Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Obama selfie

This time it is First Lady Michelle Obama that's selfie-ing with Bo, the Obama family dog.
Michelle Obama with Bo                  (c) White House Photo
"Selfie" was named 'word of the year' by Oxford Dictionary.
Dictionaries defines it as:
(n.) a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.
It's not a new word -- its origins date to a 2002 posting in an Australian Web forum, according to Reuters -- but that doesn't matter. "The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past 12 months and it does not have to be a word that will stick around for a good length of time," Judy Pearsall, editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, tells Reuters.
Oxford's editors say use of the word has gone up a staggering 17,000% in the past year, Reuters reports.

Sugar-coating a deadly health crisis

Does South Africa’s economy need a spoonful of medicine to make our sugar intake go down?

A study – the first of its kind in the country – has revealed that one in five South Africans is eating too much sugar, and that our collective sweet tooth is likely to cause a few cavities in the country’s coffers.
The study, known as the South African National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey (Sanhanes-1) and compiled by the Human Sciences Research Council, conducted surveys and interviews with more than 25 000 people across 500 different areas in South Africa. The findings showed that 19.7% of South Africans were consuming an excessive amount of sugar. Almost 21% reported a family history of high blood sugar as well.
Our sugar high is part of a global trend. A report called Sugar: Consumption at a Crossroads, compiled by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, says that the global consumption of added sugar has "increased dramatically" over the past few decades.
The average person now consumes 17 teaspoons (70g) of sugar and similar sweeteners a day. In certain countries it’s much, much higher. In the United States the average is 40 teaspoons a day, and in Mexico it’s 35.

Zimbabwe's ambassador to Australia: "I can't go back, I fear for my life"

"Zimbabwe's ambassador to Australia has asked for political asylum just days before her term ends saying she fears for her safety if she goes home, media reported on Saturday.
Jacqueline Zwambila, who is a member of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was appointed to Australia to renew ties between the countries after a unity government was formed in Zimbabwe in 2009."

Monday, December 30, 2013

Boko Haram: An overview of 2013

The year 2013 is only hours away, yet no respite in sight for the many Nigerians daily tormented by the terror called Boko Haram.  Will the new year be different?
Nigeria's information minister, Labaran Maku, is quoted as saying that the government hopes to stamp out the insurgence in the new year.
"What is clear is that in the year 2013, tremendous success was made and most of the insurgents that infiltrated into other states from the North East when the pressure went there were picked up. Some were picked up as far away as Lagos and Ogun and a number of them are in detention and trial is going on gradually," he said.
No doubt, the government has made little success.  A lot remains to be done.  Thousands of Nigerians are now refugees in Cameroun.  For many of them the fear of Boko Haram seems the beginning of wisdom.

Maternal mortality in Nigeria

More women die during child birth in Nigeria than in Afghanistan, Iraq and India combined, according to figures from the World Bank.  Yet the combined population of these countries is more than ten times that of Nigeria.
In a country where the health of citizens is taken seriously, this is a crisis that requires declaring a state of emergency.  Healthcare administration and management in Nigeria requires drastic overhaul.
But who cares?  Certainly many in Abuja don't.

Monday, December 23, 2013

AK 47, Africa and the curse of a weapon

Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau

The man who invented AK-47, Michail Kalashnikov is dead.  He died Monday, according to Russia Today.  Kalashnikov died peacefully at the age of 94.  He spent much of his life in the Ural Mountains, the region in his home country of Russia where his popular rifle is produced.

One of the terrorists in Kenya's Westgate attack
Kalashnikov's invention is a Russian invention that has found huge market in Africa.  It’s the most common weapon of destruction in Nigeria’s Niger Delta and the northeast where Islamic terrorists and militants continue to engage government in the struggle for power.  
For Africa, the name Kalashnikov is a sad reminder of all that's wrong with the continent; its violent struggles of the part, and present. 
Nigeria’s chief of army standards and evaluation, Major-General Shehu Abdulkadir, recently noted 70 per cent of the 10 million illegal weapons in circulation in West Africa are in Nigeria.  Most of these weapons are AK-47s.  In many corners of Africa, these weapons are favored by political thugs, militants, religious terrorists, drug gangs, kidnappers, autocrats, guerrillas, child soldiers and armed robbers.  

