President Jonathan, why are they afraid of Princess Stella Oduah remaining in your cabinet as Aviation Minister?

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Read Time:8 Minute, 9 Second

It’s obvious to discerning observers of Nigerian politics that there is a clear method to the present orchestrated attacks unleashed on the Aviation Minister Princess Stella Oduah.

Second, there is a broader ethnic dimension to this plot to discredit, defame, slander and finally remove her and some persons from, not just the topmost leadership position in the Aviation Ministry, but also in the headship of its key parastatals (agencies). As a keen follower of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda, I am shocked at the ease and impunity, not to mention the scandalous frequency, with which key members of his transformation team are attacked, hounded, persecuted and discredited by sworn foes of his administration.

Those foes include external Opposition forces in all their colours and guises, some within your party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), and within your administration.
The Opposition forces against you have, as expected, now too happily latched on to the NCAA car affair to target Oduah. What did she do? How desperate can these unprogressive groups masquerading as patriots get? Why are they so afraid of Stella; so petrified of you carrying through your Transformation Agenda and the proposed National Conference?

I think it is a mark of the high calibre and substance of this resourceful woman that there is an unprecedented massing of opposition forces to try to pry her away from serving you and our dear country in the sterling manner she has done so effectively in just two years. But you should not oblige them. People suffering from jealousy and bad -bele cannot be helped. Nigerian progress and development must come first before primordial and ethnic sentiments, as paraded by Oduah’s critics and detractors.

Once again the nation is being heated up, your administration being distracted by forces of retrogression who have, this time around, chosen to brazenly mount a blatant campaign of persecution against your aviation minister. And her crime? Refusing to let it be business as usual in her ministry; refusing to dance to the selfish tunes of all those who think they own Nigeria, those who think they enjoy monopoly of wisdom on how best to manage the aviation ministry, even after they had had their chance to transform the ministry but failed woefully through their own nepotism and ineptitude.

Most observers are not deceived by the hypocrisy of the on-going orchestrated and sustained mass media hysteria against Oduah. It is all hatchet job sponsored by parochial interest groups jealous and unhappy with you and your star minsters. It has not just started with the present storm in a tea cup over the two armoured BMW cars purchased by the NCAA for the use of the Aviation Ministry; and not for the personal and private use of the minister.

Recall that at a time in the recent past, it was Arunma Oteh when you sent the amazon to reposition the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) for improved performance and efficiency. She was promptly attacked by vested interests within the Opposition when her approach to work departed from the then prevailing “business as usual” ethic. I bet the loud call then for her sack is still pending on your table. We applauded (and still applaud) your wisdom and patriotism in ignoring such malevolent calls. Next was Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, your able Minister of Agriculture. You were maligned through him for ending the Fertilizer scam and introducing the innovative phone-to-farmers scheme; an innovation that was derided by critics because it ended “business as usual” in that important sector. Dr. Diezani Allison-Madueke came next on the Opposition’s guillotine; closely followed by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwala who, in particular, came under heavy fire for daring to plug many formers holes for looting. For keeping a tight rein over our national purse she became a marked woman; unpopular among those who abused “due process” and the call for her sack became strident and deafening at a time. Does all this not tell you something, sir?

I therefore urge you, Mr. President, to read carefully between the lines in this matter. It is also ethnic, in intent and purpose, and certainly more about you than it is about the princess of Nigeria’s aviation.

It has more to do with you, President Jonathan and 2015 elections than it is with two utility BMW cars and pick-up trucks. Isn’t it curious that these seasonal and selective accusations of corruption are always directed against star members of your cabinet? At the risk of sounding repetitive, this current case has nothing to do with Oduah; it has all to do with the relentless effort by some known interests to deny you a second term in 2015; it is about destroying you by first seeking to decimate your competent ministerial “commanders” through pockets of wars-of-attrition before the main battle in 2015. So the plot has been long in unfolding.

Workers in the Aviation Ministry and the publics that deal with them, all attest to the image of Princess Stella Oduah as a variant of the late Margaret Thatcher; a workaholic noted for prudence, sharp business acumen and zest for efficiency. Oduah is said to be a no non-sense, principled and frugal manager; a stickler for due process and an admirer and believer in the importance of professionalism and effectiveness in personnel.

