisation of liberal democracy, laws are made to promote the values that are beneficial to the society and to deepen democratic culture. There are constitutions that are centuries old. Amendments are made when national interest makes it imperative to do so and when the public need compels it.
Even where there is no written constitution, conventions and indeed the democratic practices inherited by the contemporary politicians serve as guides in even thorny situations. Not so here, laws are made with the contemporary office holders in mind. It is about those who make the laws and not overarching public interest.
Today, PDP has the majority of the federal legislators as its members. Nothing says that such a situation is decreed to be forever. Otherwise, why should the composition of the executive councils of political parties be the business of lawmakers at a time when pressing national issues are left unaddressed?
In a way, what the politicians in Abuja are attempting to do is reminiscent of the military days when a General decreed that party constitutions and even programmes should be written for them. The regime even crafted ideological nomenclatures for the parties. One was said to be "a little to the right" while the other had to be "a little to the left".
The regime claimed to be omniscient in matters of party formation, organisation and programming. But then it was understood that only a military dictatorship could embark on such a wild political experiment. It is inexplicable that those who claim to be products of a democratic process could contemplate making laws to put themselves at an advantage over their political rivals. It is distressing to observe that the military mentality lingers even after 11 years of civil rule.
Pray, why should the quorum of a political party's meeting written into the law of the federation? What if a party does not want its structures along the pattern of the PDP? A party may decide it wants slim structures to suit its organisational purpose. As an independent organisation, the party should have such rights.
A party may even decide it does not need a national executive council. Another party may decide that its national executive membership should all be open to internal party elections.
To make laws specifically for the benefit of contemporary lawmakers only is extremely selfish. It is antithetical to the spirit of institution building. The constitution empowers the National Assembly to make laws for the good of the federation. A concomitant to that enormous power is a grave responsibility that the lawmakers would perform their duties with the interest of the people being supreme in the process; it is assumed that the first consideration in the business of lawmaking would be national interest and not the political ambitions of those making the law.
Now, contrary to the popular perception, corruption is not only about looting the public treasury (which doubtless is a great issue of the moment); the current attempt to abuse legislative power in Abuja is a monumental act of corruption. Here we are talking of corruption of power and process. So it is not naira alone that is involved in corruption, values also can also be corrupted. To be sure, this is not the first time that the sacred process of law-making would be corrupted in Abuja.
The most remarkable one in recent history was the failed attempt by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to use the National Assembly to elongate his stay in power by amending the constitution to permit a third term for the president and governors. It is now little remembered that there were a lot of good items on the agenda of that constitution review process. But the whole exercise was rejected just to prevent the third term clause being smuggled into the package.
The National Assembly members should be wary of poisoning the process of the Electoral Act this time with some self-serving insertions.
For clarity, federal legislators and others have the right to struggle with other members in their respective parties be they president, governors or party apparatchiks. It is in their place to do so. However, they should not under the pretext of fighting for internal party democracy make laws that serve their selfish motives.
The National Assembly has no business making laws for the composition of party committees. Political parties should make their internal rules and build their structures as they deem fit provided they do so in conformity with the constitution and other relevant laws.