Justine Sacco's apology for offensive tweet

Justine Sacco                (c) abcnews.go.com
Here is the former PR executive's apology as tendered to The Star newspaper South Africa and ABC News:
Words cannot express how sorry I am, and how necessary it is for me to apologize to the people of South Africa, who I have offended due to a needless and careless tweet," Sacco said in the statement. "There is an AIDS crisis taking place in this country, that we read about in America, but do not live with or face on a continuous basis. Unfortunately, it is terribly easy to be cavalier about an epidemic that one has never witnessed firsthand.
For being insensitive to this crisis -- which does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation, but which terrifies us all uniformly -- and to the millions of people living with the virus, I am ashamed.
This is my father's country, and I was born here. I cherish my ties to South Africa and my frequent visits, but I am in anguish knowing that my remarks have caused pain to so many people here; my family, friends and fellow South Africans. I am very sorry for the pain I caused.
The apology came a day after IAC said it had fired Sacco.  "There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally," InterActive Corp said in a statement.   Hers is a remarkable lesson in How Not To Be a PR.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

PR executive Justine Sacco fired for lousy tweet about Africa

A PR executive for major media company IAC who tweeted a racist 'joke' on Friday that sparked a social media revolt has been fired from her position following the incident.
Justine Sacco - the now-former Communications Director for IAC, a company owned by Barry Diller - was about to board a 12-hour flight from London to Cape Town when she Tweeted: 'Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just Kidding. I'm White!'
The post had been retweeted over 3,000 times and was picked up by media outlets around the world, however Sacco remained completely unaware of it all because she was in the air.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mandela’s legacy as a health campaigner

Mandela during a visit to HIV program in 2002 (c)irinnews.com
It’s not often that we see politicians celebrated the way former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has been celebrated the past two weeks.  As I watched the remains of the 95-year-old activist committed to mother earth last Sunday, something in me wished we had him a little longer.  Many in South Africa would wish same. But alas Madiba’s long walk to freedom has ended.
For quite some time now, South Africans battled with the difficulty of dealing with the prospect of losing the man who not only led the country out of apartheid but saved it from the precipice of a civil war.  So deep is the affection for Mandela among South Africans of all races that the thought of his death seemed incomprehensible.  It seems too high an aspiration to place on one individual, but in the eyes of many in Africa, Mandela represents hope, freedom and peace, virtues that are very short supply on the continent.
Mandela stands out as a human rights icon and a remarkable lesson in leadership.  In no other part of the world is that lesson most needed today than in Africa.  In many ways, what Robert Mugabe is today in Zimbabwe is what Nelson Mandela could have been in South Africa; but he chose a different path. He opted for reconciliation, reconstruction and restoration and in doing so united a broken nation.  His life and the causes that he lived for resonates among people of all race, creed and persuasions.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Selfie: Danes surprised by global attention

L-R: PM Cameron, PM Thorning-Schmidt and Obama (c)afp
"More Scandi stylein politics would do the world a lot of good." I totally agree.
While reactions in the US and UK has been heated and largely negative over the selfie involving President Obama, PM Cameron and PM Thorning-Schmidt.  Citizens of Denmark, home country of the lady that initiated the controversial selfie, careless.
Distasteful? Inappropriate? The Danes don't think so:
Cute PM Thorning-Schmidt and huzzy (c) dailymail
"Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt made headlines after snapping a selfie of herself nestled in between UK Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama at Mandela's memorial service on Tuesday.
The "selfie" went viral online almost immediately. But you could be forgiven for not knowing who this blonde beauty taking a photo with a smartphone of herself with two political power houses is, unless you are Danish, like myself, or up to date on your current affairs.
Many newspapers are calling into question whether it was appropriate for "Gucci Helle," as she is called by many Danes for her sense of style, to take a "selfie" during Tuesday's memorial service.
The Times wrote that Obama tested the limits of "funeral etiquette" (despite the memorial not being a funeral) with the self-portrait. Although they may have been acting less than gracefully at the moment the snap was taken, they did seem to be enjoying each other's company and Thorning-Schmidt just couldn't resist the urge to document the moment for herself. She may after all never have the opportunity again.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's just a selfie, Presidents are humans after all

Two key moments dominated today's memorial service for the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela in the social media. The first is President Barack Obama's historic handshake with Raul Castro, the Cuban president, and brother of Fidel Castro.  The other is Obama's selfie with Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and British PM, David Cameron.
I can understand why the handshake is of interest.  America's 50-year-old diplomatic face-off with Cuba has meant leaders of two nations just don't interact. I am not sure Fidel Castro ever shook hands with any US president and he tenured through at least ten of them.
On the selfie, the reactions on Twitter and Facebook have been mixed.  It's amazing how it turned out to be such a social media feast.  Here's the take of some of the mainstream media on it:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Islamist militants attack airforce base

Scene of a recent Boko Haram attack
Hundreds of Islamic militants in trucks and a stolen armored personnel carrier attacked an air force base and international airport on the outskirts of a Nigerian city before dawn Monday, officials and witnesses said, possibly leaving scores of people dead in one of the insurgent group's most daring attacks.
Two helicopters and three decommissioned military aircraft were "incapacitated" in the attack, said a statement from Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, the Ministry of Defense spokesman. He said some army bases also were hit.
Twenty-four insurgents were killed and many were wounded along with two air force personnel, Olukolade said in a statement.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

