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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year 2009 In Review.

Louisville Courier Journal Editorial: Leaving The Aughts Behind.

Leaving the Aughts behind

Get over it.

Dismissal, or dare?

How about both?

“Get over it” was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's barked riposte when he was asked about the high court's disastrous Bush v. Gore decision in late 2000. The 5-4 vote set the tone for the decade to follow because it placed President George W. Bush at the helm throughout much of The Aughts. We'll be paying for that White House insertion long into the future.

Get over it?

If only America could.

How appropriate that The Aughts started with something that half the country regarded as bogus — and that's in addition to the overhyped, mega-dud Y2K bug — because much of the rest of the decade served as a school of hard knocks when it came to Americans and truth.

No coincidence that Stephen Colbert's “truthiness” — the ring or feel of truth, even if it isn't — became one of the words of a time that also gave us phony WMDs, ubiquitous hair weaves, faux memoirists and champion athletes pumped up on performance-enhancing drugs.

Boxcutter-wielding terrorists caused two of our tallest skyscrapers to implode before our eyes, and the pre-emptive, misguided war in Iraq hatched in the aftermath of that atrocity was peddled like a new detergent or toy. (“You don't introduce new products in August,” said Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card of the post-Labor Day sale.) Little wonder the pitifully optimistic “Mission Accomplished” backdrop to a prematurely triumphant President Bush on an aircraft carrier found such easy, willing marks — for a while.

Other Aught hucksters would find willing subjects, too.

Swift Boaters, birthers, deathers, hedge-fund sharks, mortgage bundlers, White House party crashers, reality show schemers. You name the scam, many Americans bought it.

Tax cuts during war, war budgets off the books, a “go shopping” answer to terrorism. Name the scam, everyone paid for it — and so will our grandchildren.

The bogus played out in hideous ways, as did the true. A defining episode in how our world turned:

“Heckuva job, Brownie,” the CEO President crowed once he showed up to tour the Gulf Coast while New Orleans drowned in the devastating backwash of Katrina and the neglect of a blundering federal response to the hurricane. Political appointee and stooge Brownie — aka Michael Brown, the federal official in charge of saving New Orleans — would pay for his boss' indifference to the business of governing. Brownie's own e-mails were a testament to official disregard (“Can I quit now?” and “Order a #2, tater tots, large diet cherry limeade” and “I am a fashion god”), although let it be said he abided by image-making advice to “look more hard-working … ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!”

No, Brownie wasn't a real FEMA chief, but he played one on TV.

He was in plentiful, if not good, company. “Reality” reigned on TV in The Aughts. Rehabbing, wife-swapping, braising and frying, puzzle-solving, singing, dancing, losing weight, dating, marrying, being 16 and pregnant; zombied-out, has-been celebbing — all were “entertainment” for niche markets or the masses.

By the time America got real, and got inspired, the recipient of their statement votes to be the unfortunate successor to the Bush presidency was confronted with an inherited hell to pay for all that wasted, lost, squandered time: Wars in progress. Trashed international reputation. A crashing economy. A vanished surplus. Spiking unemployment at home. Failing corporate giants. Brazenly greedy, wantonly rewarded corporate officers. Strained, struggling families. And the people who gave President Bush a pass on time and capital for his programs and ideas? The wild-spree rubber-stampers slammed on the brakes with serial “no's” for President Obama, who at least owns up to mistakes, instead of staring into space trying to think of one, and who at least puts the costs of his programs on the books instead of slipping them into the fine print.

After today, The Aught decade will be in the rearview mirror.

Get over it?

Given its residuals, not for the foreseeable future — but stick a fork in it, anyway, and let it be done.


"Can Nigeria's Police Be Reformed?" You Know This Is A Rhetorical Question, Right?

Can Nigeria's police be reformed?

Nigerian police officers on patrol in Enugu

Even before the violence surrounding the Boko Haram uprising in northern Nigeria, there were questions over the conduct of the security forces. In the fifth and final part of a series of articles, the BBC's Andrew Walker looks at the prospects for effective police reform:

Everyone in Nigeria has experienced the failure of the police to carry out their duty to uphold the law - from the routine "dashing" money to officers at road checkpoints and failures to investigate crimes to horrifying tales of extortion and murder.

The litany of crimes they commit fill pages of newspapers and reports from human rights organisations.

Put a microphone in front of people in the street, however, and they will say one thing: "It's not as bad as it used to be."

Most people will feel that if you say something about the police it could be trouble for you, they may trace you
Anonymous Abuja resident

This BBC series has revealed first-hand how the police struggle against incompetence, poor training and equipment.

How they arbitrarily arrest and imprison people and how "shockingly common" extra-judicial executions are.

Such is the mistrust of the police that ordinary people prefer to patrol their own streets and administer their own "jungle justice".

So what are the prospects for improving the police to make it an effective service?

Political independence

The government is currently attempting to reform the police.


Better pay Police officers are paid as little as $40 (£26) a month, this should be raised to $100 for police constables

Bad eggs Deal with the estimated 10,000 officers with criminal records hired between 2001 and 2004

Complaints A reliable system for the public to complain should be established

Better educated Recruits should attain a certain level of qualification before being considered

Promotions Job applications should be transparently managed

Uniforms Policemen should not have to buy their own

Communications Police should get an up-to-date communication network

Equipment Police should be given better investigating tools and the training to use them

They have produced a White Paper with 79 recommendations for improving the police force, which is due to be considered by the National Assembly and turned into a Police Reform Bill.

Reading them it is clear how far the police have to go.

According to the paper, the police needs to be seriously overhauled from better training, new uniforms, more pay, the building of new police stations and colleges to better equipment and promotion regimes.

It describes the resources needed to do it as "enormous", and says it will take at least five years.

But police reform activists say the proposals do not tackle the serious issue of political independence.

"The police will continue to see their job as carrying out the will of the political powers," says Innocent Chukwuma of the Cleen Foundation.

He says recommendations that would have removed the president's power to appoint the chief of police and give the appointee security of tenure in office were taken out of the white paper.

Force or service?

Those in the police itself agree it will be a long road.

"There are numerous challenges the police face," says Assistant Commissioner Austin Iwar at the force headquarters in the capital, Abuja.

Nigerian police officer
Poor equipment is not the only problem the police have, reformers say

"The police as it is now came out of a military administration. That is probably the biggest challenge we face - turning it from a force into a service."

He agrees that police officers often lack the skills needed to police effectively.

But he refuses to admit the most serious allegations made about the police - that they brutally torture and sometimes kill suspects without trial.

"I have spent a long time in investigations in the police and I have never tortured anyone to make a case," he says.

His job is to strengthen the police's "community policing" initiative.

In short, this means improving the relationship between the police and the community, so people do not feel the law is something alien or foreign to them.

Then, when a crime occurs community leaders can bring information to the police to help locate the criminals.

It is a programme supported since 2002 by the UK government's £30m ($45m) Security Justice and Growth programme.

But privately, officers say there is a big problem with reform.

Once an officer gets to a rank where it is possible to make reforms, he or she is so deeply involved in a corrupt system that they cannot change it.

'Bad eggs'

Past attempts at reform have faltered.

In 2007, Inspector General Sunday Ehindero announced that more than 10,000 officers would be sacked in an attempt to root out "bad eggs".

Thousands of officers with criminal records had been knowingly employed by his predecessor Tafa Balogun, who was later convicted on corruption charges.

But the officers who were sacked were often not the "bad eggs", an investigation by the National Assembly heard afterwards

Instead, they had wormed their way into the system and survived the purge.

The investigation also heard how police regulators and the government officials in charge of policing were fully aware of the existence of criminal officers, but for more than five years did nothing about it.

Talking to Nigerians on the streets of Abuja about their police force, most are up-beat about the possibilities of reform.

"They are trying," says 29-year-old Salome, a shopkeeper.

"They need to improve training and pay," says Ibrahim, a civil servant.

But people are also cautious; no-one the BBC spoke to would agree to have their picture taken.

"Most people will feel that if you say something about the police it could be trouble for you, they may trace you," one man said - refusing to give his name.


Nigeria's Vigilante 'Jungle Justice'

Nigeria's vigilante 'jungle justice'

In the second of a series of articles looking at policing in Nigeria, the BBC's Andrew Walker meets a group of vigilantes who guard residential neighbourhoods in the south-eastern city of Enugu.

Paul Oparaji is the chairman of a local neighbourhood watch group in Enugu - quite normal for a pensioner, one might think.

But in Nigeria "neighbourhood watch" means taking to the streets with a gun or machete and possibly lynching armed robbers.

At an age where other men are keen to put their feet up and enjoy the company of their family, Mr Oparaji is a vigilante, prepared to dispense what he calls "jungle justice".

"Imagine myself, at 73 I haven't had a full night's sleep in eight years," he says.

"But if I don't do it, and robbers come here, my family and I will be maimed."

