Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nigeria army gets new techs to fight Boko Haram

While some Nigerian politicians are talking about negotiating with Boko Haram, the military is preparing for battle with the militant group.  Seventeen countries have signed on to help Nigeria increase security.
The Nigerian military is acquiring new boats and helicopters and is fixing up fighter jets. In a speech in Abuja, Minster of Defense Bello Haliru Mohammed said training and re-training military personnel is a top priority, considering the security threats in Nigeria.
The minister said Nigeria has signed military deals with 17 countries to help quell attacks blamed on the Islamist extremist group. The group is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people since it began violent operations in 2009, attacking churches, markets, schools, security forces, the local U.N. headquarters and newspaper offices.
Wole Olaoye, a political analyst with Nigeria's Leadership newspapers, said foreign assistance could allow Nigeria to benefit from lessons learned abroad. He said this kind of clandestine insurgency is new to Nigeria and while the government looks at security approaches and the possibility of negotiations, they also should be looking at new solutions and a greater reliance on technology.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Boko Haram’s media bombing campaign

ThisDay Abuja office after the bombing
With the bombing of ‘This Day’, ‘The Sun’, and ‘The Moment’ newspaper offices by Boko Haram, the terrorist war in Nigeria has entered a new phase. This is a time for every Nigerian to take serious stock; nobody is exempt from the enemy’s telescope and it would be hibernation in an idiot’s paradise to adopt any attitude that excludes confronting this scourge.
My heart goes out to these media organisations and Channels TV that lost a reporter to the terrorists on 20 January this year. That journalists continue with their dangerous task of being the fourth estate of Nigeria’s realm in the face of this onslaught is a testimony to their courage, tenacity and worthiness as the inheritors of the legacy of the media who fought and won the various wars that shaped Nigeria, right from the anti-colonialist struggle to the quest to get rid of military dictatorship and enshrine democracy. May the brave souls who died in the attacks rest in peace.
What is the official policy of the Jonathan government to tackle the terrorist menace? Forget the crap about negotiating with them. How is the President going to dialogue with a group that stands for everything against the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution he swore to uphold and the Nigerian state he symbolises? 
Is there anything about Boko Haram and our rulers that we ought to know? For the National Security Adviser to the President, General Azazi, to openly blame the ruling PDP’s internal wrangling and unfair spoils-sharing system for Boko Haram’s insurgency has grave implications, even if the security chieftain was running his mouth to cover his incompetence.
The explosion viewed from a distance
Boko Haram’s grievances against the media reveals a major fact: the terrorists are getting hot under the collar with the media searchlight constantly being beamed on it. Probably some of the media are not portraying the ‘facts’ about Boko Haram but if they had not commenced their blood-soaked campaign they would not have had a basis for complaints. The media did not create Boko Haram. But since the terrorists know the power of propaganda and are so media-savvy, why can’t they wield media technology to put across their ideology and point of view?
They claim that among other things ‘This Day’ was hit in revenge for its alleged 2001 insult of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him). For those who have short memories bloody riots inspired by Muslim fundamentalists broke out in Kaduna in 2001 against plans for Nigeria’s hosting of the Miss World beauty contest. An article by a ‘This Day’ reporter which alluded to the Prophet in response to the fundamentalists’ opposition to the pageant was supposedly the fuel that sparked the fire.
Boko Haram sees the media as upholding what it hates. It seeks the birth of a Taliban Afghanistan in Nigeria and an open, vibrant press has no place in its kingdom. Same for schools and universities, except their unique brand of Islamic schools. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

'Mermaid legs' Peruvian child needs kidney transplant

Milagros Cerron, a child from Peru known as the “mermaid baby”, is in urgent need of a kidney transplant.
Now eight years old, Milagros Cerron was dubbed the “mermaid baby” because her fused legs resembled the tail of a fish.
In 2005, when Milagros, whose name means miracles in Spanish, was nine-months-old, doctors began the first of three operations to separate her legs.
Seven-year-old Milagros survived sirenomelia, or mermaid syndrome — a rare, usually lethal congenital malformation that fused her legs – but now needs surgery to reconstruct her urinary tract. Sirenomelia is a very rare congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together, giving the appearance of a mermaid's tail.
The defect occurs in one out of every 70,000 pregnancies and there are only a three known cases of children with the condition alive in the world. Sironemelia is associated with kidney failure and gastrointestinal defects.