2 French journalists killed in Mali by Al Qaeda affiliates

Slain French journalists Ghislaine Dupont, left,
and Claude Verlon, right
Gunmen abducted and killed two French radio journalists on assignment in northern Mali on Saturday, French and Malian officials said, grabbing the pair as they left the home of a rebel leader.
The deaths come four days after France rejoiced at the release of four of its citizens who had been held for three years by al Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa.
It was not immediately clear who had slain the French journalists. France launched a military intervention in January in its former colony to try and oust jihadists from power in Kidal and other towns across northern Mali. Separatist rebels have since returned to the area.
French President Francois Hollande expressed his "indignation at this odious act."
Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont were grabbed by several armed men in a 4x4 after they finished an interview, officials said.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kenya goes hi-tech in bid to protect rhinos

With poachers getting more sophisticated in their approach, Rhino conservation has gone high-tech and will now employ specialised rhino horn tracking systems combined with forensic DNA technology to strengthen rhino monitoring. This will protect the animals on site and also support anti-trafficking mechanisms nationally and regionally.
With the support from the WWF Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) says that with the use of microchips and scanners, there will be 100 per cent traceability of every rhino horn and live animal within Kenya.
KWS Director William Kiprono says that with the technology, every rhino horn will be tracked globally and matched to the rhino from which it was taken. In this way, investigators will be able to link any poached case to a recovered or confiscated horn.
These technologies are now being used internationally in support of criminal justice responses to wildlife crime as well as strengthening inter-agency collaborations (between customs, police, justice, wildlife agencies and defense).
This new technology will ensure that every marked rhino in the country is traceable.

Will enlarged DNA database help SA police in crime fight?

   Men of the South African police         (c) foxnews
Matching a human being’s distinct genetic blueprint, the person’s DNA, found on a crime scene, to a profile found on an extensive DNA database of offenders seems like a simple exercise these days. Done on almost every American cop show on television, and at law enforcement agencies in numerous countries around the world, it is hard to believe that it is not such an easy task in South Africa.
Not yet, anyway. Should the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill clear the final hurdle and receive President Jacob Zuma’s signature and be promulgated, it will allow for the South African Police Service (SAPS) to finally establish such an extensive DNA database in South Africa.
Working tirelessly for nine years to see this database become a reality, following the murder of her father – a crime where every scrap of DNA evidence was lost – Vanessa Lynch says the President’s signature does not mean the job is done.
Lynch spent four years lobbying government to pass DNA-specific legislation and, once that was achieved, it took another five years to pass it through Parliament.
An attorney by training, she formed nongovernmental organisation The DNA Project to pursue this goal.  “When the Bill is actually promulgated, only then will I breathe a transitory sigh of relief, because that will be when the real work begins,” says Lynch.

Edward Snowden lands tech job in Russia

Ed Snowden
To some he is a hero, a whistleblower and an apostle of open society.  But Edward Snowden is not viewed that way in government circles in the United States.  Snowden is a fugitive on the run from his own country for leaking guarded secret government data which he got during his time at the National Security Agency (NSA).
His leaks created significant problems of trust for the Obama administration among US traditional allies.  Germany is particularly irked by the revelation that Angela Merkel is being spied on by the NSA. Same annoyance is obvious in France, Brazil, Mexico and others.
But that's not the news today.  The latest is that Snowden has got a new job in Russia, two months after he was granted temporary asylum by Putin.
His attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti that his fugitive client will start his new gig Friday at one of Russia's largest websites, but reportedly declined to identify the site for "security reasons."
"Edward starts work in November," attorney Kucherena said on Thursday, according RIA. "He will provide support for a large Russian site," he explained, declining further statement.
Snowden, 30, who disclosed secret US internet and telephone surveillance programmes, fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia four months ago.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why car companies are running to Africa

Porsche showroom in Lagos
Wonder why the car companies are rushing to Africa?   Africa has seen remarkable economic growth in the last few years.  That's partly the reason.  But added to that is the fact that more and more Europeans are opting for bicycles rather than cars.  Sounds funny?  Not at all.  Check out the statistics below.
Bicycle sales outpaced new-car sales last year in every one of those countries, except Belgium and Luxembourg, reports NPR. Car sales hit a 20 year low last year in Europe.
New data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, new vehicle registrations continued to slip with a decline of 6.3 percent in June 
According to BMW CEO Nobert Reithofer in an interview with a German publication, "Little will change."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Blatter got it right; Africa deserves more World Cup slots

Fifa president, Sepp Blatter
No matter the intention as being speculated in some western media, I think Fifa president Joseph Blatter got it right.  "From a purely sporting perspective, I would like to see globalization finally taken seriously, and the African and Asian national associations accorded the status they deserve at the FIFA World Cup," Blatter wrote in an article in a Fifa magazine.
Africa, the confederation with the most member associations (54), is woefully under-represented at the World Cup with just five places...This flawed state of affairs must be rectified
"It cannot be that the European and South American confederations lay claim to the majority of the berths at the World Cup (18 or 19 teams), because taken together they account for significantly fewer member associations (63) than Africa and Asia (100)."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Are mass murderers using Twitter as a tool?