Every night at around 2230, he and 18 other men strap their ancient shotguns to their backs and walk through their neighbourhood banging a large metal bell to let the people in their houses know someone is watching over them, and let the robbers know someone is coming.

'Magic cutlass'

This "informal policing" happens in cities across Nigeria. The vigilantes are the only ones that stand between robbers and residents.

If you catch a thief you are expected to take him to the police, but we can give him jungle justice if he is armed

On patrol with Nigeria's police
Are your police accountable?

And if they get caught, a robber can expect to be killed before the authorities arrive.

The police say the presence of vigilante groups is "welcome".

"They pre-date the police, and they compliment our efforts. The police can't get into every nook and cranny," says police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu.

The police try to send officers out on patrol with as many vigilante groups as possible, but with one policeman for every 400 Nigerians this is difficult.

Any vigilantes who kill suspects would face the law, he said.

Until two years ago, the infamous Bakassi Boys policed the streets of neighbouring Anambra State.

They executed suspects with a "magic cutlass" which they said glowed in the presence of armed robbers - but only the Bakassi Boys themselves could see the glow.

Following a change in state administration, the Bakassi Boys were chased away, and other groups have taken their place.

The British government's Department for International Development (DfID) is working with vigilante squads like Mr Oparaji's, trying to educate them about the law and human rights to prevent them executing suspects.

They want to prevent groups like the Bakassi Boys from becoming popular again.

But on the streets of many Nigerian cities, people would rather police themselves and mete out their own punishment.

'Robbers deserve it'

"If you catch a thief you are expected to take him to the police, but we can give him jungle justice if he is armed," says Mr Oparaji, himself a retired policeman.

"If he is armed, if he wants to kill us, we don't feel sorry for him," he says.

Mr Oparaji is keen to say that he has never seen his vigilante group kill anyone, but he has heard of other groups catching and killing thieves.

"When I hear about that, I feel sorry because it means our people are not yet wise, but the robbers deserved it."

He appeals to the government to give vigilante groups like his guns.

"You cannot pursue the thief with an empty hand, or with a knife you cannot attack the thief with a gun."

No police

The problem is that the police don't patrol many areas during the night.

"There is no-one who can protect us, they come and rob us and rape our children," said Paul Eze, 52, another vigilante group member.

"We aren't paid for this, it's a voluntary thing."

"Nigerian police only work in the afternoon, from midnight you can hardly see a policeman on the streets."

They accuse the police of hiring themselves out to rich people and businesses as armed security at night.


Vigilante groups are a well established part of Nigerian society.

People trust them more than they trust the police.

If they catch someone red-handed, they would much rather exact punishment on them then and there

They are members of the community, and in the past robbers have been released by corrupt police officers and returned to torment the communities who handed them over.

Vigilante expert Chris Ugwu says many Nigerians see the rule of law as an alien concept.

"Some police have been compromised - the robber hands over some money and is released. He will go back and gloat to the people who handed him over."

"If they catch someone red-handed, they would much rather exact punishment on them then and there," he says.


Since 2006 the British government has been working with vigilante groups trying to educate them about the law and prevent them from lynching suspects.

It is part of the £30million Security Justice and Growth programme, which has been running in Nigeria since 2002.

They provide the groups with training and some equipment, like boots and rain coats.

They have registered vigilante groups and asked them to sign up to a charter requiring them not to execute suspects.

"There was a need to mobilise the public to compliment the efforts of the police," says Mr Ugwu, who works as a consultant for the British Council.

"But they were engaging in extra-judicial killing, torture, and there was the need to teach them about human rights."

He says it will be impossible to get rid of vigilante groups.

In the future he hopes they will have a different role, providing local intelligence for a more effective police force.

But Mr Oparaji says that in Nigeria people must be self-reliant.

"This is a country where wealth is flowing, but nobody protects anyone."

"If you can't protect yourself, you are finished," he says.


"On Patrol With Nigeria's Police".

On patrol with Nigeria's police

Police man a checkpoint in Enugu, eastern Nigeria

In the first of a series of articles looking at policing in Nigeria, the BBC's Andrew Walker goes on a patrol with the newly formed, elite Specialist Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars) in the eastern city of Enugu.

With machine-gun at the ready, a policeman flags down a car with his torch.

"You! Out Now!" he barks.

The driver wordlessly complies, standing with hands raised before being asked, the routine is now so familiar.

What kind of human being are we working with, we needed back-up!

Who polices the police?

The Nigerian police have a terrible reputation for corruption and brutality.

But they also have problems with their technical capacity to fight crime.

The main method used by this elite unit of police officers is to stop cars at random looking for guns.

"When criminals see us, their behaviour changes. We're looking for people who try and run from us," Sars' Commanding Officer Stephen Osaghae told the BBC.

Their aggressive manner, which includes pointing loaded automatic weapons at drivers who have done nothing to arouse suspicion, is necessary, they say.

"You have to make everyone think when Sars are around, they are the owners of the job," says Inspector Olawole Ohiolebo.

On the night the BBC was out with them, Sars did not find any weapons.

Mr Osaghae admits there is probably a better way of catching armed robbers.

"But we don't have the equipment. In Europe you have helicopters and other sophisticated gadgets, we don't."


At one of the patrol stops, a van approaching them does a quick u-turn.

It's the moment the police have been waiting for.

But it takes them too long to get into their truck and by the time they are in pursuit, the van has gone.

The radio they have doesn't work properly and they can't inform other police of where they are for several minutes.

Only one truck has been pursuing the suspects.

When they meet up with their second police car, Mr Osaghae is furious.

"What kind of human being are we working with? We needed back-up!" he yells at his men.

They return to the barracks without making any arrests.


The life of a policeman in Nigeria is dangerous.

A few weeks before the BBC caught up with the men from Sars, their patrol was ambushed by a gang.

Someone sent them into a trap. Their pick-up truck was blown up with dynamite placed by the side of the road.

Three officers were killed in the gunfight that followed.

Inspector Godspower points to a line shaved into his scalp.

"The bullet went here. Fsst!"

He motions over his head, tracing the path of the shot that nearly killed him.

Another one went right through his arm.

The police officers say armed robbers are unredeemable evil misfits who smoke marijuana to dull their senses, kill without remorse and use black magic charms to protect themselves.

Patrolmen say Enugu's robbers are led by a notorious bandit called Ngukelomo, who has political connections which have enabled him to be released from custody in the past.


Some of the men admit to being afraid they might one day get killed.

"The robbers we come up against have sophisticated weapons, better than ours. We have no bulletproof vests. We need better equipment to protect us," says patrolman Tiku, a 34-year-old officer who has been with the police for 10 years.

Kemi Okenyodo, of police reform group the Cleen Foundation, says the police need more than just expensive gadgets to improve their ability to work effectively.

"The police capacity to investigate crime is next to zero," she says.

Officers are not trained in policing techniques - if they do have qualifications, they are often irrelevant to police work, she says.

Nowhere is the police's lack of capacity more evident, reformers say, than in the interrogation of suspects.


Back at the Sars office the next day, two suspects are brought to Mr Osaghae's office.

One, a young man is accused of organising the rape and robbery of a woman who lives in a building he used to guard.
Police interrogation
Police have been accused of torture and executing suspects

"You will take us to your accomplices," orders Mr Osaghae.

"I don't know who you are talking about," says the man.

"Why are you lying? Take him back to the cells. In 15 minutes you will tell the truth," says Mr Osaghae.

When asked what he meant by that, he refuses to elaborate.

Before speaking to another suspect, Mr Osaghae asks for 15 minutes alone with him.

When the BBC is let back in the room, the man tearfully confesses to being a kidnapper.

Mrs Okenyodo says the Cleen Foundation has pictures and witness statements that accuse Sars police of torture and killing of suspects.

Enugu Commissioner of Police Mohammed Zarewa denies his men beat confessions out of people - the deaths are likely to be as a result of fire-fights with armed criminals, he says.

"Any criminal can get a lawyer and make up a story," he says.

Mr Zarewa has just been posted to Enugu, and he promises to investigate any accusation levelled against his officers.

But Mrs Okenyodo says none of the cases brought up by police reform activists have been investigated.

"The east of Nigeria, in terms of policing, is crazy," she says.


"They Just Tell You They Have Transferred His Case To Abuja."

Nigeria police: Issuing corpses and denials
By Caroline Duffield

"It really overwhelms our capacity to store bodies," says Dr Anthony Mbah, chief medical director at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital.

His mortuary is overflowing - with corpses brought in by the police.

The police are facing criticism over the deaths

"It really overwhelms our capacity to store bodies," says Dr Anthony Mbah, chief medical director at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital.

His mortuary is overflowing - with corpses brought in by the police.

"We have between 70 and 80 bodies right now... and about three weeks ago, there was a mass burial of some other corpses," he says.

"We are now getting ready to get these ones buried."