Google Knowledge Graph: Search just got a lot smarter

Google might be a lot of things today -- a provider of mobile software with its Android operating system, a social network provider with Google+ -- but today it's announcing that it continues to make its core search engine better.
Google's new Knowledge Graph is a new search tool that will begin rolling out starting today. It's meant to help you find search results faster. When you now search for a popular or well-known person, place or thing, you'll get a box to the right of the results explaining more about your search term.
For instance, search for "Frank Lloyd Wright" today and the first link might be to Wikipedia. But now, to the right of that result you'll see some of that Wikipedia or other sourced information right on the search page, including a short summary of who Wright was, his birth date, etc. You'll also get related searches. If Wright were still living and a Google+ user, you'd also get his Google+ profile link.
"The knowledge graph has been constructed using a lot of reliable sources of information, including the World CIA Fact Book, Wikipedia, etc. We also collect content of our own, like Google Books," Shashidhar Thakur, Google's Tech Lead in Search, told ABC News.
Thakur said a team at Google has been working on the Knowledge Graph for two years. They have built a database with 500 million people, places and things, and there are 3.5 billion defining attributes and connections, which include those related searches and other information.
Google says you'll start seeing the Knowledge Graph box as often as you see Google Maps, making it its largest search launch ever. It says it has surpassed the launch of Google Image and Google News in terms of the data available on its first day. Obviously, the database will continue to grow.
Read more

Courtesy: ABC News

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Facebook, world’s third largest if a country

Facts and figures about Facebook, which priced its initial public offering: – Facebook has more than 900 million active users. If the company were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after China (population: 1.34 billion) and India (population: 1.17 billion).
- Some 488 million people use Facebook on mobile devices. That is more than half of its members worldwide, and the reach is even bigger in countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Japan, where mobile use is 70 to 90 percent. (source:
- With 157 million members, the United States has the most Facebook users. Brazil recently jumped to second place with 47 million, followed by India with 45.8 million, Indonesia with 42.2 million and Mexico with 33.1 million. (source:
- Facebook is the most popular social network in every country of the world, with the exceptions of China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam. (source: comScore)
- In April, Facebook announced a billion-dollar deal to buy the startup behind wildly popular smartphone photo sharing application Instagram, its biggest acquisition to date. The US Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the deal.
- Facebook has minted four billionaires: Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin and Sean Parker. The 28-year-old Zuckerberg’s net worth was estimated at $17.5 billion on the 2011 Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans.
Moskovitz had a net worth of $3.5 billion but pipped Zuckerberg for the title of world’s youngest billionaire, being eight days younger.
The Brazilian-born Saverin, who left Facebook early on after a falling-out with Zuckerberg, had a net worth of $2 billion. Parker, the Napster co-founder who briefly served as Facebook’s president, had a net worth of $2.1 billion.
- Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s four co-founders, served as director of online organizing for Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign.
- Facebook says it had an average of 526 million daily active users in March 2012, an increase of 41 percent from a year ago. It had registered 125 billion “friend connections” as of March 31 and 3.2 billion “likes” and comments.
- More than 300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day and more than 488 million active users access Facebook using mobile devices.
- “The Social Network,” the 2010 film about the origins of Facebook, won four Golden Globes — including for best picture and best director — but flopped at the Oscars, walking away with only awards for best adapted screenplay, original score and film editing.
 - Facebook, which currently employs some 3,500 people, has announced plans to hire “thousands” more over the next year. Some studies suggest that Facebook-related firms and apps have created many more jobs and economic value.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yahoo sacks CEO for padding CV

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is out after it was found he padded his resume with an embellished college degree, ending his term at the company after just four months.
Scott Thompson
Yahoo confirmed Thompson "has left the company" in a statement posted late Sunday, after two news reports. Tech blog AllThingsD was the first to report the news, and the New York Times followed up with its own article.
Yahoo media chief Ross Levinsohn will be named interim CEO, the company said. Levinsohn had earlier been rumored as a successor to Carol Bartz, who was fired from Yahoo by phone in September. Instead, Thompson took the CEO role in January.
Thompson's resume scandal ignited just over a week ago, when activist shareholder group Third Point alleged that Thompson lied about details of his college degree.
New board members: Dan Loeb, the CEO of Third Point, has a long history of launching proxy fights -- and Yahoo was the latest company in his crosshairs. Third Point owns about 5.8% of Yahoo, and is the largest outside shareholder. In February, Third Point filed paperwork proposing four new Yahoo board members, including Loeb himself.

Nigerian on mission to help blacks survive cancer

Seun Adebiyi
A month after his 2009 graduation from Yale Law School, Seun Adebiyi learned he had not one but two lethal blood cancers and began an odyssey to find a bone-marrow donor. Mr. Adebiyi, 28, who came to this country from Nigeria as a child, made appeals through Yale, on radio stations, in a YouTube video and even on a trip to Nigeria to ask law students to volunteer.
But finally, his doctor called, saying that a Nigerian woman in this country had donated her baby’s umbilical cord blood to a “cord-blood bank” and that the stem cells in it were a close enough match. After his own marrow — the source of his cancers — was wiped out, those cells were infused into him at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He has been in remission since.
Now he is trying to repay that debt, with an effort that experts say may save the lives of both Nigerians and black Americans. In February, he helped start Nigeria’s national bone-marrow registry, the first in Africa outside South Africa. He is now raising money to start a cord-blood bank there.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Juju 'science' in action in Kenya