An injured shopper being helped out of Nairobi's Westgate
Mall during the attack last month

It was the first major terrorist attack in history in which the group that mounted the operation used Twitter to announce to the world it was responsible.
The group then quickly tweeted what its rationale was for the attack and also gave operational details of the assault -- all in real time.
Last month a group of armed gunmen stormed the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, shooting at shoppers and mall staff with automatic weapons, killing at least 61 civilians.

Several hours into the assault a Twitter account used by the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab tweeted: "The Mujahideen ('holy warriors') entered Westgate mall today at around noon and they are still inside the mall, fighting the Kenyan kuffar ('infidels') inside their own turf."
It was the first confirmation that the attack was the work of Al-Shabaab, and journalists around the world quickly reported this.

How Al-Shabab mastermind 'White Widow' tricked SA, UK and Kenya

Samantha Lewthwaite, alias the ‘White Widow’
Britain and South Africa both issued new passports to Samantha Lewthwaite in the months before she went on the run.
Lewthwaite, the widow of the one of the July 7 suicide bombers, received a new British passport in 2011 from the British High Commission in South Africa's capital, Pretoria. Days earlier, on January 31, 2011, Lewthwaite had also been given a South African passport in the name of Natalie Faye Webb, a nurse then living in Essex whose identity she allegedly stole.
Naledi Pandor, the South African home affairs minister, insisted this document was cancelled "in February 2011" and placed on an Interpol "stop list".
'White Widow' Lewthwaite has now evaded arrest for almost two years
That should have alerted all 192 members of Interpol to detain anyone found carrying the passport. Instead, the Kenyan authorities gave Lewthwaite new tourist visas – or renewed old ones – on five separate occasions: February 26; March 28; May 3; August 25; and November 21. All these stamps were placed in the supposedly cancelled South African passport. The last visa was issued just weeks before Lewthwaite went on the run in December 2011.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why the world’s technology giants are investing in Africa

"I don't understand. Why is it that the media only seems to talk about Africa when bad things happen?"
The man behind the counter at my hotel in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, was talking to me about my job, and why I was visiting.
He looked genuinely pained. He told me he is a big fan of the BBC - in west Africa the World Service and language services have a big following - but it seemed to him that the media outside the continent often only noticed when bad things happened.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How technology is driving terrorism and cybercrime

A bomb hidden inside a microphone killed Arsala Jamal, a popular Afghan politician and the governor of Logar, a province near the capital Kabul yesterday as he spoke after prayers celebrating the Islamic holiday, Eid.  It's yet another reminder of how criminals and terrorists are using technology.  It reminded me of when Dele Giwa, a popular investigative journalist in Nigeria was killed in his dining room via letter bomb.  This week is the 27 years anniversary of the death of Giwa, a thoroughly bred investigative journalist, and founding editor of Newswatch, the pioneer in insightful magazine journalism in Nigeria.
The exponential growth the world has seen in technology offers great prospects for fighting crime and terrorism. But there is a flip side.  Technology is increasingly making us unsafe and overly exposed.
"In the hands of the tech community, these are awesome tools which will bring about great changes for our world, but in the hands of suicide bombers the future can look quite different," says Marc Goodman, a security expert.
"We consistently underestimate what criminals and terrorists can do. Technology has made our world increasingly open and for the most part that's great.  But all of this may have unintended consequences," Goodman said.
"Whether or not you realize it, we are at the dawn of a technology arms race, an arms race between people who are using technology for good and those who are using it for ill.  The threat is serious and the time to prepare for it is now."

Terrorists prayed as Westgate massacre took place

Terrorists who attacked the Westgate Mall last month took turns to pray in between their bloody mission, new footage shows.
Video clips seen by the Nation show one of the terrorists taking time off to pray as two of his accomplices stand guard inside what appears to be a store inside the Mall.
A separate clip shows five of the terrorists taking position inside a supermarket within the mall during the attack.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fat discrimination could be as common as racial bias

Weight discrimination, especially against women, is increasing in U.S. society and is almost as common as racial discrimination, two studies suggest.
Reported discrimination based on weight has increased 66% in the past decade, up from about 7% to 12% of U.S. adults, says one study, in the journal Obesity. The other study, in the International Journal of Obesity, says such discrimination is common in both institutional and interpersonal situations — and in some cases is even more prevalent than rates of discrimination based on gender and race. (About 17% of men and 9% of women reported race discrimination.)