Inside the mortuary in the south-eastern city of Enugu, two rooms are set aside for the remains of the young men.

In the first room, they are stacked, naked, one on top of the other. In places the piles are four or five deep.

Faces peer out amongst a forest of legs. Heads loll into groins. Limbs are flung around torsos. Some almost seem to embrace. The smell - and the flies - make it impossible to get close.

It is a scene beyond belief.

Fathers' pain

The mortuary is in a state of chaos. No-one working here can put a precise number on the corpses. Many of the bodies have no names. Mortuary records simply say "suspected armed robber" or "unknown thief".

The register says police left 75 bodies between the beginning of June and 26 November this year.

But the records are imperfect - staff correct mistakes as they go along, one page appears to be missing.

It is uncertain how many of these bodies really are those of armed robbers.

The father of one victim of a police shooting has no doubt about the innocence of his son.

"A child is a gift from the Gods. They have taken him from me," Chief Dennis Onovo murmurs.

The morning that Mr Onovo's 22-year-old son, Matthew, died he had been walking to a computer class. Police were searching for an armed man in the area - and shot him dead.

"I always hoped my son will one day be governor of this state, or even head of state - but all my effort is in vain," says Mr Onovo.

For two days, the community stood still as people came out in peaceful demonstration.

The police told Matthew's parents he was suspected of armed robbery.

"This boy was not an armed robber. He was never a thief, much less an armed robber," says Mr Onovo.

"As they killed him, they killed me, my life is over."

Emmanuel Egbo's parents say he was a keen student, not a criminal

A few miles away, another father echoes his words.

Chief Mark Ngena trembles, remembering.

"He was playing with his fellow children," he says of his 13-year-old son Emmanuel.

"Suddenly policemen, three of them, came in. They shot and killed this boy. Murdered him in cold blood."

It was later claimed that Emmanuel too was an armed robber.

His family have never recovered his body.

Lawyers and relatives point to a pattern - of unlawful killings by police, followed by claims the deceased was an armed robber.

It is an easy way to cover dirty tracks, they say.

Police 'are victims too'

Enugu State Police Commissioner Mohamed Zarewa looks at the photograph of piled up bodies in the mortuary and covers them with his hand.

"I am not aware of that number you are talking. I am not aware, I am not aware," he says.

He mutters it five or six times.

Officers in his force do not carry out unlawful or arbitrary killings, he insists.

He says the young men were all killed in gun battles, fighting the police.

"Not just to go and kill somebody, we don't do that, it's unconstitutional. We are in a democracy," he says.

"You are asking about the young men, why are you not asking about the policemen who died? We people, we lose our lives."

It is true that police work in Nigeria is a difficult job - often deadly.

An encounter between a police officer and a real armed robber is a matter of life or death.

Police officers' wages are low. Corruption in the force is endemic. Poorly trained and ill-equipped policemen are sent to face armed gangs.

But it is also true that many people are killed in police custody.

Punishment without trial

In the Brought in Dead book, seven names are of particular interest.

Brought in Dead book
The Brought in Dead book revealed names of interest

Kennis Victor Okonkwo, Adolphus Odumegwu, Sunday Okoye, Hussein Yusuf, Ugochukwu Ogbonnaya, Amichi Nnamdi, and Ifeani Eze Leonard.

They were arrested, accused of a kidnapping in early September.

On 11 September they were paraded by the inspector-general of Police.

Photos of them alive appeared in local newspapers.

But they never reached court.

By 15 September six of them were dead. The body of the last was delivered to the mortuary the following day.

By each name is written SARS, Special Anti-Robbery Squad - a feared police unit.

When asked for an explanation, Police Commissioner Zarewa said he was too busy.

'Equivalent to hell'

"They told me they have transferred my brother to Abuja," says Charles, a shy 22-year-old.

His older brother was in trouble with the police, accused of robbery.


Charles took a food flask for his brother, and travelled for two days to reach the police station.

On arrival he was arrested, accused of armed robbery, and held for three months.

"Inside there was equivalent to hell," he says.

He says he was taken out of his cell, hung by the knees and beaten. But he feels lucky as it happened only a couple of times.

A man held with him suffered a similar punishment, but his joints were smashed. He screamed as he crawled back into the cell.

Briefly, Charles was held opposite his own brother and the two had the chance to talk.

After that, Charles never saw him again.

"It is the slang they use," he says quietly.

"They are not going to tell you openly your brother is killed. They just tell you they have transferred his case to Abuja."


"Nigeria Risks Constitutional Crisis - Lawyers, Ex-Envoy". Double *SIGH*.

Nigeria risks constitutional crisis -lawyers, ex-envoy
By Nick Tattersall

LAGOS, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Nigeria is on the brink of constitutional crisis with its ailing president not transferring powers to his deputy and political king makers feuding over his succession, a senior lawyer and a former U.S. envoy have warned.

President Umaru Yar'Adua has been absent from Africa's most populous nation for more than a month receiving treatment for a heart condition in Saudi Arabia, but there have been no official updates on his health for weeks.

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has been presiding over cabinet meetings but executive powers have not officially been transferred to him, leading to questions over the legality of decisions made by the government in Yar'Adua's absence.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella body of all lawyers in the country, has launched legal action against the Attorney-General, asking a top court to declare that Yar'Adua has violated the constitution by omitting to transfer powers.

"We are saying there is a duty on the president to do it, it is not discretionary ... We cannot continue this way, we are not running a banana republic," NBA president Rotimi Akeredolu told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday.

"We are treading a very dangerous path and we have to be very careful. We are trying to paper over a few cracks ... but if we are not careful the whole building will collapse," he said.

The NBA's legal action follows a similar suit already brought by prominent human rights lawyer Femi Falana.

It also adds to a crisis in the judiciary triggered by the swearing in on Wednesday of a new chief justice, the first time in the country's history the head of state has been absent for the ceremony and an act some senior lawyers say is illegal.

The legality of the top judge's position is vital because he who would swear in a new president should Yar'Adua leave office: controversy over the chief justice would mean controversy over the legality of the new president, lawyers say.

Nigeria does not need legal confusion over what is already a fierce succession debate.

"Yar'Adua's removal from office would result in a political and constitutional crisis for the United States' most important strategic partner in Africa and one of its largest suppliers of oil," former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell said.

"Though Yar'Adua has been ill since he assumed the presidency in 2007, there is no consensus yet among the king makers about what to do upon his removal," he wrote in a paper published on Wednesday by the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S.-based think-tank.


Key to the debate over Yar'Adua's succession is an unwritten agreement that the office of president rotates every two terms between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian south.

Yar'Adua is a northerner mid-way through his first term. Jonathan is a southerner, meaning that should he take over if the president leaves office as the constitution states, he would be under pressure not to stand in 2011 presidential elections.

Nervousness among Yar'Adua's northern "kitchen cabinet" over Jonathan even serving as acting president is what is preventing Yar'Adua from transferring powers, political analysts say.

"This problem has been foisted on us because of a cabal in this country," Akeredolu said.

The government and presidency officials have said state business is continuing as normal and that Yar'Adua is being consulted on issues needing his attention, such as a supplementary budget which they said this week was taken to him to sign on his sickbed. [ID:nLDE5BS0RS]

But analysts say government business is slowing. Two of Nigeria's top oil partners, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) and Chevron (CVX.N), have been in renewal negotiations covering expired licences in Africa's biggest energy supplier and neither they nor the government have yet announced a resolution.

"The stakes are high ... Continued access to oil revenue will be a powerful incentive for the king makers to find a way out of the current crisis, despite their regional, ethnic and religious divisions," Campbell said.

He said the best-case scenario would be a constitutional agreement which allowed the country to "limp" towards 2011 elections, but warned that if the struggle between rival factions became prolonged, the army could step in.

"If the current crisis spins out of control, the Nigerian military is likely to intervene, possibly with a nominal civilian head," said Campbell, who was U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007.

"Nigeria's military, though much weakened, continues to regard itself as the ultimate custodian of the state." (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: ) (Editing by Giles Elgood)


SHELBY STEELE: "[POTUS Barack] Obama And Our Post-Modern Race Problem". Read More Below.

Obama and Our Post-Modern Race Problem
The president always knew that his greatest appeal was not as a leader but as a cultural symbol.

America still has a race problem, though not the one that conventional wisdom would suggest: the racism of whites toward blacks. Old fashioned white racism has lost its legitimacy in the world and become an almost universal disgrace.

The essence of our new "post-modern" race problem can be seen in the parable of the emperor's new clothes. The emperor was told by his swindling tailors that people who could not see his new clothes were stupid and incompetent. So when his new clothes arrived and he could not see them, he put them on anyway so that no one would think him stupid and incompetent. And when he appeared before his people in these new clothes, they too—not wanting to appear stupid and incompetent—exclaimed the beauty of his wardrobe. It was finally a mere child who said, "The emperor has no clothes."