It is called 'magun' in Yoruba language.  I don't know what the Hausa, Igbo, or Efik tribes call it.  Or what the Ewe, Ashanti or Fanti tribes of Ghana call it, but it is a phenomenon that is well known in different parts of Africa.  It is simply a situation where a lover puts some juju on his/her partner so that if she/he goes out to engage in sexual relationship with somebody else, she/he is stuck in the act. It is often the male partners that put them on their wives.
Magun is a spell that either kills the afflicted person’s sexual partner in a variety of nasty ways or the carrier herself. 
Three grisly consequences as detailed in the film are sudden post-coital death following a cock crowing, after a bout of somersaults and vomiting blood or by being unable to disengage from a partner after intercourse.
In case you are still thinking that this is a myth, here is a case that happened in Kenya yesterday.  Could this local 'science' be the answer to infidelity in marriages?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Boko Haram: Killers for God

The Boko Haram jihadi outfit in Nigeria has struck at the heart blood of the Nigerian people -- its robust and creative media.
Boko Haram means "Books are Forbidden." It's a Muslim Hausa group that has swallowed the bin Laden Kool-Aid. In a country of 80 million Muslims and 80 million Christians and animists, BK wants to impose Muslim religious law on everyone.
Hard to believe there are people out there who believe their vision of God authorizes them to blow up newspapers, churches, police stations, markets and schools.
Children are now afraid to go to school across much of Northern Nigeria. Suicide bombers have killed indiscriminately in the huge traditional market city of Kano -- the last major city before traders cross the Sahara desert bearing carpets, cloth, gems, crafts and other ware to and from Marrakesh and other cities of North Africa.
I was sent to Nigeria by the U.S. government to train local journalists in 1993 so I was extremely sad to hear of the suicide bombing of the Abuja offices of ThisDay newspaper on April 26, and threats issued by video by Boko Haram against a slew of other mainstream Nigerian papers. I must assume some of the reporters I trained are now under the gun.
I recalled how Nigeria's history foundered when its great statesman Moshood Abiola died in jail, taking with him hope for a consensus to unite the religions of Africa's most populous nation.
I met Abiola at the Lagos airport in 1993. He was standing in a billowy traditional light blue and white robe and shaking hands with every traveler, porter and taxi driver in sight. His business card read: Moshood Abiola, Presidential Aspirant.
Other cards he gave me said he was editor and publisher of Concord newspapers and president of the Nigerian publishers association.
A few days later I rode with Abiola on the large campaign plane he'd bought from the British royal family, using some of the millions made in business working for ITT and his many investments in Nigeria.
At one stop in the north, Abiola handed out prizes to girls at a soccer tournament, telling thousands in the stadium that girls should stay in school and transform the nation. "We are all one nation, Muslims, Christians, Nigerians all," he said.
At another city he met with a few dozen senior political and tribal leaders, telling them bluntly: "I am a wealthy man and I have worked hard to make my fortune. And what do I do with my money? I hire your sons and your daughters. I believe in this country. Let us build it together."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Harvard, MIT launch joint online education platform

EdX platform will enhance classroom experience, build on distance learning initiatives, leaders say

John Harvard's statue at Harvard University
You don't need to be in Cambridge, Massachusetts again to study in and have a feel of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), two of the world's leading universities.
EdX, a new online education platform, launched today, will draw on the faculty, research, and institutional backing of both universities to provide Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) courses to users around the world. The partnership will not only build on both universities’ ongoing work in online education, but will provide a treasure trove of data on how students learn and how to teach them most effectively.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Boko Haram vows more attack on media in new video

The full transcript of the youtube video is below.

“This is a message from the public awareness department of the Jamatu Ahlis sunnah lil daawati wal jihad, a group engaged in jihad in Nigeria.
“We wish to explain about the attack we carried out on ThisDay newspapers. Some of the reasons why we decided to attack some media houses, especially ThisDay, is because the paper was used in dishonouring our prophet, Mohammad (SAW), during a beauty pageant in Kaduna in November 2002.
“At that time, some people who called themselves leaders of Muslims came out to say they had forgiven those who committed the offence.
“But based on our knowledge, we know that no one has the power to forgive anyone for an offence that God himself has given judgment, especially on an offence that has to do with dishonouring Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
“No one has the power to forgive this type of offence, and the judgment is for such persons to be killed.
“This lady that committed this crime, the judgment on her is to be killed at any opportunity; and the media house is also supposed to be driven out of existence whenever there is a chance to do so.
“We are just getting the opportunity to attack the media house, and we are hoping to continue these attacks until we drive them out of existence.
“It is our hope that Allah (SWT) will help his religion.