It is highly unlikely that Oduah would compel any of the agencies under her supervision to aggrandize her with needless armoured vehicles; it would be out of her character. NCAA’s operational requirements as stated by the Director General of the agency could have made it necessary. For it is an undeniable fact that the sensitive and demanding portfolio Oduah handles for you, and the foreign aviation personalities she frequently hosts, all demand the highest level of security provision in these trying times. But it is not known that she ever made a demand for special vehicles to do her job. If the protocols in any of her agencies demanded that such a provision be made, would it be within her right to prevent it, as some critics are wont to imply? The parastatals under her are run under clear statutes, some of which empower them to do what the NCAA did in the case of the cars.

Note the un-purged hypocrisy of the average highly placed Nigerian critic of your administration. Most of the present army of critics of Oduah, including those in the APC, all those who yell the most, would readily demand and ride in battle tanks if they exchanged positions with the woman they so gleefully malign today. How hypocritical could certain categories of critics of your administration go?

Take the case of a man like Dino Melaye! His shameless and frequent stunts must be churning the stomach of many by now. Yet he continues to dance naked in the square every day. I learnt from a man who hails from Melaye’s part of Kogi State that this ex-Legislator has no modicum of political significance or relevance even in the ward level, not to talk of the Local Government Area in his place. It is probably the reason he found himself a job as a street-man, a johnnie walker. Since leaving the House of Representatives he has made a ludicrous career out of street protests, over any issue imaginable; as long as it would get him a mention or an appearance in the media, and possibly also pay his bills.

Like the Biblical Satan, Mr. Melaye appears to spend his days roaming to and fro the nation in search of the opportunity to be co-opted to start a street protest over any matter that concerns your administration in particular. What a way to earn a living! And quite curiously he has been silent over the recalcitrant ASUU striking lecturers.

Now sir, please ignore the enemies of progress whose sole aim appears to be to turn back the hands of the clock of progress in the substantial transformation so far recorded in the Aviation Ministry under Stella Oduah.

The entire nation of Ndigbo is proud of their daughter who has performed excellently; and creditably too, surpassing by wide margins, the tangential achievements often trumpeted by some recent loquacious occupants of the aviation ministerial seat. Sir, you owe it, not just to Ndigbo, but to all discerning Nigerians and lovers of hard work, performance and excellence, to protect Oduah and the great legacies she is working hard to leave in the Aviation sector under her watch as your minster of repute.

Without prejudice to the committee which you have set up to look into the issues involved, let nothing happen to Oduah and her job. That would gladden the hearts of your enemies. They are hoping you would do their secret desire to remove her, one of your best ministers. Do not be stampeded into taking that regrettable action.

I say this in the light of a recent happening. I am concerned that you were pressured into sacking Chief Festus Odimegwu for speaking the truth about the series of sham Census exercises we have had for decades now. How could a man be removed for speaking the truth, however unpalatable that truth might have been? Sir, you probably did it out of political exigency; to satisfy sectional interests. But now emboldened by your capitulation in agreeing to sack Odimegwu, they have chosen a new target in Stella Oduah and asking you to sack her. Princess Stella Oduah does not deserve the harassment and persecution she is being made to undergo.
•Emenike is an engineer and a freelance writer based in Lagos.

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Fashola slams FG over SWF, says it’s unconstitutional

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Read Time:2 Minute, 34 Second

LAgos — Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, yesterday, denounced the move by the Federal Government to inaugurate the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF, stressing that it negates the country’s constitution.

“The 1999 Constitution does not allow us to do what we are doing,” Fashola said.

It will be recalled that, a month ago, President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the council of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, also known as SWF, where he canvassed for the support of the contributors, to realise the set objective of the fund.

Fashola made the remarks, yesterday, during a courtesy visit by the NSIA management led by the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Mahey Rasheed, at the Lagos House, Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja.

The governor said that the idea was hampering the contributors, especially the state governments in improving the infrastructure in their states.

According to him: “I have been in discussion with the NSIA Managing Director. I have made the position of our government well known publicly and privately.

“The first thing is to thank you for coming to visit and to present the certificate of the Sovereign Wealth Fund shareholders to us. I will accept them as a proof to the fact that our monies are somewhere. But with due respect, I must differ that this is not an initiative I support.