The lie of seeing clothes where there were none amounted to a sophistication—joining oneself to an obvious falsehood in order to achieve social acceptance. In such a sophistication there is an unspoken agreement not to see what one clearly sees—in this case the emperor's flagrant nakedness.

America's primary race problem today is our new "sophistication" around racial matters. Political correctness is a compendium of sophistications in which we join ourselves to obvious falsehoods ("diversity") and refuse to see obvious realities (the irrelevance of diversity to minority development). I would argue further that Barack Obama's election to the presidency of the United States was essentially an American sophistication, a national exercise in seeing what was not there and a refusal to see what was there—all to escape the stigma not of stupidity but of racism.

Barack Obama, elegant and professorially articulate, was an invitation to sophistication that America simply could not bring itself to turn down. If "hope and change" was an empty political slogan, it was also beautiful clothing that people could passionately describe without ever having seen.

Mr. Obama won the presidency by achieving a symbiotic bond with the American people: He would labor not to show himself, and Americans would labor not to see him. As providence would have it, this was a very effective symbiosis politically. And yet, without self-disclosure on the one hand or cross-examination on the other, Mr. Obama became arguably the least known man ever to step into the American presidency.

Our new race problem—the sophistication of seeing what isn't there rather than what is—has surprised us with a president who hides his lack of economic understanding behind a drama of scale. Hundreds of billions moving into trillions. Dramatic, history-making numbers. But where is the economic logic behind a stimulus package that doesn't fully click in for a number of years? How is every stimulus dollar spent actually going to stimulate? Why bailouts to institutions that only hoard the money? How is vast government spending simultaneously a kind of prudence that will not "add to the deficit?" How can such spending not trigger smothering levels of taxation?

Mr. Obama's economic thinking (or lack thereof) adds up to a kind of rudderless cowboyism combined with wishful thinking. You would think that in the two solid years of daily campaigning leading up to his election this nakedness would have been seen.

On the foreign front he has been given much credit for his new policy on the Afghan war, and especially for the "rational" and "earnest" way he went about arriving at the decision to surge 30,000 new troops into battle. But here also were three months of presidential equivocation for all the world to see, only to end up essentially where he started out.

And here again was the lack of a larger framework of meaning. How is this surge of a piece with America's role in the world? Are we the world's exceptional power and thereby charged with enforcing a certain balance of power, or are we now embracing European self-effacement and nonengagement? Where is the clear center in all this?

I think that Mr. Obama is not just inexperienced; he is also hampered by a distinct inner emptiness—not an emptiness that comes from stupidity or a lack of ability but an emptiness that has been actually nurtured and developed as an adaptation to the political world.

The nature of this emptiness becomes clear in the contrast between him and Ronald Reagan. Reagan reached the White House through a great deal of what is called "individuating"—that is he took principled positions throughout his long career that jeopardized his popularity, and in so doing he came to know who he was as a man and what he truly believed.

He became Ronald Reagan through dissent, not conformity. And when he was finally elected president, it was because America at last wanted the vision that he had evolved over a lifetime of challenging conventional wisdom. By the time Reagan became president, he had fought his way to a remarkable certainty about who he was, what he believed, and where he wanted to lead the nation.

Mr. Obama's ascendancy to the presidency could not have been more different. There seems to have been very little individuation, no real argument with conventional wisdom, and no willingness to jeopardize popularity for principle. To the contrary, he has come forward in American politics by emptying himself of strong convictions, by rejecting principled stands as "ideological," and by promising to deliver us from the "tired" culture-war debates of the past. He aspires to be "post-ideological," "post-racial" and "post-partisan," which is to say that he defines himself by a series of "nots"—thus implying that being nothing is better than being something. He tries to make a politics out of emptiness itself.

But then Mr. Obama always knew that his greatest appeal was not as a leader but as a cultural symbol. He always wore the bargainer's mask—winning the loyalty and gratitude of whites by flattering them with his racial trust: I will presume that you are not a racist if you will not hold my race against me. Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan and yes, Tiger Woods have all been superb bargainers, eliciting almost reverential support among whites for all that they were not—not angry or militant, not political, not using their moral authority as blacks to exact a wage from white guilt.

But this mask comes at a high price. When blacks become humanly visible, when their true beliefs are known, their mask shatters and their symbiotic bond with whites is broken. Think of Tiger Woods, now so humanly visible. Or think of Bill Cosby, who in recent years has challenged the politically correct view and let the world know what he truly thinks about the responsibility of blacks in their own uplift.

It doesn't matter that Mr. Woods lost his bargainer's charm through self-destructive behavior and that Mr. Cosby lost his through a courageous determination to individuate—to take public responsibility for his true convictions. The appeal of both men—as objects of white identification—was diminished as their human reality emerged. Many whites still love Mr. Cosby, but they worry now that expressing their affection openly may identify them with his ideas, thus putting them at risk of being seen as racist. Tiger Woods, of course, is now so tragically human as to have, as the Bible put it, "no name in the street."

A greater problem for our nation today is that we have a president whose benign—and therefore desirable—blackness exempted him from the political individuation process that makes for strong, clear-headed leaders. He has not had to gamble his popularity on his principles, and it is impossible to know one's true beliefs without this. In the future he may stumble now and then into a right action, but there is no hard-earned center to the man out of which he might truly lead.

And yes, white America conditioned Barack Obama to emptiness—valued him all along for his "articulate and clean" blackness, so flattering to American innocence. He is a president come to us out of our national insecurities.

Mr. Steele is a senior research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.



The Big Zero

Maybe we knew, at some unconscious, instinctive level, that it would be an era best forgotten. Whatever the reason, we got through the first decade of the new millennium without ever agreeing on what to call it. The aughts? The naughties? Whatever. (Yes, I know that strictly speaking the millennium didn’t begin until 2001. Do we really care?)

But from an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.

It was a decade with basically zero job creation. O.K., the headline employment number for December 2009 will be slightly higher than that for December 1999, but only slightly. And private-sector employment has actually declined — the first decade on record in which that happened.

It was a decade with zero economic gains for the typical family. Actually, even at the height of the alleged “Bush boom,” in 2007, median household income adjusted for inflation was lower than it had been in 1999. And you know what happened next.

It was a decade of zero gains for homeowners, even if they bought early: right now housing prices, adjusted for inflation, are roughly back to where they were at the beginning of the decade. And for those who bought in the decade’s middle years — when all the serious people ridiculed warnings that housing prices made no sense, that we were in the middle of a gigantic bubble — well, I feel your pain. Almost a quarter of all mortgages in America, and 45 percent of mortgages in Florida, are underwater, with owners owing more than their houses are worth.

Last and least for most Americans — but a big deal for retirement accounts, not to mention the talking heads on financial TV — it was a decade of zero gains for stocks, even without taking inflation into account. Remember the excitement when the Dow first topped 10,000, and best-selling books like “Dow 36,000” predicted that the good times would just keep rolling? Well, that was back in 1999. Last week the market closed at 10,520.

So there was a whole lot of nothing going on in measures of economic progress or success. Funny how that happened.

For as the decade began, there was an overwhelming sense of economic triumphalism in America’s business and political establishments, a belief that we — more than anyone else in the world — knew what we were doing.

Let me quote from a speech that Lawrence Summers, then deputy Treasury secretary (and now the Obama administration’s top economist), gave in 1999. “If you ask why the American financial system succeeds,” he said, “at least my reading of the history would be that there is no innovation more important than that of generally accepted accounting principles: it means that every investor gets to see information presented on a comparable basis; that there is discipline on company managements in the way they report and monitor their activities.” And he went on to declare that there is “an ongoing process that really is what makes our capital market work and work as stably as it does.”

So here’s what Mr. Summers — and, to be fair, just about everyone in a policy-making position at the time — believed in 1999: America has honest corporate accounting; this lets investors make good decisions, and also forces management to behave responsibly; and the result is a stable, well-functioning financial system.

What percentage of all this turned out to be true? Zero.

What was truly impressive about the decade past, however, was our unwillingness, as a nation, to learn from our mistakes.

Even as the dot-com bubble deflated, credulous bankers and investors began inflating a new bubble in housing. Even after famous, admired companies like Enron and WorldCom were revealed to have been Potemkin corporations with facades built out of creative accounting, analysts and investors believed banks’ claims about their own financial strength and bought into the hype about investments they didn’t understand. Even after triggering a global economic collapse, and having to be rescued at taxpayers’ expense, bankers wasted no time going right back to the culture of giant bonuses and excessive leverage.

Then there are the politicians. Even now, it’s hard to get Democrats, President Obama included, to deliver a full-throated critique of the practices that got us into the mess we’re in. And as for the Republicans: now that their policies of tax cuts and deregulation have led us into an economic quagmire, their prescription for recovery is — tax cuts and deregulation.