Westgate: A damage so heartrending

An Indian man prays by the grave of Kenyan journalist
Ruhila Adatia Sood, who was killed by gunmen at the
Westgate mall, during her funeral in Nairobi (c) CNN
We can't really quantify the human and material damage caused Africa and the world by the terror attack last month in Westgate Mall, Nairobi: 68 innocent lives wasted and another 175 deformed in varying degrees.
Victims were not just Kenyans, but Ghanaians, Brits, Indians, and nationals of several other countries. The pains in the heart of family members is unimaginable.
The New York Times and CNN have put together a collection of pictorials to show what transpired during those four days of gross wickedness and heartless killings by Al-Shabab, the Somali-based terrorist group.
As never before, it is vital to unite forces of the entire world community against terror
What the Westgate experience reminds us is that terrorism is by its nature international.  It happened in Kenya, but the loss and pains caused is global.  President Obama puts it right when he said that "in the war on terror, we cannot possibly succeed without extraordinary international cooperation. Effective international police actions require the highest degree of intelligence sharing, planning and collaborative enforcement."
According to Vladimir Putin of Russia, "terrorism has once again shown it is prepared deliberately to stop at nothing in creating human victims. An end must be put to this. As never before, it is vital to unite forces of the entire world community against terror."

Check out New York Times and CNN to see the heartrending fallouts of the Kenyan attack.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Physics Nobel Prize goes to 'God particle' scientists

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics has gone to Britain's Peter W. Higgs and Belgium's Francois Englert, the Nobel Committee announced in Stockholm on Tuesday.
They were jointly awarded the prize for their work on a theory that offers an explanation for how the fundamental particles of the Universe acquire mass.
Last year, the pair's work was confirmed after the discovery of the so-called Higgs particle — known also as the Higgs boson and the God particle — at a laboratory in Geneva.
"I am overwhelmed to receive this award and thank the Royal Swedish Academy," Higgs said in a statement released by the University of Edinburgh. "I hope this recognition of fundamental science will help raise awareness of the value of blue-sky research."
Englert told the committee he was "very happy" at winning the award.

How Instagram and Pinterest can get you to eat less

When next a friend points you to beautiful photos of food on Instagram or Pinterest, tell him/her you will look at them after dinner.  Why?  Looking at many photos of food on Instagram can make the actual eating less enjoyable.
The message is: “If you want to enjoy your food consumption experience, avoid looking at too many pictures of food.”
Researchers at Brigham Young University say looking at many photos of food before eating may actually ruin your appetite “by making you feel like you’ve already experienced eating that food.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Terrorists ain't poor people - Nigerian president

Terrorists ain't poor people.  Listen to President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria disagree with President Clinton that Boko Haram exists because of poverty.  Interesting interview by Arise TV(another big move by Nduka Obaigena. By the way, Nduka said nice things about his vision for Arise in an interview with New African magazine.  I think it's a big leap.)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Boko Haram kills 78 students in a college campus

Gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram sect members yesterday went on rampage in Gujba community, Yobe state where they opened fire on the students of the College of Agriculture, Gujba, at 3a.m. as they slept in their hostels. They later moved to other houses, where they killed residents at will.
They also blocked the Damaturu-Maiduguri road and killed travellers.
At the end of the attack, 78 persons lay dead, while several others were still missing.
According to members of the community, soldiers arrived the scene two hours after the gunmen had left.
The gunmen were said to be wearing military camouflage with black bandanas round their heads.
An official of DamaturuSpecialistHospital, who requested anonymity, said “immediately after the attack, 40 bodies were brought to the morgue and all are believed to have been students of the College of Agriculture in Gujba.”

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Let’s unite against Boko Haram, others

Wole Soyinka
I am certain there are others who, like me, received invitations to the recent edition of the Storymoja/Hay Literature Festival in Nairobi, but could not attend. My absence was particularly regrettable, because I had planned to make up for my failure to turn up for the immediate prior edition. Participant or absentee however, this is one edition we shall not soon forget.

It was at least two days after the listing of Kofi Awoonor among the victims that I even recollected the fact that the festival was ongoing at that very time. With that realisation came another:  that Kofi and I could have been splitting a bottle at that same watering hole in between events and at the end of each day.

My feelings, I wish to state clearly, did not undergo any changes. The emotions of rage, hate and contempt remained on the same qualitative and quantitative levels. Those are the feelings I have retained since the Boko Haram onslaught overtook the northern part of our nation. I expect them to remain at the same level until I draw my last breath, hopefully in peaceful circumstances like Chinua Achebe, or else violently like Kofi. As becomes daily clarified in contemporary existence, none of us has much control over these matters.

Monday, September 23, 2013

In Africa, Al Qaeda finds new life

Scene of Boko Haram bombing of UN office in Abuja
Al Qaeda-inspired militancy is on the rise in Africa as disparate groups with local grievances find common cause in the global terror group’s tactics and ideology and, in turn, offer it new theaters of operation.

Military pressure, drone strikes and the assassination of Osama bin Laden have diminished Al Qaeda globally, leaving it weaker than at any point since its first terrorist spectacular, the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

But while Al Qaeda central wanes, affiliates elsewhere are growing stronger, nowhere more so than in Africa, where groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and Al Shabaab are finding ways of hitching Al Qaeda’s ideology to their local struggles.