“Some of my colleagues did for reasons best known to them, but I did not. And I made it well-known when the discussion was under way.

“I do not support because I am against saving; I mean I do not disagree because I am against saving. For me, I disagree because there are fundamental constitutional issues. The examples really do not match with our realities and in the examples that you have presented to us, many of them are either monarchies or emirates.

“We must first cross the constitutional stand on the issue of whether to save or not to save. What makes the big brother (the Federal Government) better saver than I am? So, in a family where we all inherit some money and then you are the elder brother, you should share the inheritance with all your brothers.

“But you, (the elder brother) take 52 per cent and after taking the 52 per cent, you want to go and put it in a lottery. And you as the elder brother also determine how your younger brother will spend his own share.

“Who says your lottery will bring return? Why should you take my own share and your share and put them in a lottery?”

Speaking earlier, Rasheed said that the council was not saving to inherit, but to make profit for the country.

According to him: “The difference is that the investment that would be made by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority is for profit. Like the investment in the construction of roads, power plants and others, we do it on commercial basis and sell the service. And when we get more, we will do more.”

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Drama, Confusion As Jonathan, Stella Oduah Disagree Over BASA Signing In Israel

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Read Time:1 Minute, 31 Second

Confusion ensued in Isreal yesterday between President Goodluck Jonathan and his erstwhile Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, over signing of Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) with Israel.

President Jonathan who had tried to distance himself from the Aviation Minister Stella Oduah, following the controversy trailing the purchase of two bullet-proof cars for her at an inflated price of N255m by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), barred her from signing on behalf of Nigeria but was out-maneuvered by the Princess who sneaked her way into the hall where the signing was taking place.

The President had instructed Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri to sign on behalf of Nigeria, an instruction which angered the Aviation Minister, having working in the last few months to bring the agreement to fruition.

After sneaking into the venue of the signing hall, located at The David Citadel Hotel, the Aviation Minister maneuvered her way to the high table, where she had instructed some of her operatives to photograph her, but their attempts were nearly successful.

The photograph shown below was quickly sent to Media Houses, stating that she had signed the BAS agreement.

Upon investigations, The Paradigm discovered that the photograph sent by her media aide, Mr. Joe Obi had earlier been taken on Monday, during a pre-signing meeting with the Israeli authorities.

Look At the photograph below:

Few hours later when the President’s media team got wind of her manipulation, they sent this picture shown below to media houses including The Paradigm, to show that Stella Oduah did not partake in the signing of the BAS agreement on behalf of Nigeria.

As the President heads back home, we wait to see the next line of action, especially considering the embarrassment the aviation minister has caused Mr. President.

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Clara Chime, First Lady of Enugu State, Begs Human Rights Groups To Release Her From House Arrest Imposed By Governor Sullivan Chime

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Read Time:2 Minute, 53 Second

Clara Chime, the First Lady of Enugu State, says Governor Sullivan Chime, has placed her under house arrest, and has cried out for assistance to reach human rights bodies to rescue her. 

In a letter dripping with pain and suffering, Mrs. Chime disclosed that she married Mr. Chime in October 2008 but that she has been unable to share the matrimonial bed with him for over four years. 

Describing her desperate situation, she said that even President Goodluck Jonathan and First Lady Patience Jonathan have intervened with her husband without success.

“My father is late, my Mum and few of my siblings are confused and have done all kinds of prayers they know of, 3 of my siblings prefers me dead than to see me leave the Government house.  He treats my Mum and my siblings bad,” she wrote. 

The Enugu State First Lady said she has been introduced to two psychiatrists whose names she gave as Dr. Onwukwe and Dr. Agumo, who have prescribed “all kinds of drugs that ends up keeping me acute depressed and also drives me into hallucinations.”

The doctors, she noted, are scared of her husband the Governor, to whom nobody can tell the truth.   

 According to the letter, the Catholic Bishop of Enugu state (Callistus Onaga), and top priests have come to intervene, as have the President and the First Lady of the nation, without success.   

Mrs. Chime further complains that Governor Chime has ordered her to leave with her four-year old son whom she conceived before their wedding.  However, the governor, according to her, later threatened to disown the boy should she leave with him.