So let’s bid a not at all fond farewell to the Big Zero — the decade in which we achieved nothing and learned nothing. Will the next decade be better? Stay tuned. Oh, and happy New Year.


Joel Pett Strikes Again.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ann Coulter: Ivana Trump Escorted Off Plane: Napolitano Declares 'The System Worked'.

Ivana Trump Escorted Off Plane: Napolitano Declares 'The System Worked'
by Ann Coulter

In response to a Nigerian Muslim trying to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, the government will now prohibit international travelers from going to the bathroom in the last hour before the plane lands.

Terrorists who plan to bomb planes during the first seven hours of the eight-hour flight, however, should face no difficulties, provided they wait until after the complimentary beverage service has been concluded.

How do they know Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn't wait until the end of the flight to try to detonate explosives because he heard the stewardess announce that the food service was over and seats would have to be placed in their upright position? I can't finish my snack? This plane is going down!

Also prohibited in the last hour of international flights will be: blankets, pillows, computers and in-flight entertainment. Another triumph in Janet Napolitano's "Let's stay one step behind the terrorists" policy!

For the past eight years, approximately 2 million Americans a day have been subjected to humiliating searches at airport security checkpoints, forced to remove their shoes and jackets, to open their computers, and to remove all liquids from their carry-on bags, except minuscule amounts in marked 3-ounce containers placed in Ziploc plastic bags -- folding sandwich bags are verboten -- among other indignities.

This, allegedly, was the price we had to pay for safe airplanes. The one security precaution the government refused to consider was to require extra screening for passengers who looked like the last three-dozen terrorists to attack airplanes.

Since Muslims took down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, every attack on a commercial airliner has been committed by foreign-born Muslim men with the same hair color, eye color and skin color. Half of them have been named Mohammed.

An alien from the planet "Not Politically Correct" would have surveyed the situation after 9/11 and said: "You are at war with an enemy without uniforms, without morals, without a country and without a leader -- but the one advantage you have is they all look alike. ... What? ... What did I say?"

The only advantage we have in a war with stateless terrorists was ruled out of order ab initio by political correctness.

And so, despite 5 trillion Americans opening laptops, surrendering lip gloss and drinking breast milk in airports day after day for the past eight years, the government still couldn't stop a Nigerian Muslim from nearly blowing up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day.

The "warning signs" exhibited by this particular passenger included the following:

His name was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

He's Nigerian.

He's a Muslim.

His name was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

He boarded a plane in Lagos, Nigeria.

He paid nearly $3,000 in cash for his ticket.

He had no luggage.

His name was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Two months ago, his father warned the U.S. that he was a radical Muslim and possibly dangerous.

If our security procedures can't stop this guy, can't we just dispense with those procedures altogether? What's the point exactly?

(To be fair, the father's warning might have been taken more seriously if he had not simultaneously asked for the U.S. Embassy's Social Security number and bank routing number in order to convey a $28 million inheritance that was trapped in a Nigerian bank account.)

The warning from Abdulmutallab's father put his son on some list, but not the "no fly" list. Apparently, it's tougher to get on the "no fly" list than it was to get into Studio 54 in the '70s. Currently, the only people on the "no fly" list" are the Blind Sheik and Sean Penn.

The government is like the drunk looking for his keys under a lamppost. Someone stops to help, and asks, "Is this where you lost them?" No, the drunk answers, but the light's better here.

The government refuses to perform the only possibly effective security check -- search Muslims -- so instead it harasses infinitely compliant Americans. Will that help avert a terrorist attack? No, but the Americans don't complain.

The only reason Abdulmutallab didn't succeed in bringing down an airplane with 278 passengers was that: (1) A brave Dutchman leapt from his seat and extinguished the smoldering Nigerian; and (2) the Nigerian apparently didn't have enough detonating fluid to cause a powerful explosion.

In addition to the no blanket, no computer, no bathroom rule, perhaps the airlines could add this to their preflight announcement about seat belts and emergency exits: "Should a passenger sitting near you attempt to detonate an explosive device, you may be called upon to render emergency assistance. Would you be willing to do so under those circumstances? If not we will assign you another seat ..."

Ann Coulter is Legal Affairs Correspondent for HUMAN EVENTS and author of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Slander," ""How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)," "Godless," "If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans" and most recently, Guilty: Liberal "Victims" and their Assault on America.


MAUREEN DOWD: "As the Nation’s Pulse Races, [POTUS Barack] Obama Can’t Seem To Find His". *SIGH*.

As the Nation’s Pulse Races, Obama Can’t Seem to Find His

I was walking through a deserted downtown on Christmas Eve with a friend, past the lonely, gray Treasury Building, past the snowy White House with no president inside.

“I hope the terrorists don’t think this is a good time to attack,” I said, looking protectively at the White House, which always looks smaller and more vulnerable and beautiful than you expect, no matter how often you see it up close.

I thought our guard might be down because of the holiday; now I realize our guard is down every day.

One thrilling thing about moving from W. to Barack Obama was that Obama seemed like an avatar of modernity.

W., Dick Cheney and Rummy kept ceaselessly dragging us back into the past. America seemed to have lost her ingenuity, her quickness, her man-on-the-moon bravura, her Bugs Bunny panache.

Were we clever and inventive enough to protect ourselves from the new breed of Flintstones-hardy yet Facebook-savvy terrorists?

W.’s favorite word was “resolute,” but despite gazillions spent and Cheney’s bluster, our efforts to shield ourselves seemed flaccid.

President Obama’s favorite word is “unprecedented,” as Carol Lee of Politico pointed out. Yet he often seems mired in the past as well, letting his hallmark legislation get loaded up with old-school bribes and pork; surrounding himself with Clintonites; continuing the Bushies’ penchant for secrecy and expansive executive privilege; doubling down in Afghanistan while acting as though he’s getting out; and failing to capitalize on snazzy new technology while agencies thumb through printouts and continue their old turf battles.

Even before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda links tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet headed to Detroit, travelers could see we had made no progress toward a technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe.

We seemed to still be behind the curve and reactive, patting down grannies and 5-year-olds, confiscating snow globes and lip glosses.

Instead of modernity, we have airports where security is so retro that taking away pillows and blankies and bathroom breaks counts as a great leap forward.

If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?

We are headed toward the moment when screeners will watch watch-listers sashay through while we have to come to the airport in hospital gowns, flapping open in the back.

In a rare bipartisan success, House members tried to prevent the Transportation Security Administration from implementing full-body imaging as a screening tool at airports.

Just because Republicans helped lead the ban on better technology and opposed airport security spending doesn’t mean they’ll stop Cheneying the Democrats for subverting national security.

Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan was weaselly enough to whack the president and “weak-kneed liberals” in his gubernatorial fund-raising letter.

Before he left for vacation, Obama tried to shed his Spock mien and juice up the empathy quotient on jobs. But in his usual inspiring/listless cycle, he once more appeared chilly in his response to the chilling episode on Flight 253, issuing bulletins through his press secretary and hitting the links. At least you have to seem concerned.

On Tuesday, Obama stepped up to the microphone to admit what Janet Napolitano (who learned nothing from an earlier Janet named Reno) had first tried to deny: that there had been “a systemic failure” and a “catastrophic breach of security.”

But in a mystifying moment that was not technically or emotionally reassuring, there was no live video and it looked as though the Obama operation was flying by the seat of its pants.

Given that every utterance of the president is usually televised, it was a throwback to radio days — just at the moment we sought reassurance that our security has finally caught up to “Total Recall.”

All that TV viewers heard, broadcast from a Marine base in Kaneohe Bay, was the president’s disembodied voice, talking about “deficiencies.”

Citing the attempt of the Nigerian’s father to warn U.S. authorities six months ago, the president intoned: “It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.”

In his detached way, Spock was letting us know that our besieged starship was not speeding into a safer new future, and that we still have to be scared.

Heck of a job, Barry.


Bomb Threat Provides A Sneak Peak Into Nigeria's Islamist Militancy. Read More Below.

Bomb plot arrest highlight Nigeria's Islamist militancy
By Jacques Lhuillery

LAGOS — The arrest of a young Nigerian for trying to blow up a transatlantic airliner has again highlighted the strong streak of Islamic fundamentalism that pervades much of Africa's most populous country.

While the Nigerian government and Muslim authorities have condemned the failed bombing as an "isolated act", radical Islamist movements are thriving in a country where 12 northern states reintroduced Islamic law in 2000.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, charged with trying to blow up a US passenger jet over Detroit, may appear an unlikely radical as the son of a powerful banker whose abiding passion as a teenager was English football.

But as a series of recent attacks on Nigerian government targets by Muslim hardliners shows, a combination of radical Islam and disaffected youths has proved a volatile cocktail on many previous occasions.

In July, mainly young militants of the fundamentalist Boko Haram sect which seeks to unite Muslims under a Caliphate carried out simultaneous attacks in four northern states.