“Africa represents a fertile ground for diminished ‘Al Qaeda-core’ to re-group, re-energize and re-launch its mission of global jihad," according to a recent report by the Royal United Service Institute, a London-based think tank.The report pointed to the potential for an “arc of instability encompassing the whole Sahara-Sahel strip and extending through to East Africa.” It warned that Al Qaeda’s new strategy seemed to be “going native,” using local militant groups and their conflicts to gain a foothold in new countries.

World must unite to end sexual violence in conflict

Each day accounts of horrific crimes in Syria reach the outside world. Now the UN has confirmed that rape is being used to terrorise and punish women, men and children, during house searches and interrogations, at checkpoints, and in detention centres and prisons across the country.
The latest harrowing UN Commission of Inquiry report describes a mother being raped and forced to cook and clean for her captors, under the threat of the murder of her children. It tells the story of a university student who was raped because her brother was wanted by the government. These accounts are the tip of the iceberg. Fear, shame and the sheer struggle for survival mean that many survivors do not dare to come forward.
Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war in nearly every major conflict in our lifetimes, from Bosnia to Rwanda. 
This is rape used as a deliberate military tactic, to achieve political objectives: to humiliate political opponents, to drive out or subjugate a different ethnic grouping, or to terrorise a community into submission. In some conflicts it is even used to infect women with HIV, or to injure them so badly that they are unable to bear children.

"We've 6 Americans hostage," says Al-Shabaab

A new tweet from Al-Shabaab states the jihadists are holding 20 westerners hostage in the ongoing siege in a shopping mall in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.  The tweet claims a total of 32 hostages including six American, four French and three Dutch nationals.

Day 3 of siege in Kenya: Heavy gunfire heard coming from Nairobi shopping mall

Heavy and rapid bursts of gunfire were heard coming from inside Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall at dawn Monday, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

A Kenyan security source said an assault against Al Qaeda-linked Somali gunmen inside the complex was underway.

The AFP correspondent said he heard about 15 minutes of fierce gunfire which then subsided. An AFP photographer at the scene said troops posted around the mall ducked for cover.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

6 US-based Islamists among Kenya mall attackers

Six US-based Islamists, two from Finland and one based in UK are among the jihadists that attacked Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, according to a release reportedly by Al-Shabaab.

The venue of the attack is a popular shopping mall for middle class and upper class Kenyans as well as tourists and foreigners living in the East African country. Reports put the number of the dead so far at 68 with about 175 others wounded.

There are between 50 to 200 hostages and most of them are hiding in various places inside the mall, Fox News confirms. They are not all being held by the hostage-takers. There are between 10 to 15 militants currently inside the mall, with at least one being female, according to reports.

According to a release from the terrorist group, the attackers are aged between 20 and 27 and are drawn from eight countries, most of them in the west.  Here is the list:

Sayid N. from Kismayu, Somalia.

Zaki Jama C., from Hargeisa, Somalia

Said D., from Damascus, Syria

Mohamed B., from Aleppo, Syria

Qasim Said M., Garissa, Kenya

Ismail G., from Helsinki, Finland

Ahmed Nasir S., from London, UK

Mustafa N., from Kansas City, US

Abdishakur Sheikh H., from Maine, US

Abdifatah Osman K., from Minneapolis, US

Ahmad Mohamed I., from Saint Paul, US

Abdikarem Ali M., from Illinois, US

Shafie D., from Tucson, US

Eliko M., from Dagestan, Russia

Mohammed A., from Svalov, Sweden

Al-Shabaab twitter account suspended after Kenya mall attack

An injured shopper being helped out of the mall  (c) AP

The Twitter account of Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shabab rebels was suspended Saturday after they used the site to claim responsibility for an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that left 59 dead and 175 wounded.

A message from Twitter on the English-language @HSM_Press account read that the account was suspended, the third time this year that the group has been expelled from the site.

According to Twitter users are blocked “for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities”.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Al-Shabab terror attack in a Kenyan mall

An injured lady being rescued from the scene.
Today in the city of Nairobi, Kenya's beautiful capital, fundamentalists murdered at least 26 and severely injured over 50.  Gunmen threw grenades and opened fire in an attack targeting non-Muslims at an upscale mall in Kenya's capital that was hosting a children's day event.
Somali's militant al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Muslim extremists, who have killed Kenyans near the border and are blamed for church bombings, vowed two years ago to attack Nairobi after Kenya sent troops into Somalia to get control of the situation there.
The rising threat of Islamic extremism is Africa's most alarming trend.  According to Maj. Gen Carlton Everhart II, AFRICOM senior Air Force commander, "the growing threat that al-Qaida affiliates are posing to nations in north, east, and southwest Africa has really changed the dynamic by making counterterrorism a growth business on the continent."
A shopper being helped out of the mall.
Kenyan police told the Daily Nation, the country's leading newspaper, that at least 26 people died and more than 50 were injured in the attack, which was allegedly carried out by five to 10 gunmen with AK-47s and other sophisticated weapons. The Red Cross reports 30 dead, according to Easy FM radio.
Nairobi Police Chief Benson Kibue called the incident "a terrorist attack" according to the Associated Press. Witnesses told local news media and the Associated Press that the gunman asked Muslims to leave before opening fire. Kenya is 83% Christian with a sizable Muslim community — about 11% of its 44 million people.