“He has told everyone he can reach that there is no marriage between us that I can leave if I wish to but whenever I plan to leave he instructs them to lock me in.  I have told him through Sms that I will leave my son behind and leave alone but still he instructed
his securities to lock me inside the house.”

Mrs. Chime further complains she has lost touch with the real world and all that makes her beautiful because of the side effects of the drugs she is taking, stressing that she is under house arrest for committing no crime. 

Of the situation in Government House, she said, “He does not take care of me personally, the government gives me allowance to run the house and that's where I save little from to take care of my elf, my Mum and few of my siblings,” she said in the letter.  He shut me out of his life years ago; I don't have access to his apartment. The problem is enormous; I don't know where to start to explain from.”

She said that even the security detail in the lodge has resorted to praying for her, while the few that can be bought with money are taking advantage of the situation. 

“Police and SS men have been instructed by Br Sullivan Chime to confine me in a place for a long time now against my wish [but] it is my wish to leave these premises,” she said, begging, “Please assist me to reach to the human rights and say to them to please come hastily and release me.

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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China probes terror links in Tiananmen crash

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Read Time:3 Minute, 36 Second
BEIJING — Chinese authorities named a pair of suspects from a heavily Muslim western region of the country as suspicions grew that a deadly car crash and fire near Tiananmen Square was a terror attack.
 
Five people were dead after the vehicle plowed through dozens of pedestrians and police at the center of the capital city at lunchtime Monday.
 
Strengthening suspicions it was an act of terror by Muslims from China's northwest, the Beijing police issued a notice late Monday to hotels in the Chinese capital that named two suspects from the Xinjiang region, according to the text of the notice posted online by some Chinese Internet users, and reported Tuesday by the Global Times, a Communist Party-run newspaper.
 
Xinjiang, a huge area of desert and mountain in Chinese Central Asia, has witnessed regular unrest in recent years involving the Muslim Uighur ethnic group, now only a slim majority of Xinjiang's population after decades of immigration by China's majority Han people.
 
The Uighur have long complained about repressive rule by Beijing. The Chinese government argues it has brought badly-needed development, and says violent incidents there are fomented by 'hostile foreign forces'.
 
The two named suspects are both male, with Uighur-sounding names. One is aged 25 from Pishan county, and the other is 43 from Shanshan county, where Chinese authorities said rioters killed 22 civilians and 2 policemen in June. The notice told hotel management to watch out for "suspicious" people and vehicles dating back to October 1, and gave four license number plates from Xinjiang, perhaps suggesting further incidents are feared.
 
The Beijing police confirmed to the Global Times that they had issued the notice to hotels, but did comment on the "major case" itself.
 
Killed were the driver, two passengers, a female tourist from the Philippines and a male tourist from South China's Guangdong province, and 38 people were injured, reported Qianlong.com, a Beijing government news website. Authorities cleared Tiananmen Square, home to Mao's tomb, after the crash.
 
An official investigation is underway, reported Xinhua, the state news agency. The unusual nature of the incident, and the way the vehicle had been driven some distance along the sidewalk, injuring and scattering pedestrians, quickly led to speculation online that the vehicle was used in a deliberate attack.
 
Photos posted online showed the vehicle ablaze beside the historic bridges that lead visitors under the famous portrait of Chairman Mao and into the Forbidden City, the former residence of China's emperors.
 
Tiananmen Square is not only a big tourist draw but also the political heart of China, and therefore one of the most sensitive areas in the country. Leaders of the ruling Communist Party live and work nearby. Major party and government events take place at the adjacent Great Hall of the People, where a national women's congress was underway Monday.
 
Most famous abroad for the 1989 democracy protests, put down by force, the square still draws occasional and isolated protests that are quickly snuffed out by uniformed and plainclothes security officers who patrol the square and its environs.
 
Fire extinguishers are positioned in several areas to stop attempts at self-immolation.
 
Just as the square itself is often closed before and during sensitive political anniversaries or events, even the Chinese characters for Tiananmen Square sometimes trigger China's wide array of Internet censorship tools. Although some Internet comments were deleted Monday, many posts and pictures remained available.
 
From 1999 to 2001, followers of Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned in China, staged protests at the square, including some self-immolations. More common in recent years are occasional petitioners, sometimes distributing leaflets describing their grievances at the hands of local authorities. But the apparent use of a car as a battering ram, followed by a possibly self-started fire, would represent a deadly, new tactic.
 