The authorities' response was swift and brutal, killing at least 800 in a five-day crackdown and possibly twice as many according to Western intelligence sources.

In the local Hausa language Boko Haram means "Western education is a sin" making it increasingly attractive among the impoverished youth of the Muslim-dominated north.

The Nigerian government, while admitting that it has problems on its hands, insists that terrorism is alien to the country.

"One thing that I can tell you that we are not known for as Nigerians is terrorism," said Information Minister Dora Akunyil.

"We are not into terrorism; we may have several issues but definitely not terrorism. Our country abhors it."

But Nigeria's main armed rebel group in the oil-rich Niger Delta, MEND, said the government's show of surprise was misplaced, and accusing Abuja of allowing the situation in the north to fester as it kept its focus on the south.

Northern Nigeria, home to a Muslim majority while the south of the country is mainly Christian, is "fertile ground" for international terrorism, MEND said.

"The Nigerian government has persistently turned a blind eye to Islamic extremists coming from Northern Nigeria, choosing instead to focus and waste its resources on military hardware and troop deployment in the Niger Delta."

For decades after Nigeria's independence from Britain in 1960, there has been a long history of bloody clashes between ethnic and religious groups -- Sunni Muslims against Shiites, Christians against Muslims.

For the federal authorities which have been battling the insurrection in the Delta for years, the Islamists' rise in the north is an extra challenge adding to the traditional rivalry and mistrust between southern Christians and northern Muslims.

In the south especially people have not forgotten the 1967-70 civil war after the attempted breakaway of southeastern Biafra, which had been preceded by a slaughter of Christians in the north.

To complicate things, northern Nigeria borders Niger and Mali, a battleground for Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the former Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat whose activities have included kidnapping and killing westerners.

The threat from Islamist militants prompted Washington in 2007 to establish the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.

AFRICOM has faced controversy, with governments of various African countries fearing it was the beginning of increased US military presence in the continent.

But its commander, General William Ward, insisted during a visit to Algiers last month that the terrorist threat for north-central Africa's Maghreb and Sahel regions was real.

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How Bad Is Security At Nigeria's Other Airport In Lagos? Read More Below.

How Bad Is Security at the Lagos Airport?

International travelers flying out of Nigeria's Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos during the Christmas season are used to being hassled by security. Usually, it's a demand for tips and gifts. At every point of contact with officials, from check-in to final boarding, the requests are constant.

As a result, many passengers familiar with the Lagos airport aren't surprised that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the young man accused of trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit, could have boarded his flight with liquid explosives. "They tell you, Take your shoes off, take your boots off, take your belt off, but the woman who is looking at the X-ray machine is looking at you to give her a tip," says Victor Chidi Asaba-One, 41, a businessman who shuttles between Detroit and Lagos about 20 times a year, often on the same KLM and Northwest flights that Abdulmutallab used. (See pictures of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.)

The 23-year-old son of one of Nigeria's wealthiest men and most prominent bankers has lived outside Nigeria for years and had severed ties with his family. On Dec. 24 he re-entered Nigeria and boarded a KLM flight to Amsterdam that same night. He used an e-ticket that had been purchased in Accra, Ghana.

Shortly after the thwarted bombing attempt, Nigerian authorities stressed that its airports had recently passed the International Civil Aviation audit and just last month passed a Transportation Security Administration audit as well. "However, in light of our new developments, we have reinforced our security systems in all our airports," said Information Minister Dora Akunyili.

Nevertheless, Ifeanyi Ukoha, 39, a banker in Lagos who flies from the Lagos airport regularly, insists the security at Murtala Muhammed International Airport is comparatively lax. "Unauthorized persons are allowed beyond the stipulated point mostly because they are in uniform," he says. "And security personnel will keep soliciting gratification, especially during festive seasons." (See what we can learn from Flight 253.)

Other passengers say screening processes, particularly at Lagos, are geared toward looking for drugs. In fact, there is an additional checkpoint for local drug enforcement once passengers have passed customs and immigration.

At the airport in Lagos, as well as the one in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, passengers are now subjected to extra screening, with officials there saying everyone will now be subjected to body-screening. "It's a joke, man," Asaba-One says. "They may have functioning X-ray machines, even though they are older, but I'm not sure the person looking at the screen even knows what to look for. If, for example, I had a liquid explosive that is going through it, will they be able to tell the difference between a liquid bottle of Coke versus a liquid bottle of PETN? I don't think they can tell. I know they can't tell."

Some passengers also know that liquid gels in plastic containers less than 100 ml don't set off magnetometers. They say they simply put them in their pockets and let their shirts hang over them as they walk through airport checkpoints in Nigeria — and head for Europe and the U.S.

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The SECRET Concerning Gate 2 At Nigeria's Internation Airport. Talk About POROUS Security. Read More Below And *SIGH*.

Poor Security System Exposes Abuja Airport
By Chinedu Eze

The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja may be more susceptible to terrorist attack than any other international airport in Nigeria.

THISDAY learnt yesterday that the security of the airport is not absolutely under the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

An informed source said that the Gate 2 of the airport had been taken over by the Nigeria Air Force since 2005 after the security committee failed in persuading the Force to leave that part of the airport to FAAN’s Aviation Security.

According to the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), Aviation Security Department of the airport management body should be solely in charge of airport security with screening machines and metal detectors to screen passengers and their luggage.

THISDAY learnt that since FAAN lost the management of that gate 2 it is now used by highly placed persons, who move through the Nigeria Air Force base straight to the aircraft without being subjected to the standard security screening.

A dependable source told THISDAY: “This Gate 2 is being manned by the Nigeria Air Force and passengers pass through that gate without screening. AVSEC (Aviation Security) is aware and FAAN management is also aware but they cannot do anything about it. The people who pass through that gate usually stay at the Air Force Command until when their plane is ready for departure; they will just walk to the tarmac and board. Up till now people are still passing through that gate without screening.”

The implication of that, the source stressed, is that anyone can take anything into the aircraft through that gate and Nigeria cannot say that it is monitoring security at the nation’s airports when that gate 2 is not under the control of FAAN.

“The issue has been discussed many times at the airport security committee meetings but the gate 2 of the airport has not been handed over to them, which is an act that undermines security at the airport because you cannot hold them accountable if anything happens there,” the source said.

Corroborating this, a senior FAAN official with the security department told THISDAY that FAAN had to abandon that gate in 2005 after the security community of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport could not make the Nigeria Air Force relinquish the gate to FAAN.

“So I cannot take responsibility so long as Aviation Security of FAAN was not in charge of that gate. It is against ICAO regulation for any other body to man the security of any airport except AVSEC personnel who are trained in accordance to international aviation security standards,” the source said.

But the general manager, public affairs department of FAAN, Akin Olukunle, told THISDAY he was not aware of that, noting that there was nothing like that.

Attention on the security of airports in Nigeria has become poignant as a Nigerian citizen, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who travelled from Lagos to Amsterdam on December 24, attempted but failed to blow up a Northwest Airline flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan on Christmas Day with a bomb.

He boarded the aircraft from Amsterdam to Michigan, United States.
Industry analysts are still shocked that Abdulmutallab passed through the screening machines both at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and those of Schipol Airport Amsterdam without being detected.

But the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, said that Nigeria passed ICAO security audit as well as that of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the United States.

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"Breach Is A Sobering Reminder".

Breach is a sobering reminder
By Colbert King

The alleged attempt by a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 with an explosive device on Christmas Day should serve as a reminder that the successful gate crashing of the White House state dinner was no laughing matter.

Much, too much, has been made of the social climbing and publicity-hungry nature of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the Virginia couple who got inside one of the world's most secure facilities. Lost in the levity, and the snickering about the bush-league behavior of the White House social secretary's operation and the breakdown in Secret Service security, is the fact that the Salahis' breach — as with Abdulmautallab's bombing attempt — could have led to grave national consequences.

Imagine the smiling Salahis — but with radicalized views and explosive devices strapped to their bodies — entering through the southeast side of the White House. Imagine them mingling inside the Secret Service's tight security bubble within the Blue Room, shaking hands and muttering sweet nothings to America's top political leaders and their distinquished foreign guests.

Imagine them setting off explosives during their audience with the president of the United States.

Abdulmutallab came close to successfully completing a horrible act of terrorism against America. The Salahis, had they a mind to do so, could have come even closer.

Don't laugh that off.

Colbert King is a retired member of The Washington Post editorial board; he writes a column for The Post. This item was published in the newspaper's blog, Post Partisan.


Ruth Marcus: "Red Flags Waved, Ignored". I *SIGH*. You Can Join Me.

Red flags waved, ignored
By Ruth Marcus

WASHINGTON — The more I think about the Christmas all-but-bombing, the angrier I get. At the multiple failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to get on the plane with explosives sewn inside his underwear. And at the Obama administration's initial, everything's-fine-everybody-move-right-along reaction.