Click below for more photos.  Be warned some contain images that you may find disturbing.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Africa has highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes

Africa has the highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes which is about 78 per cent, this is according to a study by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) published in the World Diabetes Atlas. It said Sub-Saharan Africa has more than 15 million of the 371 million people living with diabetes in the world.
IDF says an estimated 344,000 deaths in the region could be attributed to diabetes, which represents 6.1 per cent of deaths from all causes.
The study revealed that investment, research, and health systems are slow to respond to this burden and remain focused primarily on infectious diseases. It said the region accounts for less than 1 per cent of global healthcare expenditures due to diabetes.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Scoring Africa

Here is one of the most detailed analysis of Africa I have seen in recent times.  As a statistician, writer and lover of infograhics, I find this work by Great Business Schools, a compelling evidence of the different realities in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-racial, resource-rich and but politically-challenged continent called Africa.
'Scoring Africa', is a remarkable portrayal of how the various countries in Africa compare on economy, health, human rights, education, personal safety, national security, population, size and a host others.  I'm sure you will find it revealing and informative.
Kudos Great Business Schools for this work.

Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org

Thursday, September 5, 2013

African governments still underfunding health

Twelve years after African governments pledged in the Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to healthcare by 2015, just six countries have met this goal.
Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Togo and Zambia have met the target, and five other countries are spending at least 13 percent of their annual budgets on health, according to data compiled by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
While on aggregate spending on health has increased - up to 10.6 percent from 8.8 - about a quarter of African Union (AU) member-states have regressed and are now spending less on health than they were in 2001, adds the WHO data.
Recently, the AU held another special summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in Abuja, Nigeria, dubbed Abuja +12, which provided an opportunity for African governments and other stakeholders to review progress made and to discuss what should be done to ensure health funding targets are met before 2015.

Rethinking mental health in Africa

As African countries strive to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and plot a new development agenda thereafter, health experts are gathering evidence across the continent to make a case for a greater focus on its millions of mentally ill.
Experts say investing in mental health treatment for African countries would bolster development across the continent, but national health priorities have been overtaken by the existing MDG structure, which has specific targets for diseases like malaria and HIV, placing them higher on countries' agendas than other health issues.
"Everyone is putting their money in HIV, reproductive health, malaria," says Sheila Ndyanabangi, director of mental health at Uganda's Ministry of Health. "They need also to remember these unfunded priorities like mental health are cross-cutting, and are also affecting the performance of those other programmes like HIV and the rest."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Checkmating Boko Haram fugitives

Scene of a Boko Haram bombing at St. Theresa Catholic
Church, Madalla
Running away from the fusillade of bullets in the North-East zone of the country, some Boko Haram insurgents have relocated to Lagos State. They seem to have embedded themselves in some areas of the state and in adjoining Ogun State. Early last month, 42 of these fugitives were paraded by the General Officer Commanding 81 Division of the Nigeria Army, Lagos, Maj.-Gen. Obi Umahi. Their presence is perilous, given the fact that Lagos is the economic nexus of the country.

In May, a state of emergency was imposed on Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states by President Goodluck Jonathan. A military operation that came in its wake, has scuppered the evil reign of the fundamentalist sect in the affected states, forcing them to such hideouts as Aviation Quarters, Mafoluku in Oshodi; Ketu/Mile 2 Motor Park; Orile Trailer Park; Lekki new extension and Bar Beach – all in Lagos. In Ogun State, Ibafo Trailer Park and Ileke New Garage are their enclaves. However, many points at these rendezvous of evil were raided recently following intelligence reports and the hoodlums were rounded up by the military.

These arrests were not the first. On March 14, security operatives had nabbed 14 suspected members of the sect at Ijora Badia. In another incident, security operatives stormed a newly-rented apartment owned by a Chadian member of the group, and found Improvised Explosive Devices neatly tucked in food coolers that were hidden in the ceiling. Confessions from them evinced plan to attack the United States of America and Israeli interests, in addition to 16 designated targets in simultaneous bombing operations. Continually, these merchants of death want to exploit the fact that the South-West has a sizeable moderate Muslim population, which they can easily blend with, to unleash their terror.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Judge OKs $20m Facebook privacy settlement over targeted ads

A U.S. judge on Monday granted final approval to Facebook's $20 million settlement of a lawsuit over targeted advertising despite objections that the deal did not go far enough to protect children's privacy.

Five plaintiffs filed a class action against Facebook in 2011, saying the social networking giant's "Sponsored Stories" program shared users' "likes" of certain advertisers with friends without paying them or allowing them to opt out.