"I was shocked when I heard the news from colleagues," said a traffic warden surnamed Chen, who works close to Tiananmen Gate, where all traces of the incident were swiftly removed Monday afternoon. "I thought this must be the safest place in China."

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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White House: Review will address global NSA concerns

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Read Time:5 Minute, 45 Second
WASHINGTON — A key senator criticized the National Security Agency on Monday for spying on friendly foreign leaders and questioned President Obama over apparently not knowing about it for years.
 
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and is an NSA supporter, said she is "totally opposed" to collecting intelligence on leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
 
"It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002," she said. "That is a big problem."
 
Feinstein — who indicated she and her committee were also not told about the spying — said that "the White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support."
 
As a growing chorus of nations protest U.S. surveillance policies, Obama and aides said the programs are designed to protect national security, but an ongoing review will address the concerns of allies.
 
"The national security operations, generally, have one purpose and that is to make sure the American people are safe," Obama told Fusion, a new cable network developed by ABC News and Univision.
 
But as the capabilities of intelligence gatherers expand, Obama said the ongoing review will seek "to make sure that what they're able to do, doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing."
 
The review of NSA programs is designed to insure that intelligence gathering protects "both the security of our citizens and our allies and the privacy concerns shared by Americans and citizens around the world," said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
 
In a written statement, Feinstein said her committee will also review intelligence gathering operations.
 
In a response to Feinstein's statement, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the president's review is "examining whether we have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state; how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners; and what further guiding principles or constraints might be appropriate for our efforts."
 
Administration officials refused to comment on a report indicating that Obama learned only this year about a program that monitored the communications of foreign leaders — a situation that wouldn't be particularly unusual, said an intelligence expert.
 
Paul Pillar, a former senior intelligence officer, said most presidents don't know about "the targeting decisions" made by their intelligence agencies.
 
"It would be a horrible drain on the president's time and attention," Pillar said.
 
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the NSA ended a program monitoring foreign leaders after an internal review revealed its existence; the account suggested that Obama did not know about the programs until that review began during the summer.
 
Spain is the latest in a string of nations to protest NSA surveillance tactics, revealed in news reports based on disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Other nations include Germany, France, Brazil and Mexico.
 
Carney said a report on the review triggered by the Snowden revelation is due by the end of the year. But leaders in Germany and other countries are demanding immediate changes to U.S. surveillance policies.
 
Pillar said it's not the tactics themselves that create international friction as much as the fact that they have now been publicized.
 
"Not only do allies spy on each other all the time, allies know about it all the time," Pillar said.
 
Normally, he said, nations that discover surveillance from other countries would tighten their security procedures and not make "a public stink" about it.
 
But the news coverage — inspired by the Snowden revelations and fueled by outrage from their domestic constituents — forces leaders to confront the United States.
 
The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany, where memories of the nation's Cold War divisions remain fresh. That includes domestic spying by police forces in Communist-run East Germany — the native region of Chancellor Merkel, an outspoken critic of NSA tactics.
 
"Their history is speaking very loudly to them," said Heather Conley, senior fellow and director of the Europe Program with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
 
Conley and Pillar said intelligence agencies do gather information on each other, on items ranging from positions on trade negotiations to the political troubles of the targeted government.
 
The difference these days? "It's a public discussion," Conley said.
 
Since the Snowden revelations began appearing in June, Obama and other officials have said the NSA surveillance programs are designed to help thwart terrorist attacks, not to spy on average citizens. Programs are designed in such a way to detect patterns of communication between suspected terrorists, they have said.
 
Merkel demanded a U.S. response after reports that her cellphone had been monitored by the NSA. Carney said that, in a phone call last week, Obama assured Merkel that "we do not and will not monitor the chancellor's communications," a statement that leaves open the possibility of past efforts.
 
The administration did deny a German news report that NSA Director Keith Alexander informed Obama about surveillance of Merkel three years ago.
 
"Gen. Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel," said NSA spokeswoman Vaneé Vines. "News reports claiming otherwise are not true."
 
Germany has demanded changes in mutual intelligence rules. The Germans are sending an intelligence team to Washington this week to meet with U.S. counterparts.
 