I understand: When it comes to a terrorist attack, we live in an age of not if but when. What seems obvious in retrospect is rarely evident at the time; hindsight needs no Lasik. For every Abdulmutallab that slips through the inevitable cracks, many more are foiled. Or so we hope.

And so we have learned, because we must, to live with a new layer of risk. Like climbers adjusting to a higher altitude, we have grown so accustomed to the changed circumstances that we forget about the thinner air, the omnipresent danger. Until moments like the episode on Flight 253 yank us back to the new reality — and, worse, to the realization that, eight long and expensive years later, not nearly enough has changed.

“Information was not shared. … Analysis was not pooled. … Often the handoffs of information were lost across the divide separating the foreign and domestic agencies of the government.”

“Improved use of ‘no-fly' and ‘automatic selectee' lists should not be delayed. … This screening function should be performed by the TSA, and it should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government.”

“The TSA … must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers.”

A trenchant analysis of the Christmas attack? No, quotes from the report of the 9/11 Commission.

As with the numerous missed opportunities to stop the 9/11 hijackers, the Abdulmutallab story that has emerged so far is an enraging litany of how-can-it-be's.

How can it be that his visa was not revoked after his own father went to U.S. authorities to report concerns about his son's radicalization? “After his father contacted the embassy recently, we coded his visa file so that, had he attempted to renew his visa months from now, it would have triggered an in-depth review of his application,” one U.S. official told CNN. How reassuring.

How can it be that, after the father's alert, the most that seems to have been done was to place Abdulmutallab's name in a database so sprawling as to be nearly useless? There was, one administration official explained, “insufficient derogatory information” to bump up Abdulmutallab to a higher status of watch list. Excuse me, but how much more derogatory can you get?

How can it be that British authorities denied Abdulmutallab's request for a visa renewal — without triggering a comparable review by U.S. officials? Was the United States not informed or did U.S. authorities simply not take action in response? Either there is a continuing problem of intergovernmental communication or a continuing problem of bureaucratic lassitude.

How can it be that an individual passenger (a) traveling from Nigeria, with its known security lapses, (b) not checking luggage and (c) purchasing a ticket with cash was not singled out for additional screening? What did he have to do: wear a sign saying, “You might want to check my underwear”?

How can it be that screening technology is so lacking so long after the 9/11 Commission called for “priority attention” to detect explosives on passengers?

How can it be that our best line of defense seems to have been a combination of incompetence and bravery — incompetence by the attacker whose device failed to detonate properly, and bravery by passengers who acted so quickly to subdue him and put out the fire?

And how can it be, in the face of all this, that the administration's communications strategy, cooked up on a conference call, was to assure us that they were looking into things but in the meantime we should settle down?

This was not just one supposedly out-of-context stumble by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; it was the official line. Making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs resisted every effort to get him to acknowledge that something had gone seriously wrong.

The American people are not as stupid as the administration's initial approach assumed. They accept that a smart, determined terrorist can — and eventually probably will — slip through the best-constructed defenses. They cannot accept — nor should they — a system so slipshod as to let through a bungler like Abdulmutallab, with all the red flags that were waved, and ignored.

Ruth Marcus is a columnist for The Washington Post. Her e-mail address is


New York Times Editorial: "The System Failed". Yep, I AGREE.

The System Failedge

Only luck and the courage of passengers on Northwest Flight 253 averted a tragedy on Christmas Day. When a Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow a hole in the airplane’s side, the explosive powder he had concealed failed to detonate properly and passengers subdued him before he could do any more damage.

Terrorists will always look for new ways to breach security, and let’s hope luck and courage don’t ever run out. But as this case makes chillingly clear, the airport security systems put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks — complicated, expensive and hugely onerous for travelers — have serious flaws. And so do the bureaucracies that run them.

The apparent role played by a branch of Al Qaeda in Yemen — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab told authorities that he had ties to Al Qaeda and got the explosive device in Yemen — underscores the need for the Obama administration to review its counterterrorism efforts there.

Let us be clear: the system did not work. It is disturbing that Janet Napolitano, the secretary for homeland security, seemed to suggest, even briefly, that it had. It is unseemly that so many Republicans are rushing to make partisan hay out of the near disaster. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama did a better job, acknowledging what he called a “systemic failure” in the nation’s security apparatus and saying he would “insist on accountability at every level.”

Everybody bears responsibility: the Bush administration for not connecting the dots before Sept. 11 and not doing enough in the seven years after to rationalize and improve homeland security; the Congress, under both parties, for blocking necessary changes and failing to demand others; the Obama administration, which has shown little interest until now in reforming what is clearly an inadequate security system.

The first issue is the failure of the diplomatic and intelligence screening process, which should have raised alarms long before Mr. Abdulmutallab got on a plane bound for the United States, multiple entry visa in hand.

What makes this so much worse is that officials had something they can’t always expect: fair warning. In mid-November, Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father, a prominent banker in Nigeria, went to the American Embassy in Abuja to ask for help and warn them of his son’s increasing “radicalization.” The State Department, working with other agencies, had the power to revoke the son’s visa or put a temporary hold on it. Officials say the warning was insufficient. That seems like a very bad judgment call.

The embassy did pass on the father’s information, as required, to the National Counterterrorism Center and the son’s name was added to a database of 550,000 people with some alleged terrorist connections. Officials decided that the warning wasn’t enough to put him on the list of 14,000 people subjected to more thorough airport searches or to the 4,000-person “no fly” list. That was clearly a very bad call.

The case has raised all too familiar and worrying questions about the degree to which the authorities are sharing intelligence — within the American bureaucracy and between countries. Officials told The Times on Tuesday that the government had information from Yemen before Christmas that Al Qaeda was talking about “a Nigerian” being readied for an attack.

Technology is also a major issue in this case. With all of the expensive screening machines, how did Mr. Abdulmutallab get 80 grams of PETN — the same material used by Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” — on the plane? The failure was apparently both in Nigeria, where he started his travel, and in Amsterdam, where he boarded the flight to Detroit.

The incident raises the immediate question of whether this country and others should now buy and widely deploy so-called whole body imagers, which can detect the presence of nonmetallic objects, including lethal chemicals, plastic explosives and ceramic knives.

The machines have been criticized by privacy advocates. We’ve had some qualms, too, especially with early versions that showed the outlines of a naked body too clearly. But security officials have managed to blur the images and adopted other procedures that should allay those concerns. What is needed is a rigorous and independent process of evaluation for whole body scanners and other equipment — the Transportation Security Administration has 10 at some stage of development — to figure out what provides the best security at the most rational cost.

Additional security measures may be needed — subject to sensible evaluation. A reported new requirement that passengers on international flights into the United States remain seated for the last hour is puzzling since it wouldn’t stop a terrorist acting before then. Travelers will put up with a lot to increase aviation security. But it has to be a rational system that does not make them the first line of defense.

Finally, there is the question of how the United States deals with the growing presence of Al Qaeda in Yemen. The administration has been pressing President Ali Abdullah Saleh, with some success, to allow American operations — including drone or missile strikes — on Yemeni soil. Washington is providing $70 million over the next 18 months to equip and train Yemeni security forces, and has dispatched special operations forces to do the training. The White House will now have to decide if these measures need to be further stepped up.

As soon as Congress gets back to Washington, it must confirm the heads of the T.S.A. and the customs agency, both of which have been under interim management for a year. There is no excuse for more politicking or delay with the nation’s security.


"After Eight Years, Terrorists Still Fly". *SIGH* With Me.

After Eight Years, Terrorists Still Fly

THE Christmas Day attempt to destroy an airplane landing in Detroit underscores the sad reality that terrorism is a constant danger to the United States. Let us hope that policymakers will take this opportunity to make some overdue changes in their strategies for preventing attacks.

They can start by “rationalizing” various government databases. It is disturbing that someone who is thought to have connections to terrorism serious enough to warrant being placed on a government watch list is still not put on the smaller “no-fly” list of people who are banned from airplanes.

How did this come to pass? The no-fly list is reserved for those who are thought to pose a threat to airplanes. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man charged with the would-be Christmas Day bombing, was on the watch list because his own father had warned American officials about his son’s increasing radicalism. But an Obama administration official said “there was insufficient derogatory information available” to merit Mr. Abdulmutallab’s inclusion on the list.

Given Al Qaeda’s known obsession with attacking our aviation system and its tendency to go after the same target repeatedly, anyone on a terror watch list should automatically be placed on the no-fly list. To those who fear that doing so would tip off an unsuspecting terrorist that we are watching him, I say it is far better to do that than to risk an attack. At least, people known to be, or suspected of being, tied to terrorism should automatically be placed on the so-called selectee list, so that they are subject to especially thorough airport screening.