A "Sponsored Story" is an advertisement that appears on a member's Facebook page and generally consists of a friend's name, profile picture and an assertion that the person "likes" the advertiser.
The case has highlighted tension between privacy concerns and Facebook's drive to monetize user content.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Aftermath of war: Father, son found in Vietnam jungle after 40 years in isolation

Two men, father and son, who had lived in total isolation from society for 40 years in a remote jungle in central Vietnam were found yesterday.
According to Daily Mail UK, "Ho Van Thanh and his son Ho Van Lang apparently fled their home village 40 years ago after a bomb killed three members of their family. They were discovered by locals looking for firewood in deep forest in the Tay Tra district of Quang Ngai province.
"One day his wife and two of his sons were killed by a mine explosion, putting him in a state of shock.  He took his two-year-old son and fled into the jungle, thereafter never having any contact with anyone else," Daily Mail reports.
Local authorities yesterday confirmed that the men were Thanh, 82, and 42-year-old Lang who once lived in the Tay Tra District of Quang Ngai Province of Vietnam.
Due to being isolated from social contact for a long time, both father and son could only speak a little of the language of the Kor ethnic minority group.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The misguided logic of deporting fat people

After six years living in New Zealand, Albert Buitenhuis may have to go back to South Africa. The government decided he’s too heavy to stay.
Buitenhuis is now facing deportation after officials denied his request to renew his work visa. He and his wife claim to have had no previous trouble with their annual visa renewals.
New Zealand’s immigration ministry maintains that, at more than 280 pounds, Buitenhuis’s weight puts him at added risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Despite reports from Buitenhuis’s physician that he’s on track to correct a number of his health problems, the ministry remains concerned that weight-related issues will translate into hefty future costs. New Zealand claims that it is simply exercising its policy to hold immigrants to standards that minimize their burdens on the country’s health services. This year’s assessments included flagging and reviewing every immigrant with a body mass index greater than 35 (medically defined as “severely obese”), meaning Buitenhuis no longer meets those standards.

Read more: ObesityPost

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Beyonce’s conflicting campaigns

Let me state this from the very beginning – I am a big fan of Beyonce.  I like her music.  She and huzzy Jay Z have proved to young people, particularly black folks like me that hardwork pays and with it you can reach any level.
I’ve lived in Harlem, New York for well over 30 years.  My parents migrated here from Senegal in 1980 and I was born a year later. I draw inspiration from the story of this remarkable couple who rose from poverty to wealth by channeling their energy to positive use at a time when some of their folks chose to ruin themselves with drugs. They are my heroes.

Read more here

New Zealand to South African chef: You’re too fat to live here

A South African chef who has been working in New Zealand since 2007 now faces being deported from the country on account of his weight.  Immigration officials said Albert Buitenhuis who weighs 286 pounds did not have “an acceptable standard of health”.
In 2007 the wife of a Briton who lives in New Zealand was denied visa to join her husband because of her weight.  Over half of New Zealand adults and nearly one-third of its children are either overweight or obese.
The country’s immigration service requires all visa applicants to undergo a complete medical examination, which includes body size measures like waist circumference.

Read the full story: Obesity Post

Why southern Africans are getting bigger

In South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, obesity rates are soaring.  The epidemic is particularly worse with women, but even the men are not any better.  South Africa’s Medical Research Council says 70 per cent of all women above the age of 35 are overweight.
Even with its poverty and hunger, a national survey in Swaziland noted that at least 55 per cent of Swazi women are overweight or obese.  According to Hester Vorster of the Center for Excellence in Nutrition at South Africa’s North-West University, “the problem in Africa is that both under- and over-nutrition are the worst in the world.”

Read more: Obesity Post

Friday, July 12, 2013

Malala to terrorists - You may shoot us, but won't silent us

Today is Malala Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to draw global attention to the importance of education for all children.  It was named after Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was short in the head in October 2012 for speaking out about her right to education.
Malala who has been receiving treatment in London since the attack, was at the UN headquarters in New York to mark the day.  She delivered a very impressive, wise and courage speech.  I just listened to the speech and I frankly it drew tears to my tears.  The message is simple but profound - Taliban, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and terrorists all over, you might shoot us, but you won't silent us.
I hope all the agents of terror would listen to this 16 year old activist and heroine of free speech.  Boko Haram, Malala spoke to you particularly.  You always use youtube to send you messages (though you claim to hate western education), now here is a message on youtube for you.  You may bomb schools, but you won't take away our resolve to be educated and free.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Want to get rid of those bingo wings?

Surgery to reshape the upper arms is becoming common as more and more common women embrace the procedure to keep fit, latest statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) indicate.
15,000 brachioplasty procedures were performed last year in the United States according to the group, an increase of more than 4000 per cent over the figures in the year 2000.   Brachioplasty is the medical name for the surgery to remove skin bingo wings.
According to a poll by ASPS, most women who go for under the knife to get rid of bingo wings, say they admire the toned arms of celebrities like Michelle Obama, Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore.
Read more here: obesitypost.com