Also, a group of European Union parliamentarians are in Washington for what Carney called an "ongoing U.S.-E.U. discussion of privacy issues."
 
"This is obviously something that has been of concern and we are working to address those concerns diplomatically, through diplomatic channels, and also in the way that we're talking about these issues now," Carney said.
 
The recent disclosures about the NSA have "caused tension in our relationships," Carney said, but "we have extraordinarily strong and important intelligence and security relationships with our allies."
 
While the United States and Germany figure to remain allies, Conley said the flap could undermine joint efforts on trade, data-sharing and law enforcement efforts to block potential terrorist attacks.
 
"This is not going to wait until the review," she said. "This requires leadership and action."
 
Obama's spokesman said Monday that an ongoing review will address the concerns of allies.

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Lawmakers to meet Wednesday on long-delayed farm bill

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Read Time:4 Minute, 26 Second
WASHINGTON – House and Senate lawmakers responsible for writing a farm bill will gather publicly on Wednesday for the first time, a meeting expected to shed light on how quickly the conferees could strike a deal on the much-delayed legislation.
 
The 41 lawmakers are charged with merging farm bills passed this summer by the House and Senate into one piece of legislation, an arduous task highlighted by the $35 billion gap between the two sides on food stamp spending and the apparent reluctance of each side to budge from its position.
 
Top officials and staff from the Senate and House Agriculture committees already have met privately to work on a new five-year farm bill, which includes crop insurance, subsidies, conservation, public nutrition and food aid programs. The Wednesday conference, where lawmakers will make opening statements, could be the only gathering for the farm bill not held behind closed doors. By law, at least one meeting must be open to the public.
 
"People are going to be watching to see how the opening speeches go on Wednesday as to what kind of tone is set as to whether people are highlighting the differences or highlighting the places of commonality," said Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, a think tank at the University of Missouri. "That may be some indicator of just how eager everybody is to get to an agreement."
 
The five-year, $500 billion farm bills being proposed by each chamber have a handful of differences on agriculture policy issues that need to be ironed out, but those who follow the process do not expect those to be a major hang-up that would impede passage of the legislation.
 
The provisions expected to be the most contentious focus on crop insurance. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill mandates farmers who get crop insurance to meet certain environmental requirements. The Senate also would require farmers with adjusted gross income greater than $750,000 a year to pay more for federally subsidized insurance. Both bills would end direct payments, doled out regardless of need, and increase the number of crop insurance programs available to farmers.
 
Congress has struggled to craft a farm bill to replace the 2008 measure, which expired Sept. 30, 2012. Lawmakers extended the legislation earlier this year through the end of September in hopes the delay would provide them more time to reach a deal. While some farm programs have expired for a second time, the more pressing deadline comes on Jan. 1, when a 1949 farm law requires that subsidy prices begin to increase, starting with dairy payments.
 
"I think everybody realizes that the alarm goes off at the end of the year and something has to happen" before then, said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., a member of the farm bill conference committee. "I think the vast majority of it can be agreed to pretty quickly. The nutrition may be the sticking point."
 
In June, the Democratic-controlled Senate approved a reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, of $4.5 billion over a decade. The Republican-led House recently passed a reduction of $39 billion. Republicans have pushed for deeper cuts to restore the program's original eligibility limits and preserve the safety net for the truly needy, while Democrats have said the reductions go too far and argue that the changes would force millions of deserving Americans off of food stamps.
 
Lawmakers also have to agree on timing. While the Senate bill has proposed extending both farm policy and food stamps for five years, the House would do farm policy for the same time but only three years for nutrition. Agriculture groups fear that severing the two parts would lessen the urgency to pass a farm bill by siphoning off support from urban lawmakers.
 
Chad Hart, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University, said the nutrition debate is likely going to force Congress to extend the farm bill for a second time in order to give lawmakers more time to negotiate. "I think the conferees might be able to reach a compromise, but I don't know if it can get a majority of votes in both houses," said Hart. "The farm bill is usually not this political."
 
Several factors are in play that could spur passage of the farm bill, but approval is far from certain.
 
President Barack Obama has tabbed farm legislation as one of his top priorities, and Senate Democrats have been adamant about not temporarily extending the farm bill again. The threat of the 1949 law going into effect also looms on the horizon. And the fact that the conference is happening at all is seen as promising, according to those who follow the farm bill.
 
Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, said he will be keeping a close watch on the farm bill conference meeting to look for signals from the lawmakers "so we know where to apply pressure and influence."
 
"Another extension is unacceptable," Hill added. "We need to get this done."
 

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Study: Killer heat waves may soon be forecast weeks away

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Read Time:2 Minute, 10 Second
Meteorologists may have found a way to predict some killer heat waves up to three weeks in advance. Now, the best they can do is about 10 days.
 
An earlier warning would help cities prepare for the heat wave, arrange to open up cooling centers and check on the elderly, said Gerald Meehl, co-author of a study that describes the forecasting clue.
 
"It gives you a little bit of a heads up of what's coming," he said.
 
The key may be a certain pattern of high and low pressure spots across the globe high in the sky. When that pattern shows up, the chances double for a prolonged and intense heat wave in the eastern two-thirds of the United States, according to the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.
 
This could predict some types of heat waves but not all, meteorologists said. The study's authors said they think the pattern occurred before last year's heat wave in much of the central U.S., but they still need more work to confirm it.
 
The researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., looked at heat waves that lasted at least a week and were about 5 to 8 degrees warmer than normal. In any given summer week, the odds of a heat wave like this happening are usually only about 1 in 67 in the U.S.
 
They did thousands of computer simulations and discovered that when high pressure and low pressure systems line up in a specific pattern, it foreshadows heat to come in about 15 to 20 days. Scientists call this 4-mile-high pattern wave No. 5.
 
The weather on the ground at the time of the pattern really doesn't matter; it can be rainy, dry, hot or cold, said study lead author Haiyan Teng, a scientist at the research center. The same pattern that signals a U.S. heat wave also indicates different extreme weather in other parts of the globe, like heavy rains, she said
 
This wave pattern was seen before the 1980 heat wave that was blamed for 1,250 deaths and pushed temperatures over 100 degrees in Dallas every day, said Randall Dole, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Triple-digit temperatures in Dallas persisted for a record 42 consecutive days that year. Dole, who wasn't part of the study, said the science behind the study is sound, significant and may be practical after extensive testing.
 

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Police: Clerk’s cellphone stops robber’s bullet

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Read Time:47 Second
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. (AP) — Police say a cellphone saved a Florida gas station clerk from a robber's bullet.
 
Winter Garden Police said in an e-mail that a clerk had just minor injuries after a robber fired a bullet at his abdomen. Police say his cellphone stopped it.
 
The close call happened Monday at 4:45 a.m. in Winter Garden, a suburb of Orlando.
 
A man entered the gas station and asked a clerk for help. Then he showed the worker a revolver and demanded he open the safe.
 
When the clerk couldn't open the safe, the robber ordered a second clerk to try. He was also unsuccessful.
 
The suspect fired a round at one of the clerks and fled.
 
Police say the worker had no idea the bullet had hit his cellphone until he pulled it out of his shirt pocket.
 

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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JFK’s final hours: Personal moments, lasting impressions

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Read Time:5 Minute, 40 Second
FORT WORTH – The two-day trip to Texas President Kennedy took in 1963 with first lady Jacqueline Kennedy is best known for its darkest moment, when an assassin's bullet struck down the president during a motorcade in Dallas.
 
Other details of that trip — Jacqueline Kennedy brushing up on her Spanish aboard Air Force One to address a Latino crowd in Houston; the president's impromptu stop to visit volunteers in an altitude chamber in San Antonio; priceless pieces of art that were gathered last-minute to greet the couple in their Fort Worth hotel room — have been overshadowed by the assassination.
 
Volumes have been written about the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination, a defining moment in U.S. history which will be memorialized next month on its 50th anniversary. Several rounds from a high-powered rifle killed Kennedy and seriously injured Texas Gov. John Connally, who was riding with the president. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested later that day.
 
The 36 hours the Kennedys spent in Texas leading up to the killing have received far less attention. In that short time, the Kennedys greeted enthusiastic crowds in Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth, winning over supporters despite Texas' growing conservatism.
 
Those hours highlight a president who needed the Lone Star's electoral college votes – and fundraising money – for re-election the following year and offer glimpses into the true Kennedys, says Julian Read, Connally's press secretary who was in the motorcade at the time of the shooting.
 