Then there is the matter of Mr. Abdulmutallab’s visa. Citizens of most countries need a visa to visit the United States. To get one in the post-9/11 world, an applicant must go to an American embassy or consulate to be interviewed by a consular officer and have his fingers scanned and his photo taken. His name is run through various databases to determine whether he is a known or suspected terrorist or criminal.

In June 2008, when our embassy in London granted Mr. Abdulmutallab a two-year visa, according to officials, there was nothing to indicate that he had any terrorism ties. So far, so good. But after his father reported him to the American Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, this fall, shouldn’t his visa have been revoked? And shouldn’t aviation officials have been told to be on the lookout for him, should he attempt to board a plane bound for the United States?

Databases and visas aren’t the only areas of weakness: there is also a need for better passenger screening. Apparently, even as law-abiding citizens are routinely delayed for carrying bottled water or too much toothpaste, Mr. Abdulmutallab was able to go through security with a highly explosive powder mixture that he had taped to his leg.

More than eight years after 9/11, most airport checkpoints are still equipped only with metal detectors. Millimeter-wave machines and other body-scanning devices that can spot suspicious items hidden underneath clothing have not yet been deployed in great numbers. And the Transportation Security Administration recently scrapped for performance problems “puffer” machines meant to detect traces of explosives on passengers. The agency must redouble its efforts to develop alternative screening technology, because explosives (including the liquid kind) remain terrorists’ weapon of choice.

Perhaps the biggest lesson for airline security from the recent incident is that we must overcome our tendency to be reactive. We always seem to be at least one step behind the terrorists. They find one security gap — carrying explosives onto a plane in their shoes, for instance — and we close that one, and then wait for them to exploit another. Why not identify all the vulnerabilities and then address each one before terrorists strike again?

Since the authorities have to succeed 100 percent of the time, and terrorists only once, the odds are overwhelmingly against the authorities. But they’ll be more likely to defy fate if they go beyond reflexive defense and play offense for a change.

Clark Kent Ervin, who was the inspector general of the State Department from 2001 to 2003 and of the Department of Homeland Security from 2003 to 2004, is the director of the Aspen Institute’s homeland security program.


Should "Virtual Strip Searches" Make Appearances At Our Airports? Read More Below, And You Be The Judge.

Opponents call high-tech airport scans 'virtual strip searches'
Rob Hotakainen

WASHINGTON — Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 last week has revived a battle in Congress over the use of whole-body imaging technology to screen airline passengers.

Some legislators argue that the machines, which cost about $170,000 each and are in use at 19 U.S. airports, could have detected the explosive powder the 23-year-old Nigerian was carrying and should be approved for widespread use. Abdulmutallab didn't go through the whole-body scanner at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport before he boarded the Northwest flight to Detroit.

Others, however, call a whole-body scan a "virtual strip search" that should be used only if there's probable cause to assume that someone might be carrying explosives.

In June, the House of Representatives voted 310-118 to prohibit the widespread use of whole-body imaging technology as a primary tool for airport screening, a measure introduced by Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

Rep. Tom McClintock, a California Republican who co-sponsored the legislation however, called the scanning "a virtual strip search" and said security officials can use less invasive methods such as bomb-sniffing dogs to detect explosives.

"It is precisely the same as being pulled into a side room and being ordered to remove your clothes physically," he said. "In either event, your nude image is being inspected by several security guards."

However, another California Republican, Rep. Dan Lungren, who's been promoting the technology for four years, said the Christmas Day incident should help support his cause when Congress reconvenes in January.

"This is a specific example of what can happen," he said.

Lungren said he was screened by one of the machines at Washington National airport.

"They said to me as I'm standing there, 'So you have an artificial hip, and it's your right hip,' " Lungren said. "And I said, 'Yes, that's right.' And they said, 'Oh, it looks like you left some change in your pocket.' "

Lungren said the machines are less invasive than being patted down by a security guard.

"I would much prefer this. . . . I would rather not have hands on me frankly," he said.

The technology picked up a key endorsement over the weekend from Sen. Joe Lieberman, the head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

"Those privacy concerns, which are frankly mild, have to fall in the face of the ability of these machines to detect material like this explosive on this individual," the Connecticut independent said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

As testing of the technology continues, the Transportation Security Administration said the machines are being used for primary screening at six U.S. airports: San Francisco, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Miami, Albuquerque, N.M., and Tulsa, Okla. Thirteen other airports are using them for secondary screening: Los Angeles, Phoenix, Ronald Reagan Washington National, Atlanta, Baltimore-Washington, Denver, Detroit, Dallas-Fort Worth, Jacksonville, Fla., Tampa, Fla., Indianapolis, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Richmond, Va.

The conservative McClintock said the Christmas Day incident raises questions of why a person on a terrorist watch list had been allowed to enter the country and why U.S. authorities hadn't revoked his visa, which British officials did.

"I think we need to make a distinction between an 81-year-old grandmother ... and a 23-year-old Nigerian national who's already on the terrorist watch list and who's already had his visa revoked by Great Britain," he said.

McClintock has an unlikely ally: the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a background paper, the ACLU said that government officials are "essentially taking a naked picture of air passengers" and that air travelers shouldn't be required to display personal details of their bodies as a prerequisite to boarding a plane.

"Those images reveal not only our private body parts, but also intimate medical details like colostomy bags," the ACLU said. "That degree of examination amounts to a significant — and for some people humiliating — assault on the essential dignity of passengers that citizens in a free nation should not have to tolerate."

Lungren, who's been working on the issue since he headed a homeland security subcommittee, said that the screening must show private parts to make sure that explosives are not hidden there. The Nigerian suspect was found carrying the explosive material in his underwear.

Advocates of the screening say they've incorporated safeguards to assure privacy. For example, faces are blurred, and the security officer who views the image never sees the passenger because he's viewing a monitor in a nearby room.

U.S. airports using whole-body imaging:

Albuquerque International Sunport Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Denver International Airport

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Detroit Metro Airport

Indianapolis International Airport

Jacksonville International Airport

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

Los Angeles International Airport

Miami International Airport

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Raleigh-Durham International Airport

Richmond International Airport

San Francisco International Airport

Salt Lake City International Airport

Tampa International Airport

Tulsa International Airport

Editor's note: You still can't make up your mind?

Well, watch the video demonstration here.

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Nick Anderson Gets These Cartoons Right On The Money, So To Speak. I'm Laughing My Arse Off!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Report: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Blew It, Failed To Circulate Intelligence Reports On Airline Bomb Threat. Watch Video And *SIGH* With Me.

Watch video below:

Wanna read about i?

Check out CNN.

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POTUS Barack Obama Makes Second Press Appearance To Decry "unacceptable .. Systematic Failures" In Homeland Security System. Watch Video.

KACO Board Decides To Shelve Committee Recommendation Of Ed Hatchet, Interview More Candidates. Is The Fix in?

KACo board to interview 4 finalists but could still hire Hatchett
By Beth Musgrave and Ryan Alessi

FRANKFORT — In a surprise move, the board of directors for the Kentucky Association of Counties decided Monday to interview four finalists for the organization's top position rather than go with the candidate selected by an 11-member committee earlier this month.

After meeting for nearly three hours behind closed doors, board members of the organization that has been criticized for its rampant spending were mum on the reason the board decided to interview four finalists selected from the more than 60 who applied for the job.

The selection committee had recommended former state auditor and attorney Ed Hatchett for the executive director's position on Dec. 21.

In a written statement, Rick Smith, president of KACo and a Clark County magistrate, said the full board wanted the opportunity to interview the four finalists: Hatchett; Denny Nunnelley, a long-time KACO deputy director; Bill Patrick, executive director of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association and a former county official; and Tony Wilder, commissioner for local government, a former county official and a past president of the KACo board.

"In light of our fiduciary duties, the full board would like the opportunity to interview the final candidates prior to voting on a new chief executive officer," Smith said.

He said the board would like to have the interviews as quickly as possible, but he said it is unlikely the board will make a final decision by Jan. 5, when the legislative session begins.

The group discussed the candidates in executive session, which is closed to the public. Personnel matters can be discussed in private under the state's open meetings law.

Bob Arnold, the former executive director, resigned in September in wake of repeated questions about the organization's spending. The Herald-Leader reported the organization spent more than $600,000 in two years on travel, meals and entertainment. State Auditor Crit Luallen later found more than $3 million in undocumented or excessive spending. Luallen had supported the search committtee's recommendation of Hatchett for the job.

Many on the search committee said Hatchett's reputation would restore credibility to the organization, which provides services and insurance to local governments and helps finance capital projects. But many members of the board of directors have expressed concern about oversight of the organization, saying they wanted to be move involved in the day-to-day operations in light of the organizations' recent spending scandals.

Marshall County Judge-Executive Mike Miller, a member of the board of directors, said before Monday's meeting there was some concern the process to replace Arnold was moving too quickly.

"We thought (the search committee) was going to bring two or three names to the full board to interview," Miller said. "In early December, we learned that they were going to provide just one name to the full board."

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