"In an event of this magnitude, where all the focus is naturally on the tragedy, the context is often lost," says Read, author of JFK's Final Hours in Texas. "But it's important to give a complete picture."
 
The Texas itinerary was tight: Houston and San Antonio one day, followed by Fort Worth, Dallas and Austin the next, according to JFK: The Final Hours, a new documentary airing Nov. 8 on the National Geographic Channel. Kennedy hoped to use the trip to resolve a rift within the Texas Democratic Party and raise money. It was significant for another reason: It was Jacqueline Kennedy's first public trip since the death of the couple's infant baby, Patrick, who died shortly after birth in August 1963.
 
After a brief dedication speech at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, the president steered off a tight itinerary to visit volunteers living and undergoing tests in a low-pressure altitude chamber. He pulled on a headset to talk to one of the volunteers inside the chamber, Philip "Flip" Jameson, then 19 years old. "My heart stopped, just for a few seconds," Jameson says in the film.
 
From San Antonio, the first couple headed to Houston. There, they visited a gathering of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino advocacy group. Organizers were told the president may (or may not) show up for a brief meet-and-greet. Instead, Kennedy and the first lady arrived and promptly climbed onto the cramped stage. Then, Jacqueline Kennedy, flanked by a mariachi band, addressed the crowd in accented but clear Spanish, drawing boisterous applause. Clint Hill, a Secret Service agent assigned to the couple, would later disclose how the first lady had crammed for her short speech aboard Air Force One during the Washington-to-Texas flight.
 
The president's off-script visits and focus on Texas underscores how badly Kennedy, a Democrat, needed the state for his re-election, says Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
 
"He was really interested in making sure Texas stayed in the Democratic column in the upcoming 1964 election," he says. "The Republican Party was slowly but steadily making inroads in Texas."
 
After another fundraiser in Houston, the Kennedys traveled to Fort Worth, where they would spend the night before heading to Dallas. They were scheduled to spend the weekend at Vice President Lyndon Johnson's ranch outside Austin.
 
Shortly before their arrival, Fort Worth residents learned from a front-page newspaper story that the Kennedys would be staying in a smaller suite at the Hotel Texas, instead of the larger and better-furnished Will Rogers suite, due to security concerns. A group of local art enthusiasts and collectors led by local curator Ruth Carter Johnson – most of them ardent Republicans – scrambled to put together an impromptu collection of paintings and sculptures to properly decorate the presidential couple's suite, says Andrew Walker, director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth.
 
In just five days, the group gathered 16 pieces – five from museums, the rest from local collectors – that would impress the most seasoned curator: a bronze owl sculpture by Pablo Picasso; Swimming, an 1885 oil on canvas masterpiece by American artist Thomas Eakins; a featured work by impressionist painter Claude Monet; an oil painting of Manhattan by American expressionist Lyonel Feininger. The pieces were carefully placed throughout the Kennedy's two-room, eighth-floor suite.
 
The Kennedys arrived to the hotel late that night and went to sleep without noticing the priceless collection surrounding them. But the next morning, the president and first lady called Ruth Carter Johnson to say how much they enjoyed the art and thanked her for the effort. It was the last-known private phone call made by the president.
 
"That story got lost," Walker says. "The dark cloud of the assassination had long buried this wonderfully affirming story."
 
Later that morning, the Kennedys joined a large breakfast gathering in the ballroom of the Hotel Texas. Attendees remember the smallest details: Kennedy shaking hands with each member of the Texas Boys Choir who sang at the event; Jacqueline dazzling the crowd with her pink dress, pillbox hat and radiant smile; the couple seemingly charmed with one another.
 
"We didn't even vote for Kennedy," says Cornelia Friedman, wife of then-Fort Worth Mayor Bayard Friedman, who hosted the president and first lady in Fort Worth. "But by the end of the day, we were like everybody else – totally captivated."
 
Friedman and her husband later escorted the Kennedys to Carswell Air Force Base, where they would take the 14-minute flight to Dallas. As the couple climbed onto Air Force One, Friedman turned to her husband and voiced concern over the ultra-conservative, anti-Kennedy sentiment brewing in the nearby Texas city.
 
"I hope they behave themselves in Dallas," Friedman recalls saying.

